By Quentin H. / September 15th, 2023
DragonCon is known for having pretty much every fandom under one room, and that includes having a wide range of voice actors and actresses from video games, anime, and other mediums appearing to host panels, sign autographs, and take pictures with fans throughout Labor Day weekend. I was able to participate in a roundtable panel with Variety Radio Online and Moana Nui Podcast during this year’s DragonCon to interview both Erica Mendez and Lucien Dodge about their careers.
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This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H., with Operation Rainfall.
Variety Radio Online: Michelle Moreland, with Variety Radio Online.
Moana Nui Podcast: Anita Riggs, with Noana Nui Podcast.
Erica Mendez: Hi! I’m Erica Mendez. I’m a voice actress who works in Los Angeles.
Lucien Dodge: My name is Lucien Dodge, and I am also a voice actor – sometimes script adaptor, voice director – who works in Los Angeles.
OR: I’m going to open up with a question for you Lucien: Fate/strange Fake -Whispers of Dawn- was released just a few short weeks ago on Crunchyroll, and you voiced Lord El-Melloi II during the 55-minute anime special. This special is unique because it is the first TYPE-MOON anime to be developed simultaneously for both Japanese and English voices instead of the English voice acting coming later on.
Can you talk a bit about what your experience was like working on this simultaneous production? Did you ever work alongside with Daisuke Namikawa, the Japanese voice actor for Lord El-Melloi II, on this production to ensure a uniform approach to the character?
LD: I did not work with Daisuke Namikawa, unfortunately. I would love to meet him – I’ve been hearing his work for awhile since I’ve been playing the character of Waver [Velvet]. So, funny about that project: even though it was more of a simultaneous production, I would say as far as our work was concerned, it was fairly similar to a typical anime dub. In so far as, most the animation was pretty much locked in, and we were still recording in the traditional fashion as we preview the animation with the Japanese performance – so that’s about the closest that I really got to collaborating with Daisuke. I would hear his voice first, and then we would lay our track on top of it.
But, pretty much 99 percent of the animation was finished and locked in, so there [weren’t] too many differences honestly from working on that project and your typical anime dub, I would say.
Lucien Dodge voiced Lord El-Melloi II in the just released Fate/strange Fake -Whispers of Dawn- anime special.
VRO: So, I’m going to skirt a bit different, and this is a question for both of you. Welcome to DragonCon, and as you can see, it’s very fan-based and you guys are probably getting fans from every different area of your experience. But: you also, as a voice actor, have to sometimes dig deep for a new voice, right? So all the characters you’re seeing here at DragonCon: is there inspiration in being able to pull from how unique the fans are here?
EM: I guess, like, maybe not intrinsically. But when you’re thinking about characters in general and doing auditions for them, you take people you know in real life and kind of take their voices and maybe fit – if it’s an interesting voice you heard or a funny voice you heard – you kind of take that and work it into a character somehow. Even if it’s somebody you can’t really think of how you heard them or where you heard them. It’s just something that you’re like ‘[o]h, I remember this, maybe see if I can use this for something.’
LD: Something that’s pretty cool is that you’ll see cosplayers add their own unique spin on a certain character, or maybe they’ll take two different characters and they’ll kind of super collide them, like do a cross-over between the two. And sometimes, as voice actors, we do something similar where we might have two different impressions or characters that we like, and we think ‘[o]h, what would happen if we sort of mesh them together?’ So in that sense, maybe there is a little bit of creative inspiration or borrowing of that creativity from each other. Very cool to see.
MNP: Like she said – welcome to DragonCon. Both of you are in positions that pretty much everyone I know wants to be in. How was it breaking into the industry – especially with you Erica, being Mexican American? I know sometimes there are challenges getting into the field. How did you guys get into it? Was it difficult or easy?
EM: I think, luckily for me, especially for voiceover – not to say it’s not hard for some people – but for me, it was pretty easy. I don’t think it was ever taken into account that I was Mexican-American. I think they just heard what I did, and were like ‘[o]kay, this is what we need.’ I broke into the industry mainly because I do young boy voices pretty often, and I guess they needed that at the time. They’re like ‘[w]ell, yours are good, so let’s bring you in for this’ after I auditioned for a particular studio for a while.
So thankfully, it was not too difficult for me, and I’ve been able to sustain that momentum throughout my career. And yeah, it’s a hard question to answer, because I feel kind of privileged in a way because of various reasons. But I know it is hard for some people and it shouldn’t be, you know? Everybody should be treated equally and given fair opportunities to work – especially in voiceover, because you don’t need to look a certain way, you know?
LD: I think it certainly wasn’t easy, by any means. I think for just about everyone, regardless if you have extra hurdles or obstacles in your way, it just tends to take a long time. It takes years of training, takes a lot of time to build up a body of work or trust with clients, with casting directors – to have them bring you in on stuff. It takes a long time to get some kind of momentum in your career going, where you’re working enough that you can sustain some sort of living doing this. If you’re lucky – and that’s not a guarantee by any stretch. So, in that sense, it is definitely challenging and there are no guarantees.
But, for me, this was always the dream, and is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and [I] worked very hard to do. So, whether it was hard or not, it didn’t really matter. I was going to do everything I could to make this happen. So, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
OR: You both did an interview with TheOASG in 2016 [and] Erica, I want to follow-up on a question with you. You were asked “[w]hich dubbing recording method do you find better to work with: pre-lay or ADR (Automated Digital Replacement)?” You seemed to highlight some cons of ADR about how you work separately from other voice actors, and you stated that “I like pre-lay because I get to work alongside my friends, and also VAs I look up to as well.”
Having been on the other side of the booth since then in the seven subsequent years, does that answer still hold true? Or how have your views on each method changed- if at all?
EM: I think, in general, I just like working. It’s hard to fully pick one or the other. Pre-lay is nice though, because you do get to work with other people. Whereas, in anime for dubbing, you’re working alone. Granted, you have the engineer and the director there, and if you know them really well, it makes it a very comfy environment, which is really nice. But it is just nice to be able to bounce off of other people organically. I guess, I don’t know if my answer [has] necessarily changed just because of other work I’ve been doing now – mainly directing and script adapting – but I feel like every genre of voiceover always has its new challenges. Maybe I’ll like one more one day, one more the next day. But, I wouldn’t change what I’m doing in general for the world. And I just love working. Anything I can do, I enjoy.
MNP: To pivot a little bit: video games. I know you’ve worked, Erica, with SQUARE ENIX. How was it working for a Japanese video game company? What were the differences between working here for voiceovers and for SQUARE ENIX.
EM: It’s not too much different, actually. I don’t necessarily work with companies directly. Sometimes, they’ll send representatives to look on in the sessions to make sure things are like, the character’s going according to the description of the character they’ve sent. Or, to make sure scripts are working well and so on, so forth. Just to make sure the director has like, good information about what’s going on in the world. A lot of the time, we’re working on these games as they’ve being developed in Japan. So, they’re getting information as they get it from Japan.
The people that we work with – because [Lucien], you’ve worked on some SQUARE [ENIX] games before – we work with our people that are kind of mediators between the Japanese branch and the US branch. ‘Cause all companies usually have a US branch here as well. But it’s not too much different, I mean, working on the games that I’ve worked with for SQUARE [ENIX] than working with any other game company, really.
OR: [Lucien], you voiced Elliot Craig in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series since the first game and into The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie. After the second entry, the localization company changed from XSEED to NIS America. Can you talk a bit about what it was like voicing the role during the changeover, if there were any changes in how you were asked to bring the character to life, and if you had to reapply for your own job?
LD: No, I did not – luckily. That does happen in our industry. But luckily, I did not have to reapply to be the voice. By that point, we had established the world and the sounds of the characters to the point where we were basically trusted to carry it on from that point. I don’t recall there being too many bumps along the road during that transition. Typically, with any recording studio, you have the voice director, who is interacting with the clients and they’ve being kind of the in-between and facilitating the information. So, any oddness – they’re basically there to smooth out the process for the actor.
Any rough patches in that road, in that transition, wasn’t really felt – so much as I’m aware – as the actor. Sometimes, you might hear in the background different voices from the clientside talking to the voice director, but the voice director is kind of translating and getting their help in the process [to] move it along for the actor and keeping things going. And again, we had already established the world and the sound of the character by that point. And we’re basically allowed to just continue the work we’ve already established. In that sense, it was pretty smooth sailing.
VRO: As a woman in the industry, women [have] come a long ways in the past 10 years. Do you still find anything challenging in the voiceover for women in the industry, and has it opened doors to empower you to open doors for others in the industry?
EM: I think for most of what I do, which is anime dubbing, because of the nature of anime – I feel like there are a lot more women roles and we can voice young boys as well. So, there’s more opportunities in that realm. But I’ve had an agent for the last few years, so I get to potentially work on things that are the boarder scope of the voiceover field. And I’ve noticed that it can be harder, especially for commercials. I’ve actually been on a hold for a couple of commercials where they’ve also had a male option that they are looking for, and usually when I’m on a hold, they’ll be like ‘okay, we’ll maybe put you in for this job but the client is still deciding what they want.’ And then in most cases, it’ll be ‘[o]kay, they decided to go in a different direction’ which is typically either they’re looking for a different voice type than mine or a male voice. I know in one case, they decided to go with a male voice. I feel like that can be hard sometimes and very disappointing, but it’s kind of the nature of things, I guess, unfortunately. But you do hear a lot of commercials with women in them. I’ve just been in very unfortunate situations in that aspect.
I guess, I don’t know. I can’t really do anything on the voiceover side, obviously, for directing and adapting scripts. I think it’s nice to have someone with a female voice, a fem voice, to be able to write properly for fem characters. So I try to do my best with that. ‘Cause, sometimes, you get people – like Lucien does script adapting as well – and he may be better at the male voice, the masculine voice, because he’s lived that way. Maybe fem characters are a little harder for him to portray, because he hasn’t lived that life himself, so he doesn’t know how they talk exactly. It’s nice to be, like, able to do the best I can with just making sure things are appropriately said for certain characters that I might understand better than someone else. And then if I don’t know, then I research. So stuff like that. As far as directing goes – I feel like there are a lot fewer directors that are female or fem based, and so I just adding one more to the number in that aspect.
OR: Real quick – what has y’all’s experiences been like at DragonCon this year?
EM: It’s been great. I’m not used to multi-genre cons as much. I do a lot of anime cons, so it’s nice to see the different, way different variety and a lot of the programming and all that.
LD: Yeah, a tad overwhelming at first. ‘Cause this is my first, and was not quite sure what I was stepping into. Very impressive.
EM: It’s been so nice. It’s been great.
LD: Yeah, very, very cool.
Everyone: Thank you.
What are your favorite voice roles of Erica Mendez and Lucien Dodge?
Did you attend DragonCon this year and attend any of their panels?
Let us know in the comments below!
animeErica MendezFate/strange Fake -Whispers of Dawn-Lord El-Melloi IILucien DodgeNoirePlaystationThe Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel