He’s Cooking Up A Storm In The World Of Voice Acting!
He’s listless, enjoys the occasional glass of blood and loves nothing more than challenging everyone to culinary showdowns. Oh, and he does a little voice acting and animation on the side. We’re of course talking about the one and only Blake Shepard!
He’s brought the laughs with his dual performance in Air Gear, made everyone collectively weep in Angel Beats, and to this day stands at the forefront in one of modern anime’s most beloved (and delicious) series in the form of Food Wars!
Somehow, in-between all the voice acting as well as his dedication to his own animation company, Blake managed to find the time to chat with us about the joy that comes from taking on such an eclectic set of characters.
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to let us probe your brain!
“Thank so much for asking me to be a part of an WatchMojo project! I’ve gotta say, I love your videos online! I must admit I’m a huge fan of your stuff!”
Going back to one of your earliest roles, what was it like being a young voice actor and landing the parts of Akito and Agito? Was their schizophrenic nature a challenge or a dream role?
“Oh! It was a dream role for sure! It was so much fun to cultivate the voice around Agito’s wild personality. Akito was more challenging honestly. In the Japanese his split personality voices aren’t as contrasted. I just felt that this was a choice that would resonate better with American audiences. At the time the contract stipulated that the show would need to be broadcast to fulfill the contract so there was a lot of pressure on the cast to really deliver something memorable and special..well.. more special than usual..EXTRA! SPECIAL!”
For all its hilarity, Angel Beats was layered with tender moments, most notably its tearjerker of an ending. Was saying goodbye to Kanade as hard for you as it was for Otonashi?
“Honestly – those moments for me are always the most fun! I love to watch my characters go through hell hahaha! Does that make me a terrible person? I loved the connection he ended up having with Kanade. It was unexpected for me as the actor as it began to develop. At first I thought for sure she was part of the “program”. Sorry guys (Spoiler Alert!)”
Another was a series that certainly wasn’t short on death scenes, to the point where fans ended up looking forward to seeing how each character was going to bite the dust. Takabayashi certainly didn’t get off lightly, but are you a little envious you didn’t get axed off via umbrella impalement?
“Oh yea, love doing death scenes anytime! Umbrella impalement?! That would’ve been epic! I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about it until you brought it up…but yes! I am definitely bummed that Takabayashi couldn’t get a “death by umbrella”. But, I guess that’s the beauty of Anime. There’s always next time!”
Laito certainly wasn’t your average vampire. While he certainly still had a monstrous side to him, there was obviously a tortured soul underneath the surface. By the end of both series, which did you see him as?
“He was definitely a tortured soul. But what made him interesting was that he seemed to have made peace with his suffering and had embraced him monstrous side in a way his brothers hadn’t. The was a brutal honesty to the way he saw the world that I think fans identify with. I certainly did! I find it fascinating when characters understand why they act the way they do and consciously choose to behave badly.”
Speaking of monsters, Parasyte’s Hideo was quite the piece of work. What was your approach to handling his twisted, almost-clinical view of humanity?
“Nice segue! From malevolent vampire to inhuman monster, haha my job is so much fun! This character was so impressive to me because he had no conscience to speak of. He was almost like a serial killer too, the way he stalked his victims. But in his mind it was pure survival instinct. At some point good and evil look the same in certain villains. We saw Hideo as evil but the Parasyte’s don’t see him that way necessarily. I like to imagine the what if, among the Parasytes that he was the best “actor” they had? ‘When it comes to pretending to be human call that guy he can do it!’ hahaha! Too bad he never got any good a baseball, maybe then he could’ve caught that nasty curve ball there at the end.”
You have had the chance to play quite the number of quirky characters over the years, but which do you find the most endearing? Inu x Boku SS’ Zange Natsume, Medaka Box Abnormal’s Maguro Kurokami or Tanaka from Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless?
“Awww, that’s always so hard to choose! I really like Tanaka-kun but Zange is one of my all time favs and Dubli from Monster Hunters! Arrgghh I don’t know! The poor construction worker that got crushed by Godzilla in Shin Godzilla will always be close to my heart..he didn’t deserve that.”
Mawaru Penguindrum is quite out-there in terms of narrative, but nonetheless is considered to be a very special series among anime fans. Did playing the character of Shou make for a unique experience?
“Oh I loooooved Penguindrum, I was absolutely captivated by the art style. One of my favorite color palettes in any show ever. My animator brain was in love with it. The emotions were all over the place too so for an actor it was both quite challenging and rewarding.”
Food Wars has become a juggernaut of an anime that has won so many fans over with its approach to the culinary arts. Just how much fun is it playing someone like Soma?
“I’m so honored to be part of this amazing project! Soma is a fantastic character to play. i love how he is so accidentally offensive to everyone he meets. And the food in this show looks incredible! I’m definitely one of those people totally won over by the shonen-esque way the battles are presented too!”
One of Soma’s biggest draws is that he is the ultimate underdog, coming from a background that the higher echelons of society look down on, yet still manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best. Can you relate to his journey as an actor?
“Hahaha! I don’t know if I’m quite on Soma’s level. I definitely can relate to feeling like the underdog. I think everyone does. There’s definitely a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality when it comes to being an actor and that feeling helps me channel Soma. But I’m not sure that Soma will never have the same “imposter syndrome” moments that most normal people have. That dude is a machine!!! He’s the perfect perfectionist. He really embodies all of the characteristics of someone who knows what it takes to be the best and is really willing to put in the work to get to the top! I greatly admire this in his personality! I hope I’m like Soma one day…”
As it happens, your passions don’t just lie in acting but in animation as well, which has translated into an upcoming project. Can you give some idea of what fans can expect to see in Robot Girl Chronicles?
“This project has been a brain child of mine for a few years. I’ve been writing and developing it with some great writers and engineers that I’ve known in the industry for a long time. Not to mention the help of our AMAZING patrons on Patreon! I’ve embarked on a great adventure to capture all of the things I personally love about the Anime genre and have created my own show – Sci-fi, fantasy, noir, shonen, conspiracy and so much more in a brand new format for the next generation of entertainment. And with a hilariously long Japanese title that loosely translates into English as “Robot Girl (Chronicles)” we can’t be more excited about what we’re working on. This show is going to be amazing! We’ve already written most of Season 1 and have already begun Seasons 2 and 3 respectively. It’s turning into quite the epic. We’ll be releasing some more content later this year. Right now we’re in the midst of creating a brand new [secret] website for Patreon members to view full episode animatics and animated shorts we’ve been toiling away on. They are awesome and patient and we love them!
We are trying to create a community of creatives that can use our project to spring board their own great ideas as well. We do behind the scenes Voice Actor chats and live Skype recording sessions. We even have Voice over classes available, taught by some of our great cast members! John Swasey, Jay Hickman, Andrew Love David Matranga, Luci Christian, Micah Solusod, Bryson Baugus, David Walk Mark X Laskowski and so many more are along for the ride…”
Blake, thank you so much for your time! If fans want to message you and ask for Laito to bite their necks, where can they find you?
“Hahaha, thank you for having me, It was a lot of fun! I don’t know about the biting but people can certainly email me through my website at blakeshepard.com – Please join us on Patreon and help us create this amazing show Robot Girl Chronicles. Visit Patreon.com/RobotGirl to take a look a the tiers get involved in the project we’ve got lots of opportunities to get involved! You can see some of the publicly available shorts on www.RobotgGirlChronicles.com. We even have a $1 tier for those struggling artists who want to design robots for the show. If we use your design you will be credited in the episode as a concept artist / designer. Also all Patreon members will be listed in the credits under their own special section, so if you’re not an artist or actor don’t worry. We got you!!!”
And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo, if you could choose a subject for a top ten list, what would it be?
“Hmmmm, I’d like to see a top 10 list of the best ADV titles. Since they’re not around anymore it would be cool to see how many of the titles I’m in make the cut. I still think their Battle Angel Alita dub was epic!”