One of the most anticipated and crowded panels at this year’s New York Comic-Con was the Dragon Ball Super: Broly presentation at Madison Square Garden. While deranged and raving Broly is no stranger to the Dragon Ball franchise, this installment will mark the first time that series creator Akira Toriyama personally played a part in developing and writing him, and his inclusion in this movie is apparently being added to the canon of the show.
Fans got to experience both the English and Japanese trailers of the upcoming anime feature along with live commentary from the English dub cast of Dragon Ball Super. Perhaps most exciting was the presence of Goku’s Japanese voice actress, the venerable Masako Nozawa. Goku’s dub voice Sean Schemmel even presented his Asian counterpart with flowers and invited her to join him at the English premiere of the film.
The audience went crazy when Sean recounted how he had asked Nozawa-san, who is an octogenarian, if she felt tired at all, and she responded “No. I am a Super Saiyan!”
AsianCrush was especially lucky to get backstage interviews in a press roundtable with multiple Dragon Ball Super cast members. Sadly, Nozawa-san’s busy schedule did not allow her to attend.
***The following interviews were edited for clarity and time.
We started with Sean Schemmel (Goku).
Otter (AsianCrush): How do you keep the experience of voicing Goku fresh for you after all these years?
Sean: Here’s how: I am a classically trained musician and when I went to classical music school, I played the Mozart French horn concertos THOUSANDS of times. And when I was at classical music school, it was drilled into my head that “no matter how many times you play this concerto or symphony or whatever music you’re going to play because you’re going to play them thousands of times in your life, you’ve gotta play them like you’ve never played them before, and make it new. That was drilled into my head as a musician, so my attitude towards Goku, no matter how many takes I gotta do or times gotta do it, every time I walk in—it feels fundamentally (with the exception that I’ve ben doing it a long time and the fact that I know a lot more about the show), it feels roughly the same as the day I started, which goes back to training as a classical musician and practicing every day for three or four hours in a row—every day, and then a two or three hour concert, focus on the sympathy. It all fed into playing Goku, and that skill set all helps keep it fresh. Plus, I absolutely can’t let you guys [the fans] down. I have to suspend your disbelief—it’s not an if, it’s a have to do it.
What are the craziest fan experiences you’ve had at conventions throughout your career?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I can repeat that, but I’ve signed a birth certificate, I’ve been followed. It usually involves Chris pranking me or something like that.
Later in the roundtable, Sean clarified that he’s often asked how Goku has changed as a character, but that he doesn’t feel that the classic shonen protagonist has changed much at all.
People always ask me how Goku has changed and he hasn’t. He’s only evolved as a warrior and a fighter. I think the whole point of Goku is that while everyone grows and changes around him, he stays in his beginner’s mind, his pure, got-hit-in-the-head-as-a-child mindset. A lot of times, I’ll see it in the writing from our end [not Japan] a little bit of Vegeta attitude coming into Goku’s writing, and I’ll say “Can we not do this? We need to keep Goku pure.” Because he’s always going to be a child inside. Simple, but a genius fighter. Everyone else can get married and get babies (even though Goku got married and had babies), and grow and change because of that constant. Especially with what Trunks has been through and Gohan, and Krillin, you know, with getting blown up by Frieza and all. They’ve had to deal with a lot, but Goku’s always stayed the same.
Krillin’s died so many times.
Yeah, and Goku’s like, “It’ll be okay, Krillin. You’re going to be fine. I’ll go talk to the Grand Universe guy!”
In closing, Sean admitted that he does see voicing Goku as a kind of ambassadorship for anime and the growing world of voice acting.
I do feel a kind of burden. I feel that I gotta do this right. I gotta do this consistently. I have to stick with this no matter what happens. And I don’t always represent myself perfectly because I try to be real instead of putting on a face. If you and I were all friends, I don’t think I’d be talking any differently except with a lot more cursing and a few more dirty stories—no, I’m just kidding, but I think they’re funny. I’m basically this guy you see in front of you. I don’t believe in creating the cult of personality which a lot of actors do for the sake of money, etc, etc. I started doing it when I first got the job, but then I realized I can’t do that, it’s too exhausting, so I try to ride the line between a cult of personality and being myself .
I know I’m an example to young kids who want to do this kind of work, so when they interact with me, I’m honest, real, genuine, and respectful, even if I disagree with them versus “Hey, you met me and you’re great and I’m probably going to say something positive even if it isn’t true like “all your dreams are gonna come true” and bullshit like that. Or, I can be real with you and give you actual advice that was given to me that’s helped me navigate this difficult path. I’m more that guy. Occasionally I’ll bump into a kid who asks me the right question, meaning I can tell he really wants to do something in voice acting and I’ll get out the real answers for them. I did it the other day in front of a parent the other day and she was like “Thank you for that.” I basically said “Your mom’s going to tell you you’re freakin’ great and you’re probably not. You don’t want to listen to people who are blowing sunshine up your ass. You need to make sure you are getting honest feedback so you can get better because it’s possible your parents might always blindly support you because they love you and they’re your parents.
Luckily I had parents and people from classical music school who were like Simon on American idol—I love Simon, he’s all like “You’re out of tune, you suck!” And it’s like “Yeah, it’s not easy onstage. You gotta be a marine onstage and bring you’re a-game, and I gotta do that every time I go into the booth and record, every day for twenty years, and that’s how you do it.”
Next, we spoke to Chris Sabat, the voice of Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans and Goku’s nemesis turned fierce rival and ally. It turns out that his workout schedule is not nearly as disciplined as his character’s.
Chris: I have actually considered doing a motivational podcast of some sort where all it is is me talking in kind of Vegeta’s voice and just inspiring people to work out, although it wouldn’t work on myself obviously because I do not work out, so I would have to get the lines from somebody else because I’ve had personal trainers, but it doesn’t really work with me. Literally, I just can’t stick to it. It’s impossible.
After a fan gushed about the moment when Vegeta embraces his son Trunks and actually attempts to be a good father to him for once, Chris described the noticeable impact he saw amongst fans.
I think that moment changed a lot of people. Goku was a childhood favorite for a lot of fans who are kids, but Vegeta is a very memorable character for a lot of adults because when they grow up, they look back on it and see Vegeta as the bigger hero. In fact, I’ve said this a lot of times, but I believe that Goku is a pretty selfish character frankly. If you think about it, he’s supposed to help people, but he only helps them if the person he is fighting happens to be very strong and he wants to fight them.
When did you first realize you could perform with that British accent and how did it morph into the Vegeta we all know and love today?
Well, my original Vegeta voice, of course, was actually based on the Canadian version. It was Brian Drummond’s voice and I was cast as Vegeta based on my ability to copy him. But shortly after starting the series, I quickly manipulated his voice into something a little bit different because I didn’t want to spend the entire series copying someone else’s voice. I just wanted it to be less shocking for people running home from school that day to come home and all of a sudden our voices our so dramatically different, they don’t know what happened. Some people didn’t even know the voice had changed, they must have either been very young or not very bright.
For the Copy Vegeta segment in Dragon Ball Super, we actually brought Brian Drummond, the original English voice of Vegeta, back. I was trying to do something special with Copy Vegeta and I didn’t have any information from Japan about what it was going to be like, so I listened to Ryō Horikawa’s voice and it seemed like he was doing something kind of evil and fun with it, but I don’t understand Japanese, so it was difficult for me to ascertain what it was he was really doing, but I wanted to do something special with it. Then I was like “Wait a second: Copy Vegeta. I copied Vegeta, Let’s get the Vegeta I copied to play Copy Vegeta. ” And we even through an “Over 9,000” reference in there. It was a lot of fun. I contacted him through social media—I’d never met Brian Drummond. We’d talked over social media a lot, but I’d never met him. Messaged him, he’s like “Would love to do it,” I showed up for the first session, and I got chills. And I was so happy because most people know me as the voice of Vegeta, but there are still a lot of people who still know Brian’s voice as the original Vegeta from the original Saiyan saga, so I wanted people to have that feeling one more time and I think it worked. I hope it worked!
Chris also revealed to us that recording had not yet begun on either the Tournament of Power’s dub or Dragon Ball Super: Broly. He hadn’t even seen official scripts for the latter yet.
What’s it like playing Vegeta’s father, King Vegeta?
I mentioned this on the panel. It was bizarre to me, but Vegeta’s father only used to show up in flashbacks for Dragon Ball Z, and just to clarify, back when we were recording DBZ, we did not have a lot of resources. At that time, Dragon Ball was no making Funimation a lot of money. They were just the guys that owned it and trying to figure out if they could do it. So we didn’t have that many actors on our casting list, and eventually we got to the point because I was the director, a lot of stuff fell on me. That’s why I did so many voices on the series because if I couldn’t find someone that we liked immediately, I was just like “We don’t have anymore time. I’ve got to go! We have to record this.” So Vegeta’s father seemed like an easy one. Like “Oh, I’ll just do an uppity, British type thing,” thinking that’s the last time I’ll ever see him. And then he was in the Broly movie 15 years ago, and now again, he’s in this trailer for the new one, and it looks like he has a bigger part to play.
Do you think Vegeta and his father had a good relationship?
Probably not. Based on all the things I’ve seen about King Vegeta, he did not seem like a very nice guy either. Frieza was the only mother that Vegeta ever seemed to have. And I find it interesting, you see it in the trailer. Gine and Bardock, embracing one another, so clearly it maybe indicates that Saiyans can have like a romantic relationship. It really does bring into question, who is Vegeta’s mom and whatever happened to her? Perhaps, his dad the king had special privileges in order to mate. It didn’t seem like Vegeta was that much of a romantic, up until Dragon Ball Super at least.
I’m hoping to see Raditz too. You actually see in the opening shot in the trailer video, a lot of the earlier villains: Frieza, The Ginyu Force, Zarbon, Dodoria, which is pretty fun for me. I really liked seeing them. Now if it really is this origin story, it’s possible we could see Raditz but really really young and Nappa but young.
What have been your favorite scenes in Super so far?
Admittedly, I love all the scenes of Vegeta trying to impress Whis. I love Vegeta trying to make an omelet, that’s one of my faves. And one of my favorite characters is definitely Zeno. I was so excited for Zeno to be announced. We worked really hard to give Zeno this really kind of vacant quality, If Goku’s childlike nature became its own thing, that’s what Zeno is to me. A dangerous child. Akira Toriyama must have a thing about bored, dangerous children.
Lastly, Vic Mignona, the voice of the villainous Broly, weighed in on how he feels about his character finally being recognized in the main timeline of the series. While at the time of the interview, he had yet to read the script, he’s excited to learn more about the Legendary Super Saiyan and his nature.
Vic: I’ve played Broly for 15 years in three movies, 13 video games, and the whole time I would think ‘Dang, wouldn’t it be fun if they brought him into the prime universe? Wouldn’t it be great if they made Broly canon?’ And it never happened until now… [I think] the mystery of him, who he is, why is he so angry, what’s wrong with this guy, what is his relationship to the other people [is], all of these unanswered questions means the fans want to know more about him. If you know all of the answers, you’re far less interested in something than if you want to know more about him… but I think that’s why the character became so popular. The mystery.
Vic also mentioned that he has to work harder to sustain in character screaming and fighting noises compared to his Saiyan costars because he didn’t come from the same training background and that he hopes Super’s Broly has a better defining motivation than simply hating the sound of infant Goku’s/Kakarot’s cries.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly premieres in Japan on December 14th, 2018, and the United States on January 16th, 2019. In Part II of the interview series, we chat with Monica Rial (the voice of Bulma), Ian Sinclair (the voice of Whis), and Jason Douglas (the voice of Beerus).