When I attended A-Kon 24 at the beginning of June, I went in with a mission. One thing I hoped to do was to sit down with Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire, and talk to him about his profession and his faith. Thankfully, the helpful staff at A-Kon set up our interview, and we had a chance to speak at length and very plainly about his thoughts regarding a great many things, including the church, the entertainment industry, and the well-known rumors that have spread about him.
Vic grew up in a Christian environment – his grandfather was a pastor and his parents were heavily involved at church. As he puts it, “I literally was born in a pew. ” At the age of 13, after hearing his youth pastor relay a message about how many who claimed to be Christian would find themselves left out of Heaven, Vic accepted Christ. He continued to be heavily involved in church, and at one time, led worship at Houston’s First Baptist Church. When I asked Vic about bad experiences with Christians regarding anime, he referred to his service there:
I got called in one day to a board room in the church and there were five or six people sitting around the table. And one of them said, “Vic, I saw online that you play this character in a show. You play this teenage boy who’s rebellious, agnostic-atheist young boy, and he does magic and alchemy [Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist]. Now, Vic, we can’t have someone like that on stage at our church. What kind of example are you showing these kids?”
I sat across the table from this man and I started to tear up. And I said, “You have no idea how many people I’m able to reach for Christ because these kids like my work.” There are kids – tens of thousands of them – that my pastor will never reach. They will never darken the door of First Baptist Church or any church, but they like Ouran High School, or they like Fullmetal Alchemist, or they like Dragonball Z, and they will listen to me talk and share my faith and share God’s love for them because they like my work. I sat there and I said, “Are you serious, really?” First of all, I’m an actor. It’s a role I’m playing. It’s not me, and anyone who has have a brain knows that you’re playing a role. It’s not indicative of who you are. And number two, my job in anime has opened so many doors for me to get to share my faith with tens of thousands of people who would never otherwise be open to it. And I was literally removed from leading worship because the powers that be felt that, you know, felt that it was not a good example for someone that was involved with anime and voicing characters like this.
Vic went to to mention another problem the leadership had with him:
They said, “We’ve seen a lot of pictures – drawings of you and your characters on a place called deviantART. Vic, deviant! What kind of place is that for a believer, Vic? Deviant? That’s a bad word.” I just, I kinda just sat back in my chair and threw my hands up. I’m like, you 65-year-old guys – you have no idea what you’re talking about! First of all, I have nothing to do with deviantART. If some fan wants to draw a picture and put it on deviantART, what does that have to do with me? That would be like me going into a bookstore, taking a Bible off the Bible rack, and walking over and putting it in the adult book rack. I mean, just because it’s there doesn’t mean that the Bible has anything to do with the books around it any more than somebody drawing a picture of a character of mine or whatever, putting it on deviantART. There’s nothing wrong with that. But these guys are so uniformed and some of them – and this is Christianity in general – there is a faction of Christianity that is so steeped in their legalism and their strict rules and regulations and their separatist view of being separate in every way, shape, and form, that they are of no value to the kingdom of God. They’re not reaching anyone. In fact, they’re turning people off. They’re doing exactly the opposite. What did Apostle Paul write? “I am become all things to all me that by all means I might save some.” That was the goal. That’s the priority. Doing whatever you can, with whatever you have, to reach whoever you can. That’s the goal. I don’t know where that got lost. I don’t know at what point and time the church got the impression that God’s main purpose for the church was to build a little wall around itself and throw rocks and people outside the walls, you know what I mean? And even attack their own.
…there is a faction of Christianity that is so steeped in their legalism and their strict rules and regulations and their separatist view of being separate in every way, shape, and form, that they are of no value to the kingdom of God.
I asked Vic if this experience dampened his own feelings toward the church, and institution he had so intimately been a part of his whole life:
No. No, I have very strong – my whole life, I have very strong love of the church. I’ve been in it my whole life and a few years ago I started attending more conventions, which of course take place on the weekends. In fact, it happened when I was removed from leading the worship team. Suddenly, my weekends are now free, right? I’m not serving – I’m not leading the worship team. And it’s ironic because right at the same time I started getting more invitations to conventions. What I think I heard God say was, “Forget them. Forget ‘em. I’m gonna use you in another area to do a lot bigger things.”
In fact, Vic did go on to lead worship in a different context and in different settings. Together with Caitlin Glass (Vic: “Ah, my darling!”), Vic has often led worship services on Sunday mornings at conventions he’s attended. It started when they both attended Youmacon in Detroit many years ago and Caitlin suggested that the two, who were each involved in worship that their own churches, have a worship time. Vic played the piano and the two sang. The silent hotel soon became a hustle and bustle as a crowd gathered. And thus was born a tradition:
So I sat down at the piano and quietly played and she and I sang songs together and closed our eyes and spent a little time worshipping. Opened my eyes and there were kids all around the piano – like 50 kids at least, jammed in. So I go, “Oh, wow,” where did they come from, right? And I just happened to have my New Testament in my back pocket and I started sharing and the following weeks after that convention, Caitlin and I got so many positive emails and encouraging letters from the people who were there. And I thought, “Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” Maybe God put me where he put me not to make much of Vic Mignogna, but to make much of Him and to share his love with these kids, a lot of whom have been very disenchanted and disenfranchised from Christianity by people in their lives who have told them that God hates anime and God hates that they wear black and God hates that they pierce their noses and God hates that they have purple hair and blah blah blah blah blah, all of which God doesn’t give a flying flip about. God loves them and who they are on the inside and that is the message that I want to share with these kids more than anything.
God loves them and who they are on the inside and that is the message that I want to share with these kids more than anything.
While Vic has continued to be a very popular guest at conventions (I do believe he was the only actor who had his own personal showcase at A-Kon), the con circuit has had it’s downsides, particularly in the way of rumors that have been spread about how he acts at these events. Vic was adamant about falseness of the accusations:
…if you look at any videos, look at any documentation of me interacting with fans and you will not find one example of me being cruel or mean or short or in any way being rude or dismissive ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER, EVER, EVER. In the 250 conventions and the tens of thousands of kids I’ve met, I have never mistreated or been rude or cruel or condescending ever. So why do they hate me? Why do these people hate me? There’s only one conceivable reason. Cause I take a stand for my faith. Because I share my faith. And somehow that makes me a big target for ridicule and people make up horrible lies about me. Horrible lies! Things that are so disgusting, and I think, who has time in their day, in their life, to sit around and make up hurtful stories about somebody who has never done anything to them or anyone else and then take the time to post it, and cause all kinds of horrible rumors and stuff?
Vic challenged the accusers to produce evidence. I was really surprised to see how these rumors had affected him – he was lively and distraught when talking about the allegations, which included public drunkenness and being rude to fans who liked yaoi or who were Buddhist. “There isn’t any and I try not to allow it to get me upset, but it can be discouraging when you try so hard to be kind to every single person you meet and yet there are kids out there who are just dead set on being hateful and causing you trouble. It’s really disappointing.”
Still, Vic continues to be among the popular voice actors in the industry. As one who has worked in so many roles, I wondered if he’d ever turned one down (I asked Caitlin the same question last year at IKKiCON), and he said that he had, many times. But is there a line that he draws between what roles he might take and which he won’t?
I’ve played some really wacky characters; I’ve played some pervy characters. But I think for me, it kind of comes down to how necessary is this? And how is this evil character – let’s say a bad guy for instance – how is this bad guy portrayed? Is his evil glorified? Does he get what’s coming to him in the end? Or does he prevail? Is it comedic? Or is it to be taken seriously? What’s the overall flavor of the show? If it’s a show that’s nothing but boobies bouncing around, then no, I don’t need to be a part of it, you know what I’m saying?
Maybe God put me where he put me not to make much of Vic Mignogna, but to make much of Him and to share his love with these kids, a lot of whom have been very disenchanted and disenfranchised from Christianity…
Even so, Vic has some work he’s done which he wish he hadn’t:
But I will say this: I have been a part of shows that I regretted, because I didn’t know enough about the show. That happens. We get called in and they’re like, “Do this” and you don’t even know the context. You don’t even know and then you hear about it and you’re like, “Oh my gosh.” There have actually been a couple of shows where I used a stage name because after I found out the show, I’m like, “Oh, ah, I don’t really want my name on this.” And of course the fans find out anyway, but I do my best. I’ve become a lot more free about this. I’ve had several conversations about this with Caitlin about this…I decided that God knows my heart, first of all – he knows my desire to please him, honor him. And also, I’m an actor. So any role that I play is just a character. It’s a fictitious role. It’s not me. It doesn’t reflect in any way, shape, or form what I believe…I don’t always make good decisions, but I do my best and I also let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit. If I believe what I say I believe, then I believe that God’s Spirit dwells inside of me and He speaks to me, you know, with nudgings in certain ways and a little apprehension about this or that and his Spirit helps guide me in decisions I make in things I should or shouldn’t be involved in.
Vic is very upfront about voice acting and entertainment. It’s a tough business, he emphasizes, for anyone and particularly so for Christians who want to remain vocal while pursuing a career in that field. We ended our interview with his advice for Christians wanting to get into the entertainment:
If [Christians] intend to be vocal and outspoken about their faith, then they’re going to receive opposition; they’re going to be passed over for opportunities; they’re going to be vilified and maligned online; they’ll be ostracized by different people. That’s just the way it is. So I would encourage anybody, if you really feel like this is a passion and something you really, really want to do, then great, go for it, but go in with your eyes wide open, being aware of the challenges you’re going to meet.
Despite these challenges, Vic Mignogna has obviously succeeded, becoming one of most popular anime voice actors in the states. But as he emphasized, he’s more than that – he’s a representative of God to a group consisting of many who’ve been treated harshly by family and peers that identify as Christian. And as such, he has a unique and significant place in both anime fandom and in Christian evangelism.
Read the entire transcript here.