Richard Cansino [Interview]


As some of you fine readers may have noticed, we have really been digging deep into the world of voice acting lately. We have especially put a primary focus on the voice actors behind the brilliant Fallout series that we all know and love. Last week was actually ALL Fallout voice actors. And yet, here we are again with just one more (for now) to share with you all. But, trust me, Richard Cansino is far more than just another few characters from Fallout 4. He is a wise and extremely talented man in the world of voice over and on screen work, and probably gives the greatest bit of insight into the business that we have had to date!

Richard has a lot to say about his career thus far, what it has been like to evolve in the digital world of voice over and loop groups and beyond. He even gives insight into the insane fandom in the world of anime, of which I truly knew nothing about. So, I really think we just dive right into it! But, I have to say that it is a true honor and a privilege to have another legendary voice over artist here at Trainwreck’d Society! So folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Richard Cansino!

How did you find yourself in your line of work as an actor and a master of the voice over world? Was this a world you always dreamed about being a part of? Or did you just sort of find yourself doing it for a living?

I come from a showbiz family. My grandfather was a big star in vaudeville. He & his brothers and sister were known as The Dancing Cansinos. They introduced Flamenco dancing to America and he married a Ziegfeld Girl, my grandmother Volga Hayworth. My father’s sister, (Auntie Rita), was Rita Hayworth, (yes, the Hollywood legend!), and I’m also distantly related by marriage to Ginger Rogers and Donna Reed.

Because of the long show business history of my family, I really didn’t have too many romantic illusions about it. I had enjoyed being in a couple of high school plays but I knew acting wasn’t a very practical way to make a living so, when it came time to go to college, I decided to be a language major. I figured it would be easier to get a job if I spoke Spanish at least. But as luck would have it, Glendale Junior College, (in my home town of Glendale, CA),  didn’t offer Spanish as a major and I couldn’t afford the schools that did. So I decided to take a few drama classes in Jr. College, hoping that one of the required courses in other subjects would catch my fancy but nothing gave me as much pleasure or satisfaction as theater so I kind of fell into acting because nothing else suited me.

I studied acting for over seven years before I felt ready to try making a living at it. I graduated Magna Cum Lousy at Cal State University Long Beach, (Go Beach!), and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts/West. When I graduated from the American Academy my goal was just to make a living as an actor. It never occurred to me there was even such a thing as a voice over career. I knew there were actors doing cartoon voices but my focus was to get on-camera and stage work. For about ten years I managed to eek out a meager living doing a combination of theatre, children’s theatre, some TV parts and several “B” films. Some years weren’t as good as  others, though, so there were times when I had to do “survival jobs” between acting gigs. One of those survival gigs was painting houses and one of the houses I  painted, (and really terribly, I have to say), belonged to a couple of friends of mine, Steve Kramer & Melora Harte.

Steve and Melora had been making a pretty good living writing, acting, and directing dubbing scripts for anime and foreign film projects. Steve, at the time, was directing an anime series called Soccer Boy, basically following characters around the world as they attend World Cup soccer matches. Steve needed actors who could not only hit sync but speak in a variety of different accents. I have always been good with accents and dialects and Melora suggested Steve call me in for a day after she heard me clowning around with accents at a party were were both at.

Dubbing is not for everyone. There aren’t a ton of actors who can match the lip movements of the characters on screen and make it sound real so Steve was reluctant to call me in but he decided to give me a try by hiring me to do voices in the background, (known in the biz as “walla”), with a group of seasoned dubbing actors. So, there I was making background conversation with the other actors when Steve asked me to step up to the mic and do one line for one character. I didn’t realize he was auditioning me, otherwise I would have been very nervous, and I hit the line perfectly on cue and every word fit into the character’s mouth perfectly in one take. So I passed the test I didn’t know I was taking!

I aced the rest of the day’s work but didn’t realize that most of the other actors I was working with were very active as dubbing writers and directors too. They were all happy to discover another actor who could dub well and be fun to work with and I started getting called in by them on other projects.

About a month later, Saban Entertainment was casting a replacement for Bob Bergen on a series called Eagle Riders because Bob had left to voice Porky Pig and Tweety Bird at Warner Brothers. My voice just happened to sound so similar to Bob’s that they didn’t even have to redo a lot of the lines he had already recorded. I worked on that series for a year, (Bryan Cranston voiced my character’s co-pilot!), and when it was over, they offered me a part on another show called Super Pig, followed by another show and another after that. I ended up working for several years on Saban projects like Flint: The Time Detective, Digimon, and Power Rangers. During that time, I worked with more and more people with connections in dubbing, looping and video games and I, unintentionally, was networking with them. After a while, they would just call me in for work without me even having to audition! What a luxury for an actor!

So, basically, with the help of Steve Kramer and Melora Harte, I just lucked into it! But even though I was lucky, my training prepared me to take advantage of the opportunity when it came a-knockin’.  As Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers said: “Luck is the residue of design.”

Boy, that was a really long answer to a short question!

One of the projects you have worked on happens to be a video game in a franchise that is very near and dear to our hearts here at TWS. That project would be Fallout 4. You voiced three very unique, and actually pretty hilarious in their own right, characters on the game: The Railroad’s star tourist Ricky Dalton, Diamond City’s beloved chem dealer Solomon, and the wrongfully(?) imprisoned Lorenzo Cabot. So, what was it like to join the Fallout franchise? Was there anything that set this series apart from other projects you have worked on?

This is going to sound terrible but I had no idea I had worked on anything in the Fallout franchise until you asked me now. Maybe if I heard some of the lines, I’d recognize the characters you mention but right now I’m drawing a blank.

It’s not my fault, though. Up until a few months ago, most video game companies would never tell us the actual name of whatever game we were working on. They always gave the project a pseudonym because, I guess, they were afraid of corporate espionage or something. I worked on one of the Halo iterations but had no idea until I’d already completed the job and they sent me a copy of a previously released Halo game.

Solomon in Fallout 4

The production companies get a bit paranoid, in my opinion. They frequently make us sign a non-disclosure agreement just to submit an audition. Usually, the auditions consist of maybe a page of lines so how much can an actor discern about a project from only a page? They give us actors way too much credit for being smarter than we really are.

And, frankly, some of my lack of recollection is probably because I don’t remember most of the projects I’ve worked on. Here’s an example: My girlfriend bought a DVD of a Korean movie called Old Boy. Neither of us speak Korean so I suggested we watch the English dubbed option because the subtitles would be too small to read on my little TV. As the film went on I recognized a few of the voices, including my friend Steve Kramer’s. But there was one actor who really bothered me. He had the same vocal range as me but was way better. His sync was perfect and his acting was really super. He was very natural sounding, even though he was doing a really emotional scene just before committing suicide — or maybe he got pushed off a roof — I don’t remember, (see what I mean about not remembering?!). Anyway, as I watched him in this scene I started to get more and more upset.

“Damn!” I said, “I don’t know who this guy is but he’s really good! And he’s in my vocal range and age! I’ll bet he’s getting all the parts I’ve been auditioning for lately. Can’t really blame the directors for casting him over me, though. He’s really good!” I stayed upset about this new guy usurping my career all through the film until, toward the end, I thought I saw some familiar footage. Could it be I had worked on it? Maybe I’d done some scenes where I was one of the crowd voices? So I rewound the tape and started to watch it again when my memory suddenly clicked in. That actor I was so upset about was me! I had completely forgotten I’d done the part. But at least I was pleased with my work!

Lorenzo Cabot in Fallout 4

A friend of mine had a similar experience only worse. He saw an old rerun of Kojak or something, saw a young actor, and didn’t realize the actor was him thirty years ago! Nobody ever lost money betting on actors not being smart!

While I am honestly have very little knowledge about the world of anime, I am inclined to believe that a lot of our readers may be huge fans of some of the work you have been involved with in that world. I’ve found it to have a very devoted fan base. So how has your interactions been with anime fans, or just fans in general? Do you find some pretty die hard fanatics out there? What do fans really seem to go apeshit over when they meet you in person?

Anime fans go apeshit over my Adonis-like physique, movie idol sexiness and charm, my Einstein-like intellect, my rapier wit, and, mostly, my humbleness. But seriously, folks. . .

Boy, anime fans are absolutely amazingly die hard! I had no idea of their devotion to whatever series or characters that resonate with them! Y’know, when we record, we are in a little room where the walls are covered in foam rubber and there’s an adjoining room separated by a glass window where the director and engineer, and sometimes the producer sit — and that’s it. There’s no audience. We’re performing in a vacuum and have no idea of whether people like our efforts to entertain them or not.

On rare occasions I’ve gotten a fan letter but, for the most part, I’d never interacted with fans of anime until last year when, for the first time, I attended an anime convention. It was at the Alias Convention in Trinidad and Tobego. Trinidad and Tobego?! Who woulda thunk that?! The “Trinis” treated me like a huge movie star! That was a huge surprise but, beyond that, they spent all kinds of time, money, and ingenuity making costumes of their favorite anime characters and seeing the results really impressed me.

Two ladies named their oldest child after a character I voiced, two other fans brought me gifts – I mean nice gifts!, and one fellow really left an impression. He loved one particular anime character of mine that has a big scar in the shape of an “X” on his cheek. So, he held out his knuckle and showed me a large “X” shaped scar on it.

“You see this scar?” he asked, “I accidentally slashed my knuckle and knew it would leave a mark so I took a knife and cut it more so it would make an ‘X’!” Now that’s devotion — or maybe just psychosis, (wink, wink).

On a more serious side, there were several people who told me that watching my show(s) helped them through very difficult childhoods. I guess they fantasized about being like my character in one series who was constantly having to overcome huge challenges and long odds, (usually in the form of duels), and just when it seemed he was defeated, he always managed to rally and find a way to succeed. That’s a powerful message to a kid who’s going through hard times. I’m  grateful and actually humbled that I was able to play a small part in helping them get through those difficulties.

You have been in the voice over game for quite some time, and have probably seen a lot of changes in the world with the advancements in technology that have occurred. So in your obviously expert opinion, what have been some major changes in this industry that you have noticed? Are some concepts still the same as when you started?

 

The major change is that we no longer get papyrus scripts written in hieroglyphics. . . Just kidding. . . The scripts were carved on stone tablets.

Actually, there have been some major changes in technology. In the old days, before I got into the voice over world, there was no such thing as videotape. Whenever they would need to rerecord or dub a line, they’d clip out a piece of film, make it into a loop and literally run that little loop of film over and over until they got what they wanted. To this day, the rerecording/dubbing process is known as “looping”.

By the time I got into dubbing and voice over, everything was on videotape. Whenever we’d miss the sync or the director wanted a different line reading, the engineer would rewind the tape to the beginning of the line and we would start all over again and again until we finally got it right. That was a slow process. The average actor would be able to record about 15 – 20 lines an hour. I would be a bit higher, usually. I’d like to think it was because I was incredibly talented but it might have been because the directors figured there was no use trying to coax a better performance out of a slug like me so they just opted to move ahead.

Nowadays everything is digital and computerized. There’s a computer program called Pro Tools that most of the studios use now. If you don’t hit the sync quite right now or if you miss taking a pause, or you finish too soon or too late, you don’t have to start over like we use to. Now, the engineer just moves everything around digitally. They can put in a pause if you miss one, stretch out your line if you finish too soon, and compress it if you finish too late. They can do that for individual words if they want to! They can raise and lower your pitch and add all kinds of effects right during the recording session where, before, they’d need to do things like that after the session because it was so time consuming. This has really sped up the process. Now, I can get in 25 to 30 loops an hour or more. The only thing they can’t do with digitization is change the actor’s performance, thank God, or we’d all be unemployed!

iPads have replaced scripts too. When I started, we’d get paper scripts and we’d make adjustments like word changes and pauses, etc. with a pencil directly onto the script. Now everything is controlled by the engineer from the booth. I just stand and watch while the adjustments magically appear on the tablet as the engineer enters the info. I can’t say I care for that particular innovation. I like to make my own scribbles that I know I can recognize without having to rely on anyone else’s notations but what are ya gonna do?

The basic concept of dubbing has remained the same: Put English words into mouths speaking a foreign language and make it look and sound real. At least that’s true for live action films with real people in them. The concept has changed for animation. When I started, a lot of attention was paid to hitting the internal sync. That is not only starting the first and last words of a line at the same time as the character, but also matching the sync of the words between the start and finish of the line. We took a lot of pride in making the entire line fit into the mouths of the characters. It took some time to get it right but the finished product looked better. Nowadays there is so much pressure to get the product out quickly and cheaply, that a lot of producers only care if the line starts and finishes on time. Not as much attention is paid to the internal sync and I feel the finished product suffers because of it. Other than economics,  I think part of the reason for this is that most producers just don’t see it when the internal sync is off. It drives me crazy but they just don’t seem to care.

I have a theory that one of the reasons the producers don’t care about internal sync is that a lot of anime fans don’t seem to care either. What many of the most opinionated fans care most about is “authenticity”. I take that to mean they want the English dubbed version to look as close to the original Japanese, (especially Japanese!), or Korean or whatever as possible. Well, in my not-so-humble opinion, the original voice work is often terrible! The sync on the original is often times way off. Sometimes a 40 year old voice is coming out of a character drawn to look 20. I’ve heard that’s because in Japan the audience values performance over everything else. They also have certain actors who they want to hear, whether those actors’ voices are appropriate for the characters or not. Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m not knocking the actors’ performances, (lots of them are fabulous!) — I just don’t care for their dubbing. So I guess a lot of producers figure if the audience doesn’t care about sync, why should they? Especially if it might cost them more money! Can’t really blame them, can you?

As far as any changes in games, I really don’t feel the new technology has affected how actors approach their jobs. Games are much less demanding than dubbing in that we don’t have to match anyone else’s rhythms, or performances. We just have to read the scripts and finish within a certain time. There’s nothing to look at on screen because they animate the characters to our voices so things go much faster than with dubbing. I’m sure the engineers are much happier with digitization but as far as acting for games, I don’t think it’s changed my technique at all.

I hope you didn’t want short answers. . .

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to tell our readers about?

Well, my crystal ball tells me I’m about to be in a live action movie called Time PulseI also have co-written a film that is “in process”, as they say, at Hallmark Studios. I think that’s code for “We’re thinking it over.”  And if any of your readers want to finance a micro budget movie, I’ve co-written a comedy that people have told me has the potential to be one of those “cult classics”. So if you’ve got a couple hundred thousand smackers you don’t know what to do with, get in touch with me!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

You asking little ol’ me for an interview!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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