As I sat down for a chat with veteran anime voice actor Jay Hickman at Anime Dallas 2023, the atmosphere was buzzing with anime convention excitement. This event, a festive gathering for anime enthusiasts, served as a perfect backdrop for our delightful conversation.
Anime Dallas with Jay Hickman: A Festive Reunion
Anime Dallas, likened to an “Otaku Thanksgiving,” was vibrant. Hickman rightly described the convention crowd as, “a really lively crowd, passionate crowd, a fun-loving crowd, and a kind crowd. So yeah, there’s lots of folks out here this weekend that are excited about the anime, excited about (just like we joke with the convention leadership) excited about getting away from their families after Thanksgiving.”
The energy was infectious, with fans relishing their shared love for anime. This setting provided an ideal stage for Hickman to reflect on his journey in the anime world.
Voice Acting: From Humble Beginnings
Hickman’s voice acting career, spanning over 25 years, began with a newspaper ad from ADV Films and a little help from his then girlfriend (now wife). He humorously recounted the story of his original unfruitful endeavors when responding to an ad in a newspaper. It wasn’t until his girlfriend decided to take a stab at the casting calls that he lucked into one of his earliest roles in “Master of Mosquiton.” “I got a role as a British communications officer… This guy had one line and he immediately dies,” Hickman shared, reflecting on his early days in the industry. This was a stepping stone to ultimately play more significant characters. As of to date, Hickman has played over 150 roles in over 117 titles. Among his more notable roles are Jouichirou YUKIHIRA from Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma, Kagetane HIRUKO from Black Bullet, Chief Kurama from Elfen Lied. His narrative was filled with nostalgia, highlighting the evolution of his career background actor to becoming a prominent player in the anime industry.
Jay Hickman’s Hollywood Encounters and Artistic Pursuits
One unique aspect of our conversation was Hickman’s retelling of his experience as an extra in Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.” Being an extra in a scene alongside ‘Gilmore Girls‘ star Alexis Bledel and ultimately meeting Bill Murray were among the highlights of that experience. During one scene in the film Hickman was paired up with Bledel in what staff described could have been a date for the play in the movie. However, by the end of the film Hickman stated Bledel’s character was with someone else, “…they are at the dance, or at the after party of the play. And Alexis is there dancing with the Scottish kid. So I was not in that scene at all and I’m like, what the heck, Alexis!?” Additionally, Hickman shared his alternate artistic ambitions, revealing that if not voice acting, he would still be immersed in the arts and likely in a singing career. “But there is, as they say… there’s dignity in work. So I mean, every job I had, I was glad to have, there was reward to all of that. But… I probably wouldn’t do well full time on a Christmas tree farm. I discovered along the way… I’ve got an artist’s heart. So I think if it wasn’t acting in anime, it would be something in the arts. I would think I would wanna find a way to have an in to that.”
Collaborative Creativity and Industry Insights
Discussing “Lake Texarkana Gamera,” Hickman highlighted his creative synergy with John Swayze and Kyle Jones. Hickman stated of the project spearheaded by Jones, “So he came up with an idea to have a short version of the film. It’s a 90 minute film. He was like, I think I can cut out a bunch of stuff… and condense it into a 15 minute version that sort of hits the highlights at least. And I think I’ll do it with everyone as a Texas Redneck… We called it Lake Texarkana Gamera, and we bring that film to conventions to screen it.” Ultimately, this project exemplified their humor and camaraderie. Speaking of himself, Swayze and Jones “Like there’s just some special chemistry there that we all recognize and enjoy so much and we’re like, well we just need to figure out a way to keep doing this. So we have, we’ve done many such projects and we’re always thinking of whatever will be next.”
Furthermore, he observed significant changes in the anime industry, particularly its mainstream transition and technological advancements allowing for more dynamic casting. Hickman stated, “I think technology has progressed to the point that lots of actors now have their own studios and they can patch in. I don’t avail myself of it much now. You know, sometimes it’s a necessity. I mostly go into the studio, but that is an opportunity now. It’s certainly something that has changed. And it certainly has opened up the world to this. So directors can assemble their cast from almost anywhere.”
My conversation with Jay Hickman was not just informative but also a delightful journey through his colorful career. His anecdotes, industry insights, and personal reflections made it a truly enjoyable chat.
Jay Hickman’s Reflective Gratitude
Throughout our conversation, Hickman seemed to express a deep gratitude for the opportunities afforded him in his career in the anime industry. His enduring passion and evolving understanding of the industry underscored the interview, leaving a lasting impression of his dedication and love for anime.
In summary, my chat with Jay Hickman at Anime Dallas 2023 was an enlightening experience, filled with humor, history, and heartfelt stories.
For a deeper dive into the incredible journey of this anime industry icon, you can go here to read the full transcript of our enlightening conversation with Jay Hickman