With one of *the* largest number of characters voiced across all three seasons of "Digimon," Derek Stephen Prince is fast becoming a big name with the fans. Quite likely the most popular voice actor on the show at the moment, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer the multitude of questions I had.
Chris McFeely: When did you decide
you wanted to build a career for yourself as an actor?
Derek Stephen Prince: That's a loaded question, but I'll try to be brief. I actually started when I was 10. I appeared as an extra on a short lived show called "240 Robert" with Mark Harmon. I did a lot of stage work through elementary and high school. It was after high school that I felt I wanted to be an actor and went to college for Musical Theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (where people like Ming Na, John Wells, Steven Bochco, Blair Underwood, Jack Klugman and Ted Danson graduated - just to name a few). I went to New York for 2 years and did summer stock and tours, and wound up back in California where I grew up and landed my first big TV gig as a co-star on the first season of "E.R." where I played a rookie fireman. I also appeared on a couple episodes of "Saved By The Bell".
CMcF: How did you break into the voice-acting industry? What were you doing before you got your break?
DSP: After ER and Saved By The Bell, things were slow. I took a voice over class at the SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) Conservatory, where many actors can take free classes to sharpen their skills. I never really got into voice-overs. I had an introduction to it in college, but nothing major. The person teaching was Bob Bergen (voice of Porky Pig and Tweety Bird). He gave us two pieces of material to read. After class, as we all were leaving, he stopped me and asked if I had a demo tape. I had no idea that you needed a demo for voice-overs, and I only had my on-camera demo. He said that I showed a lot of talent and I should take professional classes. His was the first I took. At that time, he was doing a show for Saban called "Eagle Riders". I got to sit in and see first hand what Anime was all about. That prompted me to take a couple more classes and make my first demo (I'm currently on my third). Then I contacted casting at Saban and said that if they were ever looking for new talent, that I'd be happy to send them my demo. The Casting Director asked what I was doing the following day, and asked if I'd like to go to an audition. I said of course, tried out, and wound up being cast as a regular on "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers," my first professional voice-over gig.
CMcF: Through what events were you approached for the Digimon series? You play a huge number of characters, but were there any others that you auditioned for?
DSP: After being on MMPR, that set me up for other shows that Saban produced and auditioned for. Some I got, some I didn't. For Digimon 01, I actually wasn't brought in for the auditions. I was asked by the casting director, Paul DiFranco, whom I had never worked for before, if I was interested in doing a guest character (DemiDevimon). I was actually referred to him by someone else at Saban. I said yes. He then learned that I could do a Peter Lorre imitation, and got the role of Digitamamon. It wasn't until halfway through that season that I actually auditioned and got the role of Piedmon.
CMcF: Speaking of roles... who would you say has been your favourite character to voice? There have certainly been a lot of them, so I don't know if you'd be able to pick just one...
DSP: I've done a lot, but I would have to say that so far, the most fun and the most rewarding role has been The Digimon Emperor/Ken Ichijouji: The Emperor because he encapsulated evil, and Ken because of the arc he made as the Emperor to becoming a DigiDestined.
CMcF: At the other end of the spectrum, were there any characters you found to be a strain to voice?
DSP: I found it challenging to voice Paildramon and Imperialdramon, because when you record you do it by yourself (for Anime). Often, Paul St. Peter did his part first so I had to listen really good to match all his inflections in the way he said his lines.
CMcF: If there was one other character on the show that you'd like to be able to voice, who would it be?
DSP: If you're referring to the second season, then I'd have to say Mummymon.
CMcF: You're currently voicing Impmon on the third season of the show. A question that is on a lot of fans' lips at the moment is - will you be voicing Impmon's Digivolved form, Beelzebumon? Maybe you should shed some light on his American name?
DSP: First off, the American name is Beelzamon. Yes, I am voicing him. I actually just did his first line which is at the end of Episode 131. At that time, noone knew what he was supposed to act like, or what his personality was, so we just took a shot at it and did 3 or 4 interpretations. 133, the next episode he's in, where there is more detail to the character was in the process of beign written so we had nothing to go on. When I initially did Impmon (whom you may harken to sound a lot like DemiDevimon) I auditioned for it. They wanted someone who sounded like Joe Pesci. Well, anyone who's anyone knows that if you want Pesci you go to me. When we were voicing the Digimon CDrom game, we had to come up with something for Beelzamon, because he is featured in it, so the director and I thought it would be funny/cool to do a bad-ass New York type. So if it doesn't work out for the series, then you'll at least get to hear Beelzamon as if he was a hardcore Sylvester Stallone. :) This interpretation didn't look like it would work when we got to see a picture of him for the first time.
CMcF: As one of the "bigger" names in Digimon, with THE largest number of characters voiced under your belt, do you find your voice is ever recognised when you're out? I'd imagine that any younger relatives you may have reacted well to finding out they're related to the voice of Veemon!
DSP: I have not yet been recognized as any of the characters I've portrayed. If someone was a huge fan that I bumped into, perhaps they'd be able to tell I was Ken, because he is the closest to my actual voice. To actually hear what my "real" voice sounds like, you can go to www.voicebank.net, click on House Reels, then my agent - Tisherman - then Promos, then Men, then me. I'm listed as Steve Prince.
CMcF: Do you think you were cast in other Saban projects as a result of your popular work on "Digimon" (or vice versa), or was each assignment independently secured?
DSP: I owe everything I was considered for at Saban a direct result of my involvement with Power Rangers. If I hadn't done a series regular on that show, it's likely that I probably wouldn't be involved with Anime as much as I am.
CMcF: It's my understanding that a lot of voice actors rarely watch the shows they work on. Does this hold true for you? If you do watch the shows, whatare your opinions of them?
DSP: I often try to watch the shows if able. If I really like an episode, like "Piedmon's Last Stand" from season one, I request a tape for my files. I feel that some of the shows I work on, particularly the current season of Digimon, are way too dark for kids to watch and have a hard time understanding why they get approved. But hey, that's why they have test groups and network people to handle that. I just do my job, and enjoy it. :) Sometimes, I feel that the post production music overshadows the dialogue. That seems to be a running area that I'm nit-picky about. Perhaps, when Disney takes over in 2002, that'll change.
CMcF: It's fair to say that voice actors receive little appreciation for what they do, beyond cult and fan followings. What are your opinions on this? Do you like the anonymity?
DSP: I come from an on-camera background, so I wish that I was recognized more, but I like the rewards of being acknowledged by the peers I work with, because that's pretty much the only people that would recognize me anyway. The one variation from that, was when I was asked by a benifit organization to donate an autographed picture for a charity event, because they liked my work as Ken/Digimon Emperor, which is how I AKA'd it.
CMcF: What advice do you have for those out there who aspire to be voice actors? How should they go about making their way into the industry?
DSP: Don't. Seriously. If there's anything else you aspire to do, or like to do, do it. This business is very hard to get in to, harder to get a job at. But if you must, then be sure that those who are in the business and have the experience to give you sound advice, let you know that you can compete against the thousand of others out there who are making a career for themselves. It always seems like there's never enough work for those who want to get started, but if you have the talent, drive and determination then you'll make it. Just look at me.
CMcF: Who would you cite as your inspirations, in the industry, in life, in anything?
DSP: I owe a lot to Bob Bergen for lighting the spark in me to pursue this industry. I owe a lot to Karen Carter, a casting director for Saban, who loved actors enough to take a chance on me in bringing me in for MMPR without even hearing a demo, and let me try out for a series regular, which I booked. I owe a lot to Scott Page Pagter and David Walsh, who as the Director and Engineer for MMPR, developed my talent from not knowing squat about dubbing, tbecoming one of the better actors out there who can really do it. Finally, I owe a lot to the various other directors out there who constantly think of me and reccommend me for projects. They keep me working! (In particular, Wendee Lee, Michael Sorich and Richard Epcar.)
As for aspirations, I hope to work as much as Jess Harnell, Frank Welker, and Jim Cummings.
CMcF: Are there any individuals in the industry that you would like/hope to work with in the future?
DSP: The above mentioned, as well as any celebrity actors that do voices for cartoons (movies mainly)
CMcF: Are you friendly with any of the other voice actors on the shows you work on?
DSP: The above mentioned directors, as well as Brianne Siddall, Richard Cansino and Steve Blum
CMcF: What do you do in your spare time? What hobbies or interests do you have?
DSP: I like computer games. I am currently studying to be an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Expert) to configure networks in business offices. Once I get my degree, I will have more stability in my chosen field as regular work. Let's face it, no-one who is doing anime is making a fortune at it, and all shows must come to an end sometime.
CMcF: What are you working on at the moment? What can we expect to see from you next?
DSP: I'm currently working on "Mon Colle Knights" as one of the leads, Mondo. Also working on a yet to be released CGI project from Japan called Zentirx. Can't say a lot about this project, because it's under wraps, but it looks like it will be interesting. Especially since we are providing the voices before it's animated with computer graphics! Not your usual anime, nor the fact that it's CGI.
CMcF: Any final words you'd like to impart to your fans?
DSP: Thank you all for thinking so highly of me. It feels good to be recognized. The voice over industry is a family, so if anyone out there is SERIOUSLY thinking of getting into the business, I would be happy to speak with them via email to give them whatever advice, support or encouragement they'd need to help them make it.
DSP: And thank you Chris, for your time and dedication you have put into this website. Thank you also for quickly acknowledging and addressing my concerns. Much appreciated. It has been a pleasure being interviewed by you, and I wish you much luck in all your endeavours!
Since giving this interview, Mr. Prince has shut down the e-mail address he was using to communicate with me.
Many thanks to Dave Mallow for helping to arrange this interview.