ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke to One Piece Film: Red stars AmaLee and Jim Foronda, who play Uta and Gordon respectively, about taking part in such a huge film. 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: You’ve done One Piece covers, you’ve been Otohime. What’s it like to play such a major role as an idol in this film?
AmaLee: Incredible. I love Uta so desperately. I loved her before I even got the call that they were going to cast me as Uta. So it was truly a dream come true. She’s such an infectious character and I see a lot of myself in her, so she was just fun to play. Every session, I was so excited to go in and just get to play. [It’s] really fun to be back in the One Piece world, as well.
What stood out to you most about Gordon’s character when you first heard about the role?
Jim Foronda: Gosh, that he was a regular guy. He wasn’t a giant Fishman pirate or a small monkey wearing a stripy top hat … One Piece is great. The TV show is great for character actors because you kind of just [go], “what does this thing sound like?” And you just come up with a voice, but Gordon’s just a regular person with a story and emotional baggage. That’s what struck me. This is a meaty role to dive into and take on.
What stood out to you most about Uta during the dubbing of the film? Did you have a different perception of her when you started than when you ended?
AmaLee: I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but I think from her very first scene, you’re just captivated by her. I would love to go to an Uta concert. Oh my God, it’d be so much fun. I think what I love about her is that every line she say, every scene she’s in, she’s giving 100% of who she is and she’s so true to her ambitions and her love for music. I think that’s just really awesome to be a part of and I love her for that. I just love that she is infectiously her. You resonate with that and you want to be in the room with her.
Gordon’s relationship with Uta is quite sweet. What was your favorite aspect of his story throughout the film?
Jim Foronda: Gosh, he worries about her. He’s not her biological father, he’s her adoptive father, but he loves her just the same. Just the care that he has … he just wants her to be safe. He doesn’t want any harm to come to her, but he knows that he can’t overprotect her because now that she’s broadcasting her music to the world, he’s really worried. He’s a good person. His design … the first time I saw him, I thought, “is he the big bad in this movie? Frankenstein? He looks like Frankenstein monster.” But it really is a beautiful story about found family. One more thing about him is the fact that the idea of an entire kingdom dedicated to the arts sounds fascinating. Elegia sounds like the best place to go as an actor or a musician or an artist or a painter, or anybody, even just to visit and take in those arts, you know?
Uta has this sisterly relationship with Luffy. How crazy was it to perform those goofier scenes with one of the biggest protagonists ever?
AmaLee: Really, really incredible and super fun. I love Colleen [Clinkenbeard] desperately. She’s an incredible actor. To have those scenes and to be a character that already has this past history with Luffy, it was really fun to play on that. I got to record last for the movie, so everyone was already in there, so I just got to play off of everyone’s lines — especially Colleen. It was really fun and it really tugged on my heartstrings to record some of those scenes with Luffy. Just having fun and goofing off.
Jim, this isn’t your first time working on One Piece either. Where does Gordon stand amongst your other characters?
Jim Foronda: Well, for one thing, he’s not trying to kill anybody and he’s human. He’s so understated, compared to the other characters that I’ve done. Most of the time, I’m screaming or yelling in a really strange voice and being as loud as possible. But Gordon, he’s very soft-spoken. Not all the time in the movie, I’m not going to spoil it for folks, but he’s a complete 180 from somebody like Vander Decken. I like Gordon. Gordon is the type of person that I would like to meet. I would like to meet Gordon if I was to be in the One Piece world. I would like to visit Elegia and listen to him play some music or learn music from him. Vander Decken … I would stay as far away as possible.
Uta goes through quite an arc throughout the movie. Was it difficult to balance both the bubbly idol side and the more dramatic, weightier side of her character?
AmaLee: Yeah. This movie definitely uses my entire range and I’m so thankful for the direction through it. Jim’s mentioned it before, but this movie’s kind of a gift as an actor. I feel like I used 100% of my range and got to express myself in every single scene, and I think that’s just really amazing. It was super fun as an actor.
Gordon also has a real passion for music. Would you say you’re similar in that respect?
Jim Foronda: I am not. I will tell you, I like singing. I will karaoke sober. But I am nowhere near the caliber that AmaLee is. But God, I love music. I’ve been blasting the soundtrack off on Spotify, wherever I go [out] because the album, the whole thing’s on there and even Bink’s Brew is on the very end too! It wasn’t in the movie. I was waiting for it to see if it was in the movie, but that’s a little Easter egg there on the album on Spotify. So just seeing the movie and I’m seeing it on an IMAX screen with the big speakers and everything like that … this is something that I just want to see. I just want to feel that movie hit me in the eyeballs and ears on the fourth.
AmaLee: We’ve got to have a cast karaoke, that’s all I’m hearing.
Jim Foronda: So intimidating, karaoke with you!
There’s a point in the film where Uta does this laugh that’s very intense. Was that difficult to kind of nail down?
AmaLee: I think we did it once or twice. I can’t remember, but I had a lot of fun with those meatier scenes, getting to sink my teeth into them. She’s a really cool character. She’s got a lot of depth and I think fans are going to have a lot of fun watching her story unfold within the movie and with Gordon. There are some scenes that I think fans are going to really, really like and be drawn towards for sure.
Film: Red has probably received the most attention in North America of any of the films yet, both from the company making it and from fans. What’s it like to be part of this hugely anticipated film?
Jim Foronda: My gosh, it’s … when you just get that feeling [where] you’re like, “oh my gosh.” I’ve been acting for a long time and this is probably the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. It’s a real honor to be a part of it. It is. To be entrusted with a role for something this large. … I keep seeing over in Japan, it’s still number one over there. It’s really something and it’s hard to describe. That’s one of those things where somebody could have tried to describe the feeling to me and I don’t think any description of words could do it justice. You get adrenaline just thinking about it, like you get flighty. That’s probably the best word. I’m sorry I couldn’t describe it more, but it’s … yeah, to be a part of this artistic endeavor. Animators, writers, singers, music … to be part of this giant project is just … it’s humbling to even be brought into it, you know?
AmaLee, when you announced that you would be voicing Uta, you said that you’re also going to cover the songs. What’s it like to sing those songs as the voice of the character?
AmaLee: A little insane! I had always planned to cover them on my own because that’s just what I do. It’s my background. I’ve been doing covers on YouTube for 16 years, so it was really incredible to get that call. I was like, “Huh, maybe I’ll hold off on uploading those for a little bit.” I get to play the character and understand the character and then cover them. I’m super excited to sing them and I’m excited for everybody to hear Uta sing them in the movie as well. It’s going to be really fun.
If you could have any devil fruit, which would you pick?
Jim Foronda: Oh my gosh. Any devil fruit … how much time do we have left?
AmaLee: I should probably say the Sing-Sing Fruit …
Jim Foronda: I’d be better at karaoke in that case.
AmaLee: I think that door ability would be so powerful. Like, imagine if I could just like do Door to a different country and go walk the streets of Japan for lunch and then Door back and be back in my house. Like, wow!
Jim Foronda: Now that they opened up the border, my wife and I keep checking airline tickets because we’ve been saving up for a trip to Japan before the pandemic. We keep looking, but with the Door-Door Fruit, you could just drop yourself off in Narita right before customs and go, “hi!” You don’t have to sit for the 14 hour flight from Dallas.