Me: Well speaking to fandom a little more, you’re known throught the community for your tough guy roles. As you said earlier, you liked voicing big, broad, wild ones. Tough guys like Saito, Jin, Kisame, etc. Have you ever thought about doing something else, and do you like being known as the tough guy?
Kirk: You know, Google says I’m known for playing grouchy, old men. And I thought, “Gosh, am I really?” So I started looking down my credits, and I did a couple grouchy, old men so that’s a little disconcerting to me. Hachirota in Planetes is something I did, and I loved it. It was wonderful. It was another one of those roles where I played a young guy. I said, “You don’t want Johnny, you don’t want Yuri, you don’t want Sam Regal?” And they said, “No we want you.” I felt really good about it. I really felt it turned out nicely. But if you gave me an option of playing a good guy or bad guy, I’ll take a bad guy 9/10 times beause they have so much more range. Because a bad guy can be a good guy for a while then he can turn around and have that other side to him whereas the good guy usually doesn’t have that flip. Johnny gets that in Bleach because he has a very complex character with many facets. Most of the time a good guy has to be a good guy. And the fact I’m not afraid to throw a little texture onto my voice and rip up my vocal chords, that allows me to do more bad guys .
For some reason, whenever I go into Bang Zoom, they want gravel. They’ll show me a character and I’ll go, “Oh.” And I’ll throw out a voice and they”ll go, “No, more gravel.” I’ll fight it and I’ll fight it and I’ll fight it and then I’ll finally go [in deep voice], “Ok you want this guy, whatever, fine I’ll do it for ya.” [Laughter] But it’s fun. I get to do a very wide range of stuff. This little children’s show called Cloud Bread which was Korean animation, I was the only man in the cast. It was me, Wendee Lee, Barbara Goodson, and Mona Marshall. They played most of the little boys. Although I did play a couple. But then I was almost every other man in the show. I definitely started running out of voices. You’ve gotta let me do dialects cause I’m tapped out.
Kirk: [Smiling] No no no no, we just jumped back and forth. That’s what made it fun. Ok now he’s in drag! Ok now he’s doing Elvis! The toughest part of that one and the part where the director Michael laughed at me the hardest was–I’m such a white guy. I’m so white. And he had to rap. [Laughter] And I’m like, “Oh please don’t make me rap Michael!” Michael’s in the booth howling at how bad I was. I was doing everything I could to put my rap on. But yeah that was tough. And singing whenever I have to sing, I’m terrified of singing. It seems to turn out alright. I sang in “Guess How Much I Love You,” and I sang in Cloud Bread. I did a pilot for something recently where I had to do a lot of singing . I’m so scared. I’ve done musical theater, but I also flopped doing musical theater. That’s where the fear comes from. But that was the fun part of doing back and forth. Now he does this, now he does that! It was vocally really demanding and one year I was on the road with WWE and flying a lot and came back and my voice was not there. That’s the only time I’ve ever had to cancel a session. I got in there, and I couldn’t get up to Don Patch. And Mike just said, “No Kirk, just go home.”
Jason: With Don Patch, how many hours were you able to do a day?
Kirk: Normally we would just do a 2 hour session. If I didn’t finish, we would come back another day. I don’t think I did any sessions that were longer than 2 hours. That’s pretty much in LA how we do things. In Texas, they’ll work an 8 hour day. They’ll throw an actor in the booth for 8 hours. When I was directing I would notice some actors–I’d like to think I can maintain my energy for longer than that–but I noticed when I was directing that some actors, their energy would start to fall after a couple of hours. Because you are so concentrated. In LA it’s almost all 2 hour sessions. And if you don’t finish you come back another day. We do things differently. They do great stuff down there, not knocking them. We got our own system. One’s not better than the other.
Steve: Is there anything you can talk about that’s coming up?
Kirk: Well…no! [Laughter] And its’ so tough because we have to sign non-disclosures. In fact, there was a non-disclosure recently on a very big title. And I completely understand why they want a non-disclosure. They’ve spent years working on this title, and they want to be the ones to release the surprise. They want to be the ones to control it. They’ve spent years and millions of dollars and for some actor to open his mouth and blow the surprise when they had some big launch party planned or some big press extravaganza. But this one company sent out letters after someone broke the non-disclosure and they wanted us to sign a waiver saying that if we break the non-disclosure, we’ll owe them $20,000. And even after the product was released we could not say we were affiliated with it without writing to them and asking for permission.
The actors went, “I don’t think our union would agree to that, and I’m not going to sign it!” I don’t know anybody that signed it. We all respect it, and you see thats the problem with non-disclosures is sometimes I don’t pay attention to when a project is released so I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a year after you work on it so you kinda forget about it. And you go, “Oh yeah! I need to put that on my website! I need to say that I did that.” One thing I think I can mention because they got promos on video is I was [voice] director on Dragon’s Dogma. I think it’s going to be good. At least, vocally, it’s going to be good. The only problem I heard with the reviews is that there’s 4 main characters that travel all the time, and they talk too much. Once they iron that out, it should be a really good game. We had great talent in on that. I had a blast directing it.
Me: Seems hard to remember after a year with so many other projects.
Kirk: Yeah! Because Skyrim came out. I know I’m on it! But I don’t even remember what I did on it. Because most of the titles you work on are under a fake title. A friend of mine playing Skyrim said, “Dude you’re all over it!” And I was like, “I know I worked on it, I just don’t remember when.” That’s one I wanna check out because everyone is saying it’s a great game.
Jason had the honor of the last question: I guess a good place to end on, what were your inspirations that made you want to go into the industry?
Kirk: [Small laugh] What made me want to do it? The inspirations that drew me into theater, into acting, was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I saw a production of The Tempest. And when I was sitting in the audience watching, I said, ”I want to do that on that stage.” I was able to make that dream come true. I was able to work at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As far as animation, Mel Blanc was my inspiration. I grew up with Bugs Bunny. When I found out that was one person doing all those voices, I said, “That’s what I want to do.” Good question, keep me short. [Smiles]
Thank you so much Mr. Thornton for spending your time to talk with us! And thanks for signing my Saito Hajime figure base a few hours later!