Vic Mignogna

by Bamboo Dong,
Longtime fans of anime will recognize Vic's name without hesitation. Providing the voice for dozens of anime's greatest characters, he's been in favorites like Saiyuki, DNAngel, Mezzo, and of course, Fullmetal Alchemist. Giving life to Edward Elric, his performance has wowed thousands of English-speaking fans across the world. With a talent for making characters come alive, Vic is an indispensable part of the anime industry. Oh, and he's an incredibly nice guy to boot.

Let's get this started with one of your most recent projects. Tell me about this Fullmetal Fantasy.

Well, the story about that little fan film that I did is, I was at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, and some fans asked me if I would put on this red Ed Elric coat so they could take some pictures. I did, and the rest of the weekend, there were all these fans coming up saying, “You ought to cosplay as Ed!” I was thinking, “I could never cosplay as Ed. He's a little kid, I'm not,” but on the flight home, I was thinking to myself, “Well, if I was ever going to make a little movie, what kind a story could I make up where it would be realistic that a grown guy started kind of becoming Edward Elric?” So, I made up this little story and then it just kept growing and growing and I came up with more ideas and more ideas and then I started thinking it would really be fun to shoot this thing... Shoot it film style, and edit it all film style, and put music to it and sound effects, and kind of just kept working on it and working on it. Then I started asking other voice actors who were in the show if they wanted to be in it, and next thing you know, we shot this thing and put it all together. It turned out really neat! It's about a 15 minute fan film and the whole purpose of it was just for the fans at the conventions, to show at the cons, and hope the fans would love it. They seem to really enjoy it, so...

Have you ever thought about doing that for all your other stuff?

You know, I have to tell you, I've never been as inspired by a show as I have been by Fullmetal. I've done probably 45 or 50 shows by now and there just has never been one that I've enjoyed as much or gotten into as much as Fullmetal Alchemist. That, coupled with the fact that no one's ever done anything like this that I know of. I've been to a lot of cons and I've never seen any kind of a live action take on an anime, plus I've never seen a bunch of voice actors cosplaying their characters, so it was just kind of a unique idea and kind of a one time thing, I think.

What is it about Fullmetal Alchemist that really attracts you to the show?

You know, all I can tell you is that, at least from my experience in anime, it just has everything you love about anime rolled into one show. Some people gravitate towards some shows because they're funny, or because they're dramatic, or because they have great character relationships. Well, Fullmetal's got all of it. I mean, it's got incredible characters, a great storyline, some very funny episodes, some very powerful, dramatic episodes... It's just, to me, the best that anime has to offer. Obviously, I'm not alone because it's a huge success in Japan and here as well. I'm very grateful to God to be a part of it, and I'm thankful to for the opportunity as well.

What was your favorite part about the whole experience?

Well, the whole experience isn't over yet. I've only recorded up through episode 40 and there are 51 episodes, so I'm very eager to find out what's going to happen to Ed and Al and dorky Roy Mustang. I tease Travis all the time, the guy who plays Roy Mustang. He and I tease each other all the time because Ed and Roy have this friction in the series. Anyway, I've loved every minute of the experience so far, and we've got 11 more episodes to dub. Hopefully we'll be doing the movie, and hopefully there's some other things coming up even after the movie that I've heard.

Have you ever cried while filming Fullmetal Alchemist?

Multiple times, oh yeah.

Which scenes?

There are several scenes between Ed and Al that really move me emotionally. The first time, I think, was probably in episode 3, the flashback episode where their mom dies and they actually try to bring her back. That was a very, very emotional episode, and not very long after that was an episode with a character called Barry the Chopper who got a hold of Winry. Ed tried to save her and almost was killed himself, and there are some final moments in that episode between Ed and Al again. There's something about how Ed puts on this front of being cocky and tough and rebellious, and smarting off to the authorities, but to me, it seems like just a big defense mechanism. When he's alone with his brother and they're having these moments, those are my favorite. You know, you see more of the little kid side of the character. There've been several times when I've been moved to tears by the show, and if the show goes in the direction that it looks like it's going with the things that I'm thinking are probably going to happen towards the end of the show, there's a lot more of those tearful moments in store.

Do you have any brothers of your own?

I don't. I'm an only child, which is all the more reason why I really sink myself into the relationship between the brothers.

What's it like recording lines with someone who's so much younger than you?

Well, you know what, I don't know if you know this or not, but we don't record together. We all record alone. We record all of our parts one at a time, so any conversations or scenes between me and Al, Al's either already been recorded or he's not been recorded. He's not there, so that brings up a whole other topic of creating a relationship when you record that you're not really having the conversation, but making it sound like you're having one. But, I've been very, very pleased and excited by Aaron Dismuke's performance as Al. He's a 12 year old kid and he does a wonderful job, I think, with Al, and I love doing some of the scenes with him. I actually hung out with him a little bit at A-Kon in Dallas and had a great time. He's just the cutest little kid and not at all prepared for the onslaught of fangirls and fans hanging on him and stuff. He's just adorable and a great little kid.

What is it like recording lines just by yourself when you're having arguments and emotional scenes? It seems like it'd be a little hard not having another person to bounce off of.

It definitely presents a challenge. That's one of the things about voice acting that I think a lot of people don't take into account—that it's extra difficult to create an emotion or to create a mood when you're not even able to play off somebody. In theatre, you're on stage, you're in a setting, you're wearing a costume, you've got people on stage with you that you're playing off of, and you create moments there. In a voice acting situation, you've got none of that. You're in a booth. You're in a closet in your regular clothes. There's nobody there, there's no people. It's a little more challenging to create those moments, but when you're able to, it's very gratifying. It's a lot of fun.

Do you have any aspirations beyond voice acting? Anything else you want to do?

Well, I do a lot of different things already. I work in music, writing and producing music professionally.

What is it that you do?

Just about everything. I've produced 15 or 20 records for different clients. I've written hundreds of jingles for television.

Like what? What was your favorite?

Most of the stuff that I do is regional down around the Texas area, but I've written a lot of scores for documentaries for like, PBS documentaries and television documentaries. I lead worship at my church every Sunday when I'm home and I consider that an enormous privilege. I consider my music abilities a gift from God. Therefore, it is a great privilege to give them back to him in service at church when I can. So, as far as aspirations are concerned, I am just extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have.

One of my goals with voice acting is to record at all of the major places where dubbing is done. I started at ADV, I was actually the first ADV voice actor to record at FUNimation in Dallas, and then I was the first to go to New York; I've been here and recorded at some studios here. I'm going to be going out to LA in just a couple of weeks recording there, and I'm talking with some directors up in Canada. Once I get there, I will have recorded at all of the places where anime is recorded, so that's my goal for voice acting. It's not so much to be famous; it's just to accomplish something, you know? I'd love to get into Naruto. They've already cast all the main characters, but I'm hoping to get the chance to do something in the show, just because it would be an accomplishment.

What's your dream role?

I'm playing it. I don't know where there is to go from Edward Elric. Honestly, and I mean that. Granted, there may be some big movie like some big Disney film or something that I might get the chance, somehow or another if God willing, to do something like that, but when it comes to anime, I don't know any shows that are any better than Fullmetal Alchemist. I didn't even know anything about the show when I was cast, but unbeknownst to me, I've stumbled into a great show and a great character, so I couldn't be happier.

What do you think is the greatest thing that Ed has taught you?

He's a persistent little guy. He and his brother have been through some enormous tragedy and bad, bad times and yet he's got it in his mind that he's going to get his brother's body back, that he's going to restore what was lost, and despite setback after setback and opposition after opposition, he keeps pressing toward that goal. A pretty strong indication of it is the depth of his love for his brother and his desire to right what was wrong, and I admire that. I sure hope things work out for him. I don't know how they end, and I don't want to know. I purposely stopped myself from watching the end of the series because I don't want to know. I want to be able to walk in and record and capture my spontaneous, instinctive reaction to what I'm learning right there as I'm finding it out. I have to make sure I can tell the fans, “Don't tell me what's happening! Don't tell me! No spoilers!”

What would be one thing that you would want to teach your fans through your experience with Ed?

Well, most people who know anything about me, and know anything about me as a person from websites or articles or other interviews that I've done is that I'm very serious about my faith in God. To me, it's the foundation of my life. Whatever talents I have are gifts from God. Whatever opportunities I get are opportunities He brings, and I'm very grateful for that; it is my desire personally to instill a curiosity about faith in people that I meet. Personally, and this may seem kind of radical, I think that the opportunities that God has given me, he's given me for a purpose, and they're not to make a name for Vic Mignogna. That's pretty frivolous and pretty shallow. I think they're for the purpose of demonstrating his love and his goodness to me to those that I come in contact with. There's plenty of people out there who try to pump themselves up with their careers and make it all about them and bask in all of the adoration that they can get their hands on. At the end of the day, though, that's all pretty empty and it's really kind of vain. So that, in that sense, is something that I hope to be able to pass on to friends, which is my faith and my trust in God and his goodness to me and to them and to all of us.

As Edward Elric, I would say probably the same thing. Ed is fiercely loyal. He has loyalty and commitment to his brother, to Winry, even to his role as a State Alchemist. He hates the military and yet over and over again, he will look at people and say, “I took an oath. I have to do this. I have to do this. It's my job.” It's his loyalty to his commitments, to his word, and as I said before, to his perseverance to setting a goal. “I'm gonna get your body back Al, I'm gonna do what needs to be done.” That's very admirable and that's a trait that not many people have in our society. Most people are pretty lackadaisical. “Oh, I had this goal but I kinda got tired of it. Oh, I had this idea but it was too hard.” They give up so easily, so one thing I think Ed could teach people is to stick with something.

Fullmetal Alchemist raises a lot of questions about faith, about God, about believing in different things. Based on what you've said about how strong your faith is, how do you reconcile the two?

I'm glad you asked, because I have been asked that before. People are like, “How can you play Edward Elric because like, he's anti-God and anti religion and you know, he's against all that and you're Christian blah blah” and this is my answer: Have you ever lost anybody? Anyone you love ever die? Not yet, right? It will happen eventually—all of us will lose someone eventually. Every human being goes through tragedy in their lives and everybody deals with tragedy in a certain way. In fact, psychologists pretty much charted it out: there's denial, bitterness, anger, whatever, and you go through these stages. Well, I don't personally think that Edward Elric is so much of a God-hater or an atheist as much as he is a little kid who's been through a hell of a tragedy. I mean, his dad deserted them, his mom dies when he's young, he tries to bring her back which he shouldn't try, and just about kills his brother, loses half his own body in the process... I mean, this is a little kid who's been through a great deal of tragedy.

Well, it makes perfect sense to me that a little kid like that is going to be shaking his fist at God, thinking, “I don't believe in you! I am all that matters” In the first episode with Rose, he's like “You know, if I were you, I'd put away your scriptures and pick up an alchemy book, 'cause we're the closest things to God there are.” Well, he doesn't really believe that. That's his bitterness. That's his anger lashing out at God because he doesn't understand why the things that have happened to him have happened. Look for four episodes later, after he almost dies with Barry the Chopper. He's sitting on the steps with his brother in tears, and he says, and I quote, “We need to stick together, Al, because we're not gods. We're just people. Insignificant people who couldn't even save a little girl.” In the tenderness and the privacy of that moment with his brother, he reveals that he knows he's just a frail little kid.

There's plenty of places throughout the series that I've noticed where he kind of tips his cards and you see his hands a little bit. I think he's a lot more spiritual than he lets on. It's just the bitterness and the tragedy he's been through. He's built up this wall, this hard shell where he shakes his fist at everyone, not just God. Mustang, the military, his teacher... He's questioning the whole authority thing, and if you look at people who go through enormous tragedy, that's exactly what they do, so I don't have a problem. Plus, you know, the show is fiction. Let's put it in perspective. It's a show. It's a fiction animated show. I don't believe there's such a thing as alchemy. I don't think Homunculi are real. It's a show, but it's a great show, and it brings up a lot of great characters.

I think that's all the questions I have. Thank you so much for talking with us!

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