Last August thanks to the convention committee we got to spend lunch with voice actor Brad Swaile. It's taken me a bit of time to get the interview written up as Brad made a lot of interesting points and I didn't want to miss anything.
How did you get into acting?
I got into voice acting by accident, I got into acting mostly because of my sister. I have a sister named Tracy and she's a year older than me, so we're really tight. She got bit by the acting bug and I saw what she was doing and I was very impressed and I got jealous. So I followed her footsteps.
I started off doing theatre, and I then I got involved with a company called the Vancouver Youth Theatre. So that was theatre that was geared toward a cast of kids, so they would put together a troupe of kids and we'd playbuild a show and then tour it around. At some point me and my sister got on the same touring production and there was an acting agency right across the street from the theatre that would watch the kids that would come to the theatre and so thy approached me and my sister and asked if we would like to join their agency. They said they'd start sending us out on auditions for movies, TV shows and things like that, so we said yes please. So that got me into on camera acting, so then I started doing commercials and movies and local TV shows. Through that I had my first audition for a cartoon which was My Little Pony Tales and I got it, and I fell in love with voice acting right there. It was a good fit for me, I felt very comfortable with it and loved every aspect of it. That led me to some other voice projects, and then a few years later I had my first audition for an anime series which was a show called Ranma ½, and I got it, and that was the first time I'd really seen anime since watching Akira, back in the day.
So that got me back into anime a little bit, and it's kind of gone from there. When I ended up in college I realised the on camera work I didn't enjoy as much, and I loved being on set but I didn't like the whole audition process. I found it very challenging, where as with the voice side of things I didn't mind the auditioning and I love the people and I love the work. I also get to enjoy a huge perk in the form of conventions like these [ Amecon]. Which when I first got into voice acting I didn't know these kind of things existed.
That brings us up to date I suppose.
The fandom seems to have changed over the years, when did you start to get involved with conventions?
I didn't get invited to a convention until Gundam Wing, I think that was what did it. Because of Ranma I got my first fan mail, I got a call from the agency saying ' we've got a package here for you, it's fan mail.' I was so confused, so I went down to the agency to pick it up, and I'd have people sending me these amazing drawings , and letters talking about how much they enjoy the show and if they liked specific characters and it really blew my mind.
So then Gundam Wing came out and I got invited to a bunch of conventions, an anime convention will have one of two effects on actor. This is just from my point of view, it will either open up a new world that someone like me can embrace, as an art guy who has several interests including music art acting, all that kind of stuff , a convention like this is really inspiring to me. For some actors going to a convention can freak them out, and I can understand that for sure. I've been freaked out a couple of times myself .
What's the strangest line you've ever had to perform?
This is a two part answer, the strangest one I didn't find so strange at the time we recorded it. The animation around it made it a little interesting, but then coming to a convention after the show was released really bumped it on the list of interesting lines and it's quite simply;I take a potato chip and eat it. So now when I go to conventions people force feed me potato chip and ask me to read a line. At the time I didn't think too much of it, but it's become a pretty funny thing.
Another line was in a series called 'Black Lagoon' , where the characters that I play are sweet unassuming hero types who tend to say the right thing, then Black Lagoon comes along and there's some filthy language that show. So I'd read the scripts for the episodes and I'd start to get jealous, as many of the cast got to deliver these really outrageous lines and then finally because of black lagoon I got to deliver my first F-bomb. So that was great fun, I must have recorded that line a thousand times, for me it was therapy.
Do you find a lot of voice actors pull funny faces when they record?
Absolutely you have to, if you're not enveloping your character in some small way it's a much harder thing to do. But there's also limitations within that, a good example from that is X-men for example Scott [McNeil] if he's in battle as Wolverine watching him perform you believe he'sin battle. But you have to confine your movement so you don't go off mic or get clothing in the way. So it's a delicate balance between getting the performance you want to portray butalso making sure your technical techniques are in check.
Do you enjoy performing attack yells etc?
Depends on the show, in Dragon Ball Z it's all screaming you scream over three commercial breaks. That was hard but fun.
Pre-lay animation [ recording for new animation rather than dubbing over a foreign show - Azure] when you record fights you have to separate it out, but that can be a lot of fun playing off the other actors so they can overlay it after.
Now for anime series how I like to work is watch a series of sequences, you can record one sound at a time but I like to record the whole sequence for flow. You can get the peaks and values otherwise it can sound a bit static. That's something I really enjoy, convincing the director to let me do the whole sequence, watching it then making mental tabs of what's going on in the battle and then just running it. Then sometimes you'd do a great run, sometimes if something is a bit off I can do in and do that little bit again but sometimes I'll run it again.
How many times have you been to the UK?
The first time was MCM Expo, and when Amecon first invited me I jumped for joy to get the chance. When they contacted me again I was really surprised and honoured. I really didn't expect to get another invitation, I think I said yes before I'd read the e-mail!
When I got here I decided to have an adventure because of the Olympics and I hopped on a train to Coventry and attended the women's football bronze medal match. When Canada my country was playing France, and we won and that was cool. The last Olympics was in back yard in Vancouver, and I got to see the Summer Olympics here!
Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to go into voice acting as a career?
My tip is explore all aspects of acting. Sometimes I get that question phrased as how do I get into anime voice acting, don't limit your opportunities by picking something so specific. Most voice actors I know that have been doing voice acting for anime, it was just something they got into and had a knack for it that they could peruse. The majority of voice actors do other forms of acting as well in theatre, on camera. The most important part of the phrase voice actor, is actor. Sometimes, you'll have people that so reasonable interpretations of characters from the Simpsons. Well, that show's already been cast and been running a very long time. If you can do a decent Krusty, well there's someone that can do it better and he's been doing it for sixteen odd years.
So that's the only sound advice, I can give explore acting the voices come secondary.
As far as how to get into voice acting, it's different for every person and depends on where you live. If you don't live somewhere where they do voice recording it'll be tougher to get into paid voice acting.
That gets me into another topic, with the way technology is going allowing people to display their entertainment projects there's more of a demand for voice acting. So working on someone's web series is a great way to get practice and get yourself out there. It may not pay anything but it's work, most people who love voice acting love the work. Anime doesn't pay that well, contrary to some people's belief, it's the work that drives you.
There's lot of opportunity out there you just just have to be diligent and pursue it then find out what works for you. One thing being in Vancouver in terms of professional voice acting, because I also do video games and radio commercials, Tv spots,and things like that. With me in Vancouver having an agency if a new project comes to town usually they'll contact the agencies in the area and I'll get an audition for that show. One great tool is use research skills, figure out what's going on in the industry in your area. Many agencies have voice departments and they didn't when I started out. So there's ways to contact those people and ask them, you don't have to be part of an agency to get work it's your decision. As much as an agency interviews you to get on their roster, you have to decide if it's right for you.
It's a privilege to work in this industry, but it has to be on your own terms. It's a really brutal business. The entertainment industry is very ruthless no one steps around your ego, you have to have a thick skin. This is all in my opinion, it's why I don't like working on camera jumping through all those hoops, it was no fun .
Everyone has their own story how they got in. It's not like other careers where you take certain qualifications and there's an entry point to get in Even within other industries there's divergence as to where you end up...