While at Crunchyroll Expo 2018 we got the chance to chat with Justin Briner, voice of Deku (My Hero Academia), at a roundtable interview.
Interviewer: William Lever
Toonami Squad: Hello, I’m William Lever from Toonami Squad.
Justin Briner: Hi!
Toonami Squad: Thank you so much for being here!
Geekly Grind: I’m Nick with The Geekly Grind.
Geekly Grind: I’m Patrick also with The Geekly Grind.
Kitsune Network: Hi my name is Crystal and I’m with The Kitsune Network.
Nerdbot: I’m Sean with [inaudible], and this is my colleague, Josh.
Otaku Hourly: My name is Johnathan, host of the college Anime radio show, Otaku Hourly.
G33k-HQ: Hi, I’m Robbie with G33k-HQ and thank you for being here.
Justin Briner: Of course, thank you, very nice to meet you all. Thank you.
Toonami Squad: I guess I’ll start with the next question or the first question actually, let’s see…
After working on My Hero Academia: Two Heroes movie, are you hoping for a sequel?
Justin Briner: I would love to do, not necessarily even a sequel, just more movies in the hero universe. But I love so much about the opportunity for them to make this movie is that it expands the universe in such a cool way. Now we found out that there’s this whole super science community that’s been around this whole time, making wild gadgets and everything which only little taste of around the school. I just want to see more characters, more of everything. What I really love in my hero is when we can get the arcs that build the universe, like the sports festival. We gets to see everyone else that isn’t in the main class to show off and prove why they are all so super. Just more of that please.
Geekly Hour: I’m actually going to default to Patrick for the questions.
Geekly Hour: So working on Two Heroes, obviously it’s a movie, how does it differ from doing just episodes?
Justin Briner: Sure, it’s sort of different to look at then your weekly sort of arcs in the show. Because you have two hours essentially of a build up to the climax and everything and trying to make the narrative cohesive in that way and still feel engaging is you know it’s, I guess it’s four times as difficult. The movie, because it sort of such a celebration of the universe and the show so far goes through a lot of pain to bring a lot of characters in and give them the time in the limelight. Whereas not every arc gets to focus on the same characters in the show, which is a shame it short of makes you, you know it compels you to keep watching so they that they do get their moment in the sun. But yeah it’s just sort of a different kind of story, which is sort of freeing because you, it exists in its own little cinematic universal but it’s just cool to be able to tell something a little different.
Kitsune Network: I’m going to start off this question by saying it’s a pleasure having you today.
Justin Briner: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here
Kitsune Network: With that being said, can you tell me more about your character, Deku, and if anything how you can relate to him?
Justin Briner: Absolutely. What really drew me to Deku, initially, and has continued to compel me is that Deku has always felt like a very real portrait of mental health growing up. He deals with I think with relatable issues. He struggles with his self-worth. He tries to forge his identity in this super heroic society. And he’s dealing with inadequacies as people tell him he is less than what he dreams what he can be, so I think on one level or another, everyone can relate to feeling that growing up in some capacity. So I just really tried to tap into that and portray that as honestly as I can, and I think that it’s what has drawn a lot of people to root for Deku, because they feel that like someone in this class is someone that they can relate to as well and that helps you route for them in a way that you know we wish that we had someone routing for us in that way growing up.
Michelle: Hey, I’m Michelle P.
Justin Briner: Hello! Likewise.
Michelle: So, this is kind of going off the same question. Deku is a new kind of protagonist, sort of, because he starts off the series apologically crying and getting hurt everything like that. But he’s never seems as less masculine. Especially in a children’s anime, hyper masculinity is such like a big barrier taken so long cross, and Deku sort of like jumped and kicked over that barrier. How do you feel about what that has done for like equality and how men can be seen and how men can be vulnerable and still extremely masculine and worthy of being a strong main character?
Justin Briner: Absolutely, I love that! Deku, I mean, he is as you said at his core, emotionally vulnerable. He wears his heart on his sleeve and I think that is so beautiful because his friends love and accept him for that. It’s never portrayed as a weakness. His crying has never gotten in the way of him being a hero. It’s out of gratitude and out of just having to vent, these strong and powerful feelings that he has. He also, you know, it doesn’t take away from the times when he has to really steel up and bank the big fight. It’s just great to play a character who feels so real and is so honest with himself, and is able to adequately like, express himself and identify what he’s feeling in these moments. So I think it’s great to be able to root for someone like that and I hope that it provides more emotional literacy for folks who get to see it.
Nerdbot: Definitely keep going with the emotion things, there’s been so many great emotional moments in the show. That’s one of the best parts of the show. Are there any emotional moments in the series that have stuck with you? There’s been one in every episode, some great moments that we all love.
Justin Briner: There are plenty. There are some episodes that I had to swear off because some I cannot watch without crying. Of course the theme of the sports festival fight with Todoroki was really beautiful. The feeling of that, you are your own person and what has come before you does not identify who you are, and you don’t have to be ashamed of come from. There is a moment recently where after Almight had the fight with the All-For-One, Deku had to realize that he had lost his emotional crutch and now he has to shoulder the burden that use to belong to the most powerful man in the planet and that’s I mean I think is very difficult and coming of age theme. And then there was, oh gosh, I’m gonna cry thinking about it. Shortly after that, on the beach where they first handed me something to cry into. There was this scene on the beach where they first trained together and they met up again after the fight where Almight had loss power. Almight basically said, “I’m sorry, I’m now dedicated myself to your betterment. I sort of lost sight of that in the beginning and I let you get hurt and let myself get hurt because of it, so I apologize. To hear, you know, superman say I’m sorry is really, really, touching, I think. So I can’t every watch those.
Nerdbot: Emotional guy.
Justin Briner: Thank you. I need you more than ever.
Otaku Hourly: Okay, my emotions are here.
Otaku Hourly: So in this round table we were talking how much Deku means to you and I actually want my audience and I would like to know, will you please tell us your voice over origin story. How did you get into voice acting?
Justin Briner: Sure. I’ve been acting since, I’ve been… My parents did acting and local community theater and dinner theater when I, before I can even remember basically. So I was always taped into that community and that, sort of the theatrical world, I guess. Then I sort of started to pursuit on my own. I did like Children Theater growing up. I did an intensive Performing Arts high school program and carried on in college. Then there’s a point where, you know, where I had to start making some calls about my career. I started to wonder, okay, so where can I actually take this and leverage it into something that I can make a living out of and then feel still fulfilled and artistically. So I didn’t think maybe, you know, packing up everything and trying to make it big on Broadway was especially responsible. I looked and tried to find other avenues of expression that I enjoyed. So the cartoons and video games that meant so much to me growing up and brought me so much joy, that I thought was a wonderful avenue to take everything that I learned from stage and to sort of used that to express these cool and unique characters that you don’t really get to see in plays or musicals or anything. So I really started to pursuit that and study it. Through college, I meet some folks in my major programs to pass my information along to Funimation and then they called me in for a general audition. It wasn’t for a show in particular but they were sort of starting to expand their acting troop, is how I like to think about it. Their summer stock. Then after that, they must have like the cut of my jib and they kept calling me back in.
G33k-HQ: So Hero Academia is an incredibly popular anime right now. It’s big in America and in Japan right now. Were you prepared for that when you got the role? What was it been like to see this show just continue to grow?
Justin Briner: It’s amazing and yeah it has become such an international phenomenon and that’s been something beautiful, is getting to travel this summer with some of the Japanese cast and crew. We did Anime Expo with Yamashita-san. I got to pick his brain a little bit about the process and what he likes and what his favorite foods are. Also with Horikoshi-sensei at San Diego Comic Con, we got to, being able to be a part of exposing them to their international audience, they sort of understand exist but they get to see them. Crazy and wild and energetic and just so passionate for something that they work really hard on, I think that’s really cool, to vast in that experience. We didn’t really, I mean, there were some whispers around the studio when they got the rights to the property and auditions sort of started that is a pretty big deal. But we didn’t really see the repercussion of the popularity until, I think, until this year especially. When they announced the movie, they announced video game, they put it on Toonami, so that it’s exposed to a whole new audience. It’s taken a little time but now I think, the cast and I all sort of realized it the same time and looked at each other, oh this has become a really, really, big deal. It’s always been a project that’s been very special to me. I’ve identify that it is something very unique and lives in its own world right away pretty much. I’ve always tried to just be as honest as possible with the material, clean as much as I can from the original cast and how they set the tone for this story and I just want to you know, I want to pass this story on to more people and just to be a part of that is really rewarding.
Toonami Squad: Speaking of Toonami and other shows…
Justin Briner: You skipped my question.
Justin Briner: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Justin Briner: It’s my turn!
Nerdbot: You can ask yourself a question, go for it!
Justin Briner: No, no, no. Stop, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Toonami Squad: I’m just gonna shift the gears a little with this question, how was your overall experience voicing Popoko in the first episode of Pop Team Epic?
Justin Briner: Literally absurd. It was amazing. I really love that show, I sort of, you know, you see the reaction online and this and that. When they announced the anime, I think I’m not alone when saying I’m very curious on how they are going to approach it. So when the director got a hold of the project, he sort of told me cryptically, I got something fun for you next week… What is that mean? What doesn’t it mean? It’s a very unique experience because as you probably, I’m sure you know, it’s the same episode told twice with the male and female cast. I had the district honor of being the first of the female cast.
Justin Briner: There are no other male cast members on that side of the show except me. Which is awesome, I love that and he’s sort of paired people together based on their relationships in other shows. I was with Colleen Clinkenbeard, who was my Pipime. She’s been directing me in My Hero for years, so you know, to get to act off of her in something that’s just hilarious was a lot of fun. Then we also got to reference in that episode, was Chris Sabat and Ian Sinclair. They of course, they were off the wall and but every line that I did, we would reference Sabat and see what he did. We didn’t want it to be the same exact delivery every time, we wanted to do something zanier and crazy and sort of show off what every individual performer can do. As the show went on there was more of that sensation. It’s just really satisfying to get to work on something that lets you flex and you don’t really know what’s coming next and you just kept enjoy and try things and see where it lands.
Toonami Squad: Awesome!
Geekly Grind: So you mentioned Colleen a little bit there and obviously she worked with you them for a majority of My Hero so far. Recently she’s been working on a movie which then directing fell to Clifford Chapin, so what’s it like working differently with two different directors? What would you say stands out between the two?
Justin Briner: That’s a very good question. Luckily for them, Cliff has been Colleen’s Assistant Director or that’s how he started out with ADR Directing. So he studied under the school of Colleen. So there’s at least that sort of narrative cohesion when he gets to step into the project. He’s just a big of a fan as she is. She adores it, he really loves it and so when we going in week to week, he’s able to reference the same emotional beat and everything. He’s very astute at looking back at the older material and seeing how that relates to what’s being said now. What’s the emotional weight something in season three means because of what something in season one was said? They just have very good heads on their shoulders and of course you know because Cliff and I get to hang out a little more, I guess the atmosphere is a little more relaxed. But we’re both pretty committed in getting it right and getting it done. So it isn’t that different but also he talks a little bit more about Bakugo than Colleen does.
Nerdbot: It’s funny because it kind of translated to your interactions online a little. Poke fun at each other and he recently played a trick on recording studio.
Justine Briner: Oh that was a trick on Colleen! Because he, I think, hasn’t seen how our relationship has blossomed in that sort of teasing way, so when she handed the keys over to Cliff for that episode, he was like, “I’m going to have a little fun.” Because every episode she will be the final, she has the final eyes on it. Like she sees it no matter what and she has to sit down and watch what everyone did, so he left all those bombs in for her to see and be like, “No, No, No!”
Crunchyroll Staff: Time for one more question.
Kitsune Network: With that being said, what has been your experience working on the My Hero Academia series?
Justin Briner: It’s just been infinitely rewarding. I love being able to tell such a real, honest, emotional story. It’s been great getting to now travel and share my passion with people who are also as equally or more so passionate about the project than I am. The more I get to talk to folk and see who their favorite characters are, and see who their favorite relationships are, the more it deepens my understanding of the material. It’s just really amazing, and to get to share that sort of international love for the series with everyone is really, really great!
*Disclaimer: These are Toonami Squad transcripts of a ’round-table style’ interview that took place at Crunchyroll Expo 2018 at the San Jose Convention Center, with voice actor Justin Briner. These are not official transcripts and were produced by Toonami Squad as accurately as possible. Any mistakes are unintentional and are no means of misrepresentation and/or slander.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions of the participants of this interview do not necessarily represent those of ToonamiSquad.com or it’s affiliates, nor are they the views of Toonami, [adult swim], Williams Street, Turner or any other Time Warner property or any of their affiliates.
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