Hadouken!!! An Interview with Kyle Hebert

By: GnarlyCanary

Recently one of our team got to sit down and talk with Kyle Hebert and get to know him a little better and ask some questions! We hope you enjoy this chance to get to know a great voice actor a little better! Enjoy!

GnarlyCanary (Me) : What got you into voice acting?

Kyle: I loved animation, like any kid. The word anime as a term didn’t exist yet. I watched the classics like Looney Tunes and that was like my bonding time with my dad. He exposed me to culture, like Looney Tunes and the 3 Stooges. Mel Blanc was a huge inspiration, his acting style, the ability to do all those voices and make them feel individual and alive. I used to make my own radio stations as a kid, pretending to be a DJ. I was a shy kid and didn’t get into acting at school and had no firm background in acting or acting classes. Though, I’ve taken them now and totally recommend it. I got a broadcasting degree from the University of North Texas and interned at a local station. I was picked up by Radio Disney on day one and did both djing and character skits. I had learned about Dragonball from a magazine called Animerica. I found it interesting that it wasn’t like the Simpsons or Charlie Brown where the kids never age. They start off as kids, but, then they grow up. They get married, and then they have their kids, and you follow them through the different trials and battles. It’s like wow, this is really cool, and I’ve been an anime fan growing up too. I fell for it and loved the animation, the over the top action and all that. Some co-workers were talking about them holding auditions for Dragonball Z , and I was like “What?!?” The summer of 2000 they had open auditions. I went in and tried out for Dragonball Z. Two weeks later I got hired to do bit part voices, I had gotten Gohan, but, they had episodes leading up to that. Anyone who’s doing “dub work”, it’s such a technical oriented skill. The studio wanted to see if I could do it. Being able to take direction, stuff like that, it’s a huge gamble hiring someone new for a major role. Just about everyone starts that way. Anyone will tell you they started as Man A or something like that. But I got the part and the series started. I inherited my other roles as the show went on like Ox King and so forth.

Me: How does doing multiple voices on a single show generally work?

Kyle: It depends on if you’re working union or nonunion. A lot of anime studios like to go nonunion. They can pick the rate and get the most out of an actor for cheaper. Union contracts like most American cartoons have different rules. They can get up to three characters out of you, anymore and it counts as a second session. There are different things written into contracts for union work than non union work. A lot of clients prefer the ease of non union work.

We talked about the new series Dragonball Super and the recent movies. He had this to say about it.

Kyle: We were blown away to see the reaction. A lot of people you know, they grow out of stuff. A show can go in and out  of favor. Mostly young teenagers, like 14 and 15, they grow up and they’re like “Nah, I’m not really into anime anymore.” But, some people remember their childhood. Dragonball was a big part of it. You take Dragonball Z and you stick it in the theater and it’s got legs. We were able to send a message back to Japan and say “Hey! This is still viable.” I’m sure that’s where Super was birthed. Obviously the movies are easier to make and are far more profitable, but people want a week to week thing. The ratings are proving that the fandom is still there. A new generation is picking it up, and the old schoolers who may have kids of their own now are watching too.

Me: What’s been your favorite character experience?

Kyle: Being Ryu for Street Fighter. This led to being Ryu in Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph for a cameo. I was just beside myself, pinching myself, because Disney actually found my agent and they were like Disney wants you. I was like “What!!! I’ll do it for free!” My agent said you won’t do it for free. It was great that  I got to do a cameo. They did some rewriting and I got to go in like four times. Even though it was just a tiny little thing, it still ended up being an incredible experience. When you grow up as a kid saying one day I want to be in a Disney movie, or be part of  something really big, and then that actually happens, it was pretty surreal. Being Gohan has really opened doors, it’s given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet with fans, to get to see places I’ve never been before. All the perks aren’t why I got into this, I got into this because I love it. Everything else is gravy. People love what I’m doing and it’s awesome. Like a musician I’m nothing without my fans.

Me: What do you think about PC culture and toxicity invading fandoms?

Kyle: I know that it bugs me to see someone always complaining about something. When that gets addressed, something else becomes a problem. I’ve always thought there’s so many things in the world really worth getting upset over, but, pop culture is not really worth it. This is escapist entertainment, it’s something we want to get away from the world with.When you start splitting hairs, and fandoms go against other fandoms it’s a waste of time. I just love that pop culture is as wide and diverse as it is, because that means other fandom’s can thrive too. I’ve never been into the stuff like Marvel versus DC, I like everybody, all the comic publishers put out great stuff. I’m a child of the 70s, you’re a child of the 80s, we never thought we’d see A new Star Wars movie every year from here on out. Plus all the superhero movies we’re getting now. The Internet, as great as it is, has this dark underbelly and everything became like “High School”. Every opinion ends up becoming these flame wars whether political, religious, or over something in pop culture. Like Goku vs. Superman and people end up getting death threats over their opinion. That’s ridiculous. Sharing an opinion on anything today is like that meme, you know the one where Jack Sparrow is running away from the tribe of natives on the island.

Me: So what’s going on with the Voice Actor’s strike?

Kyle: Luckily , the whole acting community are behind the VO community on this one. You know, we VO people are actors, just a different segment of acting. You have about a dozen video game companies that negotiated with the union for new contracts. The last one expired a couple years ago, so they have to renegotiate for new terms. The controversy lies in the fact that most of these companies don’t understand or appreciate how hard it is to yell at the top of your lungs voicing the soldiers and warriors. First person shooters have you doing all these dying sounds for hours on end, you risk hurting your voice or even losing it. That’s our bread-and-butter. We’re thinking for every successful Call of Duty type game that successful in sales, like it sells over 1 million copies, how about they  kick back something to the voice actors? The CEOs are buying mansions and Tesla’s, yet, they nickel and dime everything and say “Oh, we can’t afford to do that.” We’ve done the math, and, actually they can. It’s not hurting anybody, like at all, when the games make that much money. If you give everybody in the cast one session fee, that cost them almost nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket. They say they can’t afford to pay us like that, meanwhile, they bring in a celebrity character for millions of dollars. It’s like please come in and work for 15 minutes. The whole thing’s come to a standstill. We’ve had marches, I didn’t make a few of them, but I have been. The marches are going across each one of these individual companies that are on the strike list. Not every company is on the list. Mostly the companies that are union are on the list. If you want to support us you can go online and see the ones on the strike list. They’re not budging whatsoever, the extra payments, the reduction of four hour sessions to a two hour session. They basically have the attitude that anyone could do this job, like ouch, how’s that for a kick in the nuts? No one wanted to strike. We didn’t want it to come to this, but, when 95 to 98% of the community approves the strike, that means we’re justified. We’re at the point where we stand to represent future generations of VO actors. Also the nonunion VO actors. Some of them want to be union, so this does affect them too.

The business models present here, chances are, people are going to want to stick together even without a union for the non-union stuff. To have some sort of business model in place that is somewhat comparable to that. With union you have to pay into the pension and health fund, there’s a lot of paperwork. A lot of clients don’t like dealing with that. They are trying though, there are people in the committee that are trying to make a Union project as easy as clicking a button or two on the website to not scare them off. They’ll call and when they say “Hey, I have a game project.” They hear union and don’t call back. Then they’re like crap we have a deadline, let’s just hire nonunion or whatever. This could totally backfire and companies could say screw it and just go nonunion. Most games today already are nonunion. There’s union talent that won’t be willing to work under the current conditions. Now it’s everyone banding together, based on that principle. Let’s stand united, union and nonunion. Our fingers are crossed that it will make a difference. I’ve never marched in anything before, or been to a protest before, this is my very first. I don’t know if it’s going to lead to anything. They’re going back to the bargaining table. They already have several times and walked away with their hands in their pockets saying that they’re just not getting through to them. They’re currently not budging. This is such a huge industry, I don’t know why the greed is overcoming everything.

Me: Any upcoming projects or appearances?

Kyle: I’ve got some things in the works. Of course there’s Dragonball Super and Kai the Final Chapters Saturday nights on Toonami. I’ve got some cool projects, but until they’re ready, I can’t say anything. So stay tuned!!! For everything else go to KyleHebert.com. This also has my appearance dates available.

Me: Any advice for up and coming VO actors and content creators?

Kyle: Keep an open mind. Remember that everyone’s path is unique. You can follow someone else’s path and have completely different results. This is such a huge unknowable thing, that no one can control. Obviously, there’s tons of talent out there and not all of them will get discovered. Yes, it’s a harsh reality. It’s not fair. With the gold rush of the internet, and content creation, this is an exciting time for everyone to try to stake  their claim and create their own empires. Not only is it a great time to be alive for pop culture, it’s a great time to be alive for social media too. Anyone can be a broadcaster, anyone can be a media personality, and anyone could build a worldwide audience with just an internet connection. We can get all sorts of different facets of life out there, it’s exciting. Networking is a huge part of it. Getting out there, and using social media is some of the best marketing there is out there today. It’s not guaranteed success. You throw everything you’ve got at the wall and hope  somethings going to stick. Keep an open mind, don’t just try one thing. You never know where life is going to take you. Don’t be afraid to try new experiences, you will learn from them. Even if you “fail “it’s not all about succeeding, but, the journey and what you can take from it. Always pull something positive out of the negative experience. That might just help lift you to the next level. So that’s my two cents. Follow your dreams.

For all appearances and upcoming projects check out KyleHebert.com I just want to take a moment to thank Mr. Hebert for his time and outlook. You keep killing it out there, we’ll keep watching sir. For the love of all things nerdy, GnarlyCanary

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