Chris is best known for his work on the Dragon Ball series, voicing Vegeta and a number of other characters in the English dub. We spoke to him about Dragon Ball Super, where he started out, and how much Goku sucks.
How did you get into voice acting in the first place?
“I was really lucky for lots of reasons. I woke up between my sixth and seventh years at school, and went from a boy that had a really high-pitched voice and used to sing in a school choir to a voice that’s almost as low as it is today. So, I suddenly had this really low voice. It was like the universe told me what to do at that point, but it was through everybody else’s voice. All of our neighbours and everyone were like ‘you should get into radio!’ Back when I was growing up – in the early ’80s – that was the profession of choice. The internet wasn’t a thing yet. I don’t even know if people had heard of anime in the West at that point. I loved talking, I loved recording myself in my room when I was a kid, just recording sounds – I was a musician. After high school I started working at radio stations – I was a DJ at several stations in Houston, and then I went to college to finish my degree. I went to school at the University of North Texas; it;s a very liberal arts school, and I was on an opera scholarship. In my senior year I switched to Radio/Television/Film, and I got a call on my pager one day to call someone back. They were like ‘hey, you work on radio, you do voice stuff, you should come up and audition’. She worked at this little company called Funimation. So, I auditioned, and I got this role as Yamcha, and it was sort of a test to see if they could even record anything in Texas. About a month later they asked if I wouldn’t mind coming on board to help cast and direct this show called Dragon Ball Z. I told them I’d never heard of it, and they told me it was anime, and I was like ‘oh, I’ve seen all those – Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Fist of the North Star – there’s only three, right?’ And they kind of laughed and were like ‘no, there are a few more than that.’ They handed me a trash bag full of VHS tapes full of DBZ, so every night I was trying to watch this show and understand what they were working on, and that’s when I started directing. Technically, other than commercials and stuff, it was the first cartoon-type thing I’d worked on.”
Do you have a favourite character to voice?
“Vegeta is my favourite character, only because in my opinion he has a better story than anyone else in the show – including Goku, because Goku sucks. I’m not kidding, he’s terrible. I don’t know if I only don’t like him because I play Vegeta, but I really don’t like him. I think Vegeta has more depth to his character. He has a more interesting backstory, he’s mean, he’s the bad guy that hangs out with the good guys because he chose to. He’s got the coolest wife, and the coolest toys, and he’s just an epic guy. Recently in Dragon Ball Super, they’ve been playing around with not only the epic side of him, but really the comic side of him; as a father, having to do regular chores, having to go on a family trip and be a dad. They really love poking fun at his unbreakable pride. He’s by far the best character to play, but honestly the most fun I have is whenever I get to do anything with Yamcha, because he was the first character I ever played. He’s just so dorky. He’s fun to play, easy on my voice, he’s got a pet cat – he’s such a goob. He’s the easiest, funniest voice I get to do on the show.
How did you go about perfecting all the yelling you undoubtedly would’ve done?
“I have no idea if it was the opera training that I had, or some sort of weird luck, but I never lost my voice doing the voice of Vegeta. Doing the voices was just my job – I never really thought about it any other way. Professional voice actors look at me now and say ‘you could’ve really destroyed your voice’. In some ways I kinda did, but it just felt like the right thing to do. It felt like I had to. You’re staring down the barrel of this epic show, and I had no choice but to basically give it 100 per cent or quit. That’s what I used to tell all the actors when I was directing: ‘okay, you have two choices. You can half-ass it, and phone it in, and give me one that’s not perfect, or you can just go for it and give me the best possible scream you can give me, and only have to do it once’. It’s better do scream your butt off once than it is to do it half-heartedly twice, no matter how loud you are.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the show, what can you tell us about Dragon Ball Super?
“Without giving too much away, they really start Dragon Ball Super (DBS) in a place that’s palatable for anyone to get into the show. Even if you haven’t watched DBZ, for example. For those who aren’t aware, the show starts right after Majin Buu is defeated. So far this looks like it’s happening in that time skip, between the defeat of Majin Buu and the tournament at the end of the series. Right now, the group has come off defeating this huge enemy, and they’ve had a little bit of time to relax. Vegeta is kinda settling in to his homelife, fulfilling promises to Trunks, and they’re really just joking around with his character at first. Then some pretty interesting new character show up. If you haven’t seen the movies then you don’t know who they are, but most people have seen the movies. They very quickly introduce Beerus and Whis into the story; which are the cat character and the scribe character. It becomes apparent very quickly that the group’s place in the scheme of the universe is a lot smaller than they thought it was. A lot of the story involves the typical Saiyans getting stronger. Something that happens very early on is that Whis – Beerus’ trainer – starts helping Vegeta and Goku train. The first thing he says to Vegeta is ‘you’re too uptight, you need to loosen up a little bit’, and then he says to Goku ‘you’re too loose, you probably need to pay attention more’. It seems to me that Goku and Vegeta have this sort of Yin Yang quality to them. Ultimately they’re going to have to work together to defeat some pretty serious foes.”
Finally, if you weren’t doing voice acting, how do you think you would be spending your days?
“That is a really good question. I probably would be doing something creative. I might still be in a band. I might be making music still. But who knows, because Dragon Ball has changed my life in the most incredible ways. I can;t even fathom what my life would be like without it.”
Bonus: check this out…