"Because of a chance encounter with a Ghost Pirate in Hong Kong, I have recorded English dubbing in countless hours": American voice actor living in Hong Kong, Russell Wait, told us about his career and favorite projects.
When did you decide to start your voice career?
So I was dressed as a nineteenth century vampire, working the Halloween Event at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, back in 2003. Backstage, I got to chat with the Ghost Pirate, who was actually a very talented actor from Canada. He worked for a dubbing company in Hong Kong, and asked if I wanted to try out as the team needed more men. I said, "Why not?" - and the rest is history. Because of a chance encounter with a Ghost Pirate in Hong Kong, I have recorded English dubbing in countless hours of anime, asian live action cinema, old Kung-Fu movies, and still love voice acting and dubbing.
And what life experience helped you in becoming a voice actor?
Honestly? Acting school. I use the skills and training I received in college and later everyday when recording or working with other voice actors. This training gives you the skill you need to be confident, to interpret direction and give the best performance you can.
What advice would you give to aspiring voice actors?
Voice Acting is a very rewarding career, but you do need to be tenacious. I would also highly recommend taking acting and voice classes. Learning how to connect with text and with your instrument is so important. I would also honestly, consider taking a few marketing classes, and engaging with other people in the industry.
I believe a "can do" attitude will help you get through many things. A positive attitude coupled with the ability to listen and take direction is very important.
How do you handle the pressure of studio sessions and auditions?
No pressure. Auditions should be viewed as an opportunity to meet new people and to showcase your ability. Not that they should be taken lightly, but you are being given a chance show off what you can do. For me, I think auditions are fun. If you get the job that's great! If you don't, remember that the auditioned has now heard you, and will file that away for later. You never know!
For studio sessions, I make sure to have had enough sleep, and centre myself so that I can be in the right frame of mind. I want to project a positive can-do attitude, and help make the recording session go smoothly. If you have had a chance to preview the script, I suggest take that opportunity. When you are in studio, there are many folks to work with, from the clients, studio employees, and engineers. Leaving them all with a good impression will certainly help with getting another booking.
How do you create voices for cartoon characters?
Often you don't know what voice you're going to do until it spills out of your mouth. Creating a voice is a collaborative process. You have the director, the illustrators and animators, and finally you. You listen to the director describe the character, look at the character, read the description, let the dialogue inform you and if it's been dubbed before listen to the original. Breathing in all that information can help you to craft a voice for a character. After dubbing for a while, you will find that you have several "go-to" voices for certain character tropes that you are consistently faced with - and a lot of that process can be "intuited". Voice training helps to understand your instrument and how to technically do voices that don't ultimately hurt you.
Which projects were your favorites to work on?
I love it all, but if I had to choose - I'd say my favorite work is recording video games and dubbing Anime, Dramas, Action movies, Comedies Television and films ... wait - that's all of it. ;-) Dubbing is a unique art form - from crafting a dubbing script adaptation to performing the dialogue - trying to catch and make an alternate language version of an original is so much fun. Only as a dubbing performer are you allowed to perform a wide variety of roles, that you wouldn't get a chance to otherwise. I have been the romantic lead, the action hero, the kind old dad losing his memory, the Animated Assassin - the documentary narrator, the President of the Federation, etc --- as an actor it's always exciting to try your hand at different roles and voice acting gives you the power to do that.
Tell us about one of your favorite roles.
It's hard to pick a favorite. I really enjoy dubbing Japanese Anime cartoons, and early on I got the opportunity to dub so many great roles. One of my favorite roles was playing Bateau in "Ghost in the Shell": Stand Alone Complex for the SEA Animax dub. I like that role, because that led me to play The Count in "The Count of Monte Christo" - which was such a juicy anti-hero role - from there I got to play Doctor Black Jack, and Sven in "Black Cat" and Sesshomaru in "Inuyasha" ... But if I had to choose my favorite Anime Dubbing role ever, it was portraying Hanna in "Tokyo Godfathers". That was such a great experience. It was an ensemble piece with three mains. Darren Pleaven, Candice Moore, and myself - we dubbed it together, all crouched around one microphone and it was so much fun.
What was your funniest voiceover project?
I was booked to be the voice for Asahi Beer in a well-known advertising studio. My manager was very stressed out dealing with all the paperwork and the buyout discussions and scheduling prior to the booking. Finally, the recording day arrived and I was impressed by the number of people in attendance for the session. There was the client and their team flown in from Japan, the director, his assistant, the copywriter, the people for the ad agency, plus the two audio engineers. I was introduced and then whisked off to the booth. It was then I got to see the copy for the first time. I thought to myself, oh man - this is going to take a while... We watched the commercial, I took a deep breath and said... "Asahi. Super Dry. Japan's Number One Beer" My earphones clicked on and the engineer said, "Thank you, that's it.", I was shocked. I left the booth, thanked everyone and went home. One take.
What about your worst project?
My worst voice-over experience was again in a studio recording for a bank. They had chosen my voice from a library demo and I was very happy to have booked the job. After reading the copy, there was a bit of a commotion outside the booth. The sound engineer clicked in to say "Please hold a minute" - but I heard the client in the background saying "This is NOT what I wanted, I wanted a BRITISH voice over artist!". I felt bad that I wasn't British.
Any upcoming projects?
I wrote the adaptation for and am directing the English Dub of the Korean Film "Mission Possible". It is such a funny action comedy, I love every minute of working on this film.
Find Russell Wait, his voice and his credits on his Voxing Pro page.