INTERVIEW: Lindsay Jones And Barbara Dunkelman Talk RWBY

The voices of Ruby Rose and Yang Xiao Long give us a look behind the scenes at RWBY.


Anyone who has been following my writing on Cultured Vultures will know I love Rooster Teeth’s RWBY, and the same can be said for many others around the globe. Created by the late great Monty Oum, the show follows a group of teenage girls as they attend a monster hunting academy while trying to save the world. It continues to gather fans all the time and is the first western anime-style production to be exported to Japan.

With volume eight airing in a couple of weeks, Cultured Vultures have had the opportunity to speak with the ladies behind two of the main characters of RWBY: Lindsay Jones, who plays Ruby Rose, and Barbara Dunkelman, who plays Yang Xiao Long.

rwby lindsay jones barbara dunkelman
L: Lindsay Jones, R: Barbara Dunkelman

Lindsay, in the Rooster Teeth RWBY Ladies podcast, you said you were approached by Monty to voice this socially awkward fifteen-year-old. How did it feel when you found out that she was the title role?
Lindsay: It was pretty amazing. The coolest part for me was Monty was working on the Red Trailer, he was showing me little bits and pieces of it as the animation went along. We’d hang out late at the office, me and Michael, we’d go over and talk at his desk about anime or video games, and he started showing us the Red Trailer. One scene that he showed me, it was of her recoiling her gun and reloading over and over again when she had it in sniper rifle mode, I was like ‘that is so cool, awesome!’ I’m a huge anime nerd, I love this. And he just turned to me, and he was like ‘do you want to play her? That’s the main character.’ I was like ‘yeah! I’d love to audition, thank you very much!’

Barbara, doing my research, I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned how you got into RWBY, so how did you become a part of the project?
Barbara: Monty Oum worked at Rooster Teeth for a number of years before the show started, and I got to know him personally as a friend. Back then, the office was a lot smaller, so everyone was more familiar with each other and closer. Unbeknownst to me, he had started working on RWBY and approached me one day randomly and said “Hey, I’m working on a new show, how would you feel about being the voice of this bad ass Goldilocks character?” Me, not knowing what he was talking about, I was like “yeah, sure, I’ve never done voice acting before, but I think it could be really fun,” so essentially, he had me in mind for this character that he was creating. I still auditioned for it, but I think they already decided it was going to be me, so I was very lucky and fortunate.

How do you both feel about the development of your characters? They’ve still got a long way to go, but are there any developments/predictions you would like to see for your characters?
Barbara: I’d like to continue to watch Yang grow as she already is, and discover who she is. I know she’s been through some difficult moments obviously throughout the current seasons, but yeah, I just want her to continue getting more and more confidence, figuring out who she is, what she wants out of life, and of people. That’s all you can really hope for.

Lindsay: I’d like to see Ruby break, and I know that sounds like…mean? But as an actor, it’s exciting to play emotionally for the character. And two, it makes sense, she looked to people for guidance: a younger student coming into an area of people who were more experienced than her, and a lot of those people turned out to be just wrong. Now, she’s kind of re-evaluating who she can trust, including herself. I think she’s internalized a lot of emotion, and that’s going to be like a powder keg.

In episode 44 of Always Open, Lindsey, you said that at one point you met Sean Schemmel, who voiced Goku in the Dragonball franchise, and Barbara described those experiences as very humbling, but was that your biggest humbling experience? For instance, who was the biggest name to you that came up to you and said “Oh, I love your work” and you couldn’t help but fan out?
Barbara: It was when RWBY premiered in Japan that I lost my mind a bit. We had been working on that show for a few years, and had constantly heard ‘it’s not anime,’ and that’s fine. But to have it legitimized by being picked up in Japan and being one of the first American made animes to be dubbed over in Japanese, that was a really cool moment, I’m still not over that.

Lindsay: I’ve had a lot. I feel like I’m the one that goes to conventions with the team RWBY, and I just fangirl as I pass people, like ‘oh my god, that’s so and so, they were in this anime!’ or ‘that’s so and so, they’re in this series!’ The voice actors we get to work with are so awesome and prolific, working with them in scenes is the biggest honour. Simon Pegg’s daughter is a huge fan, we saw them in MCM London, so that’s super cool. Every now and then, we’ll hear about fans of the show, like AnneMunition, who’s a very popular streamer, messaged me, ‘my sister loves RWBY,’ and I was like ‘that’s cool, thank you!’

You’ve both worked on Rooster Teeth projects, but which would you say has been your favourite?
Barbara: I don’t know if I can pick a singular favourite. I love RWBY, voice acting has been much more fun than I could have ever imagined. Always Open is very special to me, just because it’s the show that I created, I hosted. I really got to spread my wings doing that and experience a lot of new things at the company, new roles that I never took on before. Also, just the impact it had on our community was really special. I hope to be able to do something like that again someday.

Lindsay: That’s hard, this is going to cause fights. I love RWBY, but I have a special place in my heart for Space Kid in Camp Camp. I love him, he’s such a sweet little bundle of joy. Recording Ruby, you think ‘what’s going on with her journey? There’s a lot happening, gotta get in the zone’. Space Kid’s here to have fun, let’s forget any problem that we’ve had forever. Space Kid’s here to enjoy life.

Similar question to the last one – what would you say has been your strongest/most prominent VA performance?
Barbara: I guess that would be more of a question for the audience of what they’ve resonated with in my voices before, but Yang has had the most range of emotion and experiences. I really like doing Nerris in Camp Camp, because I get to do a completely different voice than my own, and it’s super goofy and fun. Camp Camp is such a fun show to work on as well. But in terms of most powerful and meaningful would probably be Yang overall.

Lindsay: That’s hard to choose. Kimball was pretty awesome, because I didn’t do any huge rousing speeches before her. The most exciting work that I’ve done, looking at the body of work and thinking ‘I’m really proud of that’ was the work for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and other video game crossovers we’ve had. People don’t think about how different it is, voice acting for a narrative piece as opposed to a video game, how physically and emotionally taxing that is. I felt like I got a workout in the booth when I was fighting people and shouting awesome anime attacks.

Has there been any VA roles you wanted to go for, but weren’t able to get?
Barbara: Oh, plenty! I’ve auditioned for every single show at Rooster Teeth. I really wanted to be part of gen:LOCK, because the voice cast in that show is amazing and to act alongside those people would be a dream come true. That show is so incredibly diverse, and Rooster Teeth is doing such a good job of casting the appropriate people for the appropriate roles. There weren’t a lot of specific roles for someone like me, but gen:LOCK is on my wish list someday.

Lindsay: Yeah, there’s a lot of auditions that come up, and you’re just like ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I’ll pass it along to so-and-so’. There was an announcement for initial casting for the Inuyasha sequel, which is so exciting. Morgan Berry is playing the main character, and I’m so proud of her. That would be a cool series to get involved with if I could.

How would you say working on RWBY compares to other VA projects?
Barbara: I don’t do a lot of voice acting projects outside of Rooster Teeth, and the way we do voice acting is pretty particular compared to other places. I think the only outside work I’ve done is Cosmos in Fairy Tail, that’s with Funimation over in Dallas. But for RWBY in comparison to the other shows, I know the characters so well at this point, it’s pretty easy for me to get into character because it’s someone I’m so familiar with. Going into the booth and already knowing how I’m going to approach it is really fun.

Lindsay: Other voice acting projects understandably are under time constraints, so when you’re in the booth, you don’t wanna waste time or play around, and we get to do that. Because of the nature of Ruby, a lot of her ad libs get added into the show, because she’s fun and quirky. I get the joy of hearing some ad libs in the show, like Ruby making fun of Weiss being rich, or Blake eating tuna.

Volume 7 finished on a hell of a cliffhanger. The teaser trailer for volume 8 (above) only leaves us with more questions. What can fans expect? Would you say it’s going to be the darkest volume yet?
Barbara: Fans can expect a pretty crazy volume. The volume takes place over a short period of time, unlike the other volumes which take place over days, weeks, months. It’s very intense, I think it’s going to leave people on the edge of their seat.

Lindsay: I wouldn’t say darkest yet, that’s all I’ll say about that. As far as what you can expect, I’ll give you one word because of the nature of the word: spectacle. Expect spectacle.

What would you say is your favourite aspect about playing your respective characters?
Barbara: It’s getting to voice someone who is so confident and badass, because there are days where I don’t really feel that way, and to escape into this character that is really sure of herself, really strong, powerful. Also, someone who rides a motorcycle, I’m never going to do that in my real life. But also, everything that Yang has been through – getting her arm cut off – a lot of people have approached me saying Yang’s experience with that, going through PTSD afterwards has really resonated with them. To voice a character that people can relate to on a deeper level is really special to me.

Lindsay: I like that Ruby reminds me to stay positive. As you get older, you get a little more jaded and cynical about the world, including current political and social climates. She reminds me to focus on the important things, don’t let negativity weigh you down. What’s important are the people you love and care about.

Now the question that will shake the very foundation of RWBY to its core: what is your favourite ship and who is best girl, besides the characters you play?
Barbara: I think that best girl is Blake. Outside of team RWBY, Nora’s always been one of my favourites. My favourite ship as Barbara, as a fan of the show, I like Bumblebee. I think that’s a really cute ship, Blake and Yang are really good together in terms of their personalities. I think they work really well.

Lindsay: Oh boy. I’m in trouble. I personally love Penny, She’s adorable. I love Taylor, her voice actor, who’s always so sweet to me, she’s the kindest person. Her acting performance and the character design blends to make Penny so darn loveable for me. On top of that, I’m a huge Nuts ‘n’ Dolts person. If I had to pick a ship, it would be them. They’re so cute together.

Last question, have you got any advice for aspiring voice actors out there/people who aspire to be in your position?
Barbara: Voice acting is essentially acting, so lessons are always a good first step. Getting a good microphone and practicing the sounds of your voice, the range you have. A lot of people don’t really know what kind of range they’re capable of, but once they record themselves, it doesn’t sound as good as they have it in their head. Something that I did as a kid, I’d watch a lot of cartoons, play a lot of video games, I would always imitate sounds and voices. Just getting used to what you’re able to do, and also trying to emulate different voices that you hear could help you get into that. That would be the first step I would say.

Lindsay: Find what you love. You should be searching for fulfillment. What kind of creative fulfillment do you want? For voice acting, there are some networking and training steps that you can do. Acting classes are great, there are plenty available online if you don’t have access to community theatres or things like that locally. A lot of training I did was from a video series Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt did: they’re both married voice actors, lovely people. They did a YouTube series about how to get started as a voice actor. I think that’s a great first step if you want to do that.

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