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Interview: Chris Sabat

Christopher Sabat is a name, or shall I say voice, well known in the voice acting industry. Come on, who wouldn’t want to listen to that deep smooth voice of his all day? As one of Funimation’s original voice actors, Chris has been the voice behind characters in many well known shows. Does the name Dragon Ball Z ring a bell? Yeah, I thought so. He has also voiced characters in Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Alex Louis Armstrong), Fairy Tail (Elfman), and Attack on Titan (Woerman). He even started directing and producing many shows. Talk about a busy man! Well I had the honor of sitting down for a one on one interview with him at Alamo City Comic Con in San Antonio, TX.

GC: How did you get into voice acting?
CS: I’ve always been using my voice in some way or another. When I was a kid I was obsessed with sounds and I would record myself in my room all the time. It wasn’t necessarily my voice that I was interested in. I would always check out sound effects record from the library and I loved music and I liked trying to see what sounds sounded good together. So I would play a record of some sound effect and then I would play a record of some music, then I would do live folly and stuff like that to try and create environments. It was just a weird little thing. I discovered sound at a very early age.

Then of course when I was in 6th grade and 7th grade my voice dropped from this really high pitch voice to this really low pitch voice. So overnight I had everyone telling me what my future was because when I meet people they go “Man, you got a deep voice! You really got to get into radio!” At that time no one really thought about voice over, especially in Texas. So I got into radio and I realized “This isn’t as fun as I had thought it was going to be.” This was nothing like the Robin William’s movie Good Morning Vietnam, this is just boring. I had to just read the stuff that was on the page, but I did that was fun was cutting commercials. So I did a lot of commercials and commercial voiceover. So one day I got this call from a friend of mine asking if I would like to audition for this show. It was a Japanese cartoon and I said sure. I was going to school at the time I just kinda left my Astronomy class. I left the class and went on the audition and turns out I got the role of Yamcha on Dragon Ball Z. Then a month later they asked if I would help cast and direct the series. So basically my first big voice acting role was on Dragon Ball and that was 18 years ago.

GC: At what point did you realize that the Dragon Ball franchise had become a phenomenon?
CS: We were just working on it trying to get it on TV and we didn’t know who was watching it at all. At that point we would go to conventions and there weren’t just a ton of people giving us a bunch of love for it back in 1999 and 2000. If anything the conventions were filled with anime purist that didn’t understand what Funimation was trying to do with Dragon Ball. Just in case you weren’t aware they were trying to make a Japanese anime show popular in America in a time where nobody really knew what an anime really was. So the people who were into anime thought “Oh my gosh, you’re destroying Dragon Ball!” When in fact they were just  trying to make it popular with kids and apparently it worked. So the first time I ever realized that it was going to be a phenomenon was when I was going to a cast party and we watched Dragon Ball Z on TV for the first time. That’s when I actually kinda settled in. It was maybe 6 months after I started working on it that I realized “Oh gosh, I doing something really neat!” I’ve always felt a strange humbleness with what I do because I’m only really doing only the English voice of a Japanese cartoon. I would say it took about 16 years before I figured out what we were doing was really cool.

When we met with the Japanese one time they told us how much they loved our dub of the show and like that we had finally been vindicated. We’ve finally been validated in this world.

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GC: How does it feel knowing that ‘Over 9000’ gone down as one of the most recognized memes in history?
CS: It’s a mixed emotion because is that what many people don’t realize is that I wasn’t the original voice of ‘Over 9000’ that was a Canadian actor who did that particular version. Cause there were a handful of episodes that were dubbed by Canadians at the beginning and someone took his version of it and had made that meme of it.

I use to argue with it and say to people that that wasn’t me. Now I’ve finally just said ‘whatever’ because the more I argue with people the more they just say “OK, fine! You didn’t do it, but still do it anyways,” so I really have connected with it.

GC: While most know you for your roles in the Dragonball franchise, you also did the voice of Kuwabara in Yu Yu Hakusho. Can you tell us a little about that?
CS: It was one of the first things I did after Dragon Ball Z. It was awesome because it wasn’t Dragon Ball Z. I was so tired of it and I had just refused the directing role on Dragon Ball GT because I just didn’t feel like that was a serious I wanted to work on. Yu Yu Hakusho was awesome. The Director of that show was a real close personal friend of mine. The guy use to be an Engineer at Funimation. His name was Justin Cook and he played the role of Yusuke Urameshi, the lead character in the show. It was really fun just to do something different and something unique, and to not be in charge of it.

GC: What was your experience like working with Twisted Pixel?
CS: Oh my gosh Twisted Pixel! Those guys are seriously some of the most weird ass people I’ve ever met in my life. I mean, if it’s not obvious from the games they make. They are just so weird. Like there was this one guy named Josh Bear , who’s one of the Creative Directors over there and one of the Producers, he’ll come to the session and usually just give you a direction like “Dude, just bring the awesome man! Like, just kick awesome right in the balls! Like big spurts of awesome!” It was first fun working on their first game which was The Maw and then ‘Splosion Man, all the way until Comic Jumper because they were just a small company back then and by the time we got to Comic Jumper they were a pretty big organization. Comic Jumper was the best because they let me do so much. They would let me ad lib anything I wanted to and let me be really creative because I was doing both Captain Smiley and the star. I got to do a lot of dialogue by myself which is sort of a dream come true for me.

Later on as a special side note, I went on to do a live-action film with two of the guys over at Twisted Pixel. Josh Bear ended up doing a movie called Lumberjack Man and if you want to see me as a fat park ranger who eats a lot of donuts and beef jerky, you have to watch that horror filmed called Lumberjack Man. Spoiler Alert: It is a show about a Lumberjack that kills people and spreads their blood all over giant pancakes.

GC: Is it true that you are doing the voice of Sergent Askal in Freedom Planet 2?
CS: That is very true. I am voicing Sergent Askal in Freedom Planet 2. I just finished my voiceover sessions with them and it might be a little while before it’s out. They’re really great people to work with. They’re really generous to because they’ve actually given us not only a part on their series, but in their success as well, which a lot of companies don’t do. They basically said “Do a voice on this and we’ll let you share in our glory.” Of course here’s the secret, I would’ve done it even if they hadn’t wanted me to do that.

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GC: Have you ever done voiceover work for a video game or anime that was ultimately cancelled before release?
CS: Yeah, I’ve worked on a lot of titles and I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what they were because they weren’t completed. Anime, no because we usually get that afterwards, but a lot of voiceover projects because they never came to be. Here’s a funny story, at one point years ago I was doing all this voiceover sessions for this game and I didn’t even know what it was called. They would just keep calling it ‘Epic.’ It turns out they were having a writer strike in California, and so they were just doing a bunch of temp voiceover work in Dallas. So for several sessions I was actually Marcus Fenix in Gears of War. If I had really known that was really what the character was and what it was for I would’ve literally cried and begged to have the part back. I just thought ‘Oh, well you know they’re just doing their thing.”

GC: What draws you to voicing a tough sounding character as most of your roles tend to be like that?
CS: I don’t know if I chose to voice those guys or I just do so many of them they just choose me for that. That’s just what I kinda end up doing. I don’t know if it’s because I just voice so many tough guys that I have a hard time voicing really super friendly characters. To some degree I guess those parts sort of chose me, but I’ve done so many of them now that I don’t even know if I could do a really good hero character, at least a hero character that was happy-go-lucky like Goku is.

GC: What advice would you give to someone who has an interest in voice acting?
CS: Make voice acting the center of your dartboard when it comes to what you want to do. Throw darts at it, if you don’t necessarily hit voice acting try to hit all the things that surround it, you know say for instance just become and actor or work in film, or even get involved in theater. Acting is a big important role in voice acting and if you can get that out of the way great. If you got a great voice that only helps. I also suggest maybe people getting involved in Audio Engineering, writing, any thing that just sort of surrounds the thing you want to do because it increases you odds of actually getting to do it. Plus along the way you might find you like doing other things more than voice acting. For instance, I enjoy making sounds, I just like making music, I like producing. I like doing a lot of other things and I were just a voice actor I don’t know if I would entirely be happy. I know that sounds like a spoiled rotten thing to say, but it’s true. I think what draws me to voice acting anyways is the diversity in what we get to do everyday. Like one week you get to be a tiny red frog and the next week you get to be an angry, spiky haired Saiyan, and the next being an spiky haired hero. I think that’s what works best for my weird ADD personality.


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