Interview With Richard Epcar
Location: Anime Boston 2019
Interview Date: 4/20/2019

Photograph of Richard Epcar, taken at Anime Boston 2019

Image Credit: Samantha Ferreira

Anime Herald: You’ve played a wide variety of characters throughout your career, and your list of roles pretty much runs the gamut in terms of genres. So, I just want to know what your favorite genre to act in, and what’s your favorite type of character to play?

Richard Epcar: I always think of Peter Ustinov. He had the greatest line, when they say, “what’s your favorite character,” he would always say “my next,” which I think is a great answer. But you know, I’ve been really blessed. I’ve been very fortunate to play a lot of different characters a lot as you said a lot of different you know, shows and games and that sort of thing. I really enjoy it. I pretty much enjoy playing all of them. Raiden is certainly one of my favorites, [and] I love doing the Joker. The Joker is a great character. But you know, the ones I don’t like doing so much are the ones where I’m screaming.

I really enjoy playing them all, you know. The Joker is really fun because he’s so crazy and you can do pretty much anything with him, but Raiden is really nice because before he went, you know, got in the Jinsei Chamber and became “Bad Raiden.” He had just a real morality about him, and he was very honorable and noble. And those to me, I really enjoyed playing those kinds of characters, because it’s really nice to kind of elevate that whole thing and try to be, you know, honorable about something. You know, and the villains are really fun, too, because you get to chew the scenery and do all that crazy stuff. And, you know, that’s fun, but it’s, it’s all fun. It really isn’t, like I say unless you’re screaming your butt off for hours at a time, and then it feels Like you’ve gargled battery acid and that’s no fun. But yeah, but other than that, it’s great.

Anime Herald: Can you tell us about that moment when you decided “this is what I want to do for my entire life, I want to be a voice actor”?

Richard Epcar: I don’t know that I made that decision. I went to Los Angeles to become an on-camera actor, which I’ve done a lot on-camera. I did a lot of soaps and some TV shows, and that sort of thing back in the day. And, actually, my wife kind of got me into this business. She was in some movie that she did. And the guys who did that movie did another film, and they didn’t like any of the actors’ voices in the movie, and they wanted to replace everybody’s voice.

So they were having auditions and she said, “Can I bring my boyfriend,” who was me. And I went there. And the guy said, “have you done this before?” I said, “Oh, yeah, I’ve done it a million times.” I’d never done it before in my life. But I took to it like a duck to water. This is dubbing I’m talking about, because I’m also a drummer, and there’s a real rhythm to this stuff. So, the combination of being an actor and a drummer really worked well with this and I got the lead character in this movie, and after that, they really liked me and they kept having me come back and do a lot of the stuff, and these were all live-action movies.

And then from there, I got into another studio, which was the Harmony Gold studio Intersound. And they started doing Robotech and got cast in that and a bunch of other shows that they did. And that’s how that whole thing started. And so I’ve just and basically, I literally work almost every single day doing voice work.

So I, I mean, from then on, and this has gone on for, like thirty-five years now. (laughs) So I mean, it’s hard when you’re constantly working to pursue the on-camera stuff. You know, once a while I do on-camera stuff. I did, you know, some commercials and some other things that I’ve done. But this is stuff where I, you know, it’s just I’m in demand with this stuff.

So it’s kind of nice to have that and not, you know when I first started when I first came to California, and I would audition for something on camera, there would be maybe twenty-five guys auditioning. And then, when you get a callback, there may be five guys. Maybe three to five guys. Now you go, there’s like 2-300 guys. They’re auditioning for something and you get a callback, there’s 50 to 100 guys at the callback kind of it’s, it’s kind of ridiculous, you know.

So, anyway, I still love that. I love acting on camera. I really do. And my wife and I have done some plays together, and that sort of thing. We still do a variety of stuff. And my wife wrote a sitcom that we shot the teaser for with Stephen Tobolowsky. And I don’t know if you know who he is, but he’s been in a lot of stuff. And actually, Stephen and I were in a movie together called Memoirs of an Invisible Man, with Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah.

So, we still do a lot of the on-camera stuff. But yeah, the bulk of my work is voice acting, and you know, and it’s fine. And the thing I like about it is that, you know, vocally you can create any character you want, whereas on camera, you’re pretty much relegated to the way you appear. So, it’s almost more creative in certain ways to be a voice actor.

A blonde man with cybernetic eyes smokes a cigarette.

Batou (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)

Anime Herald: Are any jobs where you showed up? And when the director gave you some instruction you like, “this was expected at all!”

Richard Epcar: No, but there have been times where I disagree with the director. And, you know, it’s there’s been some times where the director, basically, has a certain way he wants it done. And when you’re the actor, you have to kind of defer to the director, because he’s the captain of the ship.

And sometimes, I don’t always agree. And the problem is because I am a director, I have my own ideas, you know, but when I’m in there, and they want me to do something that I don’t agree with, I have this mental image of a switch on my brain and I basically turn the switch off, and then I just try to give them what I what they want. I just become Like a puppet, basically.

And it’s as an actor, it’s really no fun. It’s not very artistically gratifying. But you’re giving the director what it is they want. And, you know, listen, oftentimes, the directors, they know the show better than you do, especially if you’re coming in for the first time. Hopefully, they’ve seen- although, I just did this game last week, and the director had no clue what was going on, on any of it. And I said, “What’s, what’s happening here?” I’m like, this one character, I’m talking to this woman, and she’s all distraught. And I’m standing there and we’re having this kind of confrontation. And I said, “what’s the context? What’s a relationship?” And he says, “I don’t know.”

So when that happens, you just have to kind of make a decision and go for it, you know? So that happens too, unfortunately, and the whole time I’m thinking, “why is this kind of directing” (laughs) when that happens.

A man with a beard and a hat covering his eyes smirks as he faces the camera. Behind him, a man is seen holding a gun.

Daisuke Jigen (Lupin III)

Anime Herald: Do you think you can pass the Chuck Jones test, where an actor performs a character of theirs imitating another character of their own?

Richard Epcar: Yeah! I think I could do that. I could do that.

Anime Herald: Who would you say is the character you could do that with?

Richard Epcar: You mean,  be a character who’s impersonating another character that I do? That would be fun to do that actually! I don’t know. I could probably do that with a lot of my characters, you know? Especially the ones that sound exactly like me. It wouldn’t be that though. Like, I could do Jigan doing Batou, [and] that wouldn’t be tough at all. [They] sound very similar. Yeah.

Anime Herald: You’re one of the longest sending actors in the industry today How does it feel to know that your voice has basically guided a generation of fans through not not just their lives as a fan, but as people as well?

Richard Epcar: Well, if that’s true, that makes me feel good. I mean, it’s nice to do something that people enjoy, you know? And, hopefully, I’ve created something that they enjoy and like and, and that makes me feel good. So I like that a lot. I like being part of something like that. Yeah. That’s cool.

Anime Herald: Which role would say that you had to dive the deepest to pull out your performance on?

Richard Epcar: Well, that would probably have to be something that’s so very different than me. You know, nothing comes to mind right now. But you know, it’s usually something that’s, it’s difficult. The thing that’s difficult for me is to do something that is so vastly different than me. Like if I had to play a pedophile or something like that, you know what I mean? That would be difficult to do, because it’s really repugnant to me.

But, you know, as an actor, you just kind of have to jump in and do it. And you kind of have to say, “Well, where is this guy coming from? What does he want? What is it that…” You know, I mean, it’s just, it’s kind of weird. And if it’s something so bizarre like that, it’s tough! It’s really tough.

The heroes, the villains, the you know, those characters come easily to me. That’s really easy, and the military guys, those are all really easy for me to play. Those characters that are just that, that demand something that’s really morally despicable? That takes more acting ability, you know, and that’s those are tough. Those are the tough ones, you know.

But, they’re good! I mean, it’s good because, as an actor, you have to be able to jump in and play a character. And no matter if the character is a good character, bad character. And when you’re playing that character, you’re not making any moral judgment on that character. You’re just playing that character in those situations. So, it’s, uh, you know, but it can be rough. Again, it kind of goes against your grain as a person, you know, you’re doing stuff that’s “ergh.” But, you know, that’s a good question. Yeah.

A robust older man with a beard, wearing a yellow jacket.

Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)

Anime Herald: As someone who does work on numerous levels, both as a director and actor and now as someone who basically runs a studio, where do you see the industry today and what avenues you see them turning for growth in the future?

Richard Epcar: Well, I just see the technology getting better and better. You know, even with some of the games, we used to be… you know, me in particular, I’m really a stickler for the lip sync and I really want it to look like they’re actually speaking English if they’re speaking another language. And my feeling is, if I’ve done a project where you forget you’re watching a dubbed project, then I’ve done my job.

And so many of these things you’re watching, you’re going, “Oh my God, that’s horrible,” and it just takes you out of the story. So, they’re coming up with a lot of new ways to do this stuff. Then some of the games, they basically re-computerized the lips, so you don’t even have to worry about doing a lip-sync. And they’ll basically re-animate the lip-sync to your dialogue. So, no matter what language you do, whatever, and they have all this stuff, and that’s pretty crazy! So that’s a crazy thing.

And I just see more and more of the technology just getting better and better. And, you know, making it a little easier to do this stuff. It’s not easy. Unfortunately, it’s very, very time-consuming and intensive work, when we do this. It’s really, really intense and people don’t have an idea how hard we work at this stuff to make look right and sound right.

And, you know, and the fact that we record everybody, one at a time, it’s a miracle it all sounds like we’re all talking to each other. Because, you know, it could say it could be really horrible. (laughs) You know, if you have a bad director and they’re not paying attention, you know, the lines don’t track, and it doesn’t make sense. Or, you know, you’re answering something it doesn’t really that’s not what they…  that’s not what they were [asking]. You know what I mean? It’s just it’s kind of a whole different deal, but I think, technically, everything’s getting a lot better. And that helps. Unfortunately, with that comes more pressure, because now they want stuff even faster and you know, quicker and quicker turnaround and cheaper. And so we’ll see how that ends, but you know, yeah.

Anime Herald: We always hear about little bombs for actors leave for others who come into the booth after them. Is there a particular outtake that you remember leaving that? That was just one of your all-time favorites?

Richard Epcar: Well, you know, we were talking about these outtakes things that we do. You know, a lot of times we’ll do we’ll do a funny outtake. And then we’ll have the actor come in, and we’ll go “okay, here’s the scene.”

We’ll play the outtake version for the guy in the scene, and sometimes they’ll just bust up and they’ll laugh. But sometimes they’ll play along and they’ll come back with another, and there’s a few of those in the outtake thing, which is really fun when they play along. And then we’ve got, like, a whole string, and then we’ll play for the third actor and they’ll add something to it, you know, and then we have that it’s just kind of a fun thing. But we have to be careful because there was something on Lupin that I put in. It was like a silly little line. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything you know, foul language or anything like that, but they forgot to take it out. And it showed up when they aired the show! It showed up on the thing. So, you know, I go “wait a minute that was supposed to be taken out!” (laughs)

So yeah, you got to be careful sometimes.

Anime Herald; What you say is the most unique challenge that you face as a voice actor?

Richard Epcar: Well, like I say, the hardest thing that I do is the screaming. It just kills you. You know, and I play this one character Akuma in Street Fighter V who, when he comes back, every once while have to go to a session. He’s basically just yelling his butt off or you know, and it’s hard. After a while it just really, it’s, those are the hard ones.

You know, I could do that when I was younger, and I could do it all day long, and it wouldn’t be a problem. But now, you know, I do it for a couple of hours, and it’s like, “Oh, my God.” It’s killer. But, you know, other than that, I can pretty much jump in anything.