ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke to One Piece Film: Red stars Sonny Strait, Brina Palencia, and Ian Sinclair (who play Usopp, Chopper, and Brook, respectively) about their journeys with the series. One Piece Film: Red debuts in U.S. theaters on November 4.
“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: Sonny, Usopp has grown a ton as a character over the series. What’s been your favorite part of playing him over the years?
Sonny Strait: Well, I think Ian knows my prepared answer for this, but I’ll go and say it anyway. This character … I thought he was just comic relief when I started playing him. Then, as it progressed, he just gets more and more intense and more emotional and more self-reflective. There are very, very few opportunities an actor has to grow with a character like this, and One Piece offers that opportunity because all of the characters are so fleshed out and developed so well. It’s the show that we never get bored of playing.
Ian Sinclair: I don’t think Brook is fleshed out. [laughs]
Brina Palencia: That, ladies and gentlemen, is why he was cast as Brook.
Brook has been my favorite crew member since I was younger.
Brina Palencia: He’s my favorite too!
Ian Sinclair: That’s really nice!
I was stoked to see him get some really great moments in the film. What was your favorite scene Brook scene in the film?
Ian Sinclair: There’s a funny moment when we are stuck and Brook makes a joke. I just really like that moment because it is one that me and the dub director, Anthony Bowling, spent extra time massaging and making sure it was perfect. It was something that, the first take of it, we went, “Okay, that’s pretty funny. We can do better than that.” And then we spent our time on it. To hear the crowd’s reaction at the theater was wonderful.
Brina Palencia: We’ve had a lot of really incredible directors on One Piece, but I think Anthony nails the comedy better than anybody. He’s just a comedic genius, honestly.
Sonny Strait: And he’s very passionate about the show too. He reads the manga. He watches all the episodes. He analyzes them, breaks them down. He’ll tell you things about your character and you go, “Yeah, yeah, I think you’re right.” .
Brina, Chopper is probably the most visually recognizable character from the series. What’s the experience of playing such an iconic character been like?
Brina Palencia: It is such an honor, truly. I was telling them earlier, I have friends who don’t even watch One Piece, but they’re artists and they love the character of Chopper. They’ll just have random Chopper toys and prints and stuff. I’m just like, “Oh, you watch One Piece?” And they’re like, “No, I just really like that character because it’s so beautifully designed.” It’s so brilliant and it’s so eye-catching. The couple of times that I’ve been lucky enough to go to Japan is like the best because there’s just Chopper everywhere. Chopper in all these different costumes, cosplaying as different characters from different anime — it’s so much fun. It’s hard to believe that I even voice that character.
Sonny Strait: Yeah, that’s not that hard to believe.
Ian Sinclair: You do it so well!
Sonny Strait: You do my favorite voice on the show, and it’s also my favorite design character almost of anything. But Popeye and Chopper … they’re neck-in-neck, they’re incredibly designed characters.
Brina Palencia: And I sound exactly like Popeye.
Sonny Strait: Very close!
Yeah, I read that Brina is also the new English voice for Popeye, what a coincidence.
Ian Sinclair: Olive Oyls’ going to be Chris Pratt!
Usopp gets a really cool team up later towards the end of the film. What was it like to record that big moment?
Sonny Strait: Well, it’s, first of all, very surprising to see him face his daddy issues that way. But it was very powerful and I felt really good for Usopp. I was like, “way to go, man. This is good. I’m glad this is happening for you.”
Brook has had some really amazing moments in the show from his brilliant backstory to all the seeds laid early with Laboon to establish him. What’s been your favorite part about voicing his character from Thriller Bark to now?
Ian Sinclair: Well, a few things. First of all, he’s absolutely my happy place. I’ve had some terrible, terrible days where they were like, “Okay, well you’ve got to go in for some One Piece.” And I went, “… ok.” And then it ended up being a great day. It’s such a joyous experience to be Brook. My job as the morale member of the crew is just to make everybody laugh and have a good time. The nuts and bolts of my actual job as an actor is to make the engineer and director laugh as hard as possible. That is such a privilege and a joy that that’s my job. I’m super proud of how Brook has evolved. He was a traumatized, lonely person who had lost a lot of his self confidence.
And then, for him, through Whole Cake Island and all these big moments, he was actually able to really come into his own and to go on that journey with him has been amazing. We’ve been talking about how with these characters after 700 episodes of being them, eventually they start to exist outside of you. That’s just a voice that informs all of your reads. It becomes something where if you do a line and it doesn’t sound exactly right to you because you know the character so well, you innately know how they would say it. To get to share myself with such a joyous human being or skeleton whose whole job and life goal is to help out and to make other people happy … I think it’s rubbed off on me. I think it’s a deep honor. It’s a deep honor. Mm-hmm.
Chopper makes some really great noises while attacking. How fun is it to let loose with those fighting sounds?
Brina Palencia: Oh, it’s my favorite. It’s so fun! And I think that’s why I love this movie so much, is that I feel like it’s the most I’ve ever gotten to fight as Chopper in one of the movies. I feel like usually he’s relegated a little bit to the sidelines, but not today! Not this time. He’s totally part of the action and it’s so much fun
Sonny, how would you feel if Sogeking made a triumphant return to the anime?
Sonny Strait: Yeah. I also play Sogeking as well as Usopp.It would be great to see that character make a return. I think that was the most genius moment of any anime I’d ever seen, that this guy reinvents himself as a superhero and has his own theme song playing in his head before he attacks. I would love for any chance to play that madness again. That is just amazing.
“Oh the wind carries my name …”
I was hoping we would get a bit of that. Ian, similarly, how often do you find yourself singing ‘Bink’s Sake?’
Ian Sinclair: Honestly, more often than you’d think. It was a song that I was very nervous to do because as soon as I got the part, people were like, “Oh, your voice sounds good! Don’t mess up the laugh,” and I went, “Okay, cool.” And then they’re like, “Oh, the laugh sounds good! Don’t mess up the song.” And I went, “Okay, cool.”
And then, luckily, I had Brina to help me with this and I’ve had a wonderful group of people handhold me through the recordings. I was very nervous that I wanted to make sure it was as good as humanly possible. Then once it’s done, it’s just … it’s in me. On a good day, I will find myself singing it. It hit me the other day that there’s a distinct possibility that at my funeral, my parents will have to have it explained to them why someone’s playing this sea shanty. It’ll probably happen! That song is a part of my life for the rest of my life, and I’m thrilled. I love how when you play it slow, it’s all sad and mournful, but if you play it fast, it’s a jaunty little tune. It’s so versatile and I love it.
Sonny Strait: I don’t know your parents, but I hope that they die before you.
Brina Palencia: I was actually going to say that too!
Ian Sinclair: I figured this out during turbulence on the flight back from New York, after New York Comic-Con this year!
Brina Palencia: That you’re going to die before your parents?
Ian Sinclair: I was like, “you know, if this is it, they will probably play ‘Bink’s Sake’ at my funeral.”
Sonny Strait: Ok, fair.
Brina, you’ve performed the English versions of quite a few One Piece songs earlier in the seasons, like ‘Bon Voyage’ and ‘Memories.’ Have you ever thought about covering some of the newest stuff?
Brina Palencia: Yes, and I did! I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about it, but I did.
Sonny Strait: That’s a good question because she’s not allowed to self-promote.
Brina Palencia: Yeah.
Sonny Strait: But if fans do a little research out there, you can find it.
Brina Palencia: Something very recently that has come out.
Sonny, Usopp, and Krillin are pretty similar in that they might seem cowardly or weaker to others, but they’re really brave when it comes to it and stronger than the fanbases might think. How do you go about making these performances so distinct from one another when they’re similar characters?
Sonny Strait: Well, there’s a very distinct difference between Krillin and Usopp. A lot of people say it’s the same voice, but, you know, Krillin talks like this, right? But Usopp talks like that with a hitch in his voice. Let me tell you that hitch hurts! So I don’t want anyone saying it’s the same voice! It is not the same voice. It’s much more painful, involved voice.
Brina Palencia: You wish it was the same voice.
Sonny Strait: I wish it was. Sometimes I just wanna just do Krillin’s voice instead of Usopp’s voice and go, “It’s close enough.” No, I can’t allow that. I know how Usopp sounds to me, and he has that weird hitch in his voice.
Ian Sinclair: See, we’ve got to wait until there’s an episode where you’re in some big battle and it looks just enough like you’re hit in the throat, and then we modify it just a little bit.
Sonny Strait: And then from then on …
Ian Sinclair: From then on, it’s just you!
Sonny Strait: I can coast with Krillin’s voice. But you’re right, they are two characters who are really the definition of courage, being that it’s not being not afraid. It’s being afraid and doing what you’ve got to do anyway to help your friends. You’re right, both those characters encapsulate that. They will be there when they need to be there, but they’d rather not be there.
Ian, Brook was the most recent crewmate for a long time, but Jinbe’s taken that role now. What’s it like to not be the new guy after over a decade?
Sonny Strait: That’s a good question!
Ian Sinclair: That is! You’re the first to ask. I have to remind myself not to say that I’m the newest crew member in interviews. I think the weirdest part. Past that, I can’t wait to meet him. I want to meet him so badly because we’ve been talking about how the Straw Hats feel like a family. Even we, as the voice actors, truly look at each other like we’re family at this point. And we got this new family member that some of us just haven’t met yet. Have you guys gotten to meet Daniel [Baugh]? We haven’t gotten the opportunity to meet the actor. I can’t wait to meet him. I can’t wait to talk to him and officially give him a big old hug and say welcome to the crew.
Sonny Strait: Welcome to the family.
Ian Sinclair: Right? Then get to watch as he goes through the first few years of being a crew member out in the public, that’s a crazy time. I want to be able to be there for him. If you’re watching this, holler! I can’t wait to meet you. You’re doing such a good job and you fit right in. And he’s so powerful and so cool. Like, I love Jinbe.
Brina Palencia: Yeah. Solid addition.