Interview: Patrick Seitz

by Mikhail Koulikov,
With the first DVD of Paradise Kiss now only a few weeks away, and with the phenomenal success of the Adult Swim broadcast of Bleach, ANN sits down with Patrick Seitz (…pronounced s-ai-ts, not s-ey-ts), who, after several years voicing background and secondary characters, finally takes center stage as PK's George Koizumi. In our interview, Patrick talks about the side effects of playing characters who get killed off half-way into a series, the difficulty of voicing a teenager who is so much cooler than he ever was, and wading through an unexpected sex scene.

Welcome to Virginia, welcome to – which con is this – Anime USA. God, I can imagine, it's probably a lot worse for you.

I've been doing a lot. Over the last month and a half I've been to four or five, which for me is more than I do in months and months and months.

I can imagine – you've got to be thinking "hey, which airport am I in today?

A little bit of the waking up and "Oh, where am I. State? Time?" But, I've been groggier. I feel good.

Is this your first time out in the East Coast for a con?

Let's see, I was in West Virginia for TsubasaCon last month, I've gone further south…this is the first time in Virginia.

You're probably one of those voice actors who's done so much, yet people are just not too familiar with your name. Perhaps you could tell us about some of the things you're working on right now?

Sure, sure, and actually, interesting you mention that. I'm just sort of getting to the point where they still have no idea who I am, which is fine, whatever, but they've at least heard of things that I'm in, which is sort of a nice chance of pace. I feel like I can earn my keep when I go to these conventions…Let's see, what am I working on these days? Bleach, that's the big one, that's a load of fun, and I already know about what happens later, so I'm looking forward to that if you know what I mean; Paradise Kiss, where I play George Koizumi.

I know a lot of people are looking forward to quite a deal

Yes, I'm feeling the pressure. I hope they like what they hear, because I know that if they don't like what they hear, they will be very vocal in telling me. I had this one young woman tell me at YoumaCon, I think she was like 'I hope you did a good job on in…you really should' I mean, you know, she was friendly about it, but you could tell she wasn't going to take any grief if I did a bad job. So yeah, Bleach, Paradise Kiss, Tales of Phantasia, which is just a four-episode OVA that'll be coming out in January.

Are you involved with any of the Tales games?

No… I'd like to be, if anyone hearing this has any say in that, I would love to be!... but no. I know in Japan they released a full revamp of the original Tales of Phantasia game. I don't know if that's going to come Stateside, I don't know if they would go with the other actorsthey had, or if perhaps they would come to the cast that I had, which I would love, for no other reason than you know, they were awesome to work with…and I got to play Dhaos, so I'd love to do that again. I was in Eureka 7, briefly, before I died. That was fun. Ergo Proxy, which is going to be exciting and fun. I like what I've seen – I haven't seen much, only about a third of it, so I don't know what's going to happen in that, but it's fun to watch.

I think we just ran a review of the first DVD, and people seem to love it. You probably get at least some of the credit for that.

If people are liking the little that I do there, thumbs up. I'm glad that I'm opening my mouth and something good is coming out, not just utter crap…I really wouldn't want to spoil the mood or kill the DVD, let's put it that way.

Going back to Paradise Kiss, just because it's such a huge show that a lot of people have been looking forward to…most of your roles so far have been fantasy or sci-fi. Is it any different playing a character who is so realistic?

It is. It's less…and this is something that the director, Stephanie Sheh said…"less actory", which I think was partially tough because George is so impeccably dressed and such a character that you lean towards that as an actor, but then if you go that route, then it's just overboard, because he is so overboard, and then you act on top of that, it just ends up being a send-up or a pastiche. So really, I had to remind myself of things I worked on that were more with real-world characters, like Koi Kaze or – to a certain extent, even though it was so surreal, Paranoia Agent. That was filled with very normal people who are in a very odd situation. So yeah, it's a very different acting style, and I'm glad I get to go back to that. I wouldn't want to do all one thing or the other, and get stuck in that, and let the other aspects of my acting atrophy. So I'm glad I did that.

Maybe a kind of an awkward question, but did you have any trouble with the sex scene?

::long sigh:: The sex scene…let me tell you a little story about the sex scene. In Koi Kaze, at one point, my character pleasures himself. So I had to make little noises…you can imagine what those noises might be. So, when I was working on Paradise Kiss, I knew there was a sex scene coming up, and I asked Steph (Stephanie Sheh), because she is also one of the actresses on Koi Kaze, "Am I going to have to make any sounds? Is it going to be like Koi Kaze where I had to make sounds?" She's like, "Oh no, you won't have to make any sounds…" "OK, whew, no sounds."

Well, then we get to the sex scene, and they're having a damn conversation during it. And I'm like, "you know, Steph, when I asked if I had to make any sounds during the sex scene, you said no, this conversation that these characters are having about 'is it in yet' 'oh, don't tense up' 'you know, it's pretty big' 'oooooh' 'there we go, now it's in'…that counts as sounds, so I feel a little misled.' It was a little awkward to record, I'm sitting there and I'm looking at the engineer, he's a guy, and he's looking at me and we're trying not to laugh, and we're acting like twelve-year-olds between takes, but it's not the most uncomfortable thing I've ever worked on.

Any difficulty in playing a character who is so much younger than you are?

A little bit, just because I'm hardly ever called on to do that. For me, it's an unusual thing if I get called on to play someone my own age. I'm really not the voice that anyone ever turns to for the high school set. Understandably, I think the only high school character I'd be right for that they showed me would be Chad in Bleach, which actually I read for. I didn't think I had a shot at that. Being so much older, I thought I'd get someone my age. But I've also read some reviews where people say I sound too young as Isshin so, you know…it's a little odd being someone younger because…it's been a while. Also because when I was eighteen I was – well, I still am – a total dweeb, so, not only am I having to play someone younger, but also someone who is that worldly and self-assured. It's not so much the age, it's just the fact that I don't think George has ever doubted himself for one waking moment in his life.

He is the personification of flamboyance and you're…not like that

No, no I'm not, and let me tell you, I go into the booth and I'm wearing my silly t-shirt and my shorts and my hair looks all funky and I'm playing this guy who is dressed to the nines, and I go 'wow, fashion, confidence…' Well, I guess that's why they call it acting.

I take it, you had a chance to sit down and look at the show before you actually voiced it?

No, I mean, I could have, but often, you don't get the chance to see the whole thing beforehand. Sometimes, you don't want to. You get curious and you want to see it, but also, you don't want to play the conclusion. I like knowing what's going on because I come from theater where yeah, you get to read the whole play, and you as an actor get to find out things that maybe your character doesn't know, but at least you know how the whole thing works. But sometimes it's not practical to watch twenty hours of something before you go and start working on it. I know how the show ends, I haven't' seen all of it, but I know how it ends. Ergo Proxy, I don't know how it ends, though I've had people intimate to me that Raoul goes through a pretty sizable change, so I'm looking forward to that. I know the Isshin spoiler in Bleach

You've mentioned a couple of times that you have this thing for playing character that get killed off in the middle of series. Is this something that ever troubles you?

Only from the practical standpoint. If you get killed in volume three, you're not going to be getting paid for any work in four, five and six. It's sort of sad when you're halfway through a show you like, and you die, and you don't get to play any more. With R.O.D -The TV- I felt that way – not that I was a huge character, but I liked getting to be a part of that world. And then suddenly, I'm dead, and the next half of the series forges ahead. I guess I'm just hoping I get to have good characterizations and not a totally gratuitous death. Most-times, it's pretty good – interesting deaths or inventive deaths or at least they put up a good fight before they finally succumb.

In a case like that, are you told that your contract is only for a certain number of episodes, that your character is only going to last until a certain point?

I usually ask, just because it happens so much. If I don't know going in, now I just usually check on Wikipedia or something to get a basic idea of what the show and the character is about. But if I don't know, after the first day, I'll ask if this is a recurring character. I mean, they'll usually say if it's a recurring character, but I usually ask, only half-joking, "So, my character, is he gonna die today? Do I get to come back again?" But usually I've got some idea now, just because now I go, I bother to check. I'm a little bit more informed as an actor than I used to be, going in and not knowing what was happening.

With Bleach being such a popular show on Adult Swim, are you starting to get any kind of feedback from fans?

I've gotten a little bit. After that first episode, when everyone and their mom was putting up a LiveJournal post about it, I gotta admit, I just went and started reading stuff because I was curious what people thought. I thought I was going to get all freaked out. But after reading people going 'Patrick Seitz…his voice is too high…his voice is too low…he's too crazy…he's not crazy enough…someone said "he sounds like a bleating goat" – I remember that comment, because I just went 'wh-what?' Once you've read every possible variation of how you're doing it wrong, you just go 'OK, some people like it, some people don't, that's going to happen with every character you do. I'm just glad people are excited about it. I'm really not one of the main characters, I'm sort of comic relief tangential goodness, at least for now…then once the Soul Society arc starts, I disappear for sixty episodes. I'm hoping I get double-cast.

It's a huge cast. Do you guys talk amongst yourselves? Is there any kind of interaction between the cast members?

You see people around town. Sometimes it just comes down to who's coming out of the booth when you get there, or who's waiting to go in when you get out. There's some people who I run into all the time, other people not so much. It's exciting when you see folks around town.

Do you watch your episodes when they actually air?

When I can. My problem is, I don't have TV; I have a TV, but it only hooks up to my DVD player. I don't have cable. But sometimes I catch an episode or two elsewhere, and I like what I've seen. It's tough watching stuff that I've done or I've directed, because the things that jump out at me are the things that I would do differently, especially with directing, because ultimately, that's my responsibility.

What kinds of things are those?

"I should have asked for a different take on that" or "I should have rewritten that line" or "That was under-written" or 'That wasn't a clear dialogue between the two characters." And most of it is stuff that other people would not notice, but I only know because I'm thinking of it. I mean, anyone that performs knows that ninety percent of the things you could beat yourself up for after a show are things you only give yourself grief about because you know, but the audience does not pick up on.

Especially these last couple of years, we are seeing quite a lot of voice actors move over into directing as well. How does the whole process work? Do you just apply for a directing gig, or do people approach you with an invitation?

In my experience, they come to you with an invitation, just because there aren't so many places doing this, especially now, because it's slowed down a lot. There aren't many places doing this to where it is going to be worth to apply. I mean, you could, but if they don't know you, if they don't know that you do this sort of stuff, So yeah, they approach you, and hopefully, they like your work and what you do, and hopefully approach you again. I've done three things so far, a twenty-four-episode series, a sixteen-episode series, and a four-episode OVA. You finish one, you could be working on something for a year, and suddenly, you're not, and you're just thinking 'Oh, well, hopefully something will come down the pike…'

You also do adapting. A lot of people know what manga adapters do, but not really what anime adapters do. Could you talk about that process for a bit?

Sure. Basically, they come to you, and they give you the DVD and a translation of the original Japanese dialog, and sometimes, the translation is more "ESL-sounding" than others, and then it's up to you to rewrite the dialog to match the lip flap, because it's usually too short. Someone told me what the ratio was, spoken Japanese takes x amount longer to say something than English. Some people just make it match the flap, other things that I look out for personally, because I'm from a writing background – I really want the characters to have different voices. I know they'll obviously literally have different voices when you get the different actors in the booth doing it, but even reading them on the page, I want to be clear that these are different characters. I don't want it to be generic, 'oh, they're all Pat's handpuppets.' You don't always succeed at doing that, but you try your best.

What kind of skill set does that require? I guess you would have to be good in English and good in writing in addition to being an actor?

Yep. You have to be good at writing, or be able to get there. You have to be a good actor, because you are basically acting all the roles when you're writing it. So you have to be able to get into all those characters' heads well enough. Not that you could voice them, but you could at least think of how they would talk, what their cadence would be, how fast would they talk, would they take breaths, would they be sure of themselves, not so sure of themselves, what are the differences going to be. What would be their word choice.

This is probably the number one stereotypical question asked of voice actors, but of the characters you've done, who's either your favorite, or the one you feel closest to?

This is probably the answer for both questions – and then people are like 'whoa, what do you mean?' Koi Kaze, when I play Koshiro. Totally normal show, it could have been a live-action show. Real people dealing with real problems. Because it was the most real…it was the most like theater. It was, I think, the most wholly-formed character I've had the chance to play, because we took the time to make it emotional, to make it like theater. We weren't rushing, we didn't have to knock out take after take after take. Liam O'Brien, who directed, he did a wonderful job. He said 'Look, we have the time to do it like it should be', so I really got to feel an affinity for the character, and also, because he was going through so much, you just can't help but root for the guy. Whether or not you approve of his love of his sister, he's really torn up about it. He tried to do the right thing, and it's fun acting conflicted characters. They're the most fun because they give you something to hook into as an actor. If people are always sure of what they are doing, they aren't as fun. That's why the villains are more fun that the heroes, because the heroes are reacting: "This is the right thing, this is what I do.." If someone is always sure of what they are doing, that could be fun to act if you look for the insecurity underneath that. Like, why do they always have to be right, why are they so sure. But, he's a really three-dimensional character. He is the character I actively miss playing. If they were to tell me they were going to roll out another thirteen episodes, I would be just overjoyed to see what becomes of those two and where their path leads them.

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