David Kaye is a Canadian-American actor who is known for voicing characters in many popular cartoons, anime and video games for over 30 years.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News Japan, Kaye shared his inspiration for anime and manga, he said: “In the early ’90s, when I first started in animation, I was fortunate to be cast in anime shows for the Ocean Group in Vancouver. It was my first exposure to anime. I had no idea it existed; what a world to discover. And because I was always a big fan of Japanese culture, I was hooked right from the start”.
“When I was growing up, my parents had Japanese students stay with us when studying English (in my home country, Canada). We’ve kept in touch throughout the years. They are our extended family. Our Japanese relatives!” he shared.
Since then, Kaye has been a fan of Totoro and Ghost in the Shell, sharing that he still keeps a Totoro plushy toy.
About visiting Japan, Kaye said: “Unfortunately, the pandemic this year stopped our first trip to Japan, and we were disappointed we couldn’t travel. One of the important parts of the culture I love is the food and drinks. We’ll definitely go there in the next few years.”
Kaye admires many components of Japanese culture, and aims to integrate them into his own life. He mentioned he has an interest to learn about Zen “as a daily physical and mental discipline. This year it’s been a struggle, but I know it’s important, and I’ll keep at it,” he told Arab News Japan.
“I’ve also always admired the Japanese people for their genuine kindness and gentleness, and that inspires me,” he added.
Kaye began his career in radio in the early 1980s, because of it he travelled west from Peterborough, Ontario, where he was born, to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“I was doing characters and voices on my morning radio show that got me an introduction. One of the first big animated series I did was DiC Entertainment’s ‘G.I. Joe’. I was cast as Commander General Hawk. I knew I had found my calling,” he shared.
“I worked on a little known but wonderful animated series called ‘Kleo the Misfit Unicorn’, produced and recorded in Vancouver for Gordon Stanfield (Care Bears). I was the lead character and paired with one of Hollywood’s legendary movie stars, Mickey Rooney. I played ‘Slim.’ A purple striped hippo,” he added.
Kaye is famously known for doing the voice of Megatron in many Transformers TV series, he shared with Arab News Japan the story of voicing his famous role in Transformers Universe, he said:” While living in Vancouver, I was called to an audition for a ‘new exciting series’ based on the original Transformers G1 series. I was still relatively new at animation, but I remember REALLY wanting to make this my life and wanted to get a part badly!”
“I read for a bunch of characters in the first round of auditions and was called back a few weeks later to read for Megatron and Optimus Primal. I was honestly quite stumped before going in to read. I wasn’t altogether sure what choice I would make for the character. I started to wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to run away! Then an idea struck me that if I combine Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, and a lizard, it might sound interesting. So that’s what I did. It was a last-minute decision, and I went with it. It seemed to flow, and I remember the people behind the glass all nodding their heads. I read for Primal, but I had the feeling they had found what they wanted for Megs. For all the other series, Megatron’s voice was a variation on the original,” he continued.
Kaye is also known for being the voice of Clank in Ratchet and the Clank video game series, and mentioned how he was not given character breakdowns, scripts, and drawings, but for the audition for Clank he was given a single paragraph description of the character and nothing else.
“They wanted a robot-type voice, but they didn’t want him to sound inhuman. He needed personality, and we needed to care about him. It was like ‘surfing the razor’s edge’ for me to bring him to life. I love Clank. He’s one of my all-time favs!” he added.
Sesshomaru (from Inuyasha) is one of the most famous roles for Kaye in his voice acting career. He shared with Arab News Japan the story of doing the voice of Sesshomaru in the original series and returning in Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, giving credit to his publicist Michelle Czernin von Chudenitz of EPEC Media in LA who landed him the role.
“The Inuyasha series is incredibly well done, and my character, Sesshomaru, is a powerful character. He is the antagonist-turned-anti-hero. Over the years, I have had such support from the fans, and they were so enthusiastic that I reprise the role. I was excited and honored to do this and to share it with everyone,” he added.
About the challenges that he faced during his projects, Kaye mention how “the pandemic has impacted so much of life, and the voiceover industry has reshaped, too. We cannot work together in the studio these days, but thankfully, with the advances in technology, we adapted quickly to work from our home studios. I guess you could say, with challenges come opportunities.”
Kaye also opened up to Arab News Japan, expressing his gratitude for his job and his fans who make the work worthwhile.
“What makes me realize how special this is are the fans. The people who watch the shows. The folks who love animation. Over the years, some have become close friends. I miss going to conventions because you get to meet one another face-to-face. I think that’s so awesome. I’ve met some great people,” he said.
“One story stands out: a mother brought her young son to a Transformers Animated panel we did when I was ‘Optimus Prime.’ She told us how our show had kept her little boy occupied while he was going through chemotherapy. When she brought him up on stage to sit with us, I was almost in tears. I didn’t realize our reach and the impact we can have as voice actors until that moment. I never take this for granted, ever!” Kaye continued.
Although Kaye has not been to the Middle East, he hopes to visit places including the UAE, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
“What’s incredibly sad is that these countries are as old as time; their history and people are amazing. But unfortunately, all the fears that come from wars and struggle and strife have taken away the will to connect with different cultures, enjoy them, and learn from them. But travel and connection are so important,” he highlighted.
Kaye’s upcoming projects include the release of Insomniac Games Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5).
“I can’t wait to play. I can tell you it looks incredible, as well, Psychonauts 2 will be out this year on PS5, and I am back as the voice of Ford Cruller”.
On television, Kaye will be playing a robot grandpa, as DreamWorks Animation is launching an animated kids’ TV series called Doug Unplugs, on Apple TV in the US. He will also be playing Poppy’s father, the former King of the Trolls, King Peppy in the TV series Trolls: The Beat Goes On!
Kaye continues to voice Grandpa Max along with a few other characters in Ben 10 Versus The Universe: The Movie that released earlier this year worldwide.
“We have several major show announcements coming early this year that I’m not allowed to share just yet, but I encourage everyone to connect with me on twitter page (@DKayeVO) to be the first to know! And, of course, Yashahime. Sesshomaru is back!” he added.
About his recommendations for those who want to do voice acting for cartoons, anime and video games, Kaye advises that they study acting, and “never give up on your dreams!”