Interview with Vic Mignogna, Transcript (2016)

Star City Anime, February 6, 2016
Roanoke, VA


Me: Alright, so the first question we wanted to ask as Beneath the Tangles is: Do you watch any anime in your free time, and if you do, what is one of your favorite shows and why is that?

Vic: I don’t get the chance to watch it in my free time, mostly because I spend so much time doing it when I work. And, you know, honestly, I keep my schedule very, very busy, so between the web series that I produce and event appearances and recording and relationships, I don’t get the chance to really watch any. So if I’m not in it, I usually don’t know much about it.

Me: Well, that actually is a good transition. So, outside of anime, then, since you don’t have much time to watch it, what is one of your favorite things to do to unwind?

Vic: Well, I love to play sports. I love to exercise. I love music. I have a studio at my house, and I’ll write a lot of music and produce it. That’s about it. Actually, I don’t have a lot of free time.

Me: It sounds like you stay very active.

Vic: I do, and I like being active. I mean, every time I find myself with free time, I feel like, “Okay, I should be doing something right now,” you know? “This down time, this is not productive.”

Me: Absolutely. Well, again, on topics outside of anime, I know that you really enjoy screen acting and things like your Star Trek fan series, which you just mentioned, Star Trek Continues.

Vic: Yes, very much so.

Me: So, my question is: Do you prefer screen acting, like for Star Trek, or your voice acting? That’s a very difficult question, I know.

Vic: It is a very difficult question. I don’t know that I would ever want to pick one or the other. I love them both. I will say that I really enjoy the screen work a lot. Especially when it’s something that I have a great passion for, like Star Trek. The best part about voice acting is that you get to play characters that you would never be cast as on screen. You can play giant monster super saiyans, or little demon children, or a teenage alchemist, or any of a number of things that you would never, you just, you physically don’t look like that so you would never be cast if they were actually going to make a movie or a TV show you wouldn’t be cast as that character. But that’s one of the joys of voice acting. You get to play characters that are very against your physical type. And also you don’t have to memorize lines. You’re in a recording studio so you can be looking at the script. But, you know, both of them definitely have their pluses. [Smiles]

Me: Yeah, absolutely, and you talked a little bit about some of your anime characters, actually, and I know you have a lot of experiencing acting, voice acting and otherwise. So, what do you think makes voice acting in anime different from voice acting in some of the other media you do?

Vic: Well, anime is specifically, in my opinion, specifically difficult because the animation is already done. So, you know, you’ve got to match the mouth movements of the character. You’ve got to match the mouth movements and the, what you’re seeing on screen while, at the same time, delivering a believable performance. Some people can act very good with their voices, but they can’t match the rhythm and the specific movements and pauses of anime, and some people can match the pauses and the mouth movements very well, but they can’t deliver a good performance. So, it’s really a tricky combination of both. Anime is specific that way.

Me: Yeah, and in addition to that very practical difference, do you think there’s any content difference? Like, when you’re doing an anime as opposed to maybe an American cartoon or something.

Vic: Well, American cartoons tend to not be as deep. I think it’s fair to say that probably anime, one of the things that makes anime so engaging and intriguing to so many is that the stories are typically pretty involved, pretty deep, and many times very complex stories. So I think that’s something unique about anime as well.

Me: Yeah, that’s a great answer, thanks. Beneath the Tangles, one of our, well our main goal is exploring the intersection of anime and Christianity, or otaku culture and faith, so I’d like to ask you some questions more specifically about your faith.

Vic: Sure! Absolutely.

Me: Now, in our interview in 2013 with you at A-Kon, we asked you about the Sunday worship sessions that you and Caitlin Glass are known to lead at conventions. So, you already talked about that, and we can link our readers to that, so you don’t need to explain what it is, but we were just wondering how consistent these have been over the years and if you’ve seen any significant growth in participation since you started.

Vic: They continue whenever a convention will allow me to do them. I certainly don’t want to be pushy. I certainly don’t want to give the convention organizers the wrong impression of my faith or my Christianity by saying, “How dare you not let me do a church service!” That’s completely opposite of the kind of Christianity that you want to display to somebody, being pushy or harsh. But, any event that allows me to do them, I certainly love doing them. And, more than anything over the last few years, I’ve made them more about my personal testimony. When I used to do them, I used to pick a verse of Scripture and speak on it and share about it. And then I thought one day, “You know, there are a lot of people out there that don’t necessarily believe that the Bible is God’s Word.” I mean, they respect it okay, but, you know what I mean, you can’t necessarily use it as, “Well, this is what the Bible says!” Well if somebody doesn’t necessarily believe the Bible is God’s infallible Word, then it really doesn’t matter… you know what I mean? You can’t really use it in an argument. So I thought, “Well, you know, if I can’t use the Scripture to make a point, the best thing I could probably ever do is share my own personal experience.” Nobody can argue with your experience. So I decided that the best thing I could do was to share what God did for me in my life, how I came to know Him, my personal journey, and then, hopefully, allow God to use that wherever these kids are, wherever all the different people in the audience are. You know, I look across a sea of faces and who knows where they come from or where they’re going or what their situation is. But, rather than, you know, throw Bible verses at them, which may or may not impact them, for me to say, “This is what God did for me, and I know that I know that this is what happened in my life,” you can’t argue with that.

Me: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And it’s obvious from that, as well as how you speak about your fans and your involvement with the Risembool Rangers, that you genuinely care about them.

Vic: I do, very much. I feel like God has put me in this industry for the specific purpose of sharing His love and His gift of salvation with others. A lot of people in the anime industry are very disenfranchised and very discouraged by the whole idea or concept of Christianity or religion in general. They’ve been surrounded by a lot of people who call themselves Christians, but don’t act very Christ-like. So I feel like that’s a big reason why God put me where He did.

Me: Yeah, and seeing you giving people hugs and calling fans by name and sharing personal stories, I’m wondering, how are you able to put so much effort into caring about your fans without spreading yourself too thin? You’re obviously very popular.

Vic: Well, I don’t know. I’m, you know, I suppose some people would think that I have spread myself too thin, or that I do spread myself too thin. [Laughs] I know there are people in my life, friends and people in my circles, who probably think I do spread myself too thin, but you know what? We have a limited amount of time on this planet. And you never know when nobody is going to care anymore. Every time somebody invites me to a convention, I think to myself, “One day, this may all end. I mean, one day, nobody may really care about having me at an event. There may not be as many people that want to meet me. So right now, while I have the opportunity to minister and reach as many people as I do, I should take every opportunity I can.” So, if it means spreading myself a little thin, so be it.

Me: Wow. And I think that that’s actually very connected to this next question, which is: Well, sometimes Christian artists really struggle with balancing their fame and their faith. There are a lot of examples of that, but have you ever struggled at times where you unintentionally began placing your fame before god, whether that stemmed from your own pride or from others’ natural inclination to praise you instead of Him?

Vic: That’s an amazing question. [Long pause]

Me: A very difficult one, too. [Laughs]

Vic: It’s a very, very deep question. The natural human inclination is to want to be praised. To want to be admired. To want to be complimented and applauded. And I’m no different. In fact, most people that get into theater, or entertainment in any form, singing, music, whatever, a lot of it comes from an insecurity. A lot of it comes from wanting… really wanting people to like you and accept you and appreciate what you do. So I’m no different than anyone else in that regard. However, I’ve often said, I think God waited until I was in my late thirties, mid to late thirties, before He opened the door for me to get into this field that has brought me some degree of notoriety, because, had I gotten this kind of notoriety when I was twenty or twenty-five, I would have been a jerk. I would have thought it was all about me. You know what I mean? It would have been a big ego trip. So I think God knows me and knows my frailty well enough to know, “You know what, I’m going to give him this opportunity, but I’m going to wait until he’s a little more mature, and a little older. And when he is, he will see that it is not an opportunity to make a name for him, and to exalt his name, but it’s an opportunity for him to spread, you know, my love and my desire to people.” And because of the age that I am now, I see it very differently. That’s the way I see it. I see it much more as an opportunity to make a difference, you know, in people’s lives for the better. And to sew into them something positive and something encouraging and hopefully something that draws them toward God. Had I been doing this when I was twenty or twenty-five, or maybe even thirty, it probably would have been much more of an ego trip, you know?

Me: [Laughs] That’s awesome. The next question is kind of a personal one for me, since I’m a Liberty student. You’ve often mentioned growing up in a very conservative Christian environment, attending Bob Jones Academy, then Liberty University, my own school. So, would you still consider yourself on the conservative end of Christianity?

Vic: I would. I do. But I also have, really, over the years, have come to temper some of my very dogmatic beliefs and convictions and attitudes because I came to feel that they were counter-productive to reaching people for Christ. When I was little, we would go out, my church would go out, and we would hand out tracts and we would preach about Hell. And you’re going to Hell, all you sinners, get right. Get saved. Now it’s not that that’s not true, but there’s a wonderful passage of Scripture that Chris Tomlin actually wrote a song about called, “It’s Your kindness Lord, that leads us to repentance” [from Chris Tomlin’s “Kindness”]. And I came to feel over the years that people are much more drawn to God’s love for them, and the very fact that God’s love for them is not based upon their performance. It’s not based on what they do or don’t do. It’s not based on a list of rules or regulations or standards that they keep or don’t keep. His love for them is constant, unchanging, unconditional, and nobody ever hears that. They hear, “God loves you if you burn your anime,” or, “God loves you if you quit dancing,” or, “God loves you if you forsake drinking,” or, “God loves you if you cut your hair.” No, God loves you, period. There is no ‘if’. And so, over the years, I’ve come to feel like too much emphasis, when I was growing up, was placed upon those outward standards and lists of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, and you can reach, I think you can reach people much more by letting them know that God loves them right where they are. So that’s one way that I feel like I’ve mellowed a little bit from the really, very highly conservative position, you know, place that I was at when I was younger. It’s still conservative, and it’s still biblically-based, and I still feel very strongly about the things that I grew up believing. But I just think that people need to know, especially in this world and this time, that God doesn’t care whether they go to church or not. God doesn’t care whether they wear a tie. God doesn’t care whether they bless their food. God doesn’t even care whether they read the Bible every morning. He loves them. Period. And he wants a relationship with them. And here’s the thing, once you embrace a relationship with God, all that other stuff falls in place. It’s like putting the cart before the horse, you know? Rather than preach to somebody about how, you know, “Abortion is murder, and you should vote on this law to forbid abortion!” Well, you know what, I have a better idea. Get them to accept Christ, and then, once they have God’s Spirit within them, and God’s Holy Spirit ministers to them and directs them, they’re going to figure out for themselves that abortion is not God’s way. Or this or that or this or that. You know? God is going to lead them after they make a foundational decision of faith and salvation. So, that’s what I think is the most important thing to share with people.

Me: Well, on the flip-side, has a non-Christian fan ever approached you, and, upon discovering that you’re a Christian, changed their opinion of you for the worse?

Vic: Oh yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure they have. But, no, they haven’t approached me. Most times it’s people that don’t know me. People that have never met me. Anybody, I mean anybody could witness the way I interact with kids, no matter who they are, no matter where they’re from, no matter their background, it doesn’t matter, and they would see that I treat everybody the same. I’ve never been judgmental or condemning of any fans for any reason. So if anybody, and I know that there are people out there who have a negative opinion of me because I’m a Christian, because I’m vocal about my faith, but that’s on them. I mean, that’s not on me. I’ve not treated anyone any different because of my faith. Quite the contrary, in fact, more times than not people will say, “I heard that you were a Christian and I expected you to be a certain way, and you weren’t that way at all.”

Me: Well, for the sake of time, I just kind of want to wrap up with: At Beneath the Tangles, we often get questions like, “Is it okay for me to watch this anime?” Insert name here.

Vic: [Laughs]

Me: With so many different voices on the topic, and we give our own advice, of course, but what kind of advice do you have for a young Christian who is so confused with what constitutes an anime that is okay to watch?.

Vic: I am a firm believer that God’s Spirit dwells within every believer. That when you invite Christ into your life, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. And He leads you. And He guides you. And He speaks to you. Directs you. What I tell people is, if it is genuinely your desire to know what God wants for you, ask Him. Ask Him to show you. Ask Him to reveal it to you. And then listen. Perhaps read His Word. Pray. I don’t think that God wants to hide. I think that God is eager to direct and guide us and lead us. So, I don’t think that He is going to be purposefully elusive. Like, “I don’t want you to know what I really want you to do.” No, He desperately wants us to know! So I would encourage Christians of all degrees of maturity to ask God what He wants for them. I mean, the Apostle Paul even said, you know, “There are some things that are fine with me, but they’re stumbling blocks for other people,” right? There is not one blanket answer for everybody about those kind of standards. Each person needs to decide where God wants them to draw the line. And I would encourage people to seek God and ask His Spirit to reveal to them what kind of things are okay for them, and what kind of things He would rather them steer clear of. And if, you know, you cross that line, I think He’ll tell you. I know I’ve crossed it. I know I’ve done things before, or been a part of things, where [I was] like, “Ugh, man, I shouldn’t have been a part of that show.” You live and you learn. But the good news is God loves you regardless. There’s no fear if you know that God loves you regardless. You don’t have to be afraid that you’re going to make a mistake and you’re going to fall off the tightrope of walking that straight and narrow, no. You know? Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. The freedom is in knowing that no choice you could ever make. No mistake you could ever make. No bad call you could ever make is going to change His love for you, His commitment to you, His steadfast presence in your life.

Me: Wow, that’s great advice. Thank you so much for your time.

Vic: My pleasure!

Me: Bonus question!

Vic: Yes!

Me: New Star Wars?

Vic: [Smiles] I enjoyed it okay, but, I mean, you know, I loved the original. I loved the original Star Wars. Big time I loved the original Star Wars. Now maybe it was because I was fifteen when it came out, and, you know, for young boys it was all about… But, you know what. I appreciate what it tried to be. You know what I mean? I appreciate it. I hope that the subsequent ones are better… Hopefully… [Laughs]

Me: [Laughs] Thanks, Vic.

Vic: My pleasure!

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