20 years ago Cowboy Bebop introduced many English speakers to the world of anime and for some it was the first venture into a more dark adult themed series. The series and film follow an un-expecting group of bounty hunters in a post apocalyptic world as they deal with facing their past and finding their footing in the future.
This past weekend we made a visit to Anime Los Angeles and we were very fortunate for the chance to sit down with some of the talent behind the voices and dubbing of the show. Over the next few weeks we will be posting a three part interview series featuring Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Paul St. Peter, Marc Handler, Mary Claypool, and Les Claypool III.
Cowboy Bebop was a groundbreaking series that introduced so many people in the Western world to anime. Has that changed your career in any way?
Marc Handler: It was a pivotal life changing moment for me for a number of reasons. What happened was this; when they called me for the show I turned it down at first. When Kevin Seymour called me I told him I was sorry but I was leaving the country. I was lucky because we talked for a while and started kicking things around and we decided I ould work on it while traveling. I could email him the scripts even though email was new at the time and people still worked with physical copies of everything. Most companies would have said no to that because it’s too complicated. Kevin was willing to try it. I ended up traveling around Asia with all this heavy equipment that we needed at the time. I was doing the scripts and sending them in and we had to work it out and figure out how to do it because we hadn’t done it before. It changed my life because if it weren’t for Bebop I would have traveled for a few months and then come back to America and just continued to work for the rest of my life. Because they were able to do that I was able to stay in Asia for a few years. While writing for this Japanese show I got to be emerged in Japanese culture which fits into the magic of the show. Even after finishing Bebop I stayed in Asia and I’ve refocused my life to allow me to live in Asia. I have spent most of my life there now and I even live in Shanghai now. I’ve been living there for five years now working as an executive producer for Disney China. If it wasn’t for Bebop I would not have pivoted my life like this.
Paul St. Peter: It has really made, I think, the entire fan base much more aware of the quality of anime and made them appreciate the adult aspects. People grew up on cartoons with the big eyes, cutesy animals, and all that stuff but Bebop is a very adult show and I think people never expected that and that turned them on to it. It has made people much more dedicated anime fans and certainly it has helped with me a lot too. I’m asked a lot of questions about it especially with my character and how weird he was within the show. A lot of people want to know where the idea came from. Where did Bebop come from? How did all of this happen? I like the fact that is has raised a lot of awareness. Watanabe-san had the idea of Big Shot and Steve Blum talked about how he would have never thought of that. All of us when we see the show, you wonder how this bizarre thing fits in there and you realize that is what sends them to all the different places they go.
Beau Billingslea: Oh it definitely did because Cowboy Bebop is what put me on the map as a voice actor and of course it was one of the forerunners on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim and so it was introduced the American culture. Word got around and that really accelerated my voice over career. I am very thankful for being apart of this project.
Wendee Lee: It has been integral to my career and putting my voice over career on the map. I had been working at least 10-15 years before voicing Faye in Cowboy Bebop. I started out in Robotech and a number of Harmony Gold films. Once I got involved with Bebop I knew it was something special as far as having a Western appeal. I had been a singer and had bands and understood the rock-n-roll essence which also became other genres of music that was so critical to the series. I really had a hunch that it would have a very wide appeal. It was a standout from anything else I had ever done at that point. Because Faye is so iconic I think it will be the thing that will be on my epitaph. “The actress who played Faye Valentine” may always shadow me and I’m honored to have that moniker.
If you could voice any other character in the Cowboy Bebop universe which one would you?
Beau Billingslea: Spike. I’d be all over Spike!
Paul St. Peter: Besides Ed? I’m kidding. I could not compete with Melissa! If I were going to go with another character I would like to go for Vicious. Reason being, I’m so used to playing villains and darker characters, like Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts and Kuruma in Naruto , so doing a crazy character like mine… I feel like I missed something. Vicious is one of those multifaceted, dark, and evil characters and it would have been nice to go for that. At the same time I don’t see myself doing the performance in any way better than was done. The vocal choices he made were very dynamic and that’s what I like about doing voice overs. You get to put in these multifaceted and sometimes very deeply leveled personalities. He was just so dynamite!
Wendee Lee: We always used to laugh and say, “Today we’re going to rotate! Everybody is going to move over character. I’m going to play Jet, Steve is going to play Faye, Melissa is going to direct, and Mary is going to play Ein.” That never happened but I think maybe honestly it would have been cool to play Spike! It really would have been great to play anything. Even our smallest roles were so thought through. I really like to think there aren’t any small roles. There may be short screen time in Bebop but the actual characters are iconic so it would be great to voice any of them. I really think they got it right with the casting as is.
Until part two… (sometime next week) See you, space cowboy!