Colleen Clinkenbeard, the lead voice actress for One Piece, talks about the vocal process and journey that led up to the 1000th episode of the hit anime.
Colleen Clinkenbeard voices Monkey D. Luffy, the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and leader of the anime series. One piece. The show initially began airing in the US in 2004, under a license with 4Kids. In 2007, Funimation licensed the series and shortened the start, and has since been home to One piece. Clinkenbeard has voiced Luffy in every episode of the Funimation dub.
Voice actress Colleen Clinkenbeard sat with Juice Mobile to discuss the upcoming 1000th episode of One piece, the process behind her voice, and the series’ fourteen-year journey.
Jugo Mobile: How did you get involved with One piece?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: I auditioned. I had been working at Funimation for a while and recently came up with a boy voice for a different project, which was my first real boy voice. And when auditions were held for One piece, Mike McFarland called me and I thought he would audition for Nami and Robin. So that’s what I focused on and he asked me at the time to audition for Luffy and my blood spiked right away.
Fortunately, he let me go and work on it, and then go back and read it, because I had no idea what I would be reading for. And then he kicked me out. He sent it to Toei and they actually came back with notes for everyone on what they would like to hear something different and then we did another round. They had asked Luffy to be a bit more abrupt, so I infuriated him a bit. So here we are.
How did you come up with Luffy’s voice, aside from being harsh?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: The standard child’s voice for women voicing children in our American media is to throw it down the back of the throat and make it a little harsh. I learned that directly from Laura Bailey, who was my roommate and best friend, and she helped me open the door. She is the one who taught me to do different things like that, because otherwise everything would sound like Meatwad.
I had no idea what to do with the voices. So I took that and then made it mine. So Luffy is a bit harsher than my standard boy voice, so maybe a bit more cartoonish? That’s kind of a transformation. And it has also changed over the years! There’s a time jump and we lowered it and made sure it sounded a little bit older. It goes through many transformations.
Speaking of transformations, Luffy has his different gears. What has been your approach to differentiating between the different gears?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: Direct fear. Every time a new team shows up, it’s like, really? I have no more gears. So it’s just fear to feed it, and then honestly, you’re just trying to take it to the next level, and it seems like you’ve already pushed it as far as possible. Fortunately, with the last one there was a real vocal change that is like a character that is being put in the original. So that led us to a different voice for this last team, but other than that, it’s as big and strong and gruff as you can get.
I was wondering, knowing that you are in the 700 range and will hit the 1,000 mark range, what do you think will help you decrease exhaustion in the future with it?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: I definitely have vocal exhaustion, where I got to a point where I can’t luffy anymore that day, but exhaustion with the character and the longevity of the show has never been an issue for me because it’s always been so interesting. There is no untethered thread in this program. It always starts with the next arc and you are always interested in the next villain and finding out what the crew is up to next. They keep it interesting, always.
So I don’t experience any exhaustion with Luffy, I never get tired of him. In fact, when he’s gone for a while, for whatever reason, whenever he comes back, I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get into the cabin. Even knowing the pain I’m going to go through, it’s worth it. So approaching the thousandth episode, I’m less scared of burnout and more scared – I’m going to be really sad when it’s over.
Speaking of a thousand episodes, you’re also voicing characters that have been in Dragon Ball. How does it feel to have a legacy that spans two of the most successful long-term franchises in anime and manga?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: Well it’s interesting because I went into the Dragon Ball universe after the fact you know When I got to Funimation, Dragon Ball it was already one thing. Those characters were already in place, and then when he came back in a different iteration with Dragon Ball z kai, That’s when I became part of the show. and I was so excited to become a part of something that was SO huge. It’s this tent show for our company and I was really sad not to be a part of it. That made me very happy.
But with One piece it’s something different because I’ve gotten to be there from scratch for Funimation. Now, to be fair, it’s been nicknamed before. There are other iterations, but we went back and started in episode one, so we’ve really gone through the whole series with me as the voice of Luffy. So I feel that sense of pride and not ownership, but definitely a connection to Luffy that you rarely get, because you’re rarely with a character for so long and right from the start. So, Luffy is quite special to me.
You mentioned the dubbing above and we talked about your process with voice. Was there something about the previous dubbing that you watched when you were doing your version of the character or was it completely new and yours?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: In fact, I never listened to the previous dubbing, deliberately. I didn’t want that to inform the way I did the voice and I think when we started that was the direction we were going. It was a completely new approach. So specifically we weren’t supposed to investigate it, so I never did. I’ve never heard the above and maybe I’ll come back one day, but for the moment this is where I live.
For viewers who have not yet joined the Straw Hat team, because they are young or because they may be intimidated by the size and place we are in the series, what would you tell them about why they should join the team? ?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: I think people are really intimidated by the number of episodes there are on. One piece and it may seem like a really important thing to bite into. But what people forget is that all you have to do is enjoy the episode that you are currently watching. You don’t have to go through it quickly. You don’t have to try to get over it. The point is to enjoy it while it happens, so I think wherever you are, as long as you start it, just enjoy the journey from that episode. Don’t make it into a career and don’t be too valuable with spoilers or catching up on the manga or not catching up on the manga or how you’re supposed to get involved with it.
Just enjoy it and then you can fully experience it instead of shoving it into the cracks of your multimedia display. That, to me, is great to be in a place where you are at the beginning of a show like this because then you have a lot to wait.
My last question for you is: we talk a lot about children’s voices and how you approached them, what is it like to be a woman who comes to express this iconic character as a child?
Colleen Clinkenbeard: I am very, very grateful for the opportunity because, to be honest, it is very difficult to find a show that is as popular as One piece that has a female lead. The chances that I could play such an iconic role as this were slim because I am a female and because many of the iconic voices are male characters. So the fact that I can express it because they needed a woman in that role was really lucky! I will always be grateful for it, but I am always looking for that to change in our experience with the media.
Episode 1000 of One piece airs Saturday, November 20 at 9 p.m. EST on Funimation and Crunchyroll.