Exclusive: Vic Mignogna Talks 'Digimon Adventure Tri', Live-Action 'Fullmetal Alchemist', and Broly
When it comes to anime all-stars, you cannot think about voice actors without running across Vic Mignogna. The actor is one of the most prolific talents working on English dubs, and his resume speaks for itself. From Fullmetal Alchemist to Ouran High School Host Club, Mignogna is no stranger to top-tier series. So, many fans weren't surprised to hear the actor had signed on to voice Matt Ishida when Digimon Adventure tri. began dubbing, and ComicBook had the chance to speak with Mignogna about his work not long ago.
This week, the latest Digimon Adventure tri. movie plans to hit theaters, and Mignogna will play a special role in the film through Matt. The fifth movie is slated for a one-night screening at select theaters thanks to Fathom Events, and Digimon Adventure tri. Coexistence will push Matt to some new (and uncomfortable) places.
As you can see in the slides below, Mignogna opened up about his entry into the Digimon franchise and his thoughts on Matt's future. The actor also took a moment to discuss his lengthy anime resume by answering some questions about Fullmetal Alchemist's live-action debut, Broly's legacy, and the growing popularity of anime worldwide:
Q: I have is to ask what is was like for you to come in to the franchise for Digimon Adventure tri. Obviously you've done work with Digimon Fusions before but what was it like stepping into this part of the franchise knowing that you're working with the series' most nostalgic characters?
A: Well, the only word that comes to mind is humbling. Digimon is one of those anime series that kind of trail blazed the way for anime mainstream. When you think of shows that were on television that were anime and brought a live mainstream audience to anime, you think of shows back when I was a kid like Speed Racer or Kimba the White Lion. But then you fast forward and you get into shows like Digimon, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragon Ball Z. They're only a handful of shows, at least in my opinion, that really paved the way for anime to be as mainstream as it is now. I believe Digimon is one of them and so, when I was cast to take on Matt Ishida, I thought, 'Wow! This is thrilling'.
It's exciting to be a part of Digimon and it's also humbling because of what a great fan base [it has] and...the affection that the fans have for this show.prevnext
Q: You just said it yourself, the anime fandom is one of the most passionate fandoms that there are and for Digimon, there's so much nostalgia attached to the franchise. What has the fan reception been like for you stepping into the role of Matt?
A: It's been really positive. I mean, let's be honest, I'm sure there are people out there, haters out there on websites somewhere saying that I should be hung, that I should be burned at the stake because how dare I be playing the beloved Matt. But the overwhelming response has been positive. A lot of people have come up at conventions and said, 'Oh my gosh! So excited that you're playing Matt! I love Digimon' and people that have seen some of it thus far have commented very positively. So, the response from the fans has been overwhelmingly positive.prevnext
Q: What was your process for kind of creating your voice of Matt? For dub audiences, they'll likely be familiar with the work that Michael Reisz put into it for when Matt was a kid so how did you work on creating your take?
A: Well, when I first went into the studio, at the very beginning for the first recording of Matt, one thing the producer said to me immediately was, 'Man, you naturally sound a lot like the original actor'. So, I took that as a good sign, that I didn't have to...how shall I say it...I didn't have to push my voice too far to imitate somebody else that it had a similar quality to it, so that it wasn't a big jump from Michael to me.
The fact that he is older, the fact that he is struggling with some teenage angst and some of the emotions and challenges that come with being a teenager, especially given his parents' divorce and how that affected him, the fact that it's new unchartered territory gives me a little more latitude. You know what I mean?
If you were exactly the same age, doing exactly the same things that he was doing in the original, years ago, then it would be much more of a challenge to try to maintain the authenticity that people remember, the voice and attitude exactly as they remember. I certainly wouldn't want to take anything away from what Michael did, but since it is years later and he is growing and maturing, that gives me a little bit more flexibility in the way I play the character.prevnext
Q: You were just saying that there's a lot of bigger moments from Matt that we're seeing in Digimon Adventure tri., and I know we're here specifically talking about Coexistence which is going to be the next film to see its dub release. Matt has a massive journey in that film at the end. So, what was your reaction to when you found out what was coming for Matt?
A: When I go into record something, I like to know as little about it as possible. I don't mean the character's personality but I like to know as little about the story as possible because what that allows you to do is to have a more organic, authentic response to the things that you discover.
You know what I mean? Like, if you were in the show, Matt does not know what's around the next corner. Just like you and I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. So what happens tonight and tomorrow, in an hour, could be a complete surprise to us. We don't know.
When it came to Matt, I enjoyed being as surprised and thrilled by finding the twists, in learning about the twists and the turns and the ups and the downs of the story, at the same time as he was. Because I think it helps. It helps bring a more authentic, genuine response to things.
It was similar even when I recorded Fullmetal Alchemist. I didn't want to know what was happening on the next page because Ed didn't know what was going to happen on the next page, so I think it helps make for a much more genuine, authentic performance.prevnext
Q: So, in light of the cliffhanger Digimon Adventure tri. Coexistence ends on, I wanted to ask you what do you think was in store for Matt kind of moving into this series' last film.
A: Wow! You know, I think Matt has struggled with his own sense of importance and self-worth and places a massive amount of value on his friends and on his friendships -- protecting and supporting his friends. I think he gets a lot of his identify from that. As an actor, I would love to see them throw a real curve ball. I would love to see something really difficult happen that would maybe help him to make a choice, to mature him even further and almost take him into young adulthood. Having to make some tough choices, but in the end, I want him to succeed. I want him to support his friends and to know that he is supported by his friends.
I mean you always want things to work out for the best. But apart from that, I'm kind of leaving it completely. I'm not trying to dwell on it too much because I want to be surprised by whatever direction they take it.prevnext
Q: So, I've collected a series of fan-questions for you, and the first is one from myself. Obviously you're well known for voice acting, but you haved started dabbling with direction and ADR, particularly with Juni Taisen.
What was that progression of going from the recording booth to the director's chair? How did you get into that and are you looking to do more of that in the future?
A: I really enjoyed it a lot. Years ago there was a series called Claymore. And I actually directed a few episodes of Claymore but it was never my big goal. It was never like a big goal of mine to aspire to direct. Directing anime is pretty complicated. It involves a lot of moving parts, and I've done a lot of film directing, and I've done enough anime to know what directing anime would entail.
It never held too much allure for me until, about a year or so ago, Justin Kirk at Funimation said, "Hey Man. We're doing all these broadcast dubs, these simuldubs where we're trying to get shows out literally one week after they premiere in Japan. Would you be at all interested in directing one of them?' And I thought, well you know what, yeah.
I stayed in touch with Justin and we kind of calculated and strategized when my schedule would be such that I didn't have as many obligations and I could plan to devote three months, five days a week to directing a show. It turned out that it was going to be last October, November, December. So I literally moved to Dallas and lived in a hotel room for three months and directed Juni Taisen every night and I loved it.
I think, in my personal opinion, the best directors are directors who are themselves actors. I think it's very valuable when a director knows how to speak the language of an actor, knows how to communicate to an actor what they need to hear to get a particular performance or a particular emotion or attitude out of them. So I really, really enjoyed directing Juni Taisen and working with the actors on it and I certainly would love to do it again.
When I left Funimation, the door was clearly left open to do it again. If my schedule permits and opportunities line up, I would love to do more directing. I have actually done some directing out here in Los Angeles. After Juni Taisen, I came back out here to L.A. and I was working on a couple of shows here.
Q: Shifting to another fan question, this has kind of dominated the conversation at least in anime sector in February, but Fullmetal Alchemist has a live action movie now. It's a thing. Have you seen the film yet? And, if so, would you consider doing the English dub of the film?
A: Well, the answer to your first question is: of course I've seen it. Are you kidding? I saw it within 10 minutes of it going up on Netflix.
As you can imagine, somebody who has so much invested love and emotion into that series, I was very, very eager to see what they did with the live action. I enjoyed it. I think they add some strong points and some weak points, of course, as all movies do.
To answer to your second question, I mean if it was ever dubbed, I would absolutely want to play Ed. That's one of my favorite characters I've ever played. And it would be heart-breaking for me to think that every time Ed ever spoke in English, it was me and then if there was ever going to be an English dub of the live action, I would certainly love to be the one to do it.prevnext
Q: Moving on to a different series that you've been associated with. You've worked with a ton of franchises, but Dragon Ball is one people still talk about today and your work on it with Broly.
What has your experience with that fandom been like considering how Broly is one of the more talked about characters. People they tend to either love or hate him, so how have you interacted with the fandom because of that character's reputation?
A: Well to be honest with you, I mean, maybe these haters just avoid me. Maybe they don't come to my autograph table to tell me how much they hate Broly. But I have encountered very, very few people who hate Broly. Most of them absolutely love him because he's awesome — because he's legendary Super Saiyan and he kicks everybody's butt and he's massively powerful.
I personally am honored to be a part of Dragon Ball. I mean it's a privilege to be any part of it. I wish they'd bring Broly into the prime universe. I wish they'd cross him over so he could kick some major butt in the primal world.prevnext
Q: Finally, fans were curious to hear what your reaction to this topic is considering you are so entrenched with the anime community. In the US, anime seems to be in the headlines a lot. It is being talked about a lot. We know Netflix has invested a lot of money in creating original series, Toonami ratings are good, and there's a ton of live-action projects in development . So, what has been the reaction of this anime comeuppance by people such as yourself who work in the industry?
A: Well, as a voice actor who's been in anime for almost 20 years, I am ecstatic.
I mean, how could I be anything but thrilled that anime has become so mainstream. When I started, when I started this voice acting career, I never imagined anything would ever come of it.
It seemed like a very weird little niche thing that I was doing, but I have been so humbled and so grateful to be a part of it and to be in it as it is grown and to see it expand and grow right before my eyes. I'm extremely grateful. I'm glad that it's becoming more and more mainstream and more and more people are discovering it. I hope it continues to grow. And I hope, God willing, I continue to be able to be a part of it.prev