INTERVIEW: Monica Rial Talks gen:LOCK, Voice Acting and Animation

"...don’t be afraid to look like an idiot, it will all pay off in the end."

Gen Lock

One of the most eagerly anticipated projects for 2019 is the latest animation show to come from production company Rooster Teeth, gen:LOCK. Set fifty years in the future, the show follows a civil war in which the characters fight an oppressive authoritarian force in giant robots. The show features a talented cast, including Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning, Maisie Williams and David Tennant, but also among the cast is voice acting heavyweight Monica Rial. She’s voiced over five hundred characters, such as Bulma in the Dragonball series and Tsuyu Yokoi in My Hero Academia. She has taken the time to Cultured Vultures about her role as Colonel Raquel Marin in the upcoming show, as well as talk about her previous performances and time in the industry of voice acting.

You’ve had almost 20 years in the voice acting industry, and over that course of time, you’ve given your name to hundreds of projects. Out of those projects, which was your favourite to do, or your strongest performance?
I always tell people it’s hard to pick a favourite character because I’ve got like 550 of them, so it’s kind of like picking your favourite baby and you don’t want to do that. I will say that there have been some of course that stuck because of the longevity and nature of the show, like Bulma and Mirajane in Fairy Tail and Tsuyu. Colonel Marin has a big place in my heart because she’s so different than what I normally get to play. As far as dramatic, there’s been several. There’s a show that we did called Death Parade, where Ian Sinclair and I have an episode that’s pretty freaking dramatic, and gen:LOCK gets pretty hardcore too

According to the October / November 2013 issue of Latino Leaders Magazine, your first venture into dubbing was translating cartoons that included Spanish-dubbed animes for your brother. What was that like, and do you two laugh about it now that you basically built a career out of it?
Yes, my little brother, Miguel. My family is of course from Spain, and so he fell in love with this show called Las Bolas del Dragon that was on television, but he didn’t speak Spanish very well, so I would translate for him. Little did I know, what, fifteen years later, I would be in Las Bolas del Dragon as Bulma. At the time I had no clue. So, yeah, we laugh about it all the time and my brother is just, he’s been one of my biggest supporters, but he is constantly just ribbing me about stuff, especially now, you know with the big Dragon Ball Super movie coming out and now with gen:LOCK, he’s like ‘Oh my gosh, who would have thought that watching Dragon Ball in Spanish brought you to this?’ But here we are, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, my family are really close.

In an interview you did with Anime News Network, you said that you got started in voice acting because other VAs talked you into it. How did they exactly convince you? Was it a case of laughing about it over a couple of beers, or something else?
I wish it was over a couple of beers. No, I was doing theatre with Jason Douglas – he plays Lord Beerus in Dragon Ball Super, he’s on The Walking Dead and several other shows. We were doing theatre together and he had mentioned ‘hey, I’m doing this thing here in Houston where they dub Japanese animation and I really think you should do it because it’s all about kids in the world, and you sound like a child’. Like, thank you? Not sure if I should take that as a compliment? So, I still thank him to this day. But yeah, it was literally just a friend telling me about something in town, and he gave me their number and I auditioned, and the rest is history.

One of your more interesting roles was providing the dub for Stocking in Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. What was that like as a voice actress to work on? Because there’s really not anything else like it in anime.
Yeah, that show in particular, that one’s difficult, like when I’m at conventions and I have a Stocking card out, little kids will always come by and want the Stocking card because it looks very similar to a My Little Pony character and I have to tell them ‘No, you don’t want this card.’ It was a lot of fun, if not for just everyone else’s reaction to my performance, because I don’t pretend. I say dirty words, I say them quite often, I have no problem with that, but I think most people don’t expect that from me, so when they heard Stocking, a lot of my colleagues and friends were aghast because they were like ‘I can’t believe you said so many four letter words in succession.’ Like, yep, that’s kind of the show.

Going back to the Anime News Network interview, you mentioned that when you got hired to do voicing work for Neon Genesis Evangelion, ‘it was either Maya Ibuki or Pen-Pen the penguin.’ That must have been an interesting dynamic to do both characters.
I actually played Maya Ibuki in the director’s cut of Evangelion at ADV, and then when it went over to Funimation – Funimation has done the new movies now – I ended up playing Pen-Pen the penguin, and I think a lot of actors would probably look at that as a downgrade, because you’re going from a human speaking to a penguin squawking. However, I saw it as the opposite because Pen-Pen is such an awesome, iconic character, and who doesn’t want to be an angry penguin?

Additionally, with the role of Maya, you went for a different approach with the character since the previous VAs had low voices and doing that hurt yours. Have there been other roles where you did something different with the original character?
There’s been several times where I’ve had to take on characters, that for whatever reason, voice actors weren’t able to continue, and what I’ve found – I guess most notably would be Bulma – the easiest and best for me is that, in the beginning, when I first start replacing that character or that voice, I will try to pay homage to the former actor before me, not mimic so much, but try to pay homage in my performance. As the show progresses, I slowly start to make it my own, so that it’s not a jarring change, the audience isn’t going ‘oh my gosh, why does this character sound totally different?’, it’s just a slight, gradual progression, if that makes sense.

Was there ever a particular voicing role that you wanted to get that didn’t happen for whatever reason?
I’m sure there’s been plenty. I can’t think of any of the top- oh, wait, yes, I can. So, Sailor Moon. When Sailor Moon came back, I definitely was hoping that it came to Texas. Now, it went to California and all of my friends are in it, so I’m not bitter, but man, it would’ve been fun to be in.

Let’s talk more about your work with Rooster Teeth. You had previously provided the voice for Sienna Khan for RWBY. How did that come about? Did you audition for the role or did Rooster Teeth contact you saying, ‘we’ve got this role, we think you’d be perfect for it’?
Well, with RWBY, I auditioned for it. I had met a lot of the crew at Crunchyroll expo the year before, and so I was very familiar with Rooster Teeth and what they do, but it came through my agent, I auditioned for Sienna and I kind of put on my Shakespeare pants in the way that I used to perform Shakespeare, and sure enough, it got me the gig and it was really fun to do something that was so different and new and work with Kerry and Miles. So that was my first foray into Rooster Teeth, and now to be on gen:LOCK, I mean I really love this company and I love the people that work there and I’m so excited to be working with them again, they’re just amazing.

For the role of Colonel Raquel Marin for the upcoming show Gen:LOCK, did a similar process happen?
So for the role of the Colonel, there was actually a trailer that released a year or so before production began, maybe a few months before production began, to be played at a convention to announce that they were going to start working on gen:LOCK, and so an audition went through, I auditioned for the role of the Colonel and was cast and got to play it for that trailer. Of course, I wanted to be in the show, but when the show began production, there was another round of auditions that came through because of course, they wanted to make sure that everybody had a chance, and so I auditioned for the Colonel again, and when I got the call when I got the role, I pretty much freaked out – in a good way.

Without giving too much away of the story, what can people expect from this role?
She’s just a fantastic character: she’s got so many different facets to her personality. Of course, on the exterior is the no-nonsense, military colonel who is ready to tell everybody where they need to be, she’s very serious, she’s very big on being ahead of the action. Once the doctor is introduced, we see a little bit more of her limited patience with him, which is interesting because the way they relate to each other is a lot of fun and there’s a lot of comic relief from that. But as the story progresses, we get to see a lot more of her, we see kind of this maternal side to her in the way she cares about her pilots and we get to see her turmoil as she’s watching all of these things happen and trying to make decisions that could very well affect the fate of the entire world. That’s some heavy, heavy stuff for anyone to deal with, but it’s fascinating getting to watch her progression as a colonel and as a woman throughout the show. It’s really, really cool.

The Colonel is Puerto Rican, and you’re part Spanish. Going back to the interview in Latino Leaders magazine, you said that out of the 300 characters you had played at that point in your life, only two were Hispanic. How do you feel about stepping into the boots of another Hispanic character?
It’s always amazing to me because for such a long time, there were so few Hispanic characters, whether it was on screen or anime in particular and in animation. So, to see how far we’ve come since – even that interview was done in 2013 – we really have grown as a culture to diversify and I think that that’s fantastic and I love that, you know, Gray and the folks at Rooster Teeth have taken that to heart with gen:LOCK. We’ve got this truly diverse cast, not just in the animation but in the voices as well and I can’t commend them enough for making those choices because I think right now, representation really does matter and their point of view. You know, little Hispanic girls and boys that watch this or little Scottish girls and boys that that watch this that are going to say ‘you know what? If Monica can do it, if Maisie can do it, then maybe I can too,’ and that’s what it’s all about.

For the show, you’re working alongside Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning, Maisie Williams, and David Tennant. What was it like working alongside such an eclectic cast?
I mean, it’s mind blowing to think that I’m even in a show with such a phenomenal cast, I mean they’re each such brilliant actors for so many different reasons; they’re all so incredibly talented. To be in a show with them, even though we don’t work directly together, we all record individually, you wouldn’t know that by watching it, it sounds like we’re all in the same room together — it’s just phenomenal. But yeah, I’m super stoked to even be in that group. I’ve joked many a time, I’m asking people whether that makes me a Doctor’s companion, just try and fit myself in there somewhere. But yeah, it’s truly remarkable to look at that cast and think ‘wow, this is who I work with, this is crazy.”

One of the other actors you’ve worked with on the project is Kōichi Yamadera, who has also done some voicing work for Evangelion. I take it that means you two never shared stories or talk about your experiences working on the show?
No, I haven’t got to meet him yet, but that is one of the things to love to be able to do is to actually sit down with him and pick his brain about the process in Japan versus the process in the States. I think he might be the voice of Beerus in Dragon Ball Super, I could be wrong about that, but I know that he has a lengthy resume and I’d love to pick his brain about their process versus ours.

Were you a fan of any other Rooster Teeth projects before you started working with them?
Yes, I’m a fan of their podcasts. I’ve been on the Fan Service podcast a couple of times, I love Barbara’s Always Open, the Achievement Hunter stuff is hilarious. They do a special streaming for children, where they do fundraising for children’s charities, that’s a lot of fun to watch. I just love everything that they do there. RWBY was a lot of fun, because once I started working on RWBY, I’m like ‘you know what?’ when I met Lindsay and everybody, ‘I’m going to check this out’, so I’ve been watching RWBY and it’s a lot of fun and it’s cool to see how much they’ve grown, going back and watching some of the old Red vs Blue and then RWBY and seeing since RWBY started, how it has changed and grown and now with gen:LOCK, it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come.

A lot of your work comes from working with Funimation and Sentai Filmworks. How did working with Rooster Teeth compare with working for these other animation companies?
Well, each company has its own different vibe, it’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges because they’re so different. Rooster Teeth especially is different because with the animation studios, we’re not creating the content, we’re simply doing the ADR and replacing the language whereas at Rooster Teeth, they’re creating the content from the ground up. You have your writers and your animators, so it was really neat when I got the opportunity to go to Austin and record. One of my friends there, Jenn Tiddwell, walked me around and introduced me to folks and showed all of the different departments because with animation, I am clueless with it, but I now know that there is more than one team that goes over every single shot, because you’ve got the people that animate the light and the shadows and this and that. So, to be able to see it all take place and watch everybody working in that studio, it was phenomenal, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Last question, have you any advice for aspiring voice actors out there?
Certainly! I would say to them, first of all, act. I can’t tell you the times I’ve met people and they’re like ‘I want to be a voice actor, but I don’t want to act,’ I’m like ‘well, that’s kind of impossible’. So definitely get out there: act, get on stage, do film, do whatever you can, but certainly, don’t ever lose your imagination because imagination is so important in being a voice actor. You have to be able to visualise things that aren’t there and put yourself in situations that you’ve never been in before. And don’t be afraid to look silly! Sometimes, we have to do really weird things to our bodies and our faces to make sounds come out the right way, so don’t be afraid to look like an idiot, it will all pay off in the end.

gen:LOCK will be released on the Rooster Teeth website on the 26th of January. Follow Monica Rial on Twitter @Rialisms to keep up to date with her projects.

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