One Piece Film: Red Interview: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, Matthew Mercer

One Piece Film: Red Interview: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, & Matthew Mercer
One Piece Film: Red Interview: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, & Matthew Mercer

ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke to One Piece Film: Red stars Colleen Clinkenbeard, Brandon Potter, and Matthew Mercer, who voice Luffy, Shanks, and Law, respectively. One Piece Film: Red is currently playing in U.S. theaters.

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“Uta — the most beloved singer in the world whose voice has been described as ‘otherworldly’ — is renowned for concealing her own identity when performing. Now, for the first time ever, she will reveal herself to the world at a live concert,” says the synopsis. “With the Navy watching closely, the venue fills with Uta’s fans — including excited pirates and the Straw Hats led by Luffy, who simply came to enjoy her sonorous performance — all eagerly awaiting the voice that the whole world has been waiting for to resound. The story begins with the shocking revelation that she is the enigmatic Shanks’ daughter.”

Spencer Legacy: Colleen, you’ve been on such a long journey with Luffy. How has your approach to playing him changed over the years or evolved?

Colleen Clinkenbeard: I think it’s just relaxed. When I first started, I was so anxious that the voice stay consistent and that I do justice to the character, and I knew there were a lot of eyes on it. So there’s a lot of anxiety all wrapped up in that. Since Luffy is not an anxious character, it’s too easy for that to translate into your reads. So I feel like as I’ve relaxed with him and kind of let the voice be three-dimensional, it’s letting the character be three-dimensional, too, in the dub. So I think, really, I’ve just gotten to be better friends with him.

Brandon, Shanks is such a legendary character to both the characters in the story and the fans who read and watch One Piece, and this is probably his most major appearance in quite a while. How does it feel to play that bigger, more active part in Film: Red?

Brandon Potter: It’s wild to actually have the amount of screen time and the amount of lines that matches up to how big of a figure he is in that universe. On the one hand, it’s super fun to be able to come in in one episode every other year and do something really cool and have an awesome one-liner and leave everybody shook, you know? There’s definitely a degree of satisfaction in that, but it was really fun and refreshing and satisfying to get to occupy some personal and emotional space with Shanks in One Piece Film: Red. It felt like some long overdue depth, and I really enjoyed it very, very much.

Matthew, Law is such a great foil to Luffy. How do you go about maintaining his stoic personality while still coming off as friendly and amicable, because he’s like an older brother to him?

Matthew Mercer: Older brother’s a good way to put the dynamic. He feels protective and, in many cases, subconsciously guiding him on what he thinks is a better path. He can see the potential in Luffy, especially compared to all the numerous other pirates of dubious morality and intent. He knows this is somebody who could really not just be a powerful ally, but really kind of do things and change the world for the better — as long as he doesn’t keep wrecking everything and embarrassing him and being the little brother in the dynamic. That, to me, is so much fun to play. The animation goes a long way. With Law, that stoicism and that intensity is just drawn in him, both in his physicality and his expression, but the Japanese performance is so intrinsic to expressing that. So for me, the joy is taking these pieces that already presented to me and then putting it through the filter of my interpretation and trying to pay homage to that and do it justice and make it feel honest. Of course, it’s made far easier when you get to play off somebody like Colleen who just brings that … I don’t know another way to put it, that intensity and bombastic exuberance that would deeply cut through and frustrate an individual like Law. So it’s a blast.

Colleen Clinkenbeard: Also called painfully loud.

Matthew Mercer: That too! Respect to you, Colleen!

Colleen Clinkenbeard: You know, it’s funny. The characters like Law who are the stoic, begrudging, big brother characters can only be cast with extremely nice people because you have to like them and that likability has to come through somehow. So you’ll find that like it’s Matt or Chris Sabat or the people who are just inherently likable are the ones who get those characters.

Matthew Mercer: Just a little spice!

Colleen, Luffy has both serious and hilarious scenes all throughout the movie. Which one really stood out as a favorite to perform?

Colleen Clinkenbeard: To perform? I’m … man, that’s a hard question. I’ll say I just liked the music so much. I don’t know about what my favorite was to perform, but my favorite parts to act in were always the ones where she was singing at us. Every time you would come into the scene and she’d be just singing something, any kind of emotion at your face. It was such a fun way to get into whatever line it was. Like, I get to scream back at you. It feels great.

Matthew Mercer: It has some rock opera vibes to it.

Brandon, when Shanks shows up, it’s a big deal. From the beginning of the story to Marineford and Film: Red, which of his big moments has been your favorite thus far?

Brandon Potter: I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I think that my favorite moments in One Piece Film: Red involve Shanks having to make really human and emotional decisions. Because we see him so often doing cool pirate stuff, to make these sorts of meaningful personal decisions. I think those are my favorites, when he has to make a tough choice for someone else’s own good. Obviously, I can’t say what scene that is because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. But, anyone who sees the movie will know when those scenes come up. Those were, by far, the most satisfying to work on, I think.

Matthew, Law has played a really big role in One Piece, especially after the timeskip. Did you expect him to become so developed and important throughout the series when he first appeared?

Matthew Mercer: I didn’t, but it’s been a delightful gift — especially part of a series that is so widely beloved. When I was first asked to take on the role, I was aware of the character. I had friends who were long time One Piece fans, and, at the time, I wasn’t up to date. I read the manga back in the day and just kind of wandered off as life got busy. So I was familiar with the character from what other people who were huge fans of him were. So when the opportunity came up, I was like, “Well, this seems like a really cool character, [to] get to play a little story, then he goes away. That’ll be cool.”

Then he just kept recurring and kept recurring, and every single time we got to have more of his personality, get to learn more about his relationship with his crew, and then his expanding relationship with the Straw Hats, and then everything just gets crazier from there. There are certain projects that are a paycheck and there are certain projects that are things you’re really passionate about. This is a project that, every single time an opportunity comes up to perform it, for me, it’s time to play. I really enjoy coming back to this character every time I do. So I’m glad he comes back.

Colleen Clinkenbeard: That’s so cool of you and Brandon. It’s so, so cool of both of you. Like you’re doing things, you’re out there, you’re doing other things, and we know that, but every time the characters come back and come up, you still are right back, happy to, happy to jump back in. No matter how crazy your lives are, whether you’re filming in the UK, Brandon, or Critical Role-ing with Matt, it’s so awesome that you guys are dedicated to this story and to the fans to come back.

Brandon Potter: That’s because it’s a delight. The people working on it and the people watching it. Why wouldn’t you? This has been a fixture in all of our lives for a long time, and it’s a good kind of fixture.

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Colleen, how do you go about changing your voice for Luffy’s different forms? Especially since there’s a barrage of different Luffy voices towards the end of this film.

Colleen Clinkenbeard: Yeah. Every Gear that happens, they’re like, “there’s another gear?” I thought that was the Gear. So it just gets bigger. I’m glad that they are finding ways, because I’m sure that she’s feeling the same way I am. So I’m glad that they’re finding ways in the original to make it different without just being bigger and lower, because there’s only so much bigger and lower, and I’m tapped out. But I do love that the new ones that are coming up have something different to them, like in Gear Four, there’s that kabuki feeling and a more formal way of speaking, which was totally weird and cool. Then I know that there are things in the future that are going to change, that are gonna be different in a unique way. I like that exploring him and on all the different levels and all the different ways … when he turns into a zombie or when he turns into an old grandmother or now he’s pretending to be an old man. I love all that stuff.

Brandon, even in this film where he’s so major, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding Shanks. What are some difficulties that come with playing a character that essentially no one but the creator knows everything about?

Brandon Potter: Well, it’s almost like you have to fill in the blanks yourself, you know? Fortunately, I have the guidance of the voice actor, right? So I can sort of listen to his voice for cues — what to do and how to say, which is nice. But for some of the times, you just have to fill in the blanks. The wonderful thing about a show that’s this big and has been running this long, is that eventually you do get answers. You know what I mean? It’s been going on for so long and the characters all have really well thought out journeys, right? Eventually that stuff does come to light. So it’s fun to be creative, maybe you don’t know, right? Then it’s really satisfying to get a morsel. In this movie, for example, we get a lot about Shanks’ personal life. Some really significant personal things that happened to him in his youth, which is really, really satisfying. It helps make that fully complete human. I think I lost track of your question.

Colleen Clinkenbeard: The answer is just you’re enigmatic.

Brandon Potter: Yeah, enigmatic until like we get like something concrete, you know what I mean? That’s the funnest possible permutation for me, right? You can have as much fun as you want when you’re doing the enigmatic stuff. Then when you get those real personal moments, you can sink your teeth into it and it’s cool. It’s like a one-two punch. I don’t know that they’re expecting it or they don’t see it coming when you’re enigmatic and mysterious and a legendary pirate for so long. It makes those emotionally significant moments a little bit more poignant, which is cool.

Matthew, Law also ends up explaining a lot of stuff about the world or politics of One Piece. What’s it like to be the smarter voice of reason in this insane world

Matthew Mercer: The power of exposition. It’s something I’m familiar with. To your point, it’s a world of extremely wild [and] over-the-top characters. Like every single time we go in for a session, there’ll be a new design that’ll show up, and I’ll look at the screen and be like, “oh One Piece, never change.” It just gets wilder and wilder. But what makes it work is that underneath all this insane visual aesthetic is consistent world building and real emotional stakes and reasons for things to exist and for characters to do what they do. Law gets to be one of those characters that is a delivery device, not just for the information, but a very clear opinion and perspective on the world and is moving through whether or not you’re coming with him.]

One, it’s nice to have that in a story that can get really wild like this, and two, it’s an honor to be the individual to deliver it and not just deliver it in a way where it’s like, “I believe this,” but also can point out some of the more ridiculous things and be like, “Yeah, I know it’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s what we’re working with.” It’s a very grounded voice in a wild world, and you need that type of a character to relate to when things are absolutely insane. It makes it easy to perform because I often feel like that. I’m like, “I don’t know. Just go with it.”

Colleen Clinkenbeard: You get to be the voice of the incredulous audience, that viewer who’s going, “this is a terrible idea.”

Matthew Mercer: Yep!

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