At Crunchyroll Expo 2018, Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh met with fans and reporters for an interview. There, they discussed everything from experiences with “Your Name” to advice for spiring voice actors, and everything in-between.
The two starred together in the anime film “Your Name,” by Makoto Shinkai. The two certainly had some stories to tell from their experiences making the film, from the casting to the creation of the script.
“It really starts with the script,” Michael mused. “We had very little time to turn it around. So it was a very, very, very intense production cycle. We originally weren’t going to be in it – we went through a lot of auditions and felt like we weren’t finding people who could play both sides of Taki. Both the male and then the possessed form of him have the same character – either it was way too far into the direction where it was not changed.
“This is actually an interesting example of ‘it’s not about voices it’s about choices.’ If you are the same physical body and then something else is puppeteering you or possessing you, you still have the same larynx and dimensions and resonant cavities, so you should sound the same. You’ll have a different vibe, maybe even a different accent or a or vocabulary because the mind is now in this other body, but you shouldn’t sound that different. It was a subtle thing to have to deal with. But one of the things that I think really helped us was that since we’ve done a lot of acting and both directed a lot, so directing each other at being our own characters was a huge benefit. when Mitsuha was inside Taki, she got to direct how she would perform it as Mitsuha and vice versa.”
Stephanie added her own experiences. “The guy who wrote it, Clark, was a lot more familiar with Shinkai’s work,” she reminisced. “I know he felt like he really wanted keep the spirit of the original in the writing, so we didn’t change much – even to the point that we’ve actually had disagreements with him when we were recording we were like, ‘Clark, this line is awkward,’ and he goes, ‘but it was awkward in the Japanese.’”
Of course, considering the end result and the success of “Your Name,” everyone was in agreement that it all worked out. In fact, there are talks of a live action adaptation, with J.J. Abrams’ company taking the helm.
“I think it’s great,” Michael proclaimed. “Because of our involvement in your name, we’ve been asked a lot ‘how do you feel about Abrams’ company doing a version of Your Name?’ And we’re really excited about it. I often hear the joke: ‘So what if he puts lens flares in there, it doesn’t even matter, there’s lens flares in the original animation!’
“But beyond that, we’re friends with a writer, an Oscar-nominated writer. He did The Rival and he was tapped by a Bad Robot to write the script. He’s a genius. He’s one of us – he’s a nerd, he’s woke, and he’s great. I think any more attention to Your Name – which is a beautiful story – is good. And in terms of directing it, I would love to.”
He added that he’s interested in the upcoming “Battle Angel” movie. “I think the big eyes were a little shocking to me in the trailer, but I’m curious to see what they do with it.”
When asked about advice for aspiring actors, they had good insights to offer.
“I think that right now we’re really lucky there’s the internet,” Stephanie explained. “There’s so many resources out there. So do your homework. … First and foremost is to get your training and study acting because acting is more important than being able to do voices.”
“Beyond all those incredible resources, I think my one real takeaway as a director working with actors is it’s really all about ideas,” Michael added. “Everyone here has a voice, right? So you can have a more or less ‘whatever’ kind of voice – flattering or interesting or unusual – but that’s really not what it’s about when it comes to voice acting. It’s a really about ideas. The real top-booking voice actors are able to take an idea and embellish on it … really it’s about making the thing come to life, not just about making a sound. And I think there are some people now who just sort of copy sounds they’ve heard growing up in cartoons, but that’s not really what it’s about. At some point it’s about a type, like you have to sound young or old or whatever, but really it’s all about ideas. One of our mottos is ‘choices are greater than voices.’ It’s not just about how you sound, it’s about what you mean.”
Of course, one’s work is never done, and they’re already hard at work on new projects. While many are still under non-disclosure agreements, Michael could mention a few things.
“I’m working on a feature that’s coming out, I think in October,” he stated. “We’re calling it MFKZ, which is short for something long and unmentionable. it’s an incredible movie. It’s animated by Studio 4°C and it’s based on a French comic book. We have some celebrities in the cast and it’s a gorgeous movie that I can’t wait to share with the world.”
“I’m also on season seven of Venture Brothers, which is now just coming out, and we’re about to have FLCL season three.”
The two are both experienced actors, and have voiced a number of characters for several years. All their characters have undergone growth and development, but some stick out more than others.
“It’s interesting because I feel like sometimes in movies they actually have better character development,” noted Stephanie. “There you have a specific arc, whereas you have a television show and they’ll have the arc for a season. Then suddenly they decide to do another season, and so you’re sliding back to original character description.”
“Maybe it’s the most obvious choice for me is like Hinata,” she concluded. “Because she goes from being a little girl and being super shy, to being more determined to being actually powerful. Then from falling in love and having her unrequited love reciprocated to getting married and now she’s a mom. And so it’s a lot of change.“
For Michael, there were two characters who stood out to him.
“Leo [from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] had a lot of interesting twists and turns. We went to a really, really dark place at one point where everyone should have been killed by the Shredder, but for some weird deus ex machina plot twist time stopped and they were rescued. I thought it was an interesting split – all the brothers were like, ‘Well, we made it’ and Leo was more, ‘No, we didn’t make it. There was a B.S. excuse why we lived, but we didn’t make it. We should be dead.’ So he never forgot that and sort of tasked himself with being all the more ready and vigilant. So he became like a worse brother, always busting on everyone for not training more and a lot more of a short fuse. But it came from that really specific place.”
The change in character did impact the direction of his performance. Michael noted how he recorded the lines at least twice, as the initial directions had him change his voice significantly, to the point where he sounded more like Batman. However, he argued that “that emotional journey should take place, but he can’t not be the same resonating turtle… So we went back after a lot was done, and I credit 4kids for wanting to go back and get it right. So it was more of an attitude shift, a little bit of a grit as opposed to changing his voice entirely.”
The other character is Dean Venture, who he’s been voicing for seven seasons and over ten years. “The whole show has grown from being a little caricature-y. I’ll just talk about Dean becoming more of a real boy and trying to find his own way – now in season seven, he’s gone off to school. He’s trying to figure out who he is outside of the Venture compound and his dad’s legacy, be it proud or shameful, and that’s been really extraordinary.
“You know, even the voices sort of matured there. He’s got his peach fuss. He’s got a cool suit. Now he’s just in school doing something else and trying to figure out love and his own manhood. We also used to have (spoiler alert if someone hasn’t seen the old seasons) an ‘out’ for any time something bad happened to the boys, and now we don’t. So now they have to develop. And I think that’s really cool. But [the show’s creators] have created a really, really rich world, which I’m super happy to be a part of.”
As experienced voice actors, Michael and Stephanie had much to offer in terms of advice and insights. Keep an eye on G33k-HQ for more interviews, and you can check out our coverage of Crunchyroll Expo 2018 here.