Hello folks! I recently went to Long Beach Comic Expo 2019 on behalf of CultureOfGaming.com and I managed to meet a ton of interesting people and attended some panels.
This was my first time ever attending and covering a comic book convention. It was filled with various writers, artists, and tons of sellers on the show floor. It was a great experience. I loved getting to know amazing people in the industry. I also connected with the local community of fans and indie creators. I’m currently writing a spotlight series of articles. The goal is to highlight the people I had interviews with at the Long Beach Comic Expo 2019. We have a steampunk aromatherapist, an amazing voice actor, a community patron for the Long Beach Public Library, a novelist and a unique artist. As well as detailing three panels that I attended. They covered voice acting, toy design and our underutilized solar system in sci-fi. Without further ado let’s talk about voice acting and how my interview went with James Mathis III.
Voice Acting: Secrets of the Stars
I wanted to attend this panel out of pure curiosity, and it sounded interesting. It was certainly the earliest panel of the day. While the crowd didn’t fill the room, there were plenty of aspiring artists of all ages seeking wisdom and knowledge. The panel itself was comprised of four famous voice actors that are currently working in the industry today. We had Rikki Simons (voice of GIR from Invader Zim), Arynn Zerch (voice of Blake from RWBY), James Mathis III (voice of Black Panther from Avenger’s Assemble: Black Panther’s Quest), and Eric Bauza(voice of Bugs Bunny and Leonardo from TMNT) all presenting on the panel.
It became clear as they all talked about how they go into voice acting that people come from various backgrounds and reasons. Mr. Simons, for example, became a voice actor for GIR partly because they needed someone “crappy” to play the role. Arynn Zech was good friends with the Rooster Teeth gang and she always wanted to act in some capacity. Each voice actor gave an overview of their early works and told stories on how they came to be in the position they are now. Not only do they each differ in their backgrounds but also those opportunistic moments that can be cultivated either through networking or hard work. I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the panel because it made each presenter approachable. Their tales paint a realistic landscape of the industry and help new aspiring actors get a sense of what to expect.
Here are some general tips that they collectively agreed upon for aspiring artists:
- Work on your strengths and hone your role if you specialize. Mr. Mathis told everyone in the crowd that the production team should be able to trust a voice actor to perform their assigned roles. A voice actor needs to build a relationship of trust in order to be relied upon for a given role and to not over promise or overextend one’s capabilities in the beginning.
- Being able to handle rejection is KEY. There will be times that you won’t find work or opportunities, but you have to keep your voice acting skills sharp. Rejection is part of the game until you can build a good body of paid work. Sometimes people won’t ever return your calls or emails, but it shouldn’t discourage you. Like any industry, sometimes it requires a bit of skill and luck to be able to land steady gigs but other work like commercials or short videos shouldn’t be discounted.
- Acting/debate/or improve classes help immensely but you need to consider the quality of the instructor. Attend classes with a mentor who has a good body of work or is known for students who find work and are trained.
Another Successful Panel
It was a great panel that felt friendly and people were encouraged to participate. Even as I sat in the crowd taking notes. I heard people networking with other aspiring podcasters, voice actors and such. Attending these events and panels can help people bring focus to what challenges lie ahead. They also give a pro’s story to help set a realistic perspective. One of the panelists, James Mathis III, agreed to a small interview with me. It was a great opportunity to ask him not only about his work but his opinions of the changing landscape for voice actors today.
James Mathis III
After the panel, I approached Mr. Mathis for a small interview and let me tell you that it was a nerve-wracking experience. He understood and was incredibly patient as it was my first time covering an event for an outlet. James Mathis III is currently best known for his work as Black Panther in Avenger’s Assemble: Black Panther’s Quest. He has also done several video games roles. He’s the DARPA Chief in Metal Gear Solid and Sigint in MGS3: Snake Eater. He worked on various other games like Far Cry New Dawn and The Division to name a few.
Kevin Alvarez: Mr. Mathis, What are you currently working on right now?
James Mathis III: Right now, we’re working on the fifth season of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble which is Black Panther’s Quest and I’m also working on Baki which is an Anime series on Netflix...Which just premiered in December of last year.
Kevin Alvarez: That’s great, I’ll be able to catch Baki since it’s out. I also noticed you have video game voice acting credits?
James Mathis III: I do yes.
James Mathis III: Well, I’m not a fan of any strike because a strike shows that there is a breakdown in communication. So, it’s never a good thing sign when something like that happens but I’m glad we were able to get back unto the bargaining table and work out something for the time being. Part of the problem [is that it’s] a rapidly [growing and] changing Media. Technology is changing so fast that our contracts become outdated midstream but I’m glad we hashed it out.
As we continued the interview, I mentioned to Mr. Mathis about my personal experience with comic books. He mentioned the landscape for people of color is starting to change with better representation. I told him about new characters like Robbie Reyes and Jaime Reyes. They’re taking up the mantle of both Ghost Rider and Blue Beetle. I brought up how that excited me as a Latino reader.
Kevin Alvarez: How do you feel voicing Black Panther in this new series? and how do you also feel about this new cultural resurgence for people of color being represented in the mainstream media?
James Mathis III: I’m sure you[‘ll] agree with me in saying that it was long overdue. There’s really no justification for why there have been masses of minorities who have been under-served by the superhero genre both in comics, on screen, feature films and television animation. So I’m grateful to be a part of the project and a character, being Black Panther, in the Avengers series. We are really changing that and doing our best to change it, Rome wasn’t built in a day…but the success of the feature [film], Black Panther, and the fifth season of our animated series shows that we are moving in the right direction. I’m grateful not only for myself as an African American but also for the Latino population and the Asian community as well. Things will be able to hopefully even themselves out at some point wherein our art will reflect our lives and the cultural diversity that surrounds us.
I knew that Mr. Mathis wasn’t solely a voice actor. So, as I was talking to him I decided to divert the conversation to on-screen acting roles. I mentioned to him that social media became outraged when stars like Scarlet Johansson and Bryan Cranston starred in roles that would seem better suited to other underrepresented actors.
Roles for Under-Served Groups
Kevin Alvarez: Do you think any actor can play any role or are some roles better suited to others?
James Mathis III: For anyone who just learning to act initially, there are no color lines when you’re in an acting class and you are playing a scene between two actors. As you continue on in your career both acting and otherwise, you start to see your casting skew to realistic casting, as in white characters will be white, male characters will be male and so forth. I think the problem with that is that there aren’t many leading roles [for] minorities. So, when a lead role does come around for a minority, the minority actors who are under-served feel a sense of entitlement in that they should be allowed to play [those roles] because of the shallow pool they [initially] have to choose from. I empathize with both sides. As an actor, I personally don’t want to be limited by a white person because I’m black [and vice versa]. The bigger problem is that there is no balance within what we see, if there was balance then no one would care but [since] there’s a group that’s under-served, that group feels like ‘hey no one should tell our stories before we do’ and I respect that.
Kevin Alvarez: Thank you for your time!
Well, I hope you enjoyed all that I manage to gather. You can follow Mr. Mathis or any other voice actor mentioned in this article in the links provided below.
Like always please stay tuned with CultureOfGaming.com for your source of op-eds, reviews, news, event coverage and more!