From Rem to Rin: Interview with Voice Actor Brianna Knickerbocker
Brianna Knickerbocker is a multi-talented entertainer who’s best known as the English voice of Rem from Re:Zero: Starting Life in Another World. Brianna also has a starring role as Rin in the upcoming Catherine: Full Body on PlayStation 4, an enhanced version of 2011’s Catherine. She was recently a guest of honor at Animanga 2019 in Pomona, CA, where she was part of a spirited reunion panel with her Re:Zero cast mates. CFG had an opportunity to chat with her following the panel.
What inspired you to be come a voice actress?
I was always interested in the world of voiceover and that’s when I dug in and started doing CD workshops. A CD workshop is a casting director workshop where you basically get in the booth and you work in front of the casting director. So that’s how they kind of find out you exist and learn about your work to see you know, “Oh, she might be good for this role” or “Oh, I could see her doing this.”
I think I’m just a big cry baby. I’m just an emotional person and I love experiencing emotions. I love watching shows and movies and getting caught up in the characters’ stories and emotions. It’s always emotionally very cathartic for me. I just love doing that and then giving that to other people.
So a few weeks ago we met with Cory Marshall, the voice Ryo from Shenmue. He was excited to share with us that you joined the Shenmue III cast. What attracted you to the role of Shenhua?
Bill Black emailed me and said he has this huge role for this crazy game. And I was like, okay. Then he sent me like two sentences for the audition. (laughs) I’m like, “Are there any more sentences that I can audition with? It’s so short. Like I’d rather like really get into character.” He’s like, “okay, let me see what else I could send you.” So then he sent me some more and then I sent over my audition. Then I booked it and that’s when Bill called me and he told me about the world of Shenmue. So I didn’t realize what it was for until I had already booked it.
Usually when you audition for video games, everything’s super under wraps and NDA, so usually you don’t know what you’re auditioning for at all ever until after you book it.
Do you remember the lines work that you were given?
I don’t remember, but when I did request more lines to audition with, I do remember it was part of that prophetic, poem that she was saying.
You’re known for being a singer as well. Any plans to use your singing talents in your current projects?
In one of the pickup sessions I got to do for Shenmue I sang her line. So I did get to actually sing that part. I was very happy to do that. I would love, love, love to do more projects where I actually get to sing, too. It’s so much fun.
Right, I believe you’ve done a cover of Rem’s song from Re:Zero.
Rems’s Wishing, yeah!
I play a lot of Fire Emblem Heroes, so I hear your voice quite often. Since you play several characters, is there a certain character you like voicing the most in Fire Emblem Heroes? How familiar were you with the series before you auditioned?
Nice! Especially since I play four characters. So you must hear my voice a lot! (Laughs)
Charlotte is by far my favorite for sure. She’s like sass and a half. I love getting to play a character that’s super outgoing, boisterous, and ridiculous like her. That was one of the most under wraps projects I’ve ever had to audition for. Zero information, code name, there’s no way I could’ve ever known that I was auditioning for Fire Emblem beforehand. They are very smart about that. Even for Fire Emblem Heroes or Warriors or Echoes and I’ve already been in the series. Everything’s a code name and they don’t even tell you who you’re voicing. I would get to into the booth and I’d see, “Oh, I’m voicing more Sakura today.” I would have no idea. Nintendo is notorious for being very secretive about their projects, but every client is and for good reason.
Is that the case for anime dubs as well?
It’s generally thought of as the norm. But I feel like video games are more specific about it, but in general it’s just an industry thing where you just don’t talk about a project until it’s announced, period.
What would you say is the biggest difference between doing voice work for anime and video games?
It’s so funny, there’s so many similarities, but also so many differences. It’s just so random. Like for anime, you do have to match lip flaps, which usually you don’t have to do for video games. For anime, you have to do the three beep system and technically get it specific. Whereas for video games you have a line and you have a lot more creative freedom to just kind of voice it the way that you want to. Although similarly, sometimes the lines are timed in video games, just like an anime. Sometimes for video games you’re still matching lip flops.
Then there’s the amount of time spent on a character, how long you live with a character. I worked on Re:Zero for six months. I worked on Shenmue III for a month, like every day in the booth, which is extremely rare for a video game. Sometimes you can wrap out a character on a video game in one session and sometimes you can wrap out a character in an anime in one session depending on how small the character is. There are so many differences, but there are so many similarities, too. It’s really interesting, I think.
What’s like the craziest or most unusual line you’ve had to perform?
Oh my gosh, it’s something that’s not out yet that I’m not allowed to talk about. So now I need to think of like something that is out. Charlotte when she says, “Like this is great, but I did think there’d be more gold though.” I feel like that’s such a great line. Like you can’t really top that. (laughs).
Do you play Fire Emblem games?
I don’t. The only reason is that I love games and I know that if I play them, I won’t have a life. Like I will just play a game. I’m a big survival horror person. So games like Dead Island, Dying Light, the Resident Evil series, and everything like that I just adore.
You recently played Filo from Rising of the Shield Hero. What are some of your favorite moments from the show?
Oh, all of the sassy pants moments she has with Raphtalia! (laughs) I love the hot springs episode. That’s such a cute episode, oh my gosh. All of her lovey-dovey moments with master and trying to get attention from him. Oh my God, she’s such a fun character.
In regards to Re:Zero, who’s the best girl and why is it Rem?
Ah, who’s the best girl and why is it Rem?? I love Rem. I don’t even want to do the funny Felix answer. With Rem there’s just so much like trauma in her childhood. There’s so much growth that’s stemmed from her relationship with Subaru and that’s just so special. It’s just such a intricate story with so much heart. How can you not fall in love with her?
You’ve cosplayed as Rem before. Are there any other characters that you’ve voiced that you’d want to cosplay as?
There’s a ton for sure. Right now my current plan…I just got everything to cosplay summer Rem. The other ones, some of them are just so expensive, so they’re a little intensive for somebody that’s like new to cosplay and it’s a little bit overwhelming for me. I would love to, but it’s just a big investment money wise, time wise.
So Rem is your first cosplay?
Rem is my only cosplay.
Wow, I never would have guessed! It turned out really well.
Oh thank you! Yeah, we put a lot of energy into that. A lot of time and energy.
What would you say is the most challenging or memorable role you’ve done so far?
Obviously Rem, I have to say that. Then I would say Chisaki from a Lull in the Sea, it was such a growth moment for me because it was my first anime. It was really, really, really difficult, very challenging. Besides the technical aspect of matching lip flaps, it was also my first really deep, emotionally rich role. It was heavy, it was a lot.
Can you tell us about the horror short you’re producing?
It’s a psychological horror short. I like messing with people’s minds and I feel like really good horror really gets into your brain. I’m currently in preproduction right now. I’m working on it and hopefully I’ll get it made someday. It’s so hard doing the on-camera stuff, it’s a totally different world, especially when you’re producing it yourself.
What’s your favorite horror film?
It’s so hard to pick one out of everything, but I’m particular to The Return of the Living Dead. (laughs) Very specific, I know!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love singing and writing music for my Starless persona, dancing…I take a ton of pole dancing classes. I just adore dancing more than anything. Anything with creating. I recently started my Patreon, so I am actually loving doing that because I get to do lots of photo shoots and then post them on on my Patreon for my patrons. So I do that a lot with my free time. The URL is patreon.com/briannaknickerbocker.
Any voice actors or directors you admire?
Oh my God, I admire all of my friends, all the directors that I work with, Chris Cason, Wendee Lee, Tony Oliver. I learned something from everybody that I worked with, listened to, and had a conversation with. I feel like everybody has their own individual unique experiences in the industry, in their personal lives and what you bring from that into acting. There’s always so much like richness that I see that I try to take from.
I watched Re:Zero twice, once in Japanese and again in English. The second time around was just as much of an emotional rollercoaster. It was great seeing you with rest of the Re:Zero dub cast together at the panel today.
Wow, well I take that as a huge, huge compliment. Oh my God. There’s such a dream come true. We’ve always talked about wanting to do a Re:Zero panel and I can’t believe we actually just got to do it.
It’s very rare to ever record together. You know, usually that’s like an animation thing, a prelim thing. For anime and video games, you’re always alone. Usually I get pretty lucky. So if another voice actor has recorded before me in the anime, I do get to hear them back in the English. So we hear the Japanese and then we do the three beep system in English. Usually I’ll get to hear the English actor. So even though they’re not in the same room, I still get to kind of act off of somebody else.
It must be challenging acting alone in sound booth.
It’s really the 10,000 hours thing. You put your hours in and you get better and better. I would say it never gets easy, but I’m definitely better at it than I used to be. I would love to go back and rerecord A Lull in the Sea having the experience that I have now.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell yourself?
I would say listen to your gut. Your gut always steers you towards what you’re supposed to be doing. I was always trying to like book commercials and other things when what I really enjoyed was booking video games and anime. I love doing videos, video games, and anime, but you’re told you’re supposed to do commercials because they pay a lot of money. It’s not for everybody, like I don’t want to do theater. Theater isn’t for everybody, so you just got to follow your heart and naturally realized, “this is what I want to do.” You don’t need to do everything. .
You’re also Rin in the upcoming Catherine: Full Body. What can you tell us about the character and how she changes the dynamics of the game’s love triangle?
She is such a well rounded character and there’s so much growth to her throughout the game. It’s very exciting to have such a dimensional, growth oriented character. Sometimes you get a character that doesn’t really have that much growth. So there’s a lot to be seen there when you play that route. I’m not allowed to give away any spoilers, literally. So all I can say is she’s very growth oriented. She’s a beautifully well rounded character. I promise I’m going to break your heart and you’re going to fall in love with her. (laughs)
What’s next for you?
I’m definitely going to be start doing music videos for Starless. I’m going to be diving a lot deeper into my Patreon, doing a lot of photo shoots, and putting my music on there. I really like having that close relationship with my fans because they are the reason that I can do what I do. So I really want to give back to them. I want to give them them a personalized experience. But yeah, a lot more music. My dream role would be the lead character in a survival horror game. I really want to do that, definitely horror anime and then just keep working on my horror shorts and maybe feature film.