Written by: April Prince
Before the release of the new season of My Hero Academia, BGN was able to sit down (safely over Zoom, of course) with veteran voice actors Eric Vale and Sonny Strait to get some insight not only on the new season but also on their industry insights and how the series has resonated with fans. In addition to hearing about the show and how it feels to record those famous fight scenes, we also discussed the atmosphere of working at Funimation and wearing different hats in the anime industry. (Remember that you can now watch My Hero Academia on Funimation’s website and on the Funimation app.)
What can you tell us about the trajectory of where your characters will be going in Season 5?
Sonny Strait: They will be moving in a forward direction. There will be momentum that propels him to other places. [Laughs.] You’re not getting a spoiler out of me.
Eric Vale: I fully concur with Sonny. My character is going this way? [Points in different directions.] Maybe this way? Depends on how he feels. Very jazzy — he’s got jazz hands. I’m expecting dance numbers. He’s gonna break into song, I’m hoping.
How do you think the themes of heroism and discovery play into how you see your characters?
Strait: I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that he’s [Re-Destro] very conflicted. There’s some forces inside of him that are fighting each other.
Vale: So, this is something I’ve talked about before, [which is] that I really enjoy being a villain. The villain portrayal that I get to do is that villains are often conflicted between the good and the bad. The good guys are not conflicted between good and bad — they just know to be good. The villain’s making a conscious choice to be bad, even though they know that the good path is right there. That, to me, is going to be really interesting to see play out.
One of the things that’s really interesting about villains in all forms is that even when they know they’re doing something bad, in their mind, it’s the right path forward.
Strait: Well yeah, they justify their actions. I think that’s why you like them. You can see how someone might take that route. I think what really makes a villain a villain is you know they’re wrong. Deep down, they know they’re wrong too.
When you think about the world of My Hero Academia, when you meet fans or when you talk to fans, do you think they see the conflict of some things are bad, but they think they’re doing good, and some people are doing good, and they might accidentally be doing something bad?
Vale: As far as my character is concerned, I just started him. I have my first convention next month, so we’ll see how they react.
Strait: I can tell you that everything you’re saying is true. All of the fans are deeply invested in this story and deeply invested in the characters, specifically looking for story arcs to play out in ways that they are hoping. So I hope the story plays out in a way that makes them happy.
One of the big parts of My Hero are the fight scenes and seeing those play out. Is that something that you like to portray when you’re in the booth?
Strait: I mean, it can be painful on your vocal cords. But at the same time nothing is more liberating than going full force with screaming and fighting and things like that. I mean, to do it right, you have to commit to it. So, it’s cathartic in a way.
Vale: I read something in the past few years about scream therapy, where people are taught how to scream effectively to release stress — kind of like exercising. I find it interesting [when] you do big fighting scenes, you come out feeling more well-adjusted.
Strait: Yeah, Eric is a lot more relaxed than when I met him. Years of screaming in a booth are really relaxing, that’s true.
When you work in Funimation, it’s not just voice acting. It’s ADR (automated dialogue replacement), producing, directing, etc. Have those elements helped your performances?
Strait: It certainly helped mine. When I started directing, to be able to explain to someone what you’re wanting from them makes you understand the process. But also, seeing the answers they come up with and the solutions they come up with as actors will make me grow as an actor, just through osmosis. I’m like, I never thought to approach it that way. That’s really cool, you know?
Vale: Yeah, same for me. I find [that] in the creative industry, it’s best to do as much as you can. Writing, directing, acting, producing — all of these things tend to dramatically inform the other ones. The more you can do one of them, [the more] you’re growing in other areas. “Do as much of it as possible” is my motto.
Strait: I agree, and I think that’s for every aspect of even just writing. Like when I was writing for it, I certainly understood it in a way I would have never understood it before. When you’re actually taking the time to translate into more American English, [it] makes you really understand what you’re talking about.
Are there any last thoughts you’d like to leave for the fans before the season starts?
Strait: I can’t wait for you guys to see this character. Honestly, I can’t wait to see more of them myself. It’s gonna be fun.
Vale: I hope everybody’s happy with what we do. I want everyone to know that we care about it. We care about delivering a good show as much as the fans do.
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