Friday, May 24, 2013

Catching up with Ayres: Christopher Ayres ACEN Q and A

Christopher Ayres at the Anime Central Press Q and A

On Sunday at ACEN we were lucky enough to sit down with Christopher Ayres in the Press Q and A session. Ayres is huge in the American anime scene and has done everything from voice acting to directing, and as we found out has even spent time on Broadway.
His voice acting jobs range from the well known Frieza, in Dragon Ball Z, to Wagram in the video game The Last Remnant. His credentials speak for his skills, and the knowledge he has about what it takes to make it in such a competitive field could be helpful to anyone attempting to participate in the creative process of anime. With that being said, it is always great to get a chance to meet and chat with someone who has impacted the world of anime as much as Chris has.

The questions were asked by members of the press panel, while the answers are Christopher Ayres.

*What follows is a loose transcription based off our notes.

Q: What kind of things were you watching as a kid to get into entertainment and what kind of things are you watching now.
A: Well, I the reason I wanted to become an actor, aside from live theatre which was my original passion, I really wanted to grow up to be Roddy McDowall, or Vincent Price, not realizing both those guys were incredibly tall. As I got older it was people like Dudley Moore.  As far as what am I watching now, oh as a kid it was always horror movies. Some of my favorites as a kid? Legend of Hell House, any of the Planet of the Apes because they had Roddy McDowall, god that was a long time ago, I’m 48 now. As of now I spend so much time prepping shows that I don’t get to watch as much as I’d like to. Kind of devastated now because I missed the season finale of Dr. Who. But I got it on Itunes so I'll just download it and watch. I am a huge Whovian, I watch bbc’s Sherlock, anything with the guys from Little Britain, yeah I am kind of a bbcphile. I was enjoying once upon a time, I occasionally watch some anime. But you know when you spend all day doing nothing but watching anime, when you go home you do not even want to see an animated commercial. Last night I did start watching Modoka Magica, I’m really enjoying it, she (girlfriend) has been trying to get me to watch it for a while and wow, the art style is amazing and the story is engaging.

Q: What is your favorite Shakespearian play?

A: well see, you cannot be that broad. Are you talking comedy or sheer tragedy? Comedy, Much Ado about Nothing and a close second is Twelve Night. I love those. In terms of history, definitely Richard the 3rd and Henry the 5th. Drama? I’d have to say Othello, because of what it says about jealousy.

Q: I have a friend who is taking a shot at New York plays, what advice would you give to people taking a shot.

A: I’d say the same as I would give any actors, study study study, work work work, don’t give up. In this industry regardless of theatre, anime or what not, you hear no a lot more than yes. And you have to develop a thick skin, can’t let a no tear you apart. I’ve been a firm believe that every time I thought my life was devastated and over and the worse thing in the world could happen to me, within a very short time something even better has happened. You know how people say every time god closes a door he opens a window? I’d say he opens a garage door for me. It has to be real obvious for me.

Q: Can you tell us what your experience was like out there; did you just go out there?

A: I went in there as a member of the nation tour of Peter Pan, 1989 to 1991, I was touring with Kathy Rigby, I was assistant fight director and one of the lost boys in the understudy for John Darling. I was playing a kid so it was nice. I think my favorite review was saying that the children who played the lost boys like most kids on stage have the tendency to overact. And on one hand they were saying we were over acting, but they were also thinking we were children. So I was thinking, Job well done. I took that as a compliment. As a rule I don’t read reviews, I prefer to talk to people and get live feedback, because something online, you have the vocal minority which is five or six people complaining about everything, and if you take that to heart, you won’t get anything done. You will freeze up, I just don’t read it.

Q: What are your favorite movie fight scenes?

A: My favorite, and it might be one of the cheapest, is princess bride. It is so much filler and flash, most of the stuff is turning your back on your partner, I’m a combatant so notice I say partner. I have to think to say that. It is beautiful and it is wonderful, would it really work, no. But it is wonderful. I love Kill Bill, the sword work in Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. In terms of sword work, some of the best fencing on screen was film from the 70’s called “the Duellists”. And it was incredibly accurate for historical weapons work. It is a little slow moving, but it is well worth seeing.

Q: What is your favorite show that you have directed and character to play?

A: Every single one I love.  Asking a director to pick a favorite show is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Every single one, same as an actor, I could not pick one. I would be lying if I said Frieza wasn’t one of my favorite, or Isaac in Trinity Blood or Arthur in Tears to Tiaras. There are so many. The character I feel closest to is Keisuke of Peace Maker. He is based on an actual historical figure and was very much to be admired. He refused to draw a sword, and they made him put himself to death. And it was more important for him to stand up to his principles then his life was. That is the archetype for the samurai who won’t pull his sword, the sheriff who won’t draw his sword, and he lived an interesting life. That is what I try to be in real life, but it seems he is a man of humor and compassion and kindness, and while I am not always all those things, I don’t think any of us are always those things.

Q: What is the process you go through to find an accurate voice for a character?

A: I rely very heavily on the director, very heavily on the direction of the director. They are going to have an idea of where they want me to go vocally. I also rely heavily on the character design. The character design as an actor and a director will inform so much of what you do. So much of what I do is based off the visual, so I am so glad that we do it after it has been animated. Yeah it is so much harder to match flaps, but you have everything there at your disposal. A good director is worth their weight in gold, they really are. It’s like you get a director like Matt Greenfield, Matt might make you do a line for 30 minutes, and a lot of actors might get undone by that, but I don’t.  Everything I have done with Matt, I am incredibly proud of.  I think he gets me to sound as good as I can get, so if he wants to sit there for an hour that’s no problem, I’ll get a tent.  I am one of those actors that rely on an outside director.  I’d rather have someone to say, oh that’s crap.

Q: What is it that makes the movie or TV show enjoyable?

A: In terms of acting, it’s always surprises. I love an actor who will make choices that surprise you. You think you know where it is going to go and then they do something and you are like WOW. That to me is exacting. That’s why people like Sir Derek Jacobi, or Kevin Spacey, they always pull out these choices that I just didn’t see coming. I really like that. It shows a lot of concerted effort and thought into what you do.

Q: What direction were you given for Frieza?

A: Frieza, do you honestly want to know? Chris Sabat said “Ok I need this to sound like an intergalactic drag queen.” Which is why when I did this voice, about an hour into it he says “you sound like Judi Dench”. So he thinks frieza is supposed to sound like Judi Dench. He wanted it very over the top, very flamboyant, very egotistical. All of that.

Part 2 of the Christopher Ayres Press Q and A will be up in a couple of days.

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