BLADE RUNNER: BLACK LOTUS: Jessica Henwick, Stephen Root & Will Yun Lee On Sci-Fi Voice Acting (Exclusive)

In support of the new Blade Runner: Black Lotus anime series on Adult Swim, we spoke with sci-fi stars Jessica Henwick, Stephen Root, and Will Yun Lee about voice acting and their most similar projects!

When it comes to science fiction, many creatives find inspiration in Blade Runner even though the film was released over four decades ago. Countless projects have adapted elements from the film in many ways, with Robocop, Ghost In The Shell, Cyberpunk 2077, Altered Carbon, Bicentennial Man, and many others all borrowing concepts from Ridley Scott's classic. 

The Blade Runner franchise has grown over years, with Blade Runner 2049 releasing in 2017, followed by three short films titled Blade Runner Black Out 2022, 2036: Nexus Dawn, and 2048: Nowhere to Run, which all released the same year.

Now Crunchyroll and Adult Swim have kicked off an animated series called Blade Runner: Black Lotus and we were lucky enough to participate in the press circuit to help promote the series.

We had the incredible opportunity to speak with three of the voice actors from the project, all of whom are best known for their live-action work. Jessica Henwick (The Matrix: Resurrections, Iron Fist, Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Stephen Root (Office Space, Get Out, King of the Hill, Bicentennial Man), and Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, Elektra, Altered Carbon, Witchblade) all spoke with us about many topics such as their voice acting experiences and which of their sci-fi projects are most similar to the Blade Runner franchise.

Click the podcast player for the audio interview or scroll down to read the full transcript. If you prefer a fully immersive experience, scroll to the bottom for the video interview. 

Literary Joe: Because this show is being simulcast and each of you has a respective actor that does the Japanese version, did any of you get to meet your vocal counterparts?

Stephen Root: No, that would have been a huge honor. I also dubbed a Japanese movie called Pupelle of Chimney Town, and I did get to meet one of the actors from that, but it's rare that you get to meet your alter ego for me anyways. I don't know about you guys.


Jessica Henwick: Yeah, I didn't get to meet them. I've never met someone who is dubbing me or who I'm dubbing. I did occasionally get audio clips of her in the rough cut, and I know she also got audio clips of me in the rough cut. If one of us had scheduled our recording session before the other, sometimes they would just put in dialogue, even if it's in English or Japanese, just so that they could hear something there. So I would have this interesting - because I wasn't dubbing her, but I got a bit of that experience when they would send them.

Stephen Root: You can get the tone if you hear a little bit of it; you can get the tone down.

Jessica Henwick: Yeah, I wasn't trying to match her in any way, but sometimes I would hear it and go, you know what, she killed it, so I'm just gonna do the same thing. (Laughs)


Stephen Root: What about you, Will?

Will Yun Lee: What I find interesting is that I didn't get to meet any of the cast on the American side, which is crazy, until just now. (Laughs) It is interesting; I think the directors were - you never know when you're crossing language barriers if the nuances are going to be kept, and what I loved about the directors was their attention to the layers and bringing all of the performances down and going against the grain of what we considered in the past of anime being big and trying to indicate as many things as possible and what I loved about them was even just a breath, even when you grab something. And they would do a take where it's literally like, okay, you're tired here, you're weary. We would do that take twenty or thirty times because they were just trying to get the exact emotion of the scene which felt like I was on a film set a lot of the time.

Stephen Root: It's great, you can put all the colors that you want into it when you're directed by a really good voice director, so we're lucky.


Literary Joe: Thank you guys for fleshing that answer out. Also, Will, this is Stephen and Jess, since you guys haven't met before, I'm glad that you can all make each other's acquaintance.

Jessica Henwick: (Laughs) Yeah, no, it's funny when we got hooked into the call I was like "Will I feel like we've crossed paths so many times and I'm such a big fan!" And if you haven't seen his Youtube documentary it's really good but there's no end. (Laughs)  I was like, finally, I get to meet you!

Will Yun Lee: Aw, Jess, you're sweet.


Literary Joe: And here I thought Altered Carbon was your documentary. (Laughs) I'm curious, because it is 2032, now that we've caught up and the events are only a decade away. What's the hardest part for you guys when you're voicing and it seems like it's close to real-life today but you have to look at it as it's a lot further into the future when you're giving these performances?

Will Yun Lee: I think the hardest thing is how long a show like this takes for me to have shot and to have actually done it. You go and sit in a booth for two days and then you won't hear from them for seven months and you come back and you're like, wait, what's my character's name? And I think that is the hardest thing is trying to find the through-line.


Stephen Root: I agree with that 100 percent. Because you've probably done seven, eight, or nine or whatever animated things before that and so to be able to have some kind of reference when you come back is really important. And they can show you clips of what you did or what they've just animated so it's helpful.

Jessica Henwick: Yeah, I agree, and if we're rusty on questions it's because we recorded this more than two years ago. (Laughs) But in terms of the time aspect question, gosh I can't believe this is set in ten years' time. For me, because Elle is kind of timeless, I didn't really approach it as let me make her sound modern or let me make her sound futuristic, she's such a fish out of water that it was more, let me make her sound naive, let me make her sound like someone who hasn't picked up modern intonation and slang and all of that. It's like giving a baby a voice. I wanted it to sound like someone who doesn't know words. And obviously, she grows throughout the season and becomes firmer and firmer in her voice but at the beginning I really wanted her to sound more innocent.


Literary Joe: Obviously you guys have all been in sci-fi projects, but Will, you were in Altered Carbon which is very much inspired by Blade Runner.

Will Yun Lee: I mean, there are so many sequences in the first season and even the second season of Altered Carbon where - and the cast members have said it a million times every time we enter this space, which we shot it in Canada, and Skydance had built what essentially felt like the Blade Runner world, and so when you enter these places you would no longer feel like you were on a stage. You felt like you were in the movie. And so yeah, when I watch the trailer for this Blade Runner or just being in the world of Altered Carbon, it feels like a familiar place, which is bizarre to me that I feel like it's a place I've been to.

Literary Joe: Do either of you have that experience with one of your previous projects?

Jessica Henwick: I'd have to think about that. I'd have to go through my previous jobs one by one. (Laughs) Because the impact of Blade Runner is so huge and so much is derived from it, it's kind of hard to quantify something that was such a huge pop culture moment. I mean, I'm sure there's something in Season 1 of Iron Fist, for sure. At the end, in the rain, the monologue, yeah, definitely. Or even The Matrix, I'm sure if I spoke about it, she would - I did bring up the tears in the rain monologue once, and she said she had a story for me, and I never asked her the story, and I should have, but yeah there's a lot of homages across my work I'm sure.


Stephen Root: I remember I was in a movie called Bicentennial Man, and I was a huge Asimov fan anyway, so all the kind of Science Fiction stuff; I mean, I grew up being a huge Science Fiction fan. The first time I got to Vancouver, it looked like a Science Fiction city to me. I don't know if anybody's been there, but the buildings look like something straight out of Blade Runner 2049. I always feel like when I go there to shoot something, it should be Science Fiction. That's my background is a love of Science Fiction.


Be sure to let us know what you think of this chat with Jessica Henwick, Stephen Root, and Will Yun Lee in the comments, and sound off with whether or not you'll be tuning into Blade Runner: Black Lotus!


To promote Blade Runner: Black Lotus ahead of its Adult Swim premiere, we were able to join in on the press junket and speak with several of the cast members that voice in the new anime series from Toonami and Crunchyroll.

In this chat we speak with Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist, Star Wars), Stephen Root (Office Space, Get Out), and Will Yun Lee (Altered Carbon). We talk in detail about the voice acting process for each of them as well as their experience with sci-fi roles inspired by Blade Runner itself.

Episode 12 of Blade Runner: Black Lotus airs this Sunday on Adult Swim with new episodes weekly.

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