Whether or not you’re a fan of anime, one scroll through the IMDb page of Brina Palencia and it’s obvious she’s the real deal. At this year’s Anime Weekend Atlanta, we had the chance to get to know the American-Honduran director, and voice and on-screen actor best known for her work on “One Piece,” “Dragon Ball Z Kai,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Star-Crossed.”
A career in entertainment was never one Palencia saw for herself. “I honestly just thought that I would be working a normal day job and then doing the stuff that I love to do on the side,” she says. Seeing her parents skimp by as musicians left a lasting impression on her. “I never thought I would be lucky enough to make a living being in the entertainment industry. Because as far as I saw, it just meant that you struggled financially all the time, but it would be worth it because you get to focus on the stuff that you love to do after you go to work.”
Work is something Palencia has never feared. After touring Funimation at the age of 16, she knew she was willing to put in the necessary work to become a voice actor. “I ended up going to a community college that was nearby just by happenstance. And I was able to just kind of get an audition, and I worked my way up the ladder,” she reminisces. The climb wasn’t easy though. “It took me two years to get a feature character. I know some voice actors, when they first start, they start with a lead character. That was not the case for me. I definitely had a bit of a learning curve,” Palencia recalls.
There were even times when the star doubted her own talent. She remembers the encouragement industry icon, Sonny Strait, gave her. “He was running auditions at Funimation for a show. I don’t even remember the show, but I read for him and afterward, he said, ‘Hey, I’m not casting this show. I’m just running the auditions. So I don’t know who they’re going to choose, but I just want you to know that you’re really good at this and you should keep trying.’” Palencia thinks back to just how badly she needed to hear those words. “I went into that audition with a feeling of ‘I’m never going to make this happen. Why am I even trying?’ So, it was just really perfect timing of exactly what I needed to hear.”
She kept trying, and others began to notice what Strait saw the day she auditioned for him. A few years later Palencia ended up directing one of the very shows that piqued her interest in voice acting, “Dragon Ball Z.” She says, “I just kind of had to take a moment to realize ‘Wow, I am sitting in the place that I never thought I would be sitting. And I’m working on a show that I never thought I would be working on.’ And I was just really grateful in that moment.” She even wound up directing Strait as the character Krillin and had the opportunity to work with celebrities like Chris Sabat. Both actors have become close friends of hers.
When approached by voice actors who aspire to be where she is today, she offers practical advice. “Focus on being an actor first. Take acting classes. Voice acting classes are great too, but don’t just limit yourself to that. Take film acting. Be in plays. Do community theater.” She also acknowledges that money can be a barrier, but there are ways around it. “I totally understand because I grew up very poor… community theater is where I cut my teeth as an actor. And you don’t have to pay to be in community theater. It’s all volunteer.”
As far as the future, Palencia has her eyes set on motion capture, which involves recording the movement of people or objects to create character models for films and video games. “It takes into account all the really cool things about voice acting, and you’re not limited physically as far as what you can do. But you still get to act with people face-to-face and act out scenes. So I feel like it’s kind of the best of both worlds,” she says. It’s a world she’s barely dipped her toe into, but if her past is any prediction of her future, she’s up to the challenge.
Editor’s Note: You can follow Brina Palencia at these social sites: