One Piece: Strong World gets a theatrical release for the first time in the west this November. I spoke with ADR and the voice of Buggy, Mike McFarland, and the voice of Brook, Ian Sinclair. We discussed what it’s like being a VA in these interesting times, working on a show like One Piece, and if it will ever end in our lifetime:
Ben Schmidt: I’ve been following you guys for a while and the one thing that made me fall in love with Ian’s work was his role in Fruits Basket, in this final season.
Mike McFarland: You just made him so very happy.
Ian Sinclair: Man, that’s one of those shows that we did in quarantine. So I did that in my home, by myself. I don’t get to talk to many people about it. That was… thank you so much! That was one of the proudest things I’ve done in the last couple of years.
MM: And I will back him up on that. Ian’s one of those that he’s like “Ahh I’m okay in this thing” but he’s great in everything. But he is really proud of what he did in that one.
IS: I blubbered in that one. I cried my eyeballs out, I loved that one.
BS: Well good, that makes two of us cause at that scene at the end of the second season with Tohru I was like balling my eyes out. I think it was you that said you were hoping there would be mechs in that season.
IS: Yeah they asked me what I would add to the season and I was like “giant mechs”.
MM: Ahh going in a slightly different direction.
IS: It’s season three, jump the shark!
BS: So Ian you kind of mentioned that you did Fruits Basket during quarantine. Have some of that died down a bit or are you still recording from home fully?
IS: Umm there are studios that have the availability to go in the studio. Many of us are still using our home booths, it’s just kind of our new normal. A lot of us had to get our booths up and running very quickly at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s kind of the new norm. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years or maybe a year if we start to go back, it’s also opened up the availability for us to start to work with other studios. All across the country, internationally.
MM: And other talents too. As far as us working with people at Funimation specifically. Now I work with people from England, ya know all over the place which wouldn’t have been feasible before without someone getting on a plane.
BS: I have definitely noticed that. A lot of dub actors that normally don’t do Funimation stuff are doing Funimation stuff and vice versa. Like a lot of other actors are doing Sentai dubs and stuff too. It seems like it’s positive in its own way.
MM: It has, I mean definitely with One Piece it’s opened up the casting. Cause that show was on for so very long and it definitely helps out with continuing to bring in new talent and new voices to the show.
BS: And Mike you’re not only the ADR but you’re the voice of Buggy too right?
MM: *Buggy voice* I totally do!
BS: How do you like that one? Cause Buggy got introduced pretty early in the show.
MM: Yeah very early on. It’s been fun to portray Buggy over the years. Because much like the Straw Hats and everyone else Buggy has gone on his own journey of how involved he is with the show and how you as a viewer, view him. Ya know you weren’t sure what to expect at first because ya know aggressive, menacing, laughing, clown pirate is probably not like “That guy’s pretty friendly” obviously. Ya know you have a certain vision in your head when you see something like that. But then as you continue the journey, especially through Impel Down, and there’s a lot more of just getting to know the personality without the big flashy aspects of it where everything has been stripped down to a prison uniform and it’s just him being whatever level of real he is going to be while still scheming stuff. It’s been a really fun journey, I know that he has continued to scheme his way onto bigger and better things.
BS: How do you guys feel being on One Piece? It’s this huge beloved franchise that’s probably… never going to end I guess.
MM: Well like they say it’s going to end at some point. Ya know we’re in the end game but what could that possibly mean? Only Oda knows.
IS: Same time, if I was asked to do Brook for the rest of my life I would be happy with that.
MM: He really would he enjoys it quite a bit.
IS: Brook is my happy place and I would do it for anybody at any time. I love Brook.
MM: It makes his little heart go “Yooohoooo!”
BS: I hope this isn’t offensive but Brook is such an “Ian” character I feel like.
MM: I don’t think he takes that in any sort of offensive.
IS: *laughing* I don’t! I appreciate it, thank you very much! I love him. He’s got a kind heart and he’s such a kind person. He’s a very good boy. He just got locked up and I think probably all of us understand Brook a little bit more now after the last year.
MM: Yeah, I think yeah now many people have experienced the isolation that Brook went through for many, many years.
IS: Just a fiftieth of it ya know. Just imagine you were quarantined for fifty years then all of a sudden you were met with nine best friends who took you out of the house and showed you adventures all over the world.
MM: But it was also the One Piece personalities. It’s not your regular old folks that walk up to you it’s the straw hats.
BS: What would you two say is the hardest thing about being a voice actor? Prior to quarantine and stuff.
MM: Prior to doing your own engineering and stuff like that. I don’t know man I think that it’s just one of many facets that you can do as an actor. Ya know there are people who do a lot of theater and even within theater, there are people who do musical theater or they might do children’s theater, things like that. Voice acting has a huge wide encompassing array of things that you can do. And while that’s challenging that’s also the most rewarding thing about it. There are so many things that I might get to play or have an opportunity to play that me physically on camera as Mike does not get the opportunity to. So, it’s a chance for me to get to explore and act and wear a whole bunch of personalities and things like that. Ya know I try to carry as much empathy as my heart will carry so for each portrayal that I do I try to live within their skin and within their mind, things like that, and approach things from the manner in which they see the world. And it just makes it, not only fun for me but it just kind of broadens my horizons and so I think that’s super cool and also part of the challenge.
IS: Wow that was good though. Like I’m sitting here like what’s hard being an actor? Man, you get rejected a lot. You gotta constantly audition and definitely one of the biggest blessings of my career has been One Piece. I mean I’ve been doing this now for I don’t know what… almost a decade? It’s extremely rare as an actor you will work on something, passionately, for six to eight weeks and then it’s over and gone and you’re on to the next thing. And that’s always kind of hard.
MM: This is definitely not six to eight weeks. I think we started working on the dub with this cast in 2007, it was certainly not 2008 unless I had a really weird dream.
BS: So this is like an ADR question, we always get the subs versus dubs debate. How hard is it to stay true to the dialogue of the original Japanese but also trying to get the dialogue to match the lip flaps and keep the spirit the same for the show? Cause honestly I feel like you guys always do a really great job at Funimation of still staying true to the show.
MM: Well, thank you very much. I know that Ian and I both have in some capacity or another have been ADR directing over the years. Ian worked on Black Butler and then I worked on One Piece and a wide array of things. I think that that’s part of the gig but also part of what the fun of the gig is. If you’re working on a play you have these parameters of what’s in the text but beyond that, you don’t always have to have a lot of parameters. This is why we get like “Shakespeare in Space!” and things like that and you can just have your mind create whatever sort of world that you want to do. I think the fun challenge with doing ADR work is you have the world and everything. You have the music, you have the personalities, you have the voice types, you have all these things set up for you and it is up to you as a storyteller to bring it to a new group of people who may not have seen it or heard it before. And try to make the story, like if someone from Japan and someone from France, and someone from Germany and their all fans of the show that they can sit down together through an interpreter and all talk about the things they love about the show and the moments they like, and the personalities of the characters and things like that. That’s part of what the fun aspect slash challenging aspect in the ADR work is. There’s the technical stuff too as far as like ya know making sure that the reads match the lip movements and that the emotional state matches what you see on screen and what you hear through the music, what are they trying to say? But that is all part of trying to relay the storytelling and make sure that you’re being true to the creators of the story in your retelling of it.
IS: I’ll take it from the actor’s standpoint. For me, we had the blessing on One Piece of having some of the best directors that Funimation’s ever had. Because of that I just show up and they tell me what’s going on and how it’s going and the emotions. They’re able to guide you in a lot of ways about the moments that your character doesn’t see or isn’t involved with. Cause they understand the great tapestry of the episode whereas we’re just a stitch here and there. Also, a lot it is we are blessed to already have it recorded in Japanese. There is an amazing cast that has already done it and I just have to watch. I mean for Brook I watch Cho and I go “Well… how do I do that?” he’s so good I gotta try to match that and that’s the challenge. You hear it and there are these incredible performances and you just kind of try to live up to it. If they’re losing it and freaking out, you gotta, emotionally do the same thing and luckily you have a director who is able to handle the technical things about moving the flaps or making sure that there are the right words. As an actor, I just go in there and I turn Brook on and it doesn’t stop until I leave.
MM: Sometimes not even then.
BS: Mike beat me by two seconds! With things like One Piece do you read the manga or do you go in blind?
MM: It depends on the show. I will say for One Piece there’s already so much animated content out there and that’s really what I’m focusing on. I focus on that for my pre-production and my research because I want to stay true to what the show is doing. Plus, as far as me reading forward and things like that, while it does give me content and things like that it may or may not have a snippet of what the voice could or should sound like through the storytelling. It certainly does help to hear the very talented Seiyuu and what they’re doing and who was selected to be in these roles. As far as me continuing to help tell the story for a new audience in English.
IS: It depends on the director honestly in my experience. Because with different shows some directors want you to watch ahead and really learn it. I’ve also had directors that really want you to be in the moment and kind of experience things as they happen. I think there’s great value to both.
BS: Do you guys think you’ll be able to finish the series before you retire?
MM: Man I hope so! We’re all aiming for that for sure. I’m lucky in that in so far as me and Ian as well. We’re both characters that are already full-on adults. So, if they happen to grow older on-screen good luck cause we’re growing older in real life.
IS: I’ve actually said that if I ever do retire from voice acting that I would still come back and do Brook if they asked me. It’s just fun it’s genuinely fun.
BS: Well Ian that definitely comes out, when we watch the show we can tell.
IS: I am very blessed to have directors that put me in a comfortable situation where I can do that. Mike and I are good friends. Joel McDonald, Cris George, Anthony Bowling, these are all close friends of mine that I just go in and make my friends laugh. That is my job, that is what they’re paying me to do is to make them laugh and that is one of the best jobs in the world.