Denji and Aki’s dub actors talk about their inspirations, share each other’s performances and more

To say that the Chainsaw Man anime was a smash hit would be an understatement. The adaptation of the popular manga series has beaten several well-known series and projects to become the biggest hit of the fall 2022 anime season and is on track to become one of the biggest names in the medium of all time. Not only that, but thanks to some outstanding animation, text and voice acting in just a handful of episodes.

Given all of this, one can only imagine what’s on the minds of the show’s English dub cast, who have been at the center of this flurry of success. We had the opportunity to speak to you Ryan Colt Levythe voice of Denji and Reagan Murdockthe voice of Aki, what it was like to be part of such a big project, how they nailed their characters’ voices and what they’re most looking forward to appearing on the series.

Twinfinite Staff Writer Keenan McCall: How does it feel to be a part of such a big show this season, and a part of such a big show in general?

Ryan Colt Levy: Unbelievable. I think we all feel like we’re still in the “pinch me” moment even though we’re in the middle of it. Insane gratitude.

Reagan Murdock: Yes, as he said: Insane gratitude. Just so blessed. We love this story so much and we feel so incredibly privileged to be a part of it and committed to doing our best. And we do.

Keenan: How much did you know about the series before you were signed to the dub? Were you aware of the manga or fans of the manga when it was released, or is the anime your first exposure to the series?

Ryan Colt Levy: (chuckles) So I don’t know if you can see the whole set back there, but I’ve had it for a few years (points to the full Chainsaw Man manga collection). I have read it several times. It was actually one of the first manga I had read in a long time and it kind of brought me back in a big, bad way because it was so radically different and punk rock and fun and sensitive. And I thought, “This is the dream role,” you know? So I was a big fan.

Reagan Murdock: I knew absolutely nothing about it. (both laugh) I had to brush up on some manga to get through to these auditions. The more I read the more I loved it.

Keenan: A bit of a two-part question for you guys. Ryan: Being such a huge fan of the show, what were some of your biggest inspirations for Denji’s character and how did you shape his voice and personality?

Ryan Colt Levy: Much of it reflected on the core of what his journey is. Knowing where it’s going is really trying to play him as faithfully as possible in the moment rather than playing the expectation which I think people know him to be.

So a lot of it just went back to the manga. However, before each session – like the night before each session – I’ll take the manga and watch what we’re pretty sure going through, just to get my sanity back. Would he say that? Would he feel like this? A lot of it is just that: it’s really trying to live in the moment and make him feel like a real person. Because I think that’s how you get the most honest reaction from the people who see it, by making it as real as possible.

Interview with the cast of Chainsaw Man Dub: Denji and Aki's voice actors talk inspirations, bounce off each other's performances and more
Screenshot of Twinfinite via MAPPA

Keenan: Reagan, for playing Aki: Were there any previous characters that you drew inspiration from because you didn’t have the deepest source from which to draw what Aki’s personality would be like and how it would change? Or did you have a fixed idea based on the information you received?

Reagan Murdock: totally! There is a certain amount drawn from similar Shonen characters. You can name a million of the “Edgy Guy With Tragic Backstory” characters. But I also wanted, as Ryan said, to make (the performance) very real and drew on a lot of personal experiences I’ve had. I’m also not the most sociable type, and I’ve been very strict with myself and with other people in the past, so it’s been nice to move on from that.

But as Ryan said, it’s important to know where your character begins and where it will end, and I look at each scene like this: how is this other character going to challenge something about Aki and make him question something about himself or evolve in some way ? And it’s a really enriching experience to be able to do something like that as an actor.

Keenan: They’re definitely using non-big name actors in the casting for this dub. How do you feel about the fact that this really big show that’s taking off is utilizing talent that isn’t just top-tier A-list?

Ryan Colt Levy: Personally grateful. I think the other part of it is that it’s all about Mike our voice director and Crunchyroll in general. I think everyone who works on the other end of this show, no one is trying to do this to make it some sort of flashy thing of a moment. That’s very special, and I think it’s – in Mike’s eyes – about finding the most authentic people to portray as we’ve spoken, in a genuine way.

It just feels like the best people for the job. Every time I hear a new voice (the dub) I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing!’ We only met the Devil Hunter Squad yesterday and when I finally got to hear them I’m excited and I am can hear the passion in their performances. I think that’s what it ultimately boils down to: everyone auditions for this stuff, and the stuff that ultimately gets picked by Mike is what feels like it fits this world that we’re creating.

It’s not about how big someone is or how small someone is. It’s neither nor. It can be anyone as long as it fits.

Reagan Murdock: (nods in agreement)

Interview with the cast of Chainsaw Man Dub: Denji and Aki's voice actors talk inspirations, bounce off each other's performances and more
Screenshot of Twinfinte via MAPPA

Keenan: What has been your boys’ favorite moment in the four dubbed episodes released so far?

Ryan Colt Levy: It’s really hard. I feel like I’ve had so many moments that I really loved. There are many individual one-liners that were so much fun. I think we both agree that the big fight scene in the alleyway between (Aki and Denji) is an all-timer (laughs). We might land on this one because we can share it, so let’s say that.

Reagan Murdock: Yes. (laughs) It just establishes both of their characters so well. You start off with Aki being really gruff, very authoritative, very “This is how it’s going to be. You are not equipped for this. Go home.” And Denji just kicks him right away where the sun doesn’t shine. (They both laugh). He’s just so resilient and so irreverent, just challenging everything Aki thinks about the world and how a person should be It’s wonderful to see that this is the beginning of their relationship and to see where their relationship ends later.

Ryan Colt Levy: (Laughs) It’s magical.

Keenan: How did the scenes you acted in together affect how you want to play your characters? Especially when your characters are on screen together?

Ryan Colt Levy: I think what was really cool about it for me: First, Reagan and I have worked together on a show before, and we had to outplay each other. We had a bit of a dynamic there. And we live in different places, so we didn’t meet in person until October when we were at Comicon.

That was actually the real moment of solidification. That weekend we really became family and got a really good feeling about each other in the comfort zone, like, ‘Now that we’re going to go back to our separate places and take on these characters at different times and different places, we’re still going to be each other bring each other into the room.” I always know that he has my back and vice versa. Whatever he’s going to do in the dressing room will push me to improve what I’m going to do.

It’s that emotional kind of tennis match.

Reagan Murdock: Exactly what he said. It’s wonderful to know the person on the other end. In anime, we often don’t interact with the people we’re performing with at all. Just knowing that this person and everyone I interacted with in Chainsaw Man were just amazing people.

And especially Ryan. (talks to Ryan) During that convention you were such a big brother to me this weekend (both laugh). It’s just great to know that we all give everything and are there for each other. What more could we ask for?

Interview with the cast of Chainsaw Man Dub: Denji and Aki's voice actors talk inspirations, bounce off each other's performances and more
Screenshot of Twinfinite via MAPPA

Keenan: What were your boys’ favorite lyrics?

Ryan Colt Levy: It’s so hard. Denji has had so many good one-liners (laughs). I guess I just need to drop an F-bomb, period. I never thought I would be able to do this. So the twist in the episode about Meowy where he realizes there’s something on the table, that quick twist to me was just so much fun. So we’re going to say that.

Reagan Colt Murdock: Ryan has told me several times this morning, but that moment in Episode 4 when Aki ends up having this meeting with Makima and she says, “You seem to be a lot more flexible. Could that be Denji’s influence?” And he says, “I’m the same guy I’ve always been. Nothing’s changed.” But you can hear in his voice that a lot is actually changing, and he just doesn’t like it. (laughs) It’s the first look behind the scenes, which we both really enjoyed.

Keenan: Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing in the dub?

Ryan Colt Levy: There are so many different emotional places that all these characters have yet to go through and I think it will be exciting to embark on that journey.

Reagan Murdock: There are a few moments I can remember where his motivation doesn’t necessarily change, but you really see the walls come down and you see what a caring and passionate person Aki is. I’m really looking forward to these moments.

Ryan Colt Levy: I will say that there is one moment Denji and Aki share – a bonding experience – that I look forward to. (both laugh)

The Chainsaw Man English Dub is available now on Crunchyroll and streams every Tuesday at 3:30pm EST. Denji and Aki’s dub actors talk about their inspirations, share each other’s performances and more

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