We got the pleasure of chatting with Joe Hernandez, voice of Daruk in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, about his journey into his career as a voice actor and his connection with mental health. Hernandez started off in the world of theatre, majoring in Theatre Arts at California State University, Fullerton. From there, he auditioned for a character role at the Disneyland Resort, beginning his career in voice acting.
“Because of the nature of what we do with those shows, it’s very voice over specific. It’s one part improv, one part theatre, one part voice over, and one part digital puppeteering; so you have all these elements and it was a great way to utilize what I was learning in my theatre program at Cal State Fullerton and [I was able to] directly apply it at the same time.”
Hernandez loved the limitless amount of possibilities when it came to voice acting and continued on this route. When it comes to his roles, we asked him what role he was proudest of and his response was Pesci from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
“He has this arc which is actually very subtle and very beautiful,” explained Hernandez. “He realizes his own confidence and realizes he is powerful in his own right and all the things he can do, and it makes you think, ‘Oh my gosh! What if he had a nurturing environment? Or what if the people around him were more encouraging? What he could have done at the beginning as opposed to the end…’. Again, you find those little arcs that you can explore within the character.”
When it came to his creative process, Hernandez spoke on the flexibility needed when voice acting.
“As an actor, you kind of have to be prepared and be able to adapt to whatever is thrown at you and whatever situation you are thrust into,” he explained. “Again it all starts with writing. If you have something that is very well written, whether it’s a video game, a commercial, a cartoon, or anime, it will make the director’s job that much easier and the actor’s job that much easier.”
With the changes going on in the world over the past year, we were curious about the effect of COVID-19 had on jobs, such as voice acting. With the flexibility of becoming remote, there were still some big changes that occurred in Hernandez’s daily work life.
“I am able to record from home, so that is a nice convenience given the nature of what is going on in the world right now. Ordinarily, I would be driving out to LA. So not only do you have to factor the time actually doing the session, but also have to factor in the drive time and the commute; which isn’t that big of a deal, but it is something that comes with the territory. So you have to be able to manage your time with respect to the auditions coming in and when [they do] come in, being able to successfully do [them] to the best of your ability, and then try to have something of a personal life.”
Speaking of personal life, we also got the chance to speak with Hernandez on how he handles mental health, and he spoke highly on the act of self-care and therapy, along with remembering to reach out to loved ones, such as friends and family. “… I can’t stress enough how important it is to reach out to friends and family. Being able to just talk to someone, it reminds you that you’re not alone” explained Hernandez.
In addition, this allowed Hernandez to relate with some of the characters he played in these different franchises. That being said, there are many anime that portray different types of issues involving mental health. Hernandez explained briefly that anime can definitely continue to bring more mental health awareness with any character, during an arc, or the entire show. “Anime, just the nature of the medium and what it is, there’s so much you can do with it; as far as exploring characters, different types of characters, different worlds, different scenarios, different everything. Why wouldn’t mental and emotional health be one of those topics that you can tackle with the character or an arc or an entire show? There’s almost a responsibility I think, given just the nature of [anime].”
Being part of the anime and video gaming community, Hernandez is very grateful for all the opportunities. “I have been fortunate enough to go to conventions and meet so many fans and they’re really great people. It’s great when you’re able to see something that you’ve done has touched someone and resonated with them,” explained Hernandez. He also loves how these communities are very supportive of each other in every way. “It’s tough when it comes to the negativity [online, but] there’s always people who are very supportive,” explained Hernandez.
Click on the link below to see the full interview: