Ahead of Crunchyroll Expo, ComingSoon spoke to voice actor Zeno Robinson about his upcoming role as villain Gamma 2 in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and his struggle with finding Kagami’s voice for his role in Kuroko’s Basketball.
Crunchyroll Expo takes place from August 5 to 7 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Zeno Robinson will be in attendance alongside other prolific voice actors, such as Kaiji Tang, Megan Shipman, and more. You can find more information on Crunchyroll Expo on the event’s official website.
Spencer Legacy: You’ve been in a lot of anime, from Shaman King to Pokémon. Are you an anime fan? What are your favorite series?
Zeno Robinson: Yeah, I am a huge anime fan. My favorite series are … I tend to very much like urban fantasy series. So my current favorite is Jujutsu Kaisen, of course, and then there’s Soul Eater. I love Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Samurai Champloo. That’s just a few. There’s [also] Gurren Lagann. I’m a huge, huge anime fan.
One of your big first anime roles was Taiga Kagami in Kuroko’s Basketball. What challenges did you face with that first role?
Taiga was a challenging role for me because I personally felt like I didn’t have a cool enough or a gruff enough or low enough voice to play Kagami. I was worried that they made the wrong choice and the challenge there was finding him, because he didn’t sit in a register that comes naturally to me. It didn’t necessarily play to a lot of [my] strengths, but I made it work. I adapted to fit Kagami and made Kagami. Then I adapted Kagami to fit to my strengths, and that’s how I think his voice came to be. But the challenge was finding it. You can hear it in the first few episodes of the show, you can hear me finding the voice. As we get closer to, like, episode five, I think are really locked in.
You also play Hawks in My Hero Academia, who plays a major role in the current arc. What’s that experience been like?
Playing Hawks has been a great experience because he was also one of my first major anime roles. In fact, he was the first anime role where I got to do a pretty major fight. He’s a complex and nuanced character, which is my favorite type of character to play. But especially in the coming seasons, we find his like story arc to be interweaved even more deeply within like his role as a part of the League of Villains as well as the Hero Association. And it only gets more complex and more tense as things start to heat up, so I’m really excited for fans to see, and I’m excited to see how it comes together animated.
What’s it like to get a main villain role in Dragon Ball?
It’s crazy. A main villain role in Dragon Ball is something that I never ever thought would’ve happen. Dragon Ball was a very formative anime for me growing up. Iit kind of got me started in this whole thing. I was one of those kids who literally tried to fly, and I had all the games and all the toys. Uub was an essential Dragon Ball character for me because it was one of the first times I saw like another character with skin that looked like mine in Dragon Ball. So yeah, to play a Dragon Ball villain, especially in one of the big movies, is absolutely an incredible blessing and a very humbling honor. You’ll probably be able to hear it in the movie, but I gave it 100%.
Dragon Ball’s known for its awesome antagonists. What makes Gamma Two stand out to you as a villain?
Gamma Two stands out to me as a villain because he is not like your typical villain. A lot of the Dragon Ball villains … they show up and they’re already very aggressive from the get-go. They have these plans for world domination, and Gamma Two is I feel, a little bit brighter than that. He has a bit more energy. He’s more fun-loving, he’s more outgoing, and it gives him a different flare, I think, than other typical Dragon Ball villains. And I think audiences will really like that about him. He’s more about the fight. He’s more about having fun in the fight and he is more about being a superhero. He’s more about his goal of being the hero.
You’re also Tai in the upcoming Digimon Adventure 2020. What’s it like to be at the head of such a nostalgic and beloved franchise?
Oh man, I am, again, I’m incredibly blessed. It’s an honor to be able to be at the head of something like Digimon, very similarly to Dragon Ball. I watched Digimon growing up. Me and my friends at recess sung the theme song to each other, like it was part of our daily routine. So it, as well, was very formative to me. It, as well, put me — I don’t think I knew it at the time — on the career path that I’m on. To head such a huge franchise is such an incredible honor and very similarly to Gamma Two, I gave it 100% [and] had a lot of fun.
I really tried to make it my own. I studied a lot of Joshua Seth’s performance [the original dub voice for Tai] and his voice is just so distinctive and recognizable to me. Growing up as a kid, when I practiced playing cool kids, his voice was the voice I used. So being able to use that in an official capacity and in that capacity is nothing short of the dream come true.
You’re also in Pokémon. What drew you to Goh’s character?
So Goh … when I auditioned for Goh, he was very sensitive and very caring and curious and intelligent. And I feel like I have some of those qualities within me, especially when it comes to my friends and studying other people and caring for others, and Goh is very much like that with Pokémon. He’s got this dream that I think, for other people who [are] outside looking in, find that incredibly ambitious. So it’s really admirable that he has this wildly huge dream that like seems kind of impossible from the get-go, but he’s determined to make it happen. And I think we share those kinds of traits and qualities. And on top of that, his character design is really cool. So a lot of those things really attracted me to the character.
And of course, it’s Pokémon. Like, I don’t care if it was “Town Member Z”, I would still be attracted to the character in such a part. Every question is reaching back to this theme of a lot of the projects that I’ve been working on that are coming out, or that are already out, are near and dear to my childhood, near and dear to my heart, or very nostalgic for me. Because they are, I feel like I must treat them with the utmost respect and I have to give it a hundred percent, not just for the audiences, but for my inner child who watched these properties and franchises growing up.
Another huge character that you voiced is Lando Calrissian in a Lego special. Was it intimidating to step into such like an iconic role?
Absolutely. Absolutely intimidating to step in the shoes of Lando Calrissian. What made it a little easier for me is that it was young Lando Calrissian, so it was Donald Glover’s … actually, I don’t know if that made it easier for me, because Donald Glover is my idol. He is someone I really aspire to be like artistically [and] creatively. I really, really admire his work. I mean, even down to my Twitter name, childishgamzeno. I got compared to him a lot growing up and I kind of still do. So it was really intimidating stepping in those shoes, but it was also a challenge I was willing to take.
Because I get compared to him so much and because we have so many similarities and because for me, especially at that time, was very easy for me to imitate him because I spent a lot of time doing that anyway. But it was challenging because it was part of that franchise and I really, really wanted to get it right. The movie wasn’t out at that time, so I was listening to interviews of him and just imitating the cooler version of what he would sound like. There are some moments watching the episode where I was like, “oh, was that me? Was that him?” You know? I think I really nailed it. And so I was really proud of myself for that work.
What series haven’t you joined that you would really love to be in?
That’s a really great question actually. A series that I haven’t joined, I would love to be in Ninja Turtles. Ninja Turtles for sure. This theme of classic series that were formative for our childhood. So Ninja Turtles is one of the ones that I haven’t been in, but I would love to be in. Or Kingdom Hearts, but I feel like it’s a little different genre wise since we’re talking about anime, so yeah, Ninja Turtles.
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