I’m very tempted to say that Bryce Papenbrook has voice acting in his blood. As the son of Bob Papenbrook and Debbie Rothstein, two prominent voiceover professionals, he has certainly come into his own as a voiceover professional appearing in some of the most popular properties in the last decade such as Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, and Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir. Surprisingly, as I learned while sitting down with him during a one-on-one interview at Anime NYC, his original intended career path was a far cry from the entertainment industry. It seems like Papenbrook was always destined to be an entertainer.
Learn more about the life and times of Bryce Papenbrook as well as his new venture Unlocked, a streaming network app that aims to better connect fans with beloved industry professionals, in our conversation.
Taimur Dar: The last few years has seen an explosion of fandom for Zag’s Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir animated show. Go to any convention and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a Ladybug or Cat Noir cosplayer. As the voice of Cat Noir and a father of a young girl yourself, what’s been your reaction to show’s success and in your opinion why do you think it has such wide appeal?
Bryce Papenbrook: Miraculous is a great show. Having a young daughter, I’m definitely supportive of a strong female superhero. I also think it’s gone beyond a show that’s for young girls. I think it’s really caught the anime fandom because it’s very reminiscent of Sailor Moon. It’s just Sailor Moon set in Paris. Every episode there’s a baddie in the city that gets akumatized and then Cat Noir and Miraculous Ladybug have to fight them. There are transformations. And it’s just a great show. Fun animation and a lot of puns. I feel like we try to make the English version of the show “punniest” out of all of them. I love making those cheesy puns as much as possible so we sneak as many into the show as possible.
Dar: You grew up with both of your parents voiceover professionals, so I’m curious what kind of guidance they imparted as you were making your way into the industry?
Papenbrook: It was actually because of my dad that I got started in the industry. My dad was working on Power Rangers. He played Rito Revolto, the skeleton dude. There was a studio in Valencia and I used to love to go to work with him. They had a bunch of the rubber monster suits lining the stairs up to the booth. On one of his sessions they said, “We need a kid’s voice.” And my dad said, [deep voice] “He’s a kid! Throw him into the booth!” And that’s how I got thrown in there and became a voice actor. I watched my parents, as I grew up, be working actors. I thought to myself there was no way I’d let myself do that. I actually went to UCLA and studied political science and philosophy. Was just about to take the LSAT and I booked a job. Then another job and then another. I thought, “This is fun. Let’s give it a shot.” And I haven’t looked back.
Dar: Don’t suppose you’ve been able to apply that political science background into any of your current work?
Papenbrook: You know, I have my degree from UCLA and it’s a beautiful decoration up on my wall. But I haven’t actually applied it to anything specifically. I can say this. What I learned in school is so valuable. I did a lot of growth at UCLA. It taught me how to approach things in a different way, tackle problems, and go up against these kinds of challenges. I feel like a lot of actors might not have that background. A lot of people come through theater. I approach a lot of the characters differently than a lot of my counterparts.
Dar: As a child of the 90’s, is it safe to assume growing up you were a fan of anime and cartoons?
Papenbrook: Definitely. I was a big martial artist. So being a martial artist of course I watched Dragonball Z! I was really big into that show and Pokémon, how could you not? I feel so fortunate to get to be part of that universe. I played actually Pokémon Red for Gameboy, the original if you remember. And for Pokémon Origins, I got to play Red. So it’s really cool to be able to step in the shoes of a character that you were a fan of as a kid.
Dar: Now I gotta ask what was your starter Pokémon?
Papenbrook: Charmander! I had to.
Dar: You mentioned training as a martial artist which reminds me of another accomplished voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch whom I’m sure many millenials will remember as Adam the second Black Ranger. I’m curious how well you two know each other?
Papenbrook: Yeah! I’ve known Johnny for a long time. In Blue Exorcist we played brothers. Actually, as far back as Trigun, Johnny played Vash the Stampede and I played young Vash and I ended up playing the older brother in Blue Exoricst. So, haha Johnny! [Laughs].
I’m great friends with Johnny. Before I got extremely busy I was turning to some Brazilian jujitsu and Johnny has been really focused on learning jujitsu. So I would wake up before the sunrise and go with Johnny and wrestle for a bit. So we were training for a little bit together. I hope I can circle back around and join him again. He’s going to just destroy me when I join because he’s been at it the whole time.
Dar: Thus far, what has been your favorite project?
Papenbrook: I get this question all the time and how could I answer? I feel like I’ve won the anime lottery. I’ve been part of shows like Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, and Seven Deadly Sins. It’s really impossible for me to pick a favorite. All my characters are kind of my kids. Most of my kids are really loud and screaming and angry so I don’t want to make them mad!
Dar: As most fans know, anime dubbing is typically done in the booth solo. Since acting is all about reacting, as a performer how do you take that situation into account?
Papenbrook: As a voice actor I don’t choose one style of acting. I do a little bit of everything. I’ve done both dubbing where you’re by yourself watching the screen and hitting sync. And that’s almost impossible to do as a group. It’s difficult enough to do solo. And [I’ve done] ensemble work. I also do something called “walla” where you’re essentially creating background noise for different movies and TV shows. Part of that is called “bits” where you’re actually replacing dialogue of characters you see on the screen or adding to those sounds. For example, I worked on the movie It and I was a piece of Pennywise’s voice. But if we do our job well, you’ll have no idea.
Dar: How do those walla and bit jobs come about for actors?
Papenbrook: Typically you get into a group. You find your way into that and then they know that there are certain things you can do as an actor. I’m one of the utility people in a few different groups actually. It circles around and it hits you and they go, “Oh, we need someone who still sounds like they’re 15.” And that’s usually me. In the case of It they brought in a number of different kind of actors. They brought in people like Fred Tatasciore who can do this really deep, amazing monster sound and then myself to do the upper high range screechy sounds. Then they blended it all together and it sounds terrifying.
Dar: What’s the furthest you’ve gone from your natural voice for a character?
Papenbrook: All of my characters are sort of different. I would say the character who’s closes to my speaking voice is Rin Okumura from Blue Exorcist. With that one, I just jump into the booth and I’m Rin. With all my characters I have to make them different from myself. I try to fit the personality. I mentioned before that my voice really hasn’t changed since middle school. I feel like I’ve found myself in that young hero range. For sure I’ve put my “man voice” on every once and awhile. I’ve been working a project called Mobius Final Fantasy. I play a character named Wol or the Warrior of Light. If you play that mobile game, it really doesn’t sound like me. Wol is a lot tougher than I am. [Laughs]. I’ve definitely gone away from my voice in that. Also, if you’ve seen a show called Seven Deadly Sins which is currently on Netflix, in Season 1 I actually play multiple characters. I play a character called Meliodas and his voice is like my speaking voice [in Melodias voice] if I raise my eyebrows so high and it stretches out my vocal chords!
I also play the referee when they’re fighting for Diane’s hammer. There’s this little annoying referee named Love Helm. Probably the most annoying voice in the show and I’m very proud of that!
Dar: From your perspective how has the voiceover industry changed since you started?
Papenbrook: It’s changed in a number of ways. First, technology has caught up. The days of driving to an audition and the luxury of having a casting director to bounce ideas off of in a paper script are gone. The majority of my auditions I do from my home studio where they send over sides, I look at the character and description of the voice, create something, send it out, and hope something comes back. It’s kind of like shooting darts at a dartboard blindfolded. It’s very difficult to land that kind of work. And there is so much competition. Again, I feel like I’ve won the anime lottery time and time again.
The other thing that’s really different are events like this one. Conventions just did not exist like this for my dad. I think it’s really amazing to have this opportunity. When you’re acting you’re in this soundproof bubble, you pour your heart into the microphone and the only thing you get back is the director hitting a button and going, “Yeah, that was great. Moving on.” But when you come to a convention and you talk to people about these roles you realize that your work is actually being seen. It’s almost like a voice actor’s applause. These kind of events are really inspiring.
You walked in right at the tail end of what I was doing. I was actually streaming on a mobile app called Unlocked. It’s a digital iteration of these type of events. My co-founder, a voice actor named David Vincent, and I were really inspired by what happens at these cons and the moments that you have at panels and the autograph table. And they are so many people who don’t get to experience that moment. They are so many people at a con on the other side of the country or the world that I may never get to meet in person. So we searched for a way to fix that problem from our end and we couldn’t find anything. So Unlocked is what we built to address that.
It’s really incredible. When I was streaming there people from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, all over the USA, and even people from the convention right now that had joined and were talking with me as I was hanging out and waiting to jump into the interview.
Dar: When I was growing up, anime English adaptations had to edit and censor content so programs could actually air on network television. With streaming and audience, English adaptations are much for faithful than in the past. How do English adaptations of anime compare from your view as a performer?
Papenbrook: That’s really important. My goal is not to emulate what the Japanese actors did. I don’t want to just copy them. What I try to do is capture the essence of a performance. Adapting them to the audience that you’re playing to is really important. I think the trend has gone more towards that. Remaining true yet truly adapting to get not just the words the same but to have the essence of the show the same. That’s what we’re going for.
Dar: Finally, what upcoming projects should fans be on the lookout?
Papenbrook: I’m promoting Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel. The first movie came out this year and I know we’re getting the next movie next year. Definitely look out for that. If you’re not familiar with the Fate series, it’s the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. It almost looks 3D. I play a character named Shirou Emiya. I mentioned Seven Deadly Sins, the latest season is out on Netflix. Attack on Titan we’re kind of on hiatus but more of the third season is coming next year. And of course Sword Art Online is right around the corner, so fingers crossed I get to work on that really soon. I know I’m leaving out like ten other things! Miraculous Ladybug, I believe we’re getting another season of that show. The rest of Season 2 should be coming to Netflix hopefully by the end of the year.
Unlocked, the app I mentioned, is coming out with an android version at the end of November so there will be ample ways for everyone in the community to join some of the voice actors that they love and show them what I’m working on.
Voice actors Bryce Papenbrook and David Vincent have teamed up to launch a new platform titled “Unlocked” – allowing Voice Actors, CosPlayers, YouTubers, and other celebrities an exciting new way to directly engage with their fans.
The idea arose from the mutual love of celebrating anime & pop culture, and meeting fans at conventions. For fans and actors alike, getting to meet each other at conventions, and interact online via social media is a great way to share with each other, but of course, it’s not without its drawbacks. Bryce states, “We adore going to cons and meeting our fans, but it’s not always possible to get to meet up with or talk to everyone at conventions.” David adds, “Tweets and messages often get buried before we’ve had the chance to see them, and that drives us nuts because we don’t want fans walking away thinking we’re ignoring them.”
Unlocked was devised to bridge that gap.
Unlocked is the first ever platform where voice actors and media personalities can engage daily, in real time with their fans via free live streams in a centralized location. Users can subscribe for exclusive shows and other pre-recorded daily content produced by Actors, CosPlayers and other Celebrities, along with unlimited playback of the LiveStreams all while supporting charity. Fans are also encouraged to interact by submitting video shout outs and community content to be featured.
Users follow a voice actor or personality’s profile and are notified whenever they go live to join the free streams. Fans chat live with the stars of their favorite shows, talk shop with celebrity CosPlayers, go behind the scenes at the studios, or just hang out and play video games with their favorite actors.
David states, “We wanted to create a new way to extend the friendships we make in this community, and to make it easier to connect. We’re getting so many great ideas from fans we can’t wait to see how this platform evolves.”
Unlocked is currently available on iOS here and will be available soon for Android. Sign up for the Android Beta here to be first to hear about its release. More info available at http://www.unlockedofficial.com/
Unlocked’s official press release is provided below.
Los Angeles, California (September 20, 2017) – Professional Voice Actors Bryce Papenbrook and David Vincent, are proud to announce the official launch of the Mobile Platform Unlocked by Fan Connect Inc.
Unlocked – The Anime & Pop Culture Streaming Network offers original and exclusive shows and live video chat with the largest actors, industry professionals and influencers in anime, gaming, cosplay and Comic-Con culture.
Co-founders David Vincent & Bryce Papenbrook have partnered with Mike Jones, CEO of prestigious Science Inc., the disruptive media, marketing and brand building company that creates, invests, acquires and scales successful digital businesses, to introduce this new platform to bring anime & pop culture fans and celebrity players together daily. Science Inc. is making an investment into the Unlocked platform to fuel its growth.
Fans are able to interact directly with industry celebrities and VIPs in real time, giving both fans and celebrities a new way to engage.
Unlocked offers an exclusive new way for content providers and IP holders to promote their properties by incorporating real-time interaction with the stars of their IP’s, while providing a seamless global platform for content distribution. In addition, the platform offers exclusive original programming produced by Unlocked & the influencers featured on the app.
Unlocked by Fan Connect Inc. – is a mobile application company partnered with tech firm Science Inc. based in Santa Monica, CA. Unlocked – The Anime & Pop Culture Streaming Network offers Exclusive shows and Live Video Chat with the largest Actors, Industry Professionals & Influencers in Anime, Gaming, Cosplay and Comic Con culture. Unlocked is currently available for iOS in the App Store. More information can be found at www.unlockedofficial.com
About Science, Inc.
Science Inc. is the disruptive media, marketing and brand building company that creates, invests, acquires and scales successful digital businesses. Science brings together the best ideas, talent, resources and financing through a centralized platform. The platform is leveraged to develop new businesses, provide emerging startups with operational strategy and capital and transform later-stage Internet ventures with new talent and innovation. The company has co-founded and invested in more than 70 companies, including Dollar Shave Club, DogVacay, HelloSociety, FameBit, Earny, Pray and Mammoth, the media company that reaches 30% of U.S. teens every month through social broadcasting and App Store top 100 apps like Wishbone and Yarn. It recently pre-announced an initial coin offering for its new blockchain-focused incubator, Science Blockchain. For more information, visit science-inc.com.