Derrick Snow Interview At Anime Weekend Atlanta 2021
Derick Snow is best known for his role as Shinra Kusakabe in the Toonami anime Fire Force. In the gaming world, Derick can be heard in Paladins, SMITE, Ballista: Oculus Quest and more upcoming projects for PC, Switch, and Xbox. In addition to video games, audiobooks, and films, Derick brings his talent to an ever-growing roster of great anime. The hot new Fire Force can be experienced every week on Toonami and Funimation; Derick voices the lead Shinra Kusakabe as he follows the uneasy, spectacular path of a true hero. I got a chance to talk with Derick at Anime Weekend Atlanta.
How did your background in musical theater evolve into your becoming a voice actor? What piqued your interest in voice acting for anime and video games?
Getting into anime I kind of stumbled into the process of a different line of professional acting. I toured and did lots of musical theater shows, probably most notably Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby. I was the little pirate sidekick Smee. I’m 5’5… I’ve always done characters where I’m usually somebody’s whacky friend or something [laughs]. The concept of taking dialogue is very similar to music.You’re still using your diaphragm in the booth. As a character in voice acting, I’ve always found myself doing interesting or whacky voices anyway. I find myself in anime, I tend to voice a lot of teen boys [laughs], which is great! I remember my first session and these people were like “Oh! Yeah you’re gonna be great! …We need someone who sounds like they’re in high school” and I guess I sound like a forever teenager. After doing years of tours, my future wife and I settled in Dallas, Texas. And I knew there was an area for this here, I had done commercial work, which is different. I did know some people in the industry, but that’s not what helped me get in, but it let me know I was being pushed on this path of the industry where I was able to go “hey, I can do this.” I pushed some buttons, got a good reel going and here we are. My first anime voice acting recording session was about seven years ago.
What are the major differences in voice acting for a video game and an anime series?
I would say immediately in a lot of video games, not all, but I find with things like Paladins, Smite, or the anime fighting game My Hero One’s Justice…you come in and it’s kind of just smashed together with energy. You know when you come in [roars] and you start screaming and stuff. Anime is a little different since you have to build up for character development as well. Starting in for a video game you have to make sure your energy is right there for that first moment. I warm up differently for video games because because I know there’s an excellent chance I am going to be screaming very loudly and quickly in those first few moments. So… I do a long vocal warm-up to stretch my vocal cords in all different kinds of directions. In anime, I still, probably because of my musical theater background, have a 30-45 minute warm up. I’m just kind of sassy like that and not everybody does, but usually when I’m voice acting for anime I know more about what I’m going in for. Anime I know is for more diction and dialogue. Video games you just gotta get ready for that range to push your diaphragm really hard. It’s great, good fun…I love it all [laughs].
Do you have a preference in voice acting between the two?
I love to work. Outside of animated or video game projects, I’m still doing audio books or commercials. Every different kind of challenge is a great gift to me. So…if someone had to say I could only do one I’d be very sad because I love to diversify myself. Anime has been a really…I think one of the great things about that kind of work is the fandom. It’s so fun to interact with people that can define little moments from a couple of years ago that I might’ve not even thought about or they share something that touches them in an interesting way. Man, that is like the backend part that makes, you know, working in animeworking in anime fantastic for me.So if I had to pick one, it would be anime for the glory and the wonderful interactions I get to have with the fans.
What would you say is the most outrageous line you’ve had to say as a character in an anime or a video game?
Thinking about, say like… Fire Force for example, in season 2 there’s a really funny China arc where they need some air and everyone is going crazy and Shinra is like “I’m Shinra man and I eat worms for breakfast!” You know, that kind of thing? And it was wonderful. It was so cathartic when we’re doing this and at this time we were already in pandemic mode so I was at home in my booth screaming in my own little booth. I’m a muppet, by the way, when I record. I’m moving my arms even though you can’t hear them, I don’t know why, but I’m physically into what I do when I’m in the booth. Also, speaking of Fire Force season 2, problem solving in the booth is really fun to get something to sound authentic. There’s one scene where Shinra is being dunked in a tank of water and the line is [drowning noises] “Let me go” [drowning noises]. So when it’s happening I know I need some water sounds so I’ve got some soda water ready to pour in and just [makes drowning noises] just drowning myself in the booth, my own booth trying to avoid electronics being covered in water. Just…a wonderful moment.
What do you do in your free time? What do you enjoy doing during your time off?
I’m a little adventure artist. I like to go on hikes and walks, but I also love to paint. In a previous life I did motion graphics and illustration for tv and then illustration for books. I try to do that more for fun these days. I try not to monetize. It’s really easy in this industry to just go “I gotta monetize this,” but you burn out so I want to enjoy my art. I paint and sketch constantly. I do enjoy retro video gaming. Yeah, you know, like the 16- 32-bit gaming. A little Nintendo 64 action…all the little nostalgic stuff that makes my childhood art go “Ooo!” I like that stuff.
Are you gonna get the Nintendo Online Expansion Pass?
We’ll see, we’ll see, but I want to see Wave Race with online gameplay. That would just be so much fun. I am a Wave Race 64 savant [laughs]. It’s stupid, but there’s no one else around me so I have to find people to play with so that I can just zip right pass them.
Is Fire Force your favorite anime series that you’ve worked on so far?
I feel like Fire Force is the one that’s been very good to me. I’ve probably had more interactions with it…it’s a great project I’ve gotten to work on. In terms of fun quick little challenges, is the anime and video game My Hero Academia as Mimic. That was a great little challenge just starting out as this little squishy thing and then eventually he takes the size of a whole building. We had figure out al Be menacing but also tiny then to just use your chest and lowest registers and scream as something large. It was a lot. In terms of voice acting, I’m always in love with whatever I’m working on right now. The beauty of anime is that there are infinite genres you can go into. There’s a lot of great opportunities and I enjoy it all.
Is there any advice you’d give to any aspiring voice actors?
Voice acting…you know I get a lot of questions about how to become a voice actor. Well the first thing is to become an actor. Find a way to challenge yourself whether you’re behind a microphone or not. Like I said, my route of getting into a lot of voice work more than anything these days has been an interesting process, but using so many tools from musician theater and other things such as on camera stuff. It’s just important to find challenges for yourself. Don’t try to sound like anybody else, even though somebody might go “Oh you sound like so and so,” which is okay, but don’t be them. I know there are people who like to do mimicry which is fun. It works great on TikTok or whatever, but it’s not going to get you a career. Just be yourself. For me personally, I’ve just been finding acceptance with my voice. I’ve got a lot of flexibility, but you know, I have a little, some little quirks and interesting things in my voice that people can pick it up right off the bat which is great! I don’t mind. As long as I get to keep working. Oh and if we’re getting to the nitty gritty of finding success as a voice actor, the thing that got me my auditions was getting a quality demo reel. One that does the work for you…like you could sleep and some casting director could be listening to your reel [laughs] and then you can do auditions and that’s great.
Do you have anyone in the industry who inspires you and your work as a voice actor?
I mean…just growing up I was a huge fan of those 90s classic Disney animated cartoons. I really loved Noel Blanc, finding out he did so many voices. I went, “man…I want to do that Something where I’m like every character!” It’s just so inspiring and you see him and he’s just like a regular dude. As a 5’5’’ actor dude, I can be as tall as I want, I can be as tiny, or anything within our imagination. In terms of anime, I find it more in terms of making friendships and personal relationships that makes me happy working in this industry.