Anime NYC: Max Mittelman Interview!

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At Anime NYC, GamePress was able to sit down for an interview with Max Mittelman, well known as the voice of Saitama, Ryuji from Persona 5, and many Fire Emblem characters.  Check out the interview below!

ONE Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100

What did you think of Saitama, and how you got into his head?

What did I think of him? I thought that he's a sad, sad man.

I will add I auditioned for like five characters for that show, Saitama, Speed of Sound Sonic, Amai Mask, Genos, why am I forgetting the other one? Oh, Mumen Rider. And I thought for sure I'd get like Genos or something. Yeah. 

My experience was that I got the auditions and I was just going to do my regular anime thing. And then my friend Ray Chase who plays Puri Puri Prisoner and Dr. Genus, he was like, "You gotta watch the show, dude." And I was like, "No, it's anime. I get it. I don't wanna."  And he was like, "No, no, you gotta watch the show, really." So I watched the first episode and binged the next 11. 

And then I was really nervous to audition, because all I wanted was Saitama. [The show] gave me a really, really good idea of who that person was, who that character was. And I would never have given the audition that I gave without that context that the show gave me because the show is so different, you know.  You could never guess who that character is just by looking at the picture. So it took me a bit to get in his head, but it really helped by watching that.

Then there was like a two month callback process where basically the producer/translator, he honed in the reads to work on who the character was. When you're in the booth, when you're doing Episode One, you're really honing in on the character and they take a lot of time nailing down what he sounds like, who he is, and then they move on from there and they kind of speed up.

Who is he? He's this bored guy, but not really he's just looking for a challenge. He's not lazy. And that contributes to his sort of, you know, laissez faire attitude? Yeah. His voice is so relatable and stuff like that when I heard that.  You can't do what they did in Japanese because the Japanese and the Japanese language you have all these different inflections that you don't have in English. So you got to figure out how to make that work for an American audience and the way they did it was how he sounds.

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Saitama, the titular One Punch Man

You play Mob's brother, Ritsu.  How did it feel for the growth in the first season where he didn't even talk to his brother?

Classic brother rivalry.  That was cool. The rivalry they had was, well not and I don't mean rivalry. I mean, like, he's got like a little bit of jealousy of him right in the beginning. And then he's sort of protective of him later on, which I think is cool. 

What I think is cool, what the best anime have is that the characters evolve. Those are also the most enjoyable for me to play. 

Was I worried that he was gonna turn bad?  Yeah, at some point he got a little bit weird. So you don't really know what's going on. I wasn't worried about it, though. If Ritsu turned bad, I would have loved to play him as a bad guy. That's always fun. So I'm not worried, but I'm glad he ended up how he did I think that's better. Love is a really powerful thing. And they went that direction with it. 

You've been able to work on many of ONE's works.  Do you have any particular inspirations or takeaways from him?

I haven't read too much, but just like working on his stuff my takeaway would be that this is a guy--I think this good takeaway for everybody--this is a guy who just created something that he enjoyed for the sake of pure enjoyment. I don't think he was ever looking to monetize this and make it a billion dollar property. I think it was just out of the goodness of his heart, just something he wanted to do for fun. 

And I think that's important for people to do is to find a hobby. Just for fun, go for it. That guy knew he wasn't a good artist. That guy knew that his art wasn't going to make it to TV, but he had a dream and he went after it. Like he did it. He didn't just think about it. He didn't just philosophize, "What if I did a comic and put it online?" No, he did it and he kept doing it. I think that's a really, really, really important lesson.

I think doing is the most important thing when it comes to creativity.

You can only think about things for so long. I have a problem with that. Sometimes. I produce music a little bit. And like I, a lot of times will like to think about the thing I'm going to produce, and it'll never get done. You just have to sit down and go after it.

Saitama is probably your most associated role.  Are you kind of satisfied with that? Or is there like another character you wish more people would recognize you as? 

I think Ryuji is actually my most associated role, weirdly.  You'd think it would be Saitama but I think that most of the people come up to me at cons for Ryuji to talk about persona 5. Saitama was like a close second, or they're about even. But no, I'm lucky to be known as anybody, you know what I mean? Like to be able to have a character that is so widely known. And I think maybe as a whole One Punch Man is more known by people.  Like my dad will, whenever he talks to someone and he starts telling them about me and my career, he'll be like, you know, "My son is the One Punch Man." Tell me that, "I was talking to so and so on the plane going to China and we just had a conversation. And I was telling him you're The One Punch Man." People he talks to know it like, it's amazing the reach that has. So I'm just so fortunate that I'm a part of any of the properties I'm a part of, and that one especially.

Persona 5

I have a personal question for you.  What are you more excited for fans to get their hands on: Persona 5 Royal or Persona Scramble?

Oh, okay. personal opinion questions.  See I thought that you're going to be like, "Are you single?" or those sort of personal questions [laughs].

Persona 5 Scramble and Persona 5 Royal... Well, I don't know what's been announced and I don't know what I can say...  So I'm excited for fans to get their hands on both of those!!! Can someone tell me what has been announced about Royal?  It's out in Japan? Have they said anything about the English? No? OK, Cool. Great. Yup.  

I don't know what I can say; I can never remember what I can say. I don't even know if I've announced anything, but anyway, I'm excited for it. That's what I can say-- I'm excited for it to hit the streets and for people to hear the things and that's if I'm doing it, wink wink. 

I know that it's going to be good. And if I were to do it, I'd reprise my role as Ryuji and then Scramble has just been announced.  I don't know anything about scramble. But Royal there's a safe bet that I'm going to be in it at some point. But, you know, wink. I cannot confirm or deny. 

Other than Ryuji do you have a favorite character in Persona 5?

Nope.  I love Ryuji.  He's my favorite. Yeah, I don't think so.  Nope. I don't have an answer with a one word answer usually, but that's pretty easy for me. Ryuji's my fave.

Given that Persona 5 was a long game, around 60 hours, was there a lot of time constraint recording for it?

Time constraint?  Oh, you mean crunch time. A crunch time. There's always a crunch. There's always like a period where they're like, "Oh, we're gonna get to the deadline." But the cool thing about voiceover is like normally it can be unlike shooting a film. You can't really move those dates around. If you're sick you got to work, while if you're sick on voiceover you can kind of be like, "Guys, can we push the deadline by two days?" But there is always sort of a crunch time.

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Fire Emblem

You voice three major Fire Emblem Characters, Leo, Kaden, and Gray.  Which one of them resonates with you the most?

That's a good question. I've actually voiced five Fire Emblem characters, Leo, Kaden, Forrest, Gray, and Gordin!  And think I resonate most with Kaden. He's the fox guy and he's like this happy-go-lucky kind of dude. So I like that guy. His boastfulness?  I don't relate to that. No, not that part at all. But he's just happy. I like his laugh. Yeah, I like being happy and laughing. So that's fun. 

Regarding the Fire Emblem series, you've been able to voice characters in Fire Emblem Fates, Shadows of Valentia, and now, Fire Emblem Heroes.  Would you care to share with us your history with the Fire Emblem franchise?

I remember auditioning for Kris Zimmerman, who is a director who works on a lot of stuff. And I auditioned for like a bunch of different characters like 20 characters, I think. Yeah, around 20 characters. And then they gave me three of them, Leo, Kaden and Forrest in Fire Emblem Fates. And from there, I thought that was it. It was one of the first properties where I went to a convention, and I actually had like a line of people waiting for me to sign stuff. And I was like, oh, oh, this is cool. I like this a lot. So I realized it was a really big property that people really, really liked. 

And then they just started making more stuff with my characters. I was like, "Rad!" Leo was the main one who's in all those things. And it's really cool when people enjoy something so much that the company who makes the game takes note, and they go, we got to do more with this character. That's awesome. And I because I feel like maybe my performance is a small part of that, you know, and that that feels good to have worked for so long to get to that point, and then it pays off a little bit. That's my history with Fire Emblem. I did those three characters, but thought nothing of it. Then it came out and blew up!

Kaden

Look at this cheerful dude!  

On Voicing Superman

Now you have the opportunity to be playing Superman in the show "DC Super Hero Girls.   How did you make your own interpretation?

Good question. One thing I like to always say is I played Jimmy Olsen before I played Superman. For those of you who don't know, Jimmy Olsen is Supe's best friend. Yeah. So he's, he's like the guy at the Daily Planet, the photojournalist Jimmy Olsen. He's really-- You guys don't know him?  Ok, fine...

So how did I make it my own?  You have a general idea when you're playing a legacy character, I guess you would call it that.  You have an idea of who that person is. You're not going to sound exactly like any of the other people who played it with that character, but you are going to add small elements and you already know he has a voice that sounds like X and a personality that is like Y. 

So for Supes, he's always got sort of like a deeper register or more resonant register. So I gave him a little bit of that because he's a teenager still. So I can't make him (deeper voice) do this thing, but I can, you know, give him a little bravado because in that show, he is kind of a jerk. Which is fun. It's fun to play Supes as a jerk or a teenage Supes not having the humility that he has as an adult. So yeah,  That's how that's how you do it you use you take little bits and pieces of the people that came before you.

Thoughts, Dreams, and More Characters!

You travel to conventions all over the country.  What's your experience with having different fans all over the country?  Some places get to see you more often, like California, while out here (in NYC) maybe they only get this one chance ever. 

It's great. I go to like, 20 different cities a year around the world. It's fun. I have so much fun. It makes it even more fun because I get to travel with my buddies Ray Chase and Robbie Daymond, and we do an improv comedy show.  We have a lot of fun. 

Meeting people is a huge perk.  Today, yesterday, the day before, I've heard so many different stories about how the products I have been in affected people positively and I love hearing those. I love interacting with people and hearing, because when you're in an isolated booth most of the time and you're recording these shows and games and whatever else-- you don't, you don't get to know or hear until it's out there, you know? I mean, think about it. From my perspective. I'm sitting at home, the game is released. And I don't know what people think about it. So to have people come up and be like, "This game changed my life," or whatever it is, it's, it's rad. It's so cool. I never thought this would be a part of my career, traveling at all in the first place and then getting to meet so many people. It's been awesome. Really, really cool.

Do you have a favorite character?  Do you have a character you would like to play?

My favorite character is tough to choose because I love them all for different reasons. I love Ryuji, he's close to my heart.  Saitama One Punch Man is such a unique anime... I love it all for different reasons. 

What would I like to play? It's a similar answer, I want to play everything, you know, everything I audition for I want to book and the majority obviously don't book but I was saying before to like maybe myself maybe it would be cool to play a character named Max Mittelman, or Max Middlemen…

But yeah, it would be cool to play myself. You know, like B-- wait, not him.   

Fat Albert. He played Fat Albert. That's what I mean. That's what I've... Anyway, moving on.

Has there been any role where you need to improv?

All the time. Not really for anime, but for a lot of the original animation stuff I do for like Cartoon Network and Disney and Nickelodeon, you get to do ad libs and improv, and the director gets to choose if they want to keep it or not. But a lot of times I get to keep that in, I got to beat box for a show called Breadwinners, and they kept it in.  The line said humming, and I beat boxed instead. They kept it in and not only that, they give me a composer credit. My favorite credit on IMDB!

You also voiced Meruem from Hunter x Hunter.  Is there any moment where you see him more than just a villain?

Yeah, about halfway through, right like he, he evolves. I love that story because it really is truly an arc where he starts off as one character and really ends up as someone entirely different.  Spoiler alert, but he dies.

But I think it's so touching when he dies. His death is like everything about that last episode. So earned, you know, through his friendship with Komugi. So I cried recording that episode. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. When I was going in that day to record that episode, they were like, "It's the last episode." I was like, "Why? Maybe it's the last episode [with Mereum]?" They're like, yeah, you die. I was like, "Okay." 

And I as I was watching it, they normally play like 5-10 seconds and then you'll record whatever you just saw. You play the scene in Japanese, you're watching it picture to picture and then it'll go, "beep beep beep" and then you say the lines to lip flap.  But they let me watch it and kept it rolling for like three minutes. I could see the whole scene, how it played out as tears were streaming down my face. I was like, (tearfully) "Okay, let's record now go go go." 

Are there any vocal types or personality types that you find more difficult than others?

Yeah, I did like, Star Wars Battlefront, where I played a Quarren creature, like a tentacle guy who speaks in a different language. And he's just all gravel, all deep, all yelling all the time. And he's like this big guy. That's tough to sustain. I think I lost my voice every time I went in there.  Any personality types? No, not at this point. I really enjoy just doing new characters, that there's not really any personality types that I find difficult per se. Yeah, I'm trying to think. Saitama was like, a challenge to figure out a little bit, 'cause he is not an archetype, he's something else entirely. Other than that, yeah, that's about it. But actually I thought Saitama would have been a difficult one, but then I kind of walked into him.

I know you voice King in 7 Deadly Sins, I was wondering how you approach a character with that kind of personality.  

King?  King… How did I approach King... I gotta think back to that.  I don't remember the audition or too much about how we started there.

I think he changed a little bit like you could probably hear it in the show. Like, he changed. The voice changed a little bit because his personality changed a little bit.   Like in Episode One he's kind of laid back and he's like, "Keep on, I'm going to kill you." 

And then later on, he's so much more bubbly and lively. And nobody told me he was going to change like that.  So I was like, "Oh, I guess I gotta change the voice now." So the voice changes slightly just based off of what happens, how his character changes.

Yeah, that was, that's always a little frustrating for me not knowing where the character ends up because I like to sort of nail it in the beginning. And then sometimes I want to say to the director, like, "Can we do those seven episodes over again, please?"

Author(s)

Media Editor and Site Developer.

Represents GamePress at conventions and conducts interviews, typically in cosplay. Fan of Metroidvanias, retro games, and game dev.

Also a Roboticist, Chef, and Mad Scientist. It's so cool.

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