Big talk: voice actor builds local talent

Big talk: voice actor builds local talent

Big talk: voice actor builds local talent
February 02
23:36 2015

Nicholas Friedman / Features Editor

This story was originally published in the Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 issue of the Denton Record-Chronicle

Denton resident Sonny Strait has talked his way out of plenty of situations, but for the past 17 years, he’s been talking his way into them.

In addition to writing and drawing his own comic books and playing in a band, Strait is a voice actor. Known most prominently for his role as Krillin on Dragon Ball Z, Strait has mostly played roles in anime, the wildly popular Japanese action cartoons. Strait has worked on numerous television shows and video games, including voicing Cartoon Network’s Toonami avatar TOM from 1999 to 2000 (Toonami was a four-hour block of cartoons that ran on weekdays.)

“When you’re a creative, everything you do is your baby,” Strait said. “And you don’t want to say it’s as important as kids, but it just about is. Wherever you go, your creative baby has to have its own room.”

Strait’s career as a voice actor wasn’t what he originally set out to do, he said. After dropping out of college to draw comics, Strait went on to teach and participate in community theater in Denton as well as lecture on cartooning and cartoon anatomy at UNT. Strait said he then found a mentor in Wendy Pini, the creator of comic series ElfQuest.

“She was a fan of Dragon Ball Z and began drawing pictures of the characters,” Strait said. “I drew the main character from her series, Cutter, and she hired me on the spot to draw the thing. I finished my ‘education’ with [Pini].”

Strait picked up and moved to California to work for Pini, traveling back and forth every month to record an episode of Dragon Ball Z at Funimation, a production company in Flower Mound. Strait eventually settled back in Denton, where he continues his work as both a comic book designer and voice actor.

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Voice actor Sonny Strait autographs a poster for the fourth season of “One Piece.” Strait portrays the character Usopp on the show.

Strait said his career often leads him into some odd situations when fans realize who he is. Strait regularly attends conventions and panels where he interacts with fans.

“I was at the pool in a hotel in Florida where the convention was being held, and this girl looks at me out of that water and says, ‘You’re Maes Hughes [from the cartoon series Fullmetal Alchemist]!’” Strait said. “Then she flashed me. It’s like a rock star life. My wife sings in our band, so she doesn’t really get jealous of stuff like that.”

Strait’s band, White Girl, regularly consists of Strait, his wife Gayla Jackson, and his friend and co-worker Neal Malley, who occasionally play at conventions or venues in Denton. Jackson said she’s been supportive of Strait’s career since reconnecting with him in 2002. The pair hadn’t seen each other since high school.

“I am just amazed by the whole thing,” she said. “I’ve always been astonished with his talent and it’s just crazy to watch him sometimes. When he puts his mind to something, it comes straight from the talent world and falls on his head.”

Strait is currently preparing to teach an anime voice-acting workshop. The $600 class, which will take place over six weeks, with daily one-hour sessions, begins on Feb. 4 at A Creative Art Studio in downtown Denton. Strait said even though the February session is sold out, people can begin signing up for the May session now.

At the end of the six-week term, participants will have a demo reel recorded in a studio and a chance to be heard by directors from Funimation.

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Strait walks through the halls of Funimation in Flower Mound. Here, Strait records his voice for Dragon Ball Z, One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist.

With the help of his longtime friend Malley, a sound engineer at Funimation who’s also spent some time in the Campus Theatre technical booth running sound for shows, Strait hopes to provide support and inspiration for those attending the class.

“Sonny is a very charismatic person,” Malley said. “From watching him on stage with a microphone to seeing him emcee some different events, he has that ability to interact with a crowd that I’ve never seen before.”

Malley said with the tools that Strait has provided for the workshop, potential voice actors will have a chance that not many get — the chance to be heard directly by people at Funimation.

“There is a benefit that people who are coming in for auditions won’t be coming in cold,” Malley said. “They’ll have practice.”

Strait said he hopes to continue voice acting for as long as he can while helping others get closer to their dream. Between his work in comics, theater and anime, he continues to do his part.

“I’ve been doing this for the better part of two decades now, and I hope to go at least that many decades more,” Strait said. “But I’m also at the point in my career where I want to be a part of bringing in the next generation of actors.”

For more information on Strait’s anime voice acting workshop, call 940-368-7080.

Featured Image: Voice actor Sonny Strait records his voice in a sound booth at Funimation, a Japanese animation production company in Flower Mound. Photos by Nicholas Friedman – Features Editor

About Author

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the Editor In Chief of the North Texas Daily. In addition, he's had his work published at The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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