The self-proclaimed “Western anime” web series RWBY has a massive and rapidly growing fan following. Set in the fairytale-inspired world of Remnant, the show chronicles four huntresses named Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang, as they train to save the world from monsters known as Grimm and an even more dangerous and sinister criminal syndicate.
At this year’s New York Comic-Con, AsianCrush had the privilege of interviewing actress Barbara Dunkelman, the voice of Yang Xiao-Long.
Otter Lee (AsianCrush): What can you tell us about where Yang is at in Volume 6?
Barbara Dunkelman: She’s in a really interesting place because she just got reunited with her team after being separated for two volumes. It’s a lot of adjustment she’s going through, a lot of forgiveness that she has to deal with, with Blake leaving her and her teammates all being in different headspaces.
So you’d say there are still tensions?
Yeah, there are always still tensions, but I think they’re all really happy to be back together.
I think one of the really lovely things about Volume 5 was that Yang showed a more measured, reserved side of her personality? Do we get more of that in Volume 6?
I think so. I think ever since the trauma happened with her in Volume 3, with Adam, she’s learned that she needs to control her temper and her attitude a little bit to be more measured.
To voice Yang, did you have any inspirations–whether they come from other voice actors or [people] in real life?
Not really. I kind of just got inspiration from the character description that Monty wrote for the character, that Miles and Kerry have been writing for her all along, throughout all the seasons. I kind of just put my own spin on it. I kind of just think of her as a part of me in a way. So I just voice it how I would voice it.
What would you say were the most difficult scenes or moments for you to record in the history of RWBY?
Oh man, the part where she gets her arm cut off was pretty difficult because I had to scream probably the loudest I had ever screamed in my entire life.
And then the really emotional scene with her mother in Volume 5 at the end there. That was really difficult to me. Luckily because I haven’t had any issues with my parents abandoning me, so trying to pull that kind of feeling out was difficult.
How’s your convention experience been going so far?
It’s awesome. It’s crazy. It’s cool to see all the RWBY cosplayers everywhere. We have a huge booth on the floor. We have a panel at Madison Square Garden. It’s just really crazy that RWBY’s grown so much and Roosterteeth has such a big presence at NYCC.
RWBY has a Japanese dub. Have you ever listened to the Japanese voices or had any input on their performances?
Yeah, I have, I have, and uh, I’m a little embarrassed because they’re SO much better than us, so just listening to it, I’m like “Damn, we need to up our game.” They are really good!
Can you describe the experience of recording RWBY Chibi?
RWBY Chibi’s kind of like recording the first two volumes of RWBY, just because everyone’s really happy and excited and upbeat, and there’s no problems in the world yet. No one’s died or anything like that. It’s just a happy little world, so it’s fun to do it just carefree and really upbeat.
Off the top of your head, have you ever improvised any lines while you were recording?
No, not for Yang. Some of the other characters have had some lines here or there, but Yang is pretty straightforward.
How do you juggle all of your responsibilities both on and off camera at Roosterteeth?
It’s hard. There’s a lot to do. I manage a team of five people, the social media marketing team and community as well as doing podcasts and voice acting. It’s definitely very hard to juggle everything, but luckily everyone’s understanding of all the responsibilities I have. I have a very particular Google calendar I keep where everything’s just right in order.
And recently, you were in one of the live-action projects….
Yeah! What was that like?
It was good. Its a horror-comedy movie that just came out on DVD and Blu Ray, and it’s on iTunes and everything like that. Filming that last year was super fun and different than anything I’ve ever done before. Horror’s really, really fun.
Thank you so much for your time, Barbara!