You probably wouldn't recognize the actor as he sits down to eat a burger at Mel's Diner, but if you watch enough late-night TV, you might recognize Vic Mignogna's voice from many an English dub anime. The recent LA transplant has voiced characters in over 100 anime and video game titles, including Dragonball Z, Bleach, Code Geass, Shin-chan and Hell Girl. But it's his roles as Edward Elric, the teenage “fullmetal alchemist” in the show of the same name, and, more recently, Tamaki Suou, the oblivious pretty boy who heads a posh prep school dating service in Ouran High School Host Club, that have made him an icon of the anime convention circuit. By his own estimation, Mignogna attends between 15 and 25 cons a year, where he hosts Q/A panels, signs autographs for hours at a time and mingles with fans.
For Mignogna, attending conventions as a guest is life coming full circle. Throughout his adolescence, the voice actor attended Star Trek and Star Wars cons.
“I understand that passion for something you enjoy and the imagination that it starts in people,” he says. “It wasn't anime, but the feeling was the same. The emotion is the same.”
This summer, Mignogna will be fulfilling his own childhood dream when he directs the episode “Kitumba” for Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages), the fan-made series that has earned acclaim for its stellar production values and knack for securing guest stars like Walter Koenig and George Takei. Previously, Mignogna guested in the episode “Enemy: Starfleet” and will be acting in “Kitumba” as well.
How did you get involved in Star Trek: Phase II?
A dear friend of mine, Mandy, who is actually one of the officers in my fan club, she knows that I'm a huge original Star Trek fan, not so much the subsequent stuff, but the original. She called me one day and said have you heard of this online web series called Star Trek: New Voyages? I said no. She said, you ought to go check it out. They have really good episodes. At first I thought it would be some guy with cheesy cardboard sets. Then I went and watched it and was absolutely blown away. All I could think of is that I want to be in this. Who do I have to talk to to get into this? Through a series of friends I found out that the guy behind it is a guy named James Cawley. I made contact with him. I said, you don't know me but you
and I have something in common. I'm a huge fan of the original Star Trek series.
What do you have in mind for your Star Trek episode?
The episode is called “Kitumba” It's written by someone who wrote for the original series. It's an episode that was never shot for Phase II. They were going to continue the original series in the '70s. They decided to do the motion picture instead, but there were tons of scripts already written. So, it's literally about the Enterprise who through a series of events must travel to the Klingon home world Qo'noS. The Kitumba is the emperor who rules the empire. It's going to be cool. I'm very excited.
What I have in mind is to make it look as much like the original series as humanly possible. My goal is not to make it a Vic Mignogna Production or to win an award with it or to be able to use it for my demo reel. My goal is to make it as authentically looking to the original series as possible. That's what the dream of the people who started New Voyages was, not to make something different. It was to continue the original series. I'm very excited about it. We've been watching the original series again to get a sense of the camera angles and the way it's edited, the lighting, the movement.
If you have the chance to walk on the bridge…It's spot on, inch per inch accurate to the original series. It's a childhood dream, very simply.
Everyone who works on it is a professional in their field now as adults. When they were kids, their dream was to be part of Star Trek and now they're getting to do it.
You've done other fan films before, right?
Yes, I showed it last weekend at Anime Central and I'll show it [Memorial Day Weekend] at Anime North. I may show it at A-Kon. Usually it's whenever the mood strikes me and Funimation says it's okay. It's called Fullmetal Fantasy and it's a little live action thing that I did with the other voice actors [from Fullmetal Alchemist]. We got our own costumes together and cosplayed as our characters. It was a really fun little thing to do. It's about fifteen minutes long.
I've been very protective of trying to keep it off the Internet, off YouTube, so that fans can only see it when they come to the convention.
When I show it, I beg the fans, please do not videotape this and put it on the Internet because it will look crummy and sound crummy and I want it to be a special experience for people who come to conventions. The fans are always so respectful of that.
When did you first get involved with anime voice overs?
A little over ten or twelve years ago, I was working on video production in Houston and a friend of mine who was working on the production said, “You have a lot of acting experience, right?” I said, “Yeah, a lot.” He said, “You ought to go audition for this place in town that does anime stuff. They need actors.” I thought, wow, that sounds like fun. So I auditioned and got cast immediately. I played Vega in Street Fighter II. Then the next show came up and the next show and the next show. Anime was a very small, niche subculture. It wasn't terribly mainstream. Then, as you know, probably about six or seven years ago, it exploded. It was everywhere. I was just very, very fortunate to have gotten in on it from the ground up. I always tell people that I'm very grateful to God that I got involved in this business when I did so that I could be involved in it now that it has become so popular.
With Fullmetal Alchemist, when did you realize that there was such a big following for it?
When we were dubbing Fullmetal, I had no idea what the show was about and that it was so popular. I started getting emails from fans saying you better not screw up Fullmetal Alchemist. I thought, I've been doing this a long time and I've never gotten emails from fans saying do it right or else. That kind of scared me a bit.
What was the first convention you ever went to?
The very first one was a Star Trek con in Pittsburgh and to be honest with you, I don't even remember the name of it. It was something crazy like Trek Fan or something. My mom took me and dropped me off in front of the hotel and I went in there with my Captain Kirk uniform on like I was the coolest thing.
Do you collect memorabilia?
I have a very extensive lightsaber collection. When I was younger, I collected a lot of Star Trek stuff. I have a lot of costumes. I have some prop replicas from the original Star Trek series. I would say the majority of my collecting is limited to lightsabers and costumes. I have a few originals.
What kind of costumes?
Star Trek, Star Wars. Of course, I have plenty of Edward Elric costumes that fans have made me. I do have a Green Lantern costume that I've never worn because I don't want to scare children.
Do you cosplay?
I went to a convention once where a fan had an amazing Fay costume from Tsubasa Chronicle— the wig, the huge, flowing robe, everything. I'm like, I totally have to put this on, so I wore that. It was kind of a surprise, it was Animazement in North Carolina. That's the only time I've ever cosplayed my character at a convention. The first time I ever cosplayed was Cloud from Final Fantasy. That's mostly because my friend had the costume and said you should totally put this on.
The next year, at the same convention, A-Kon in Dallas, I cosplayed as a TIE fighter pilot from Star Wars, with the big black helmet. And then, I really want to do Ikkaku from Bleach. I want to do the whole skullcap and everything. A-Kon is coming up again in two weeks and that is my annual cosplay convention. So, I have something very special played. It's no character I've played and my lovely girlfriend will be joining me in it, but I can't say what it is.