By Justin Guillou / February 21st, 2017
I had the opportunity of speaking with Erica Mendez. You may know her for her role as Pac-Man in some of the recent games in the series like Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures or as Ryuko in Kill La Kill. Who would have thought they were voiced by the same person?
OR: To start off, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself. What got you into voice acting? Was there any video game, anime or movie, even a comic that made you say ‘I want to get into this field! This is something I would love to do’?
EM: I’m originally from Chicago. I moved out to Los Angeles about four or five years ago. I started working professionally about three or four years ago so not too soon after I moved to LA. I didn’t actually have the intention of being a voice actor; I actually have a degree in animation. So I’ve always been interested in video games and cartoons. I moved out specifically to use my animation degree but ended up not doing that at all and I’ve actually done fan projects when I was a teenager doing a voice over. So that’s how I started getting into it and that’s sort of where my practice comes from, though it’s not official practice. I didn’t start taking classes until I went to LA. I was there at the right place at the right time and it’s been going well so far for me.
OR: Great! Talk about right place at the right time, one of your first roles was Pac-Man in Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures which I think is absolutely hilarious and adorable. How was it voicing such an iconic character in a game that is very different than what people generally know Pac-Man for? Did you find it difficult to give him a voice?
EM: The reason that came about was we were doing a voice match for the show that’s done in Canada. They wanted voice matches for the cartoon. I knew someone at the time who thought I could do the voice match. They asked if I could audition for it and next thing I know, I get another audition for another young boyish voice for another character and got cast as both. Pac-Man being Pac-Man is still really surreal for me. I tend to forget about saying that at panels. A lot of people tend to look at my resume and say ‘Erica Mendez is playing Ryuko in Kill La Kill! She played Pac-Man before, so she is totally going to sound like Pac-Man and it’s going to be weird!’
OR: That was definitely something that I even said too. When I saw your resume, I said to myself that it’s kind of interesting how you go from Pac-Man to Ryuko. I think that’s impressive you were able to do that and it’s funny because after Pac-Man you did many voices in RPGs like Trattoria in Ar no surge or Michi in Atelier Esha & Logy. Both of these games are Gust games and Gust Games have very large scripts, characters that are very fleshed out and have LOTS and LOTS of backstory. There is also LOTS and LOTS of dialogue. When I was playing Ar no surge it just went on forever but in a good way. How did it feel to go from Pac-Man to a much bigger and more fleshed out RPG world?
EM: I tend to be more versed in the JRPG world since that’s mostly what I play as a gamer, so it was cool to be able to make that jump so easily. So as far as the games you mentioned it wasn’t too much of a stretch since all the characters were young boys, so it was kind of a variation of the same voice basically. Trattoria was a little bit more nervous and energetic. Miche in Atelier was the detective so he was very astute and a little bit more formal being a prince character. There were definitely differences but it wasn’t that hard to channel into them.
OR: Very impressive. It’s funny how you channel into that kind of character, then you get to Ryuko who is very hot-blooded. It’s such a jump in personality. Did you find it very difficult to adapt hot-bloodedness into an English voice? It’s not really something that you see in English fiction. That is more of something you typically see in Japanese works. The Japanese voices tend to be able to channel that in a way that we can’t. So what kind of challenges did you come across while trying to adapt that into English?
EM: It’s definitely more of a Japanese trope to have that hot-blooded of a character. It was a huge challenge for me because I’m normally relaxed and chill. I try not to get angry, like I hide my emotions a lot more. And Ryuko was definitely one of the first roles I’ve really done and kind of put me on the map to get me invited to conventions. I feel like I really grew with the character. So it was nice having that character arc with her. So it was easy to go on her journey and all that screaming was definitely a good way to get my frustrations out. That really helped. But it was hard at first but it got better and easier for me at the end and my voice got a lot stronger after that show.
OR: I’m sure your voice definitely got a workout after that! So I guess you would say you enjoy doing hot-blooded characters. Would you say you’ve developed a hot-blooded spirit within you?
EM: A Little bit. I try to take a little bit from each character I play and I may not be as angry and stubborn as Ryuko is a lot of the time. I had a really good time playing her and it was nice going through her emotional journey because you don’t get to go through that in your everyday life. Most people don’t take revenge on their dad being killed or have some weird family background issues. But it’s cool having anime to portray that since you don’t see that a lot in western animation. It’s fun playing characters that are a little bit more far-fetched than what you normally see.
OR: This is what I find most impressive about your resume. You go from Pac-Man, and we were talking about Ryuko and then we got the middle ground with Gon from Hunter X Hunter where he’s a very outgoing and lighthearted kid just out for an adventure. And he is really nice but he CAN get really angry.
EM: Gon was a little bit easier for me to transition into because I play a character that is similar to him (Aladdin from Magi). So that was one of my first lead roles in an anime. Gon and Aladdin definitely have some similarities as far as like being the energetic happy boy when the time allows for it. But there’s also issues that come up that causes them to become more determined and make them change their attitudes. Both get really dark. From what I’ve heard Hunter X Hunter gets a lot darker. I have not looked too far into it myself since I want to go on Gon’s journey as I’m recording but I’m having a lot of fun with Hunter X Hunter.
OR: To conclude, do you have any kind of advice to give to someone who is interested in pursuing this kind of career?
EM: Yea, you probably hear this a lot from people but generally it’s more about acting than voices. So do as much acting as you can whether it be improv ,community theater, classes that you can take in school, stuff like that. And then work on voices after you get the acting part down. There is a website that a voice actor named Dee Bradley Baker created and he’s been working forever. You can hear him as Appa and Momo in Avatar: The Last Airbender and he is Olmec in Legends of the Hidden Temple. He’s amazing and he does all these crazy things with his voice. Check his site out! You can listen to all his demos and he gives so much advice. That’s iwantobeavoiceactor.com and it’s super helpful and I recommend that to anyone who is interested.
OR: Great and that’s a nice plug. Thank you very much for giving me your time and speaking with me. This is a story on how you go from Pac Man to Ryuko! Anything is possible!
Ar no SurgeAtelierErica MendezKill la Killpac-man