Eric Vale & Mike McFarland Interview: One Piece 1000th Episode

The 1000th episode of One Piece premieres on Funimation and Crunchyroll on Saturday, November 20 at 9 PM EST/6 PM PST. One Piece has been dubbed by Funimation since 2007. Voice actors Mike McFarland and Eric Vale sat down with Screen Rant to discuss the upcoming milestone. McFarland is the ADR director of the series, and he has also voiced Buggy the Clown - an early villain in the show with lots of history. Vale voices Sanji Vinsmoke, the chef of the Straw Hat Pirate crew.

Related: Colleen Clinkenbeard Interview: One Piece 1000th Episode

Vale and McFarland spoke with Screen Rant about their characters' journeys, being involved in such a historic franchise, and how new fans can jump into the anime.

Screen Rant: How did you two get involved with One Piece? 

Mike McFarland: I was brought on as the ADR director for Funimation's dub at the moment they started working on it. So I've been involved with it in some capacity or another since the very beginning of it. I helped through the audition process of selecting the Straw Hats and have kind of either been the ADR director myself, personally, or worked with a group of people that I kind of oversaw in one capacity or another as we've helped to continue the show. So I've been working on it since late 2007 - early 2008, somewhere in there. It's been a hot minute, so I can't remember the exact start time.

Eric Vale: Yeah, 2007? 2008? At the time I was one of the head writers at Funimation so I was brought on as the head writer - I think there were two of us at the time, maybe working on it? Because it was such a big property, but we came in working on season 3, so the first thing I had to do is go back and watch all the first two seasons to know where we were starting.

So I did all of that and started at season 3 as a writer working with a team of writers on that for a few seasons. Then I, like any of the actors, auditioned for the role and got Sanji. I auditioned, I think, for Zorro, because I felt like that was more in my wheelhouse - and I was wrong.

Speaking of Sanji, you've voiced some serious characters - like Trunks. Is there anything that you particularly enjoy about voicing Sanji, who is serious when he's fighting, but he's also more of a wannabe ladies' man? 

Eric Vale: Well, you know, growing up as a wannabe ladies' man and failing miserably at it, I identified with the character in that regard. I always remember, I guess Mike, it was the first day that you were directing me on it. Mike told me - once we figured out - he had a good idea of what the voice would be - and he told me it's my morning voice, right? When I wake up in the morning. When I work on One Piece still to this day I try to have my sessions for One Piece as early in the day as possible and I don't really warm up. I just wake up and go to work - and it's easy to find the voice that way.

Mike McFarland: Yeah, it's a little deeper and it has that texture in it, like, "Hello, man it's early in the morning."

Mike, I was wondering, you voice Buggy. Can you speak a bit about his journey - from the beginning to his most recent appearance for you? Because he was the first Devil Fruit villain that Luffy faced, so it's been a while. 

Mike McFarland: Yeah, it HAS been a while. It's interesting to watch and experience Buggy's journey both onscreen and through voicing the character in English. Because as he's introduced, you find out so much so quickly. There's this clown pirate and his body can come apart and come back together. He's got this insane laugh and he's particular about his nose. There are all sorts of quirks that get introduced in the first few moments of seeing him.

Then you find out more and more about him: that he's got this elaborate past that goes all the way back to being involved with Gold Roger and all sorts of stuff where you're like, "What? This guy was there through all of that stuff?" So it's neat to just keep peeling back the layers of how essential his existence is to the story as far as he's been involved with so many different things that have had a huge impact on how everything turns out.

I guess part of the reaction or whatever would be from the audience is like, "Wait, you mean THIS guy?" There's a whole bunch of that. As it continues on where there's a whole bunch of "You mean this guy?" and it's like, "Wow, he's been involved with so many things."

Considering that Dragon Ball as a franchise is about to hit its 40th anniversary in a couple of years and One Piece is about to hit its 25th - it just had so many milestones with the 1000th episode coming up for you all. How does it feel to be part of a legacy spanning two of the most successful, long-term franchises for anime and manga? 

Eric Vale: When you put it like that, it's overwhelming. I don't think about it, I just handle things in these slivers of moments where it's like, "Today I'm working on this character in this episode" and it's not until somebody brings it up that it's like, "Oh that's a lot to process." That's probably why I don't, you know? So yeah, overwhelming's probably my answer.

Mike McFarland: Overwhelming, I would agree with that. I don't ever think of it that way, the same as Eric. Like, "Okay, I have some recording to do this week and it's these hours and it's this show. Yeah yeah yeah." And then as we meet other actors in the biz that work on different things, they're like, "Wait, you've been working on the same show for over twenty years?!" And you know, on-camera people [are] like, "That's a great gig. My gig was three years long and it's over now."

I don't think about it as being as unique as it is until I'm presented with such and reminded that it is a really unique and very limited number of things that have that longevity.

For people that haven't joined the crew yet, of the Straw Hat Pirates - maybe because they're younger or because it's very daunting - why should they join the crew now? 

Eric Vale: I will say I've met a lot of people over time - especially at a convention - where you'll have somebody who comes up to meet you and they have a significant other or child or a friend who's like, "This person is a huge fan of One Piece and Sanji." And the other person's like, "It's too intimidating and too big to dive into." But, I mean, that's the fun of it.

Like anything that you do when you get super involved in a narrative, it becomes more entertaining the more details you have - and the more details you have of the story the more conversations you can have with the people who like the stuff with you. So I think there's a camaraderie there that can be built if you just watch one episode. Just watch one. You'll get it.

Mike McFarland: Like a lot of other long-running franchises that are out there, they just seem so huge. This thing's been around for years; I see that there's so much fandom out there, I don't know if I want to dedicate that much of my life into finding this out. But there's always some sort of starting point or some sort of jumping-in point that if you already as a fan - if you have someone who is curious about it you can like, "Just start here." Like what Eric was saying. "Start in this little arc" or "watch this little thing" and see if that appeals to you. If it does, then watch this other thing, and if two or three things appeal to you then head over to the beginning because it's worth it, you know? Just watch the whole thing, just do it in your own time.

Eric Vale: It's like having a built-in prequel. Like, start at the beginning of season three, like I did. Then it's like, "Whoa! I've got all this other stuff that I can watch that tells the backstory, which is really the 'story' story."

For your upcoming performances and leading up to the 1000th episode, what do you hope that viewers will get out of them?

Mike McFarland: The seiyu [Japense voice actor] does such a wonderful job. I hope that I can continue to help tell the story in English, based on what the animation team has done and the seiyu's performance, and what [Eiichiro] Oda is doing with the story. I hope that I can do my part to the best of my ability to help that storytelling continue.

I love to approach things - especially this type of work - from the standpoint of: I would love for fans all over the world to be able to get together through some sort of interpretation service and talk about the same moments and talk about the show. You know, "When this happened and that happened and they said this" and have that all be the same type of joy. They can continue having a conversation about that, where the language itself isn't a barrier. That everyone can just share in their love for the experience and the storytelling.

Eric Vale: I think that it's - I want to be able to deliver a performance that makes the people who are excited for it pleased. They're looking forward to very specific things. Either they know the story, they've maybe read what's going to happen. They're looking for something pretty specific and I hope I'm able to deliver.

Next: What Every Straw Hat Member Did During The Time Skip

The 1000th episode of One Piece airs on Saturday, November 20 at 9 PM EST on Funimation and Crunchyroll.



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