Yuri Lowenthal Interview: “I’ll likely do this until my last breath.”

Even if his name doesn’t ring any bells in your brain right away, if you watch anime or play video games you’ve more than likely heard the voice of Yuri Lowenthal. A prolific voice actor with hundreds of credits to his name, Yuri has acted in anime series including Tiger and Bunny, Naruto and Bleach, video games including Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch, Persona and western cartoons including Ben 10 and many others for over two decades.

We collected some input from you guys on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, mixed in our own questions and let it all out, as we sat down with Yuri to talk about his acting career:


Where did it all begin for you? How did you get your professional start?

It began when I tried out for drama class in my last year of high school, but I didn’t really get my professional start until I left my cushy government job and moved to New York to really pursue acting full time. I spent 6 glorious unforgettable years there doing off-off Broadway theatre and indie films before moving to Los Angeles where, after a couple of years pounding the pavement I started pursuing voice acting to supplement my on-camera work. Los Angeles finally gave me the opportunity to actually make a living as an actor.

In your biography located on your website, you mention that you worked with the Japanese government for a while. That seems like a long ways away from acting. Can you talk a little about what your role there was, and what led to you wanting to break into something more creative like acting?

As I mentioned, I had been acting since the end of high school and even though after college I took an International Relations job with the Japanese government coordinating foreign English teachers I was still acting on the side, doing theatre, writing, making movies with my friends. It took two years of government bureaucracy to make me wonder if I shouldn’t give acting a shot because I love it so much. I just didn’t want to look back in 30 years and wonder “Could I have done that?” So I walked away from it to be a starving bohemian actor in New York City.

At what point did in your life did it all click, and you knew that you wanted to be an actor?

I didn’t quite realize it then, but everything changed one night during a high school performance of DRACULA in which I was playing Renfield. I fought hard for the part and had been cast. I engineered a trick, a little bit of stage magic, at the end of the play where it would appear that I would scale a bare wall like a spider for about 8 feet before dropping back onto the stage. I honestly didn’t know if it would work. When I heard the entire audience gasp collectively, it changed my life. I had done that to them. I had caused them to feel something. I’ve never forgotten that.

Yuri Lowenthal
On stage at Comic Con.


You’ve had a storied career in the world of voice acting while others have come and gone, what is the secret to your longevity?

Wow. Am I really so old that I’ve seen people come and go? I believe that it’s a combination of things: relentlessness, joy, professionalism and respect. As long as you keep finding the joy in it, great! When that stops, find something else that makes you happy! And, dammit, just be nice to people. That pretty much applies everywhere.

You’ve provided voices for both anime and video games. Do you find that one is more challenging than the other, or is it all the same once you’re in the booth?

 They both exercise different muscles. But dubbing anime requires a whole bunch of skills and awareness all at once, and it takes some getting used to. It’s paying attention to timing, and being creative with how to get the words to fit the original mouth flaps. All while maintaining the original emotional intent of the actor. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. While spinning plates. On a unicycle. We rarely have to do that in video games, but in video games the recording pace can be fast and furious. And throat-rippingly screamy for hours at a time. It’s usually about shouting over gunfire, you see. And that can take its toll as well. Also, there’s nothing to look at, so you have to really exercise your imagination.

They both exercise different muscles. But dubbing anime requires a whole bunch of skills and awareness all at once, and it takes some getting used to. It’s paying attention to timing, and being creative with how to get the words to fit the original mouth flaps. All while maintaining the original emotional intent of the actor. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. While spinning plates. On a unicycle. We rarely have to do that in video games, but in video games the recording pace can be fast and furious. And throat-rippingly screamy for hours at a time. It’s usually about shouting over gunfire, you see. And that can take its toll as well. Also, there’s nothing to look at, so you have to really exercise your imagination.

Anyone who follows you on social media can tell that you’re enthusiastic about your life and work. What inspires you to have such a high level of drive and enthusiasm?

I really love this. I love telling stories and creating other worlds. It’s funny, I was watching GOONIES again last night and I think movies like that and STAR WARS ruined me early on. You watch a movie like that and you want to live in that special world. You want to find that kind of adventure. At least I did. And so I’ve been trying to create those worlds ever since. It’s always about the fun. If there’s no joy in it, go find whatever else brings you joy. It never feels like work if you do. Okay. That’s a lie. It still feels like work a lot of the time. But it’s worth it.

Viewster Online Film Fest 5 Jury
Yuri as part of the Jury for Viewster Online Film Fest 5.

 

Besides buying your book, what would you say is the single best thing that someone could do if they want to get into voice acting?

I’ve got a handful of things: first, try it and see if it’s fun for you, because this life isn’t always easy, but if you’re having fun, it gives you the strength to keep going. It’s too uncertain a life to embark on if you don’t love it. So take some acting classes at school, so local theatre, write and make movies with your friends. If, after all this, you still can’t stop doing it, keep going! Also I’ve found that the people who stick around in this business are good actors. Make sure you enjoy that part. It’s not enough to just have a “cool” voice. Or be able to “do a lot of voices.” And read aloud every day. It’s a huge part of what we do. Getting used to quickly pulling lines off a page and making sense out of them is important. And mimic what you hear on the radio, and TV, the movies. It’s great practice. And begin to create a team of people you can trust and love working with. You can’t do this stuff alone. And all of these things you can do are essentially free! And can be done just about anywhere. Even prisons have theatre programs sometimes. And libraries.

I know that some actors like to go back and look at or play the final versions of the projects they are in. Do you ever go back and play the video games or watch the animations that you are performing in?

I do! It never gets old for me. But spending so much of my time these days creating, I find myself watching a playing less frequently. I can only get through about 30 minutes of gameplay before the devil on my shoulder says, “Shouldn’t you be working on that script…?”

Mary Grace Owens wants to know if there’s a character you voiced, or more, you personally identify with? And why?

I identify with most of my characters in some way. I have to, to do them justice. And if I can’t, I probably won’t get cast in the first place. I definitely identify with Ben Tennyson on BEN 10. I’ve always been a kid who’s wanted super powers and on that show, I finally got them! And Superman when I was on LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. I may fancy myself the bad boy, but at heart, I’m really the boy scout.

Yuri as Ben.
Yuri and Ben Tennyson.

 

I’ve asked about your with video games and animation, now I’d like to ask about your live action work. In your opinion and experience, which is harder: television and film acting or voice over?

They both have their unique challenges, for sure. Is be hard pressed to say one is harder than the other. For example, when I’m voice acting, I don’t have the costumes and the sets and props and sometimes the other actors to help bring it to life for me. I have to create that with my imagination. On the other hand, when I’m on set, I have to get there hours early to go through hair and make-up, wardrobe, blocking, rehearsals and usually a lot of waiting just to do a little bit of acting. For most voice acting gigs, I don’t even really have to wear pants if I don’t want to. In the end, though, the acting is at the heart of both. And that’s always the same.

Having goals in life is an important thing for anyone. What are some of your goals for the future? What are some things that you’d like to accomplish?

Man, if anything, I’ve got too many goals. They keep me up at night and on high alert. I want to write more scripts to produce and ones to have other people produce. I want to be the first American to play The Doctor. I want to restart the HEAVY METAL franchise of movies, with a new hardcore animated anthology film coming out every year. I want to make BUCKAROO BANZAI AGAINST THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE finally happen. I want to work with Guillermo Del Toro and Terry Gilliam, and so many other of my heroes. I want to play heroes and villains that people remember. I want to train at K’un L’un. Get a tattoo. Learn to play an instrument really well. Brush up my swing dancing. Own flats in London, Wellington and New York City. And I’m finally old enough to play Hamlet. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Darragh Counihan is interested in knowing what types of roles you would like to play more of as a voice actor? Which archetypes appeal to you personally and as a voice actor?

Because I’m a nice guy in real life, I love to play villains. More villains, please.

To the readers that don’t know, your partner Tara Platt is also a film, television and voice actress. How did you guys meet, Francine Groom asks?

We actually met working on an NYU grad film and played opposite each other in a romantic comedy called MODEL CHASER. I did the professional thing, though, and waited until the movie was over before I asked her out.

Yuri and Tara.
Yuri and Tara.

 

With so many accomplishments under your belt, is there a single role that you can point to as your “best work” or a role that you’re most proud of?

No. That’s like Sophie’s Choice. Don’t make me choose between my children, man.

When your career winds down many, many years from now how would you like to be remembered?

As the guy whose career never wound down. I’ll likely do this until my last breath.

To finish things off, Rachael Moran is curious to know which of these characters you voiced, you think would win in a fight: Sasuke Uchiha or Suzaku Kururugi?

Sasuke. He’s just so full of rage, y’know. But then, Suzaku’s pretty angry, too, and he’s got that  Lancelot… Man, it’d be close.

Thanks so much for doing this with us! Any last words to our viewers?

Thanks for enjoying what I do. I wouldn’t be answering these questions if you didn’t. Thanks for making it possible for me to do what I love for a living. Now go out and create something fun. And don’t fear failure. It’s inherent to success. I fail all the time. If I’m lucky. Because that’s when I really learn. And get better. Have fun. Lots of fun.

 

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