GER member Daniel had the incredible opportunity to conduct an email interview with the one and only, Kyle Hebert (pronounced Ay-Bear). Hebert is an American voice actor and podcaster. He is best known as the voice of Gohan, and the Narrator in the Funimation dub of the Dragon Ball series. What helped him get his big start in this field was being a DJ/host for Radio Disney. Kyle states that he always wanted to get involved in voice acting ever since he was a kid. He credits Mel Blanc as one of his biggest influences, who voiced for many Hanna-Barbera shows. You can read more about our interview with him below.
Geek Elite Radio -1) To start things off, you have played a few versions of Gohan, from a high schooler to full on dad, husband, and striving scholar. Which one of these would you say was your favorite to play and why?
Kyle: My introduction as high school Gohan was my first big voice gig, first big character, first big show, and everything dominoed from there. I have fond memories of being the awkward high schooler who also hammed it up as The Great Saiyaman.
Geek Elite Radio -2) I know you have done both American and Japanese cartoons. Is the recording process different and if so, can you elaborate? Which one do you prefer to do the most and why?
Kyle: With cartoons, the voice recording is done before the animation. The cast tends to record all together, which is the most fun, doing scene-by-scene like a radio play. Each actor has a music stand for the script and mic. It’s wonderful to get to play off each other’s performance, watch others do their thing, etc. Only downside is you have to wait months to even years for the final animation to come out.
With anime, the animation is done and voice recording is done one actor at a time, due the technical restrictions of having to match lip flaps. We preview each line of dialog in the original language to watch for inflections, how loud or soft to make the delivery. It’s also cool to get to see the final product on the screen. Recording solo means you lack context and don’t get to see/hear the big picture as it comes together. It’s a bit of like being in a vacuum. It’s just you, the director, and the engineer. Once in a blue moon, the client might be present to help the director.
Geek Elite Radio -3) Your journey on the show started as The Ox King, and also the Narrator in Dragon Ball Z. Were you approached to voice for Gohan, or did you have to audition like everyone else? If you had to audition for the role, how did that process go?
Kyle: I auditioned in person (most auditions nowadays are done at home and emailed). I was told to pick as many roles as I wanted to read for out of a three-ring binder. I actually was a fan of DBZ already and immediately recognized Gohan amongst the audition scripts. Gohan was the first character I read for, alongside other smaller roles, of which I’ve long forgotten since this was back in summer of 2000. After that initial audition, I was brought in to record bit parts and a couple months later, the high school arc of Gohan began recording and I was told I landed the part. A few months after that, I took over as the Narrator. Once Dragonball began recording after Z’s success, I took over as Ox King. I had heard about open auditions through my radio station job where I was a DJ on-air (Radio Disney). My show partner, Kara Edwards, also auditioned and ended up landing the role of Videl and Goten.
Geek Elite Radio -4) How do you feel about the recent trend of having celebrities being hired to do voice over work instead of actual voice actors that are skilled in this specific field?
Kyle: It’s a definite sore spot. I get that studios count on a bankable name to get people to watch/go to the movies…but with animation, there are so many people already trained and experienced that could deliver the goods. And we are WAY cheaper! Do you think a kid cares that its Eddie Murphy as Donkey on Shrek? Several veteran voice talent have been hired by studios to coach the celebs to act like they do. Talk about a slap in the face. The on camera folks flourish on camera, and generally, I wish they would stay on that side of the playground. Disney/Pixar tends to get celebs who are such good actors their performances translate well into the voiceover world. Others are hired to just be themselves (and get paid millions).
Geek Elite Radio -5) One of the biggest issues that voice actors face is that they are severely underpaid compared to on screen actors. Do you see this changing in the near future?
Kyle: Unfortunately, no. While voiceover has gotten a lot more attention and accolades in recent years thanks to social media, I think the old Hollywood model of “stars”/”celebrities” won’t be going away.
Geek Elite Radio -6) I know that you have played both villains and heroes. Which type of character do you enjoy playing more and why?
Kyle: Actors relish the opportunity to play characters that aren’t them. The further opposite they are, the bigger the challenge and the more fun can be had. Of course, villains can have more scenery to chew, which is a blast. But heroes are inspirational and many fans have opened up to me about how positively their lives are affected, and that is the real icing on the cake. Getting to make a difference in someone’s life.
Geek Elite Radio -7) If you had the opportunity to voice for any character from Marvel or DC comics who would it be?
Kyle: Huge Batman fan, but it’s a double edge sword. I think Kevin Conroy defined that role, and I wouldn’t want to be compared. I also don’t think I could do a better job.
Geek Elite Radio -8) The DBZ anime is known to have some intense power up sequences that involve a lot of yelling and energy. What do you do in order to protect your voice and prep for these types of scenes? Do you have a vocal warmup routine, drink hot tea, etc?
Kyle: I don’t have any warm up routine. But screaming for any length of time can take its toll. The old remedyhas been hot tea with lots of honey…but in recent years I found a much more effective method, at least for me. Chinese cough syrup (Nin Jiom Pa Po Koa) either in liquid or lozenge form really do a nice job of protecting the vocal cords.
Geek Elite Radio -9) With Dragon Ball Super being the continuation of Z, what is the thing you’re most looking forward to in the new series, and how do you feel about all of the character development that Gohan will be getting?
Kyle: I was initially disappointed with Gohan being relegated to the side in the early arcs of Dragonball Super. But with the current storyline in Japan, Gohan is finally relevant again. I have a feeling Gohan will have his day and more than make up for the squandered potential from the Buu Saga.
Geek Elite Radio -10) If you weren’t a voice actor what kind of career do you think you’d have?
Kyle: I love playing drums, so maybe be in some sort of rock/metal band. Also a huge movie buff, so maybe special effects, audio or behind the camera kind of stuff.
Geek Elite Radio -11) Last but not least, what sort of advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue professional voice acting?
Kyle: Voice acting is more about acting than it is about voice. Take classes/workshops and get training/experience when/where you can. On camera, on stage, online. Don’t take shortcuts. This takes 110% commitment and doesn’t happen overnight. Anything that comes easily or cheap can’t be appreciated. Working for something you want bad enough to go through the blood, sweat, and tears pays off so much more in the end. Don’t get into this for fame or fortune. Find your passion and follow it, and if you can make a living doing what you love, it doesn’t get any better.