Eric Vale is no stranger to the world of voice acting. He is best known as the voice of Trunks in the Dragon Ball franchise. Others might know him as the voice of Sakyo (Yu Yu Hakusho), Koichiro Iketani (Initial D franchise), or Yuki Sohma (Fruits Basket). We sat down with Eric at Dallas Fan Expo 2017 to discuss everything voice acting and Dragon Ball.
Gaming Conviction: How did you get into voice acting?
Eric Vale: I’m been in acting all my life. I started studying when I was 12. When I was in the later years of college I had a friend of mine who remembered me from theater and gave me a number for an audition.
GC: Who were some of your inspirations in the voice acting world?
EV: It’s kinda hard because I never intended to be in the voice acting world. Of course I have all the classics like Mel Blanc, but I never really thought much about voice acting until I started getting the work. Of course that was 17 years ago before that offshoot of this industry had got as big as it has now. I had followed actors growing up such as Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis.
GC: Since your real name is Eric Johnson, where did the stage name Eric Vale come from?
EV: I had been recording a few years for Dragon Ball Z and during the infancy of the internet there was an actor by the name of Eric Johnson who joined the Screen Actors Guild because he was on Smallville. When that happened everyone online decided to attribute all of my voice acting credits to him because we had the same name. In the Screen Actors Guild you can’t have more than one person with the same name. Since I live in Texas, which is a right-to-work state, I had to pick a name that was obscure enough that it wouldn’t be acquired and I could brand. So my agent and I just decided on Vale.
GC: Was there something early on that clicked where you realized that you could do this for a living?
EV: I still haven’t realized that I can do this for a living. I’m still so surprised that I actually am doing it for a living. The only click was when I first started acting when I was 12 and didn’t do my first play until I was 13. I was in 9th grade at the time and it was the click where I was just like “Whether I can make a living at this or not, I’m going to do this!”
GC: Do you ever read a manga before auditioning for a role?
EV: I never do because we don’t have the time. Auditions for anime happen pretty fast and when you go in for an audition they will literally call you the day before and ask if you can audition tomorrow. So you get a sign that says the characters, the show, and then you just read. You do the best cold read you possibly can. Even when you are cast for the show there isn’t enough time to read the manga before you record it.
GC: At what point did you realize just how big the Dragonball franchise was?
EV: It was at my first convention. I had voiced Trunks for 6 months and Funimation flew Chris Sabat and myself out to Anime Expo in Anaheim. I believe this was in the year 2000. I go there and sit down to sign autographs and there was 3,000 people waiting for Chris and I. We sat down and did every one of them. It was during that time sitting at the table I just went “Damn!”
GC: Have you ever done voiceover work for a videogame or anime that was ultimately cancelled before release?
EV: Luckily everything that I’ve worked on has gone through. Knock on wood!
GC: What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to break into voice acting?
EV: Act! Particularly on the stage. I feel like people want to get into voice acting because it seems like something they would enjoy. What you are enjoying is this weird irony that as actors we are in the business of making something that is really difficult look effortless. The performance looks and sounds natural because that’s our job. We’ve studied for years and years to make that happen.
I hear a lot that say they would like to get into voice acting and there’s a lot of qualifications. Some even say they would prefer to be a voice actor because they feel like being on a stage would make them nervous. If you get nervous, acting is not the best career for you. You are never alone and are constantly under the microscope with somebody. Do not seek to be a voice actor. It would be like seeking a job as a chef, but you only want to make spaghetti. You should seek to be an actor. Seek the stage! Perform some. If you can’t live without doing that, then you are an actor. Go for it!
GC: Do you ever cosplay as one of your characters and see if anyone recognizes you?
EV: I can’t say that I ever have. Then again I already travel away from my house and my suitcase is big and bulky as it already is!