By Quentin H. / October 13th, 2022
Dragon Con, with all of its many themed tracks that range from puppetry to urban fantasy and filk, has something for everyone to enjoy. At this year’s Dragon Con convention (which had 65,000 attendees), I sat down with voice actor and streamer Sean Chiplock. Known for a variety of roles in video games such as Genshin Impact and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to anime titles such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind and Re:Zero, Sean Chiplock has established himself as a premiere talent within the voice acting industry.
In Part One of a two-part interview, I (along with Senpai Project), talk with Sean Chiplock about working with Nintendo, his favorite place to be in the world, about bringing Pirate Cat Captain Nattanya in La Pucella Ragnarok, and more.
You can buy a membership for next year’s Dragon Con here.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with Operation Rainfall. On Twitter, you said that you’ve “never been to an event of this size as a hosted professional before now,” so I have to ask: while we are only in day two of Dragon Con, what do you think of the event so far and have you been able to see anything yet?
Sean Chiplock: Wait, this is day two? They don’t call the Thursday before ‘day zero’? Oh, my goodness, so was there actual paneling and programming?
SC: Oh, I had no idea! I was used to events like Anime Expo where Thursday was like ‘day zero’ and the Friday, Saturday, Sunday are the event – they had eventually expanded to five days. So now it’s even bigger than I expected it would be. Well, to be perfectly honest, this is the first time that I’ve been to an event of this size. And I’m having that small-fish-in-big-ocean kind of feeling. Cons have certain themes, and I am definitely getting that ‘live action – I wouldn’t say medieval Ren faire,’ but kind of like a sci-fi element of this kind of con. You see a lot of people who are in stuff like Walking Dead, Space Ghost. And someone who has a pretty heavy background in video games and anime, I’m still trying to suss out how well I fit in with that atmosphere. So most of this weekend, I’m probably going to be doing interviews or my panels or sitting at my table – for two major reasons.
One is for my wife’s amazing candles that she handmakes from scratch. She is actually doing a Dungeons & Dragons themed line. Check out her website, go to Batwix Candles on Etsy. Anyway, I love supporting her because she never gets the chance to come with me to these events. But also, just to get a sense of how many people are going to show up and because when I come to these conventions as a guest, I’m being paid to be here. They are putting me up, they are paying me for my food. So, I wouldn’t call it ‘obligation,’ but I have a genuine personal interest in creating memorable experiences for other people. I can’t really do that if I’m off galivanting and doing my own thing versus being at my table where people can see me, some of whom may not have the opportunity otherwise. It sounds very lazy – that I’m not going to leave my table outside of dealer den hours – but it is because I want to show how much I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
OR: You said in a January 2018 interview with Cat With A Monocle that the people who hired you at Nintendo for [The Legend of Zelda:] Breath of the Wild “were really big on finding/recruiting individuals who were truly invested in the work” and that “Nintendo clearly has a company vision that focuses heavily on teamwork being the core foundation to a great project.” Could you elaborate a bit more about this and the booking process for Revali, Teba, and Deku Tree?
SC: So, there is a story behind this. The only character I was originally cast as in Breath of the Wild was the Great Deku Tree. Which I find very funny, because out of the three characters I ended up playing, I would consider the Great Deku Tree to be – it’s weird to say this word – but the weakest performance overall. Not by much, but just the fact that you’ve got just a natural higher pitch to my voice, and [imitates Great Deku Tree] ‘I’m bringing it all the way down.’
In the middle of production, they were trying to test out some voices. And they were like ‘Hey, I’ve got this other character named Revali, would you like to do a sample read for him?’ And I was ‘Of course, I am always down for a challenge.’ So they show me the work in progress cutscene, and I see this beautiful bird-man in all his feathery glory, and I start squeeing like a schoolgirl. Unashamedly, I am standing in front of it, literally balled hands to my face going “Eeeeeeee, eeeeee, eeeeee!” I was so happy. What I didn’t know was that on the other side of the glass, the person directing me, who’s not affiliated with Nintendo, is on a live Skype call with at least two to three higher-ups from Nintendo who were listening in. So these – I’m going to mentally imagine they were in suits and nice ties, even though they were probably in casual Friday gear – these folks from the ‘Big N’ are listening in to this 25, 20-something year-old man just losing his mind over how gorgeous a bird-man looks. But I like to think that it played into their casting decision, the voice fit and I could tell that I have to imagine they might have listened to that and been like ‘We really like this person, he’s invested and engaged that they care about the product more than just the potential paycheck that it’s worth.’
And Nintendo has always struck me as a company that is very team-oriented. I would have to go back to remember specific articles, but I remember them specifically saying that they don’t really take well to team members who try to take lone-wolf credit like ‘I’m the reason this project did well, it’s because of me that it got the notoriety it had.’ And that’s kind of the same reason I didn’t try to pitch myself as the best Champion or anything – it’s everyone coming together to create a great product as a team. But yeah, that’s pretty much where it falls in regards to that. So, I’m very glad that my passionate outbursts helped me potentially book the role. But more so, I’m glad that Nintendo entrusted me with several voiced characters in a franchise that is historically known for not being voiced. Most people ask, ‘How did it feel to be in a Legend of Zelda game, how exciting was it?!’ For the first six months after the game came out, I was holding my breath: ‘Do people like it? Do people hate it? Do they think it’s the worst thing since the CD-i games that won’t be named?’ Good experience overall.
“The crazier, more animated, more exaggerated the character is, the more I thrive in that kind of role, whereas nuanced, down-to-earth, realistic characters have been a struggle point for me for a long time. I’m continuously getting better, since I recognize it as a weakness.”
Senpai Project: Hello, my name is Javier, and I am from the Senpai Project. These are the top 20 questions that were picked-
SC: Ooooh, lightning round!
SP: Yeah, lightning round. One-hundred questions, and out of the 50,000 followers we have – they picked these top 20. So, I’m going to just give you 10, and then go back to asking more questions [by Operation Rainfall]. The question is: ‘Favorite food’?
SC: Japanese curry. There was a place called ‘Curry House’ that got forcibly shutdown in February 2019, and no other curry place has made curry like they did, and I have been searching ever since.
SP: Favorite fruit?
SC: Ooooooh. I don’t have starfruit [often] enough for it to count, but I would say raspberries. Because if you get really good raspberries that are in season that are just the right amount of tart, they are unlike anything else.
SP: Favorite color?
SC: I used to be a ‘green’ kid. I used to be a ‘forest green,’ I have The Legend of Zelda shirt with the green and the Triforce. But now I’m very much a ‘blue.’ When I check my wardrobe, at least half my shirts are blue.
SP: Favorite place in the USA?
SC: Favorite place in the USA…There was this place called Great Wolf Lodge – I’m sure you guys have heard of it. It’s kind of a combined waterpark [and] hotel. They have one in Anaheim, even though it doesn’t really work because it is a rustic-cabin themed place. But we went to one in Michigan, and you stepped out on the balcony – you could look over this big lake with this line of trees on the side. It was probably the most magical experience I’ve ever had at a hotel or resort-type place.
Probably also the Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells, because I was there for [Daisho Con], and I got responsibly destroyed on their mixed drinks.
SP: They actually got bought out by ColossalCon.
SC: I heard!
SP: Favorite social media that you like to use?
SC: I mean, I almost reject a lot of social media, because I see it as a necessity for my career, but I try not to tie myself too much to the expectations of others, because they aren’t the ones casting me in projects. I want to say I enjoy Twitter, because I use it more often than anything else. But it is hard to say that I have a favorite, because it is a way to keep people up to date.
If anything, I would say Twitch, because at least with Twitch, I get to interact with my community live, we get to comment on the things that I’m playing. With Twitter or Instagram, it feels like you’re just throwing stuff in the void so that people will comment on that. That disconnect – I’m not really a big fan of.
OR: Do you find it more difficult to voice more emotive characters like Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes franchise or more subdued and stoic characters like Diluc from Genshin Impact? How do you approach these wildly diverse roles?
SC: Stoic is the harder one. I was always the energetic kid growing up. I had blatant ADHD – I would say it went into remission, but it never went fully away. I’m very expressive. I use gestures a lot. The crazier, more animated, more exaggerated the character is, the more I thrive in that kind of role, whereas nuanced, down-to-earth, realistic characters have been a struggle point for me for a long time. I’m continuously getting better, since I recognize it as a weakness. I would say within the last year alone, I have made great strides in playing more stoic, subdued, calm characters that don’t raise their voice a lot.
Rean actually [is] a big part of that, because he has grown through the four games, he’s changed – almost become more despondent or, like, glazed over what he has been subjected to and what he’s had to deal with. But I like that it always presents a new challenge for me. I don’t know if either of you are familiar with [Aegis Rim:] Thirteen Sentinels – I’ve been streaming that on my Twitch recently. We’re about halfway, 60 percent of the way through it. Just listening to all my colleagues doing all these personal performances that are not hype-anime was kind of a turning point for me.
There’s actually a very brief but very funny story where I was in the middle of stream like ‘I need to start studying this, I need to listen – repeat some of these lines just to ingrain what it is like doing a softer performance.’ The next week, I had an audition that asked for [a] grounded, theatrical performance, and I borrowed from what I just had been hearing on the streams, and I booked a role on it. So, it was cool to be able to take from my colleagues and learn, and then immediately adapt it into something that booked me new work.
OR: Let’s talk about that a little further. You have a new project that was just released two days ago, La Pucella Ragnarok, on Steam where you voice various monsters, a Dark Lord member, Barsom, and Pirate Cat Captain Nattanya.
SC: I have to try to remember what his voice was! I’m grateful that I work often enough that sometimes, the projects mesh together. [imitates Nattanya] ‘But I want to assume he does a little bit of a pirate voice, while also doing the nyaaaa!’ Something like that.
OR: Can you tell us a little bit about this game, and what it was like working voicing a role that was previously done by none other than Cam Clarke on the PlayStation 2’s La Purcelle: Tactics?
SC: So, I’ll be upfront: I don’t know much about the game itself. Like, I know that it’s within the same vein as DisGaea – the same graphical style. I know it’s also technically the first Western localization and release of a remake of a game that came out in Japan. So, I’ve done my background research. That’s about as much as I know about the game.
I didn’t know that he was originally voiced by Cam Clarke, but that’s what makes it so funny. Because Cam has always been kind of like this peripheral idol of mine. It’s weird to say idol – I would say inspiration of mine. Because I grew up on Tales of Symphonia, that was my first Tales game. I remember him distinctly as Kratos [Aurion] in that. Back during the AIM days, I used to role play Tales of Symphonia characters and I roleplayed with a guy who roleplayed as Kratos. Like, that was showing my age right there – talk about roleplaying on AIM chat.
So, when I heard him as Instructor Neithardt in Trails of Cold Steel I, it was one of the first people to speak in the game, and I’m like ‘Oh my God, Cam Clarke is speaking to me! And I’m voicing the protagonist, I’m voicing the main character!’ So now it just feels like we’re slowly getting closer to that point of singularity where we converge and diverge again, but I’m going to have like swapped bodies with him. Maybe Cam Clarke is just an immortal spirit looking for a new vessel to take over so he can achieve immortality, and I’m the unwitting victim. So Cam, my body is ready! Please give me your skill! [laughs]
SP: Favorite place in the world?
SC: This sounds super kawaii-desu-ne-weeaboo, but going to Japan for Comiket was crazy. I visited in 2016, thanks to a friend who goes there for shopping and reselling, and we decided to time it for Comiket. Just all the experiences – the food festivals, the fact that you could walk down Akihabara and there would be some sort of food stalls. Like fresh teriyaki that you could get – it was incredible. Comiket itself was crazy. It was like Anime Expo, but way more organized. There’s a story I love telling people about how at one point, I was moving down an aisle, just completely shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. And I go to move forward, and I feel my upper body start to move back. And the force of the people moving in the opposite direction was so strong, that it was deliberately shoving you back, even though you were trying to go in the opposite direction. It was dangerous in that heat too. The fox village, everything that I got to do there was so fun. I would definitely want to brush up on my Japanese before I went back.
Oh! Probably the deer village in Nara. I’m a huge sucker for animals, I love zoos, I love cats, I love dogs. I love interacting with animals in general. So, the fact that you could just buy biscuits for the equivalent of two dollars in the United States and have an entire horde of deer show up and start doing their bowing actions to you is unlike anything else. It’s cool to watch on video, it is unreal to see and experience in person.
That was not a lightning round answer!
SP: Favorite anime?
SC: Favorite anime…For comedy, would probably Daily Lives of High School Boys or Komi Can’t Communicate. I really love the visual use of timing on that – it is fantastic. For action, I’m a big fan of both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist. I feel like they have their own merits for different reasons. And I swear this isn’t because I voice the main character, but Re:Zero for, at the time it was released, was on a whole other level. Just the way it deconstructed the trope, the quality of performances – in both sub and in dub – the overall visual animation. Anime is thriving right now, but at least back then, Re:Zero was a very special project for me.
SP: First game you ever played?
SC: First game I ever played was Mega Man 6, that I remember, on the NES. It was that or RBI Baseball, but who talks about a baseball game as being their first one? Sorry to the baseball fans out there! It was definitely Mega Man 6 on the NES – and on the Game Boy, it would have been probably – the earliest I can remember – is either Pokémon Blue version or The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Link’s Awakening was the big one that I played over and over and over again. Most people will say A Link to the Past on SNES, but I never actually played that. The first time I did that was when they did A Link Between Worlds, which was basically the spiritual successor.
But Link’s Awakening – I would sing the music to myself. I would play it on the car rides with the streetlamps only showing up every three seconds or something like that. That was the classic.
“I also enjoy [streaming] because, even as a professional, I have always wanted to kind of break down that professional/amateur barrier. Like ‘Guys, even though you hear me all the time, I’m not above you in any way. I’m not special, I’m just another human being who happens to have a public career.’”
SP: Favorite boardgame?
SC: Mancala, because my brother and I never played it correctly. Never, ever, ever. I could describe all the different ways we played it, and I guarantee you [that] none of them were the correct way.
SP: Favorite spot in the house or apartment?
SC: Normally, I wouldn’t have an answer for this. My wife and I got our first home in February. It’s not fancy, but it is a house in California of all places. But thank my career for that, because it took every single job I’ve ever done to afford it. We really liked this L couch that the family living there before us had, and of course, they took it because it was a really good couch.
So, one of the first things we did was go out to Living Spaces and get a Sierra couch of our own. It’s a three-part couch – one side, two-sided, and the chaise. I knew it was a good purchase because my wife is usually the one who gets upset at me for falling asleep on the couch instead of the bed, but in the time that we’ve owned it – she herself has fallen asleep on the couch at least a double-digit number of times. And one of the sides is located directly underneath one of the A/C vents. So, when you’re lying there, and the A/C kicks on, and you feel the cold air blow straight down on you – which is also something we didn’t have for the 10 years I lived in the apartment: A/C. I lay under there and I’m like ‘Nope, I’m done, I’m not moving. I’m stuck here. It’s like a cat on my lap.’ So that’s my favorite spot in the house – [on] that couch, it is so comfortable.
OR: You brought to life Guido Mista on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. What was it like working with Crunchyroll on a simulcast production, and can you quickly take us through what the weekly production schedule [and what it] was like, knowing that the show was going to air one hour after the Japanese broadcast?
SC: I think I was vaguely familiar with the fact that it was going to air one hour after the Japanese broadcast, and I was already familiar with the concept of simuldub because I know that Funimation started it but it got popularized when people were like ‘Oh, Funimation has got the lead on us by doing this!’ But on my end, the only thing that really resulted in was having to set aside one day each week to record that episode or the next couple of episodes. I think in most cases, it was one episode because they would only get that script one week in advance.
By then, I found it kind of funny – Crunchyroll had already worked with me previously via Re:Zero. But after Re:Zero, I thought it was going to be the kickstart of me voicing a lot of major anime roles. And then there was this dead period for a couple of years until JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure happened. So Crunchyroll had already worked with me by then, I like to think that they trusted my work ethic and my work quality. But outside of that, it was pretty par for the course. They would provide the scripts to the dubbing studio, which was Bang Zoom! [Entertainment], and then Bang Zoom! would set up the recording session with me, and then we’d knock it out.
Probably, the only major difference was the fact that while we started in-studio, the pandemic happened before [the show] was over. So, the entire second half of that show, to the best of my knowledge, was done remotely. But even then, a lot of voice acting is pretty translatable or – I’m trying to think – is lateral. You can move it laterally – if you’ve got the right equipment, if you’ve got the right space, you can practically do it wherever. It seems boring, but I kind of like how consistent the recording process is for stuff. I don’t go to Nintendo’s HQ and record for Nintendo. I don’t go to SEGA’s HQ if I record for SEGA. We go to a lot of the same studios, and it’s a lot of the same process. But that’s part of what lets them do so many projects in a given year, because the process is streamlined.
OR: Let’s expand a bit upon this – you mentioned the pandemic. You really started Twitch streaming during the pandemic.
SC: I was a pandemic baby when it came to Twitch streaming!
OR: Can you tell us a little bit about how your experience with Twitch has evolved since you started streaming?
SC: Just to give people listening a quick lowdown: I have always been vaguely interested in streaming, but the two main excuses I gave myself were ‘I don’t have the time, and I don’t have the space.’
Well, the pandemic gave me the time, so I decided to figure out if I had the space. And it kind of just worked out. I’d like to think it gave people something to look forward to in a time when a lot of us weren’t sure what the future was going to hold.
I have had half-joking, but half-very seriously let my community know that it’s not fun anymore, it’s just a job. But I mean that jokingly. It is fun, with how busy my career has gotten, there have been many times where I’m like ‘I literally would not have time for these games if I wasn’t forcing myself to have that time via stream.’ But I definitely saw that, at some point, it went from being a way for me to get rid of boredom by broadcasting what I was doing and letting other people comment on it, to develop a sort of community. It’s true what they say: You just end up growing this personalized community of people, of inside jokes, of people whose lives you’ve impacted. And then it becomes almost like Stockholm Syndrome, where you can’t pull yourself away because you want to stay involved in these people’s lives. You want to continue to share your experiences. The folx that stick around really enjoy [my] content, and so [I] feel this sense of obligation of providing for them.
I also enjoy it because, even as a professional, I have always wanted to kind of break down that professional/amateur barrier. Like ‘Guys, even though you hear me all the time, I’m not above you in any way. I’m not special, I’m just another human being who happens to have a public career.’ And for me, the streaming is a great way to talk about my experiences – I’m recording the projects, I’m playing a game I also voiced in – it’s a way for people to see the process of practicing as a voice actor. I’ll often mock dub all of the lines if they’re not voiced. It results in the most ridiculous stuff!
A lot of games these days have audio playback, where you can go into the log and playback lines. Which has resulted in me immediately looking for any case where a line starts with ‘but.’ And if there is a long enough pause after that – you can go to the VODs to find this – I will go into the audio log and I will transpose lines so that I can replace a word with ‘but’ and play it back. So there was like a line in 13 Sentinels where it’s like ‘The only thing inside BJ’s suit is his body’ or something like that. And of course, I timed the line – ‘The only thing inside of BJ’s suit is his butt!’ [laughs] And I’m waiting for someone to do a supercut – or a ‘superbutt’ in this case. It’s just the perfect mix of ‘I’m a professional’ and also ‘I’m here to have some fun’. So that’s what the streams are all about: ‘Here, enjoy some games that you may or may not be interested in,’ ‘enjoy the finished project of stuff that I’ve voiced in, even if you don’t want to spend money in it,’ and ‘Hey, let’s memelord along the way as well.’
You can check out Part Two of my interview with Sean Chiplock here!
What do you think of Sean Chiplock’s voice acting roles? Are there any that have surprised you so far? Let us know in the comments below!
You can buy a membership for next year’s Dragon Con here.
animeBreath of the WildDeku TreeDragon ConGuido MistaJoJo's Bizarre AdventureJoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden WindLa Pucella RagnarokNattanyaNintendoPirate Cat Captain NattanyaRe:ZeroRevaliSean ChiplockTebaThe Legend of ZeldatwitchVideo Gamesvoice actingvoice actorZelda