BRYCE PAPENBROOK is an American voice actor best known for his lead role as Eren Jaeger in hit anime series ATTACK ON TITAN. He is also the voice behind popular characters such as Rin Okumura in BLUE EXORCIST, Red in POKÉMON ORIGINS and Kirito in SWORD ART ONLINE. We caught up with him at the recent MCM Manchester Comic Con to find out more about his work on ATTACK ON TITAN.
STARBURST: For those unfamiliar, what is Attack on Titan?
Bryce Papenbrook: Where do I start! Humanity has been pushed behind these massive walls. There are these creatures on the outside of the walls, sort of like gigantic zombies that eat humans. The story is about some of the things going on behind the scenes to all this and the story behind these huge monsters. That’s where it starts and where it goes is crazy.
Had you read the manga before picking up this role?
I had not read the manga but I was a fan of the anime before I knew there was going to be an English dub. I never thought I’d be able to work on the project because the company that eventually got it was based in Texas, a company called Funimation. I had never worked for them before and I got really lucky to even get an audition for the project. My friend Patrick Seitz is a friend with the director Mike McFarland and he received the sides from Mike to audition. He asked, “Hey, can my friend Bryce audition for you as well?” Mike said “Yeah, sure”. I went out and bought sound-proofing for my booth at home and screamed as loud as I could and it resonated all the way to Texas. They wanted me out there; it’s a fantastic experience.
There’s a lot of screaming, and some of it is very special. How do you prepare for that?
There’s three very distinct voices for Eren. Young Eren, which was challenging because I have to scream in a child’s voice. Then I played Eren at 15 and that’s actually a little bit deeper than my normal speaking voice. Then there’s ‘other’ Eren and I did all the sounds as well, though I had some help from the engineers and post-processing. I did them all; lots of very long and loud bursts, with my voice pushed down to very bottom of the register.
You auditioned for the roles of Armin and Levi as well, which role did you really want?
Of course, Eren, he’s the lead. You always shoot for the part that’s going to give you the most work. I personally thought I was going to book Armin because I can get my voice to that range. It’s kind of funny; I’ve played a lot of characters who are voiced by women in Japan because I sound like I’m twelve years old, so I thought I might land Armin. I thought my audition for Levi was pretty good but I don’t have bass that Matthew Mercer has, I can’t sound that badass unfortunately. I think Eren suits me well; Josh Greely who plays a fantastic Armin, it just blows me away. I think the entire cast did well and I’m just thankful that I got to work on the show.
Eren is a very angry character, how do you get yourself in that mindset?
I don’t think there’s any sort of preparation that will get you that angry. I walked into the booth and just reacted to the way I felt that day. I physically made myself angry and I left still angry, I was yelling at people in traffic. It resonated with me even after recording.
Who different is Eren from your other roles, such as Kirito from Sword Art Online?
Kirito had some pretty massive screams, but they were different from Eren. These two characters are very similar in age but I tried to play them differently. Kirito is a true hero, the sounds I made for Eren where nasty and disgusting. Normally you’d clear your mouth but for Eren we left it all in. There’s one moment in Attack on Titan where Eren bites himself and I bit my thumb which left a bruise. I’m a fan of the show.
How are you finding MCM Manchester Comic Con?
Fantastic. I’ve had a lovely time in Manchester. My wife has some family here. We’ve been shown around and had a chance to explore and the architecture is beautiful and people have been lovely.
Attack on Titan is huge at the moment. How has the fan response been?
Bigger than I could have imagine. I’ve travelled all around the world and I just cannot believe the response that people have had to the show. You look out at the cosplaying and you just see a sea of people cosplaying as characters from the show.
It’s a dark and weird series. What’s the appeal?
It’s one of those shows like Game of Thrones; you don’t know what they’re going to do next. They break rules and kill off characters and they do things you wouldn’t have guessed they were going to do. It twists and turns and just sucks you in. I was watching it week by week and it just drove me crazy. I just wanted more!
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