AnimeWorld Insider sat down with Kent Williams, actor, teacher, puppeteer – extraordinaire, to talk to him about his career and his life beyond it.
AnimeWorld Insider: You are a puppeteer. Not many people here at AnimeWorld Chicago know that. Can you tell me how you got into puppeteering?
Kent: I grew up in rural north Texas and we would go up into the city to go the six flags and there at the time it was Sid and Marty Krofft who did Pufnstuf, they used to run puppet shows in the Six Flags Parks and it was a combination of marionette, rod, backlight, and some other techniques. and as much as I was riding the rides, I watched that show two or three times every visit to six flags. Now I work with some of those same people that. I used to watch perform and got to use some of those same puppets.
AnimeWorld Insider: So we are at an anime convention, how are puppetry and anime related?
Kent: The two have voice work, it’s all about story telling development when it comes down to it its just about how you tell it. Are you telling it through this animated medium? or are you telling it through puppet manipulating?
AnimeWorld Insider: So you won a Telly award, can you tell me about that?
Kent: I did a TV pilot a long time ago. It was kind of when Barney was waning and there was a show called Wishbone – All these little shows that were for kids that came out of Dallas so there were great employers for Texas, period, but definitely for Dallas. I was one of the three puppeteers for the show and we got to voice the puppets, it was submitted to the Telly’s and we got an award, we got the top award.
AnimeWorld Insider: How do you prepare for a role?
Kent: It’s different when you are doing an anime, doing a radio spot or if you are doing a TV ad. I feel that the work we do at Funimation is kind of like a gym, its kind of like a work out. It really preps you well for an audition or a work situation for a commercial or commercial material. It’s much shorter but the payoff is much better for it. A lot of us that do a lot of anime, it really doesn’t pay the bills. To make the rent, to make the mortgage, you gotta do these other things.
Theres a lot of actors that can’t even get in. There is definitely a trick to getting a role and that is matching the mouth flaps. some people think ”Oh I’ve got these great voices in the bag.” You can have those great voices but if you cant match those flaps. it is over, the competition is just too tough.
Theres a lot of people how do you do it? – you know fans will ask. How do you get in? its continual audition its not like we’ve auditioned once and now that we’ve been there for a couple of years, were in. Todd Haberkorn auditions just like everybody else. And that can be frustrating. You can’t think “Oh well is my experience not my audition?”, You can’t bring in your award and plop it on the table “Here’s my audition!” No it just doesn’t work that way. The ones who cop some attitude about it are the ones that get let go. You really have to put in your dues in terms of education and training like you would for anything.
AnimeWorld Insider: What is a character that you have always wanted to play?
Kent: I like the villains. Normally I’m dads, I’m a teacher, some one gentlemanly, nurturing. even Bunta from Initial D he’s gruff but he’s still a nurturing dad. but the villains are very satisfying. i like that combination of narrator and villian. or narrator and character in the show. like Yu Yu Hakusho George Saotome, the blue ogre, the sidekick turns out to be the narrator in the end. Just like Father is actually the narrator in Brotherhood.
AnimeWorld Insider: If you could become any of character’s you have voiced for one day which would you be?
Kent: I think I would be Mao as either the cat or the flying squirrel from Darker than Black. voicing the animals, they are just funny to me it’s still funny when I just see a squirrel with my voice coming out of it with some editing. It’s funny. I think I would be that, to be able to sneak around, be inconspicuous – but be thinking, having a sentient being while in the body of a little animal.
AnimeWorld Insider: I went to your Kabuki theater panel at AWI and my mother went to your mock combat panel and we both agreed you are a really good teacher. What is your approach to teaching?
Kent: I’ve had a lot of practice I’ve been doing that for about 25 years – just teaching in general. I never thought it would be something I would be interested in or doing. It was something that I didn’t see coming. When I got out of college, one of my first jobs, because they paid, was with a children’s theater in Dallas. It’s not prestigious, the performances their didn’t get reviewed, but boy they paid – so I was there. I was 23 – hadn’t been married yet. it was through that that I got teaching gigs and my first one. I hated it, I hated the kids I was working with – so annoying – so obnoxious so uncontrollable, They didn’t like me.
But. for some reason I remember thinking I had a respect for it. There was something I wanted to achieve by it. “Dang it I’m gonna go back in there and get this right” and then it just stuck.
It’s just a lot of fun getting people to do something with their bodies and their voices and their imagination that they didn’t realize they could do. or they weren’t confident that they could do or they needed guidance a little push – I love that. Thats what I love about teaching and I think it’s what is engaging about my classes is that I really am looking at teach individual student and trying to get as much out of them as possible. but from the inside out letting them figure that out for themselves. you cant just teach AT somebody, i mean you’ve got to reach into them and pull it out. So I think thats what makes it work for me.
AnimeWorld Insider: What is your relationship with Todd Haberkorn?
Kent: Todd is a really close friend of mine, he’s a lifer. He and I have had so many parallels, we both went to SMU, obviously at different times I’m 17 years older than he is, we bought taught middle school theater in the same school district outside Dallas, hated it, left, we are both members of a theater company in Dallas which neither one of us has done any work for recently, and both single dads. So we we’ve had these interesting parallels and we actually met and became friends in a stage play and then we were both working at Funimation.
AnimeWorld Insider: Being as successful as you are in the entertainment industry what kind of advice would you give to aspiring kids?
Kent: I can only tell it from my perspective. you just gotta make it up yourself, you gotta create it. I feel like I’m doing for a living now what I grew up doing for fun in a tiny little north Texas town where rodeo ruled.
AnimeWorld Insider wants to thank Kent Williams for sitting down with us.