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An Interview with Monica Rial

2018 has been a wonderful year for Dragon Ball fans. Not only did Dragon Ball Super's latest season go out with a bang, but the latest trailers for the first Dragon Ball Super film has fans hyped. In anticipation of this big event, both Fathom Events and Toei Animation have teamed up to release film screenings of classic Dragon Ball films that were originally direct to video. A new remastered dub of  "Bardock the Father of Goku" and "Fusion Reborn" will hit US cinemas on November 3rd and 5th. Cineplex will also be offering a screening of the Saiyan Double Feature at select locations in Canada.

In preparation for the upcoming theatrical debut of these classic films, AFA had the fortunate opportunity to discuss both the series and the voice acting history of Funimation's veteran voice actress, Monica Rial.

AFA: First of all, thank you very much for talking with me today.

Monica: Yeah! Thank you for chatting with me!

AFA: One of the first things that I wanted to ask you since you've been acting for anime for quite awhile, where were you when these films were originally released. Where you already a member of the DBZ cast at that point?

Monica: That was definitely pre-my period as Bulma. It was just as I was in Houston building up my acting portfolio. So yeah, it's been cool but I think there was little pieces that I missed out on like these little movies that I've gone back now and watched so I'm more in the know. LOL!

AFA: When you first got your start in Funimation, what initially drew you in to doing voice work for animation, or anime specifically?

Monica: You know what, it was kind of a happy accident. I really wanted to be an actor on stage so I studied acting from the age of 12, and I went to the university of Houston which is where I'm ultimately from. While I was there I met a gentleman named Jason Douglas, who happens to be the voice of Beerus,

And he was like "Hey I'm doing this thing, and you can do it to!" and I was like "Oh okay, sweet! I'll audition."

I thought it would be a cool job in college where I wouldn't have to wait tables, and here we are 20 years later and I'm still doing it! As far as Funimation goes that was another happy accident. I knew Mike Mcfarland, who plays Master Roshi, I had already fallen in love with Dragon Ball, and Funimation got the rights to dub the show.

and Mike says like 'Hey! Would you be interested coming to Dallas to record this?" and I was like "Yeah! Totally! I will 100% do that!"

And I guess about six months later I got a call from Justin Cook saying "Hey we would love for you to come in and work on this show!"  and then I've been here ever since! Really funny how it all works out!

AFA: Yeah! That is a common story I hear with a lot of different voice actors, particularly Funimation that they kinda fell into it by accident.

Monica: Yeah it's one of those things that, I'm positive that I was smart enough to watch cartoons and realize that they had voice actors, surely I did but I don't remember that, I just remember them being cartoons and enjoying them for what they were. So I never really considered that anything related to animation could be a job. Even as a young actor no one really educated me about that. So now I try to make efforts to go to high schools and colleges and talk to them and be like "Hey! Maybe there is another side of acting you don't know about and it's really cool, and you can get a job in. So hopefully that's helping create more interest in young actors to consider voice acting as a career.

AFA: Have you ever considered doing voice action outside of Japanese anime?

Sienna Khan from RWBY who was voiced by Monica Rial.

Monica: Yeah of course. It's hard though since we are out here in Texas and most of the animation opportunities, especially Prelay stuff, is either in Atlanta or Los Angeles. That being said, I have had some really great opportunities. I did Aqua Team Hunger Force, I played a character named Jubilee. And a lot of Prelay in video games and Roosterteeth for RWBY and Genlock that's coming out. Yeah, I would love to do more but it's so hard because you'd have to travel to LA or Atlanta to just to audition. But I would definitely love to do more!

AFA: You mentioned your work in video games, is there a big difference between doing voice recording for video games vs anime?

Oh yeah definitely! Video game voice recording is similar to recording for animation. You have your Prelay and ADR. Prelay is when your voice is recorded first and the animators animate your performance and ADR is when we have to match the animation that is already on screen. Video games are the same. I did some work for the Borderlands series and what happened there is that you go into a studio and they give you a picture or clip of your character in action. And your basically building this character that will then go on to be animated. There is a lot more leniency, a lot more creativity, you have a bigger voice in creating that character as opposed to try and become an already existing character. So it's liberating in that respected.

But ADR stuff is awesome to because it's more challenging, you really have to fill in all of these blocks. Like say we do a Dragon Ball video game, we have the original audio file. We then have to look into that audio file and do our own take on the delivery but it has to fit within that same amount of time and it has to look correct with the animation that they've created. You really have a lot more to think about and keep track of than just acting.

AFA: Since you've had so many different roles, was there ever a show or a character that you heard about that you were super excited to audition for?

Monica: There's quite a few actually. That's kinda how I ended up at Funimation altogether. I do that a lot, I try not to do too much research into what is coming down the pipe right now because everything gets picked up so quickly I don't want to get disappointed. But there are certainly shows that have come through like, Saga of Tanya the Evil is one that came through and I was like “I have to play that horrible evil Lolli, I want that!” I play the character of Renge in Ouran High School Host Club..

AFA: Oh she is so much fun!

Monica: I adore her! I will definitely do my homework if somebody says “Hey, we'd like you to audition and all.” and I will do some research about the characters and there is usually one that will stick out and I'm like “I have to get this part.” Most of the time I'm lucky enough to get it but I try not to get my hopes up too much in case I don't get it.

AFA: Speaking of roles, let's talk about your role as Bulma in Dragon Ball. I know you inherited the role from Tiffany Vollmer, and I just wanted to ask did you already have an idea of how you wanted to do her voice differently? Did you get any tips or did you wing it?

Monica: I auditioned for it and my brother is a huge dragon ball fan, so I had already seen a lot of the show and heard Tiffany's take on the role. I went back and watched quite a bit of it before we started recording for Dragon Ball Z Kai. So in the beginning I wanted to pay homage to her, so we could make that transition as seem-less as possible so it wasn't such a stark change. And then as the show went on, around the Buu Saga, I started to think that maybe I start making the character my own. And I got that opportunity when Dragon Ball Super came along. In the beginning it was definitely challenging to try getting my voice to match and not try to regurgitate but create and match the flow of Tiffany's performance so it wasn't such a jarring change for the audience..

AFA: It was a very smooth transition from where I'm sitting. 

Monica: Good! I'm glad! But yeah, Tiffany left big shoes to fill and I made sure I put as much could into the role and I'm so thankful that this is a part of my life now.

AFA: Do you get much of an opportunity to interact with your fellow DBZ cast members? I know with ADR you don't all record your lines together like you sometimes can in prelay but do you still see the other actors on occasion?

Monica: Oh yeah! In fact it's kinda been a problem at Funimation because we have a big shift change that happens at 6. So what happens is you get everyone moving at 6 pm and the people coming in at the same time for the evening shift congregate in the lobby. So we can kinda catch up there and chat for a little bit but we have to be quiet since Caitlin Glass has a studio there. But with this cast, it definitely feels like being part of a family, especially with Dragon Ball.

Everyone has known each other for such a long time, watch out for each other, and are very protective of each other. We come in early to see who is recording before us, and we encourage each other when we go out for new auditions. So yeah, it's like I've gain 12 new brothers! We have such a strong friendship with each other and I think it shows through in the show itself. One of my favorite episodes of Super is when Bulma and Weiss are hanging out and eating food and Vegeta shows up and ruins her secret about ramen! Ian, Chris and I are such good friends and we go out and eat all the time so it's kind of fun to watch our lives mimic the anime!

AFA: Are there any fun stories you would like to share?

Monica: Oh gosh! We did a really fun thing, I think it was one or two years ago, where a VR group created a sort of Dragon Ball VR Reality. And they had us come out to experience it. It was me, Chris Sabat (Vegeta), Sean Schemmel (Goku), Sonny Strait (Krillin), and Chris Rager (Hercule Satan). We were all flown out there to do this VR thing and we actually got to try out the space as our characters. It was so strange! But it really was a great bit of bonding time for all of us. And it is the same whenever we all go to conventions together, it's always a fun time with loads of laughs.

A big thank you to Monica Rial for taking the time to speak to us and to Fathom Events for this opportunity.