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Interview With Sean Chiplock

Anime Lover/Voice Actor/Dungeon Crawler

The decades have given us no shortage of incredible performances courtesy of talented voice actors, whose work can be seen across both classic animation and video games. As a result, it should come as no surprise to see those that were once inspired fans make the jump to the professional scene years later. Sean Chiplock happens to be one such fan, who has gone on to make one hell of a splash in the industry!

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From appearing in countless critically-acclaimed franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Persona, all the way to securing himself the lead role in hit anime like Re;Zero, Sean’s talent in the world of voice acting is only match by his enthusiasm for the craft. Luckily for us, he was willing to take time out of his day to chat with us his about his blossoming career!

Before you managed to find a place for yourself within the industry, you were a fan just like the rest of us. Can you briefly talk about the anime that inspired you to pursue what must now be a dream career?

“It was Trinity Blood – and Troy Baker, specifically – that first lit up the lightbulb of discovery & inspiration that led me onto the path of VO. Although I can’t recall the specific episode that it was from, the moment I actually recognized voiceover as a profession people engaged in was after seeing a “Behind the Scenes clip” of an upcoming episode of the show via a pop-up bubble (fans of the older MTV “Behind the Music Video” segments & fact bubbles are probably familiar with what I’m talking about). A split-screen view showed both the part of the animation being dubbed as well as Troy standing within his recording booth, and it was that moment of seeing his voice speak at the same time the character’s lips moved where I realized “this is a thing that people do; there are actors behind these characters. 

Everything just became a new inspiration from that point on. Toonami was still alive and well – showing episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist, Bebop, and sometimes even FLCL within their rotation – and now that I had clued in to what voiceover was, seeing these anime characters get involved in such exciting adventures just made me want to be a part of those worlds more and more. Even today, it’s rare where I see a new anime and don’t immediately find at least one character who makes me think, “God, what I wouldn’t give to get to step into their shoes vocally”.

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As someone with a love of gaming, are there any roles in some of your favourite titles that you wish you had the opportunity to voice? Or do you prefer to separate the games you enjoy from your life as an actor?

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Dungeon Crawler RPGs. From co-writing the most comprehensive mechanics guide for Demon Gaze, to hosting panels completely focused on discussing similar/different gimmicks across multiple titles within the genre, my passion for them has only grown as once-niche titles and companies continue to grow more popular with Western audiences. With that in mind, it has been a long-standing dream to be involved in the Etrian Odyssey series in some capacity. My worry, however, is that that window of opportunity may finally be closing for good; with Etrian Odyssey X (Cross) recently announced and news suggesting it will be the last entry in the handheld console franchise, there’s no guarantee that I may be able to get on the audition roster of the studio assigned its localization in time.

I definitely wish I had had the chance to be a part of Demon Gaze II when it ended up being localized, but in general I try not to attach myself too much to announced projects in terms of wishing I could voice for them; I find that there’s too much risk of bitterness or jealousy if I don’t get cast (or receive a chance to audition), as well as a risk of letting my eagerness overwhelm my professionalism/performance if I do get cast. So, I instead focus on just doing the best I can with every opportunity I receive, and to cement my strengths in the types of roles I want to play as I continue to gain more experience.

Outside of that, I actually don’t have any aversions to playing games that I voice in – it just happens to be that many of the games I end up voicing in are not part of genres I typically enjoy the most. The solution to that is simple – either get better at understanding the nuances of the genres I want to be a part of, or start giving more game genres a chance!”

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You starred in a little indie game called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I think a few people ended up rather enjoying. What was it like to be a part of one of Nintendo’s juggernaut franchises? Let alone one of its greatest iterations.

“It was as equally exhilarating as it was terrifying. On the one hand, I’m sure any Legend of Zelda fan can imagine the immense excitement that comes with being trusted to help represent one of the company’s most iconic franchises; but on the other, it was also well known that the last time a “Zelda” game had voices to this extent, it did not go well. Knowing that that history would lead to such intense scrutinization this time around did make me adamant about wanting to give Revali & the others the best performances they deserved,  but also just as adamant about proving to audiences that I was capable of giving those performances.

Each of the characters also provided a different sort of experience when it came to exploring my expertise as a voice actor. Revali, who I thought would be the easiest personality for me to capture, actually turned out to be one of the most frustrating challenges of my career (and a good lesson in learning to trust your director to help you get where you need to be). Teba, in contrast, was a moment of pride where the voice I had in my head was exactly the voice the company reps were looking for, and what you hear from him in the game is 100% “my” creation. Finally, Deku Tree was a character I knew would be a challenge in terms of accessing a part of my range I don’t normally get to showcase, so pulling him off was equal parts difficult yet attainable – and considering Deku Tree was my only cast character before Revali and Teba came along later on, being willing to go outside of my comfort zone is precisely what allowed me to also gain vocal access to characters who meant the world to me.”

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In your mind, do you think Revali found some semblance with peace after Link managed to help him out? And in your mind what makes him such a endearing character?

“I do believe he found reason to put his trust in Link, but in order to understand how he could come to that endpoint it’s incredibly important to understand the reason for his initial resistance.

I actually completely understand Revali’s anger towards Link, and find it reasonable that he was disgusted at everyone else’s immediate acceptance of the Hero’s potential in spite of the strengths of the others. As we learn from the DLC cutscenes, Revali was not someone who just walked in proclaiming to be the best; in fact, he deliberately sequestered himself within the mountains and refused to showcase his skills to anyone else until he had already completely mastered them. By the time he returned to Rito Village ready to tout his talent, he actually had the skills to back up his claims. And it shows – he is legitimately respected within the village, as evidenced by Teba’s genuine admiration for his ancestor.

So for Link’s arrival to automatically put him at the forefront of the fighting force is nothing short of a betrayal of everything Revali had worked for. To put so much time and effort into proving himself capable of defeating Ganon, only to be relegated to a sidekick role meant to simply help the “real hero” complete the task and receive the majority of the accolades? Not only that, but to give that kind of trust and respect to someone solely on behalf of a prophecy involving a sword, with no actual prior display of the wielder’s strength or experience?

It took an awful long time for Revali to be convinced after that initial encounter, but because the source of his envy and bitterness was the fact that Link hadn’t shown himself to be capable of defeating Ganon, he was able to eventually develop a sense of trust once Link had proven himself. That didn’t stop him from still wanting to prove himself thebetter candidate (as shown in the DLC bonus dialogues after fighting Windblight Ganon multiple times), but at the very least he knew he hadn’t been overshadowed by a complete amateur.”

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Will Kiyotaka always be the ultimate bro to you or is he more of a tragic figure given his multiple demises across the Danganronpa franchise?

“Kiyotaka is precious, but ultimately too strict for his own good. His lawful commitment may stem from a desire to prevent his peers from getting into trouble and suffering consequences, but it also leads him to be blind to the reality that sometimes the rules themselves aren’t exactly looking out for your best interest. However, his heart is in the right place, and his support for his peers is unconditional, both of which are signs of an Ultimate High School Level Bro. Plus, you can’t really hold a grudge against someone who watched their best friend get turned into an Aunt Jemima ingredient.”

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You brought new life into a classic character in the form of Rash in Killer Instinct, complete with extra sass. Were you an old school Battletoads fan in anyway?

“Believe it or not, I’ve actually never had any experience with Battletoads whatsoever, outside of watching the occasional speedrun via SGDQ/ADGQ events (although I was very familiar with the GameStop-related prank that was oh-so-popular within the past decade). But knowing that history helped me to understand the nuance behind Rash’s inclusion in Killer Instinct, and I was able to take my own love of the joke into the booth with me. Fun Fact: Rash’s taunt beatboxing only lasts a few seconds, but the engineer got a FULL MINUTE of me busting out air guitar solos and stanza remixes during the actual recording session without even having to ask!”

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Persona 5’s Mishima may not be a primary member of the Phantom Thieves, but his influence can be felt all across the game. Could you relate to his personal journey of wanting to prove his worth?

“More than you can possibly realize. Although I (fortunately?) can’t identify with his development as an abuse survivor – though I am immensely proud of him for being able to define himself the way he wanted to in spite of that trauma – that sense of longing he goes through as he watches his peers embark on decidedly more epic and intense adventures is something I battle with at least a little bit any time I encounter a project I was excited about but unable to book a role in. Don’t get me wrong; I am wholly supportive of my colleagues and love every chance I get to study their performances so that I can learn what worked for them and how to adapt it into my own skillset. But there’s always going to be that little bit of pain when you’re really attached to something yet can’t get closer to it than you already are, and so seeing Mishima want to obtain some of that opportunity for excitement himself is something I can relate to. And just as he finds the strength and maturity to define himself by his own efforts instead of wanting to covet those of the people around him, so too do I plan to work hard at creating my own legacy through my unique accomplishments.”

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Moving over to the anime side of things, getting the part of Subaru in Re;Zero must have been an amazing experience. Can you recollect what happened when learned you had gotten the role?

“Re:Zero was a double whammy of personal attachment for me – not only had I actually already seen the entire show prior to the audition as a result of viewing it while in Japan during my trip in late 2016, but as a result I also knew who Subaru was as a person… and subsequently, how much of myself I saw in him. His stubborn devotion to helping people he admires & respects, his tendency to refuse to give up even when he may be in over his head, and even his self-doubt regarding his ability to be desirable to others are all things that have long defined elements of my personality (certain dialogues in Episode 18 were particularly painful, as they brought back memories of the many times I’d questioned whether I truly deserved someone as wonderful as the woman who is now my wife).

So, when I learned that I had actually been cast as this character I’d already grown so close to, there actually wasn’t a shred of worry amidst the overwhelming sense of eagerness. I already knew very well just how stressful the role would be physically, but that only made me more excited to tackle every single scene that I’m sure many would use as “comparison points” between the Japanese and English versions of the audio. Because I knew the context within every scene, I also understood his relationships and his struggles intimately – and since I didn’t have to spend my focus trying to understand the scene, I was able to devote it all to faithfully reproducing the emotion and intensity present in the lines.

Do I expect it to have been perfect? Definitely not, considering this is the first time I’ve ever had such a long-term role (50+ recording sessions, as opposed to Breath of the Wild’s fewer than 10 in total). But I know for a fact that I was 100% committed to that role and to his character, and I hope viewers who watch the English dub will come to the same conclusion.”

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It’s fair to say that Subaru suffers more than your average protagonist. Was it a challenge or a joy to record his many, many, many death scenes?

“It was most certainly a challenge, with many of his more intense scenes putting my throat in a state of recovery regardless of whether I did them “correctly” or not in terms of properly managing the wear & tear on my cords. But I actually firmly believe that his “injury SFX” are among my best performance points in the dub, due to how committed I was to making them authentic as well as comparable to the original Japanese reference. I actually wasn’t able to listen to the playback of any of my gags or choking efforts when the engineer was slotting them in to match the lip flaps, because they would start to trigger my actual gag reflex each time (which I think is a good sign)! And because I knew those scenes would be so vocally stressful, it only emphasized the importance of getting it done right the first time around… and led to what I believe are some of the strongest performance pieces of the character. I talk an awful lot about how excited I am for people to finally get to hear my murderous rampage in Episode 15, and that statement is no less true now.”

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You’ve probably been probed on this a thousand times already, but we still need to ask…Emilia or Rem?

“Felix.”

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Hunter x Hunter’s Riehlvet certainly made the most of his time in Heavens Arena, going out with a hell of a bang. Was recording his defeat as hilarious for you as it was for us watching it?

“Without a doubt. Insane/Maniacally devoted characters are perhaps my single favorite archetype to perform – to this day, I still fondly look back on Zenke from Fairy Fencer F as one of my best performances of my career so far. Similar performances in B: The Beginning, MAGI: Labyrinth of Magic, and especially certain scenes from Re:Zero showcase just how much fun these are for me, and Riehlvelt was no exception. I hope that audiences get as much enjoyment from his suffering as I did portraying it!”

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Sean, thank you so much for your time! If fans want to message you and tell you how Mishima is a cinnamon roll, where can they find you?

“For any career announcements, role reveals, giveaway raffles, or just my comedian stream of consciousness, the best avenue is my Twitter. For the more reflective and often “real” side – making observations on both my big successes as well as critically evaluating areas where I fall short – my Facebook is a better spot. However, please opt to Follow instead of Friending; I regularly curate the latter to include only those folks who I interact with regularly & in person. And finally, if you’re just here for my audio skits and my memelord posts (which, trust me, are still fairly rampant), then head on over to my Tumblr!

And finally, as an honorary member of WatchMojo, if you could choose a subject for a top ten list, what would it be?

“Top 10 Fan Theories that Turned Out to be Correct. It’s incredible, the ideas that folks are able to come with it based on cryptic clues or even just genre savvy knowledge, and being able to look back at times when internet strangers truly and thoroughly “called it” could be rather interest!”
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