Kyle Hebert and I are back for Part 2 of our Dragon Ball Z voice actor interview, continuing from Part 1.
Do you want to learn more about Gohan’s character?
Do you want to find out if the Kamehameha is better than the Hadouken?
Do you want to be engaged, informed and inspired?
Then read on!
Teen Gohan Steps onto Stage
Derek: Now I want to ask you about Teen Gohan. What does Teen Gohan represent in the Dragon Ball Z story? What is his role?
Kyle: Well it seemed like they were priming him to be the successor to Goku. To become the most powerful force in the universe to be reckoned with, and then he gets to the point with Majin Buu and things don’t QUITE go his way.
I don’t know if there was pressure on Toriyama to go that way, or if he ever intended to take that character on that journey all along, because it seemed to be that, okay, Dragon Ball is Goku’s story and Dragon Ball Z is Gohan’s story. At least to a point.
Derek: I completely agree. A lot of fans have been like, “What happened? Why did Akira Toriyama write this character like that?” Looking at it from a human condition standpoint, you sort of see Gohan become more human. He has his Saiyan side and then his Human side, because he’s a half breed, and he becomes more human, so to speak. He stops training, focuses on his real world education because Chi-Chi is raising him, it’s a totally different parenting style. Goku trains him to be more like a Saiyan, Chi-Chi trains him to be more like a human. What do you think of that?
Kyle: Hmm. Yeah, yeah, pretty much.
Derek: As Teen Gohan, what type of voice did you want to bring to the character?
Kyle: Sonically I just wanted to match what Stephanie Nadolny was doing with Kid Gohan, she had a real rasp quality, so [changes to Teen Gohan voice] I wanted to do that sort of sound. [changes back to normal.] That’s what I did in the audition and fortunately they stuck with it.
Derek: Well yeah, I think it worked because a lot of people are big fans of Teen Gohan.
As Gohan you were able to bring life to the most iconic attack in the Dragon Ball series, the Kamehameha. Some fans may not know that you are also the voice of Ryu from Street Fighter. [Kyle: Yes.] Since you are the only one, I think in the world, with the prestigious honor of voicing both characters, please settle the debate once and for all, which is better, the Kamehameha or the Hadouken?
Kyle: Ooooh. I don’t know which one’s older, but I mean, they really do look like the same move. I don’t know if the Saiyans might have a slight advantage, but Ryu’s got that mystical thing going on too. I almost want to say you’d have a stalemate. I think they’d both beat the living crap out of eachother, hahaha. The Kamehameha would do about as much damage as a Hadouken could to Goku, or, you know, any one on the Z side. Haha. I know that sounds like a cop out answer and it’s not because I got to voice on both properties. It’s hard to pick a clear winner because they’re both really tough.
Derek: Yeah, that’s true. The Kamehameha though, that can blow up a planet. Can the Hadouken blow up a planet?
Kyle: I don’t think so, no.
Derek: Yeah, if you take that out, maybe they would be equal, I don’t know. I’ll take it though! I’ll take that answer.
Kyle: [Does both Gohan and Ryu voices] Kamehame-Hadouken!!
Dragon Ball Fandom Burns Eternal
Derek: Alright, so now I want to ask you about the fandom.
You were a fan of Dragon Ball before you went into the show and started dubbing it, but after 12 years of dubbing, are you still a fan of Dragon Ball?
Kyle: Yeah, it holds a very, very special place in my heart, because I was a fan of the show and then suddenly a few years after that I got to be on the show. For fans it’s rare to get to be on something and be a part of it.
But tremendously satisfying from a soul perspective, because again it’s something I wanted since childhood, to do this for a living. And now that I say I am, I really do owe it to the opportunities that FUNimation gave me with Dragon Ball.
Derek: I see. I would imagine it is, like you said, very surreal to be doing that. For me, I guess the equivalent would be if they asked me to write the next Dragon Ball series or something like that. Like, “Yes, alright, let’s do it. I’m super excited!”
Derek: Do you have a favorite character in the series or is there a character you most relate to?
Kyle: I like Piccolo. Piccolo was the very first one that I saw when I finally got to catch a glimpse of the DBZ episodes. Before Cartoon Network it used to air on independent stations at 6 in the morning, on Saturday’s. That’s when I got off my lazy ass and learned how to program a VCR.
Derek: What is your favorite Saga or battle from the Dragon Ball series?
Kyle: I loved it when Trunks showed up and was Mr. Cool with the sword and all that. Future Trunks is just really, really, pretty killer. A great moment that I really, really enjoyed with Teen Gohan was after the Other World Saga, the World Tournament, he turned Super Saiyan 2, and it’s the first time you see him at that age, doing that, and the tournament tiles are levitating and his eyes roll back in his head, and he looks like, truly evil. I was pretty happy with how that scream came out. I had to take a big glass of water afterwards.
Derek: Yeah that’s an awesome moment. They’re like, “Alright, well show us your Super Saiyan power. Let’s see what this thing is all about.”
Kyle: [Teen Gohan Voice] You want to see a Super Saiyan or should I take it to the next level?
Derek: Hmm, great. That was awesome.
You’re very well known for being a fan of anime and Japanese pop culture in general, as you frequently attend anime conventions across the country, even when you’re not invited as a special guest you still go because you love it so much. For example, we first met at Anime Expo a little while ago. What is it that draws you to anime and why are you such a big fan?
Kyle: The stories were deeper, the characters really resonated, and I loved the animation style, I’m very visual. It seemed to stand out from normal cartoon stuff. When I wanted to look at superheroes I really couldn’t get into the Saturday morning vibe. I would watch Looney Tunes, that’s really what I gravitated to, and that’s all comedy based of course. But for the serious stories, growing up as a child in the 70’s, I was deeply into StarBlazer, and Battle of the Planets. In High School, Robotech came out.
It just seemed to be better, more interesting, and had long story arch’s that went on for many, many episodes. You’d start a plot point here and maybe 20 episodes later you’d have a resolution to that.
Typically the Saturday morning fare pretty much had a beginning, a middle and end for each week. Here’s the monster of the week, here’s this, that, and the other, and things are resolved. There’s no real advancement of the characters. You see an evolution of the characters with the anime stuff.
Derek: Right, I think that’s a huge aspect of it. The stories are deep, with complicated characters, and everybody grows.
So after all these years, why does the Dragon Ball fandom still burn so strongly? Why are there are so many people out there so hungry for more?
Kyle: I think people hold onto their childhoods, it’s what they remember, what they grew up on. With the announcement of a new Sailor Moon coming next year a lot of girls are very psyched for that.
You had that movie a few years back that Shonen Jump, I guess they kind of put out, with Vegeta’s brother and all that. It was the first new animation in 20 years or something. I didn’t think it was very good, but it looked pretty. It was very nostalgic and cool to see this brand new animation with the characters that so many of us have loved for a long time.
I hope they really knock it out of the ballpark with the new DBZ movie next year and maybe reach out to a new generation that Kai has spoken to. Maybe kids that haven’t checked out DBZ in its original form have watched Kai for the first time, and maybe they’ll go back and revisit it.
Derek: Yeah, because Kai is airing on television now and it’s reaching a whole new generation. So if FUNimation were to dub that new DBZ movie would you want to be a part of it?
Kyle: Oh of course I want to be a part of anything, but that’s not my call to make. If it turns out that Teen Gohan’s in there I hope that they would give me a call. I’d be happy to work something out where I could fly to Dallas and record for it, because it’s the show that has given me a career and I would be forever grateful.
Derek: Well, good news because Gohan is in it, and it takes place between the 10 year break after Majin Buu is killed by Goku and then they do the Tenkaichi Budokai and Uub has reincarnated. So during that 10 year break, that’s the story and Gohan’s there. So I hope they give you a call.
Kyle: I saw him in the promo art, so that bodes well!
Looking Back and Getting Emotional
Derek: Alright, so I want to ask you some retrospective questions. I want you to look back and maybe even get a little emotional. Are you ready?
Derek: What does Dragon Ball mean to you?
Kyle: It gave me a lot of entertainment and then sparked into more. It really did ignite the spark that became my career. If I didn’t get to work on that show I don’t know where I would be. I don’t know if I would still be at the same level I’m at now with voice acting, or would I still be trying to make ends meet? I don’t know, but I do know that that show has always meant a lot to me personally for that very reason. It was my start.
I’m reminded of that any chance I hop online with fans and talk to them on Twitter or Facebook or see them face to face on conventions or cosplaying as my characters.
Derek: That was a great reply. Thank you very much.
You’re still involved with the video games, but the televised series ended years ago, with the exception of Kai. Looking back on the entire dubbing experience, what immediately comes to mind?
Kyle: Well, you know it would make me miss it tremendously if the anime work went away, because that’s where I got my start. Video games pay hundreds of dollars more per session. I still do anime, I still work on Naruto and Bleach and two new shows that haven’t been announced yet.
There are fewer shows now, because I think piracy and fan subs have done their fair share of damage to DVD sales. With no money going back into the system, you’ve seen studios fold.
Derek: Yeah, what is your perspective on that? There are websites like anifreak.com or NarutoFan, all these things, that just distribute manga and anime freely, basically, I mean they charge for it, but it’s like, “Here you go, it’s carte blanche, take what you want.”
Kyle: Charging for it to cover their bandwidth, and that money’s not going to support the original content creators.
We live in an on-demand world and a try it before you buy it society. Now with the Internet, Japanese and American companies have to work together to meet that demand and meet the fans half way. They’re going to get their fix one way or another, legal or illegal means. We need to shorten the gap between the shows being released on home video, just get ‘em out there now.
Now with the success of mobile phones and tablets you have to rethink the business model. If that means you embed ads you can’t skip, then so be it. You want to watch shows for “free,” you know that money has to come from somewhere. That ad revenue leads to the creation of the content. We just have to accept the good with the bad.
Derek: Well it seems like all the hard work you’ve put into your voice acting has been worth it. I saw on KyleHebert.com that you recently posted a letter from a special fan of yours who had both thyroid cancer and a brain tumor and was in the hospital for a long time, but after getting out he decided to write you a letter. What did that letter say?
Kyle: Yes, I’ve received several through the years. I’ve received letters from soldiers, from terminal patients, cancer patients, cancer survivors. And they all basically say the same message, “You helped me escape reality and get through the darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s just a jaw dropping moment, you can’t really describe it. It’s like, “Wow. I’ve impacted life in a way that I didn’t really imagine.” That’s a huge, huge plus to getting to do what I do. It’s not just being able to say I pay the bills.
Derek: Wow. Yeah. That was fantastic, thank you. He mentioned that they had a no visitation policy, so your voices were the only friends he had to visit him, aside from his parents. I think that’s amazing that you could be able to reach somebody through your work in that way, it’s very meaningful to the people who receive it. Voice actors have a huge power over the listener’s lives, and the viewer, because they’re the storytellers of their childhood. And that’s even more true in your case because you’re the story teller of the Dragon Ball Z series.
No matter which role you are a part of, you bring that human connection with you, and it comes across in the words, the expressions that you give. It’s relatable, you connect with people, and I could understand why he would say you are a friend to him.
Kyle: Yeah. That’s awesome. I’m very humbled and honored to make a positive impact.
Dragon Ball Reaches Far and Wide
Derek: Now you have a young daughter, right?
Kyle: I do!
Derek: How old is she?
Kyle: She’s 16 and is going into her sophomore year in high school. She loves what I do. She thinks it’s a really cool thing. She’s interested in acting herself. Hopefully in the next few years we can get her trained and up and running as well.
Derek: Really? That’s great. Is Dragon Ball a series you’ve shared with her?
Kyle: She’s seen it, but she’s not really necessarily into anime per say. She used to be really into Sailor Moon and some of the Miyazaki movies when she was younger. Being her age she’s more into Disney Channel, Nickelodeon stuff. But she does impress her friends, haha, when you know, “My dad does this.” “What!? Really?” haha.
Derek: You kind of touched on this earlier. Do you think that Dragon Ball will appeal to future generations? Will it stand the test of time.
Kyle: Oh, sure. That’s a show that does stand out.
Derek: Haha. Right. Now the voice of the Narrator and Teen Gohan as well, they hold a special place in a lot of Dragon Ball fans hearts, and Gohan in particular inspired people to tap into their inner potential, to really say, “I CAN do this, I can get past these limits, I can break through and rise up.” So do you have any messages for your fans, or anybody who wants to be a young aspiring voice actor, or is just going through a hard time and needing some words of encouragement?
Kyle: The power of positivity is an all-encompassing force that can really transform your circumstances no matter what they are. We’ve read the stories that are incredible about cancer just suddenly disappearing.
For me this is what I want to do. I want to be an entertainer. I want to voice in animation. I want to have fun in the booth with a community of actors that all enjoy the same work. They’re amazing people and super, super talented. When you want something you have to want it so bad that you don’t see yourself doing anything else.
So even if your circumstances dictate that well, “I want to be a voice actor but I live in the middle of Iowa,” for example. Well, you’ve gotta save your money. If you want to buy something you gotta save your money. If you want to be a doctor you have to go to med school, invest in classes, train and hone your craft. Then eventually move where the work is and network, get yourself out there. You have to train over being shy. If you have a speech impediment, get a vocal coach or speech therapist, get rid of any sort of regional dialect or a lisp, or anything you might have. Just take baby steps.
Say to yourself, “It’s not guaranteed.” That’s the thing. There are so many people who want to be voice actors but they’re not gonna end up being voice actors. But I think you would come away from the experience saying, “At least I gave it a try. I tried it, it wasn’t for me,” or “I tried it and was never hired for anything.”
But a lot of people in today’s world, kind of expect a quick turnaround. We’re all kind of ADD. I know I am. I want things now, I want the ohhhh fast, fast, fast, turnaround. And you can’t have that mentality if you want to be an actor of any type, work in the entertainment industry, be a musician, be an artist, be an animator. This stuff takes years. Years and years and years. And you have to be okay with the fact that sometimes it may be for months or maybe years you might not make very much progress. But you chisel away at it.
You’re a work in progress. You’re going to evolve, you’re going to learn, you’re going to grow. And sometimes things aren’t going to go the way you want.
Derek: That was fantastic! Thank you! That was a very uplifting, motivating expression and I was nodding my head through the entire thing. I think that’s going to reach a lot of people. Thank you very much.
Fans have been asking for a new Dragon Ball series since the moment the series concluded, and there have been rumors of series called Dragon Ball AF for 13 years, like you mentioned. There’s a new one out there now called Dragon Ball Hoshi, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that.
Derek: And just last week with the announcement of a new Dragon Ball Z film in development in Japan, a lot of fans are asking for a new Dragon Ball series. What are your thoughts, everybody is just so hungry for this, what do you think… I don’t know, I just want to get your opinion on that, what do you think it could be, or should be, or if it even needs to be?
Kyle: DBZ is 291 episodes, and that was the biggest, most resonating of the Dragon Ball saga. I think even after, what, a dozen movies, they still want more. But you want to go out on a high note. You don’t want it to get run into the ground.
I think if any new Dragon Ball series comes to fruition I really, really hope Akira Toriyama is on board with it because he’s the creator of this world. As many creative souls as there are in the world that want to tell their own story, I think that’s his baby. He’s the only one that could do it. And I would have a lot more confidence in the show knowing that it had Toriyama’s backing and his blessing.
Derek: Have you ever met Akira Toriyama?
Kyle: I have not. I think Chris Sabat might have when Shonen Jump first launched in the US he did an event for them I think. Chris went and may have gotten to say hi.
Catching up with Kyle
Derek: For fans of your work, please tell us what you’re currently up to. I saw on your website at KyleHebert.com that you may have a cameo appearance in a Disney film, is that right?
Kyle: Yeah! I got to record recently in a film called Wreck it Ralph, which stars John C. Riley and Sarah Silverman and comes out November 2. It’s set in the game world. Ralph is a video game villain and he wants to be a hero. So he goes on his little Hero’s Journey with a setting of an arcade, so you see a lot of homage’s to old school games.
If you watch the trailer you see Q-Bert, Zangief from Street Fighter and M. Bison. Turns out they wanted to throw in some more cameos, so they reached out and said, “Hey, we want Ryu from Street Fighter.” You go, “Oh my god, really? This is amazing!” The head of the studio had kind of nudged his contact within Disney to say “Hey, you know, the whole Street Fighter cast is here if you want to use them.” So they called me and Reuban Langdon, Gerald C. Rivers who voices M. Bison and they got Roger Craig Smith to do a cameo from Sonic.
Just a quick moment, a couple of lines here and there to throw in. But again it’s another career achievement unlocked for me: Wanting to be on a major animated Disney movie. It does work for me because I’m a casual gamer. I’m pretty bad but I do that whole world. I love that they’re doing that.
I feel fairly confident because they put out a press release saying, “Hey, these guys are in here, doing their cameos.” So oh my gosh, I hope it does end up in the movie. If it doesn’t maybe it will end up in the cut scenes. Tremendously satisfying. A really proud moment.
Derek: Absolutely. Sounds like an awesome plot. I’m sure it will be really funny with all those cameos and different characters. I’m pretty sure you’ll be in there from what you’ve said.
Kyle: Yep! Latest conventions, latest projects will be listed there. I’m under NDA’s for all the games until they’re out. But I got the approval to say Gilmore’s 2 is coming at the end of August. Of course you blink and you might miss Ryu on Wreck it Ralph November 2nd in theaters.
Derek: Alright, well great. That is all the time we have. I don’t want to keep you any longer, I know you’re very busy.
You’re a lot of fun to speak with and I really enjoyed this interview and appreciate all the meaningful, inspiring words that you gave. And that inside perspective of what it was like at FUNimation during those golden years. That was awesome.
Thanks so much, Kyle. I’d love to have you on again sometime. That’s a wrap!
Kyle: Alright, thank you! Take care.
Making Voice Work Fun
It’s easy to watch Dragon Ball Z, hear the characters and get caught up in the world, but it’s another thing altogether to hear from the people behind those voices.
Kyle has brought a lot of himself to his voice work. In this interview, my first ever with a voice actor from DBZ, we were able to not only have a good time, but also experience the deeper side of the spirit that narrated the Dragon Ball story, who showed us how, like Gohan, to tap into our inner potential.
What did you think of the interview? Do you want to see more interviews like this with the DBZ voice actors? Most importantly, which do YOU think is better, the Kamehameha or the Hadouken?
Add your own voice in the comments.