Sunday, March 16, 2008

INTERVIEW: SCOTT EVANS: The Challenge of Being A Voice Actor

Scott Evans with his anime counterpart Van from Gun X Sword.

[PHOTO CREDITS: © 2005 AIC • Team DannChester/ Gun Sword Partners]

When Scott Evans joined the team of Animax VAs, he had a monumental task ahead of him. He was put in the unenviable position of being the replacement for Darren Pleavin (a.k.a. Louis), who is much loved by the channel's viewers. However, Scott took it as a challenge, and at present has been playing lead roles, which include Hanamichi Sakuragi in Slam Dunk, Van in Gun X Sword, and Ovan in .Hack//Roots. (Check the program sked for this shows.) Get to know a little more about Scott in this interview…

What prompted you to decide to become a voice actor? Did you get formal training and for how many years?

I’m trained as a sound engineer. When I came back to Hong Kong to live, I had the opportunity to work with various dubbers and voice-over artists throughout Hong Kong. It struck me as a challenging and exciting job, one that had more creative outlet than just sitting in the studio control room. I learned how to dub and act by exposing myself to more talented people than me, and really trying to get better and better. Being a musician for the past 16 years, I’m no stranger to having a microphone in front of me, and it felt like a natural progression to go from the mixing desk to the dubbing table!

You joined the Animax voice talents when you took over the role of Sano in Law of Ueki from the original voice actor who portrayed the character. Given that Animax fans have a tendency of being overly critical, did you feel any pressure in taking over a part that was played by one of the early voice talents of Animax?

You’re definitely aware of the fact that people are going to notice. The people who enjoy anime are fairly discerning, so you know that there are going to be people out there who don’t like the fact that one of the voices in their favourite show has changed. I also took over the role of Yamcha in Dragon Ball from the same voice actor, so I had two pairs of shoes to fill. It’s very much a part of the industry though. Not just dubbing, but regular television as well. Actors have lives too, and sometimes that means moving on and creating new opportunities.

Among the characters you have voiced for Animax, who is a) your favorite, b) the most challenging you've ever done, and c) the most memorable, and why?

(A) I would definitely have to say Hanamichi Sakuragi has been one of my favourite characters up to date. The rest of the characters in the show are pretty straight forward, very much in the style of most of the anime sports shows. Hanamichi is completely off the rails though. Laughing, crying, screaming and completely unaware of his limitations. That makes it pretty fun. (B) He would also be the most challenging character that I’ve ever had to play. Mainly because all that screaming and laughing is very hard to keep up in an 8-hour day. He’s a particularly difficult character to dub because he’s so unpredictable too. We may have a script, but it’s not always possible to write down exactly what he’s doing. So some scenes require more takes than others, just because I have to watch what he’s doing a few times before I can actually do it. (C) Train Hartnett from Black Cat would have to be my most memorable character because it was the first time I got to play the main character in a series.

I received a lot of positive feedback from anime fans (I personally thought you were fantastic!) about the way you performed the stirring monologue in that scene from Gun X Sword wherein Van came close to losing his sanity in that abandoned town (with those church bells). How did you prepare yourself – both acting-wise and mentally – for that heavy scene?

Acting-wise, I approach most scenes pretty much the same way. As a dubber, it’s important to take cues from the original Japanese version. They were, after all, the original actors in the scene. So being aware of the mood and scope of the scene helps to give an authentic performance that people find credible. It also helps to understand the show in a larger context than just the episode you’re working on. This reduces character twists from taking you by surprise and allows you give a consistent performance throughout the scene, the episode and ultimately the whole series. The emotional side is quite different though. If you’re doing a scene like the one you mentioned in Gun X Sword, you want to put more of yourself into it. It’s obviously very important to try and feel the way the character feels to the best of your ability. But I may deviate slightly from the original Japanese version in order to give the best performance I can in my own style. I think with the really emotional stuff, being yourself is the key to coming across as convincing to the audience. Anime fans are pretty smart, they can tell when you’re displaying genuine emotion or not.

Hanamichi Sakuragi of Slam Dunk is also quite a challenging character to play. Did portraying this well-loved anime icon present any problems for you and how did you overcome them?

Hanamichi presents daily problems in terms of just being able to make my words fit his mouth! That’s definitely what I find so fun about the character though. I’d say the challenge is just working with the director to make each performance as funny, energetic and fast-paced as the original. He’s by no means the only character in the show though, so I guess not accidentally spitting on my colleagues while in the middle of a trademark Hanamichi tirade would be the second challenge!

In your opinion, why do you think that considerable attention is now being given to voice actors compared to past decades? Do you feel any pressure from a much divided anime "fandom" who can't seem to get along on which is better – subtitled or dubbed anime?

I think the companies behind the really famous animation shows over the decades realize that the people watching are actually interested in the people portraying their favourite characters. Voice acting used to be considered a fairly lowly position to have in the animation process, and only recently have the more famous voice actors been given the credit and exposure that their talent deserves. As far as the divide over the “Subtitle VS Dubbing” debate, I think it’s just important that people have a choice. There’s always going to be people who want to keep everything as it was originally created, and that’s important. But I think dubbing a an anime into another language allows the viewer to see the anime a way that’s a bit closer to the original experience, in terms of having someone act the scene to you, instead of reading subtitles. As long as people have the choice, I think everyone will be happy.

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