While I was at Zenkaikon a few weeks ago another voice actor I got a chance to chat with was Trina Nishimura who has been voice acting professionally since the late nineties. Trina started with Funimation during the anime boom and has since been featured in such shows as One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, The Evangelion films and most recently Attack on Titan, where she voices Mikasa Ackermann. It was a fun time chatting with Trina about not only what its like being a Voice actor but what she thinks is behind the strong fan reaction of Attack on Titan.
So how did you get into voice acting?
I started acting when I was 9 years old, when I was 13 years old I started touring with my local community theater. Then I went to college and I was like “I don’t want to be an actor, I want to be a grown up” and that didn’t work out.
A friend of mine worked for Funimation entertainment as a sound engineer and he was like “hey you should totally audition” and I did. They cast me and they have been casting me ever since and I didn’t have to be a grown up, so that was pretty cool.
Doing some research I found you are not only a voice actor, but you were also bartender of the month in Dallas, Texas?
I was, I was. I was a bartender for many, many years through college and then because acting got so busy I had to stop unfortunately. It was really sad, because it was a really big passion of mine. I met a lot of amazing people and had a lot of crazy experiences that I would not have had otherwise.
But it helped pay my way through school and take care of some of my student loan debts and it helped me try to find my feet as an actor.
Is there a drink you would recommend?
Whiskey! (Laughs) That’s it! I love whiskey neat; I love small batch bourbons in particular.
So what was your favorite show growing up?
I REALLY love cartoons when I was growing up. Back in the day, when they only released like one cartoon in theaters a year, it was always the Disney cartoon. My mom would take all four of us and it was a big treat, because it was a single parent/income household. That was a big deal.
So looking forward to going to see a full-length feature cartoon was such a big deal to us. We even got to get Cokes! (Laughs)
I really loved Disney, I loved all the songs.
I didn’t get into Anime until I was in college and I got into it for a boy, of course. (Laughs)
What did he make you watch first?
I was talking to this guy and he was like, “I’m really into anime”, and I was like “me too!” He was like “Do you like Cowboy Bebop?” I said I loved it and went to Blockbuster, which use to be a thing and rented all of these episodes of Cowboy Bebop and completely fell in love with it. From there I graduated to Samurai Champloo and started to look back at other things.
I knew that Toonami existed, but I didn’t ever watch it until this dude and the dude and I didn’t work out, but we still talk and he is one on my best friends. My brother was like “Finally! That’s what it took! Let’s Talk!”
I didn’t find love, but I found a career.
When you were watching all those shows you probably came across Neon Genesis Evangelion, where you play Mari in the new films. What was that like becoming a part of that universe and being the character that pretty much just comes in and takes over.
Yeah, she is pretty much insane.
It was daunting. Evangelion has such a following. Its been around for so long. Then there is all the backstory and the drama for the creator and what he’s been through as an individual and how that affected the show and why the movies are coming.
It was a little nerve-wracking to go in and be part of something that has so many people that care so much about it and have such high expectations.
Obviously Mari was not involved in the series, she was the first new character in a really long time, so that was a little easier to handle. But it was pretty terrifying, pretty scary, because there is so much hype around it.
I was really releaved to play a girl who is just crazy. To be able to unleash that animalistic, psychotic joy.
When she is excited, she is beyond excited, when she fights someone she is going to FIGHT THEM or kill herself trying; she is just down for the role. I love how untamed she is, in her mannerisms, in her speech in her cadence, the way she screams is completely opposite most of the characters.
I think her introduction into the dynamics of that group are really interesting and I am looking forward to see what happens in 4, it’s going to be awesome or awful.
So how did you get involved in Attack on Titan?
Well, I was called by the talent coordinator and she was like “Hey we have this show, come audition”, I was like what is it and she was like “Attack on Titan.” I knew that was a big deal.
So you were aware of the title before?
Yeah my older brother had turned me on to it, and I had stopped after the first episode because I didn’t want to get too far into the plot or anything. So I went in and auditioned and of course I wanted to be Mikasa, everyone wanted to be Mikasa. I also really liked Sasha, I love how funny she is. So I read for Mikasa, Sasha and I think I might have read for Armin as well. I was blown away, I was completely dumbfounded I was cast.
I was so nervious, because people are so connected to the show on so many different levels. It was a little daunting to see how people would react, but people didn’t throw rocks, so I think I was ok.
Why do you think it resonates so strongly with fans?
I think the reason people love Titan so much is its not just for anime people. The whole theme of Attack on Titan is this horrible threat to humanity, and its horrible, it’s there and everyone has to deal with it and it’s terrifying and the majority of the population just runs. There are these few select people that decide, “No, I am going to stand and face this thing.” While we don’t have to worry about someone ripping the roof off and reaching in and grabbing us and eating us, everyone faces their Titans on a day to day level whether that’s a disease or a loved one suffering with a disease, war, starvation, disenchantement with various parts of life, bullies, everyone has a Titan.
I’m not saying I am saving the world, but through things like Attack on Titan I think it helps people to get through these things.
Finally you been in a ton of great shows when you think about your numerous roles would you say is the project you’re most proud of?
Well Titan is a huge deal right now and because of that I was invited to Australia for Supernova. We did a tour Bryce Papenbrook who plays Eren and did a tour in Brisbin and Adelaide and I was able to take my mother to Austraila. It was her first vacation in 15 years and the first time she had left North America since she was in college, so the proudest thing I was able to do was that, it was a really amazing experience.
Don’t get me wrong we fought a lot of the time (laughs) cause she’s my mom, but we had some amazing moments.
She’s a really amazing woman she raised 4 kids by herself, and I can’t image how hard that must have been.