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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Dakota Fanning on how dystopian mech anime gen:LOCK is really a story about hope

By Karama Horne

Last week, the new animated series gen:LOCK premiered on Rooster Teeth, its most ambitious project since RWBY premiered in 2013. Heavily influenced by anime, the show was created by Gray Haddock and features the company’s trademark CGI animation style.

gen:LOCK is set in 2068, a near future in which one military force called the Vanguard is the only thing standing between free society and an impending autocracy, the Union. Unlike anime, which often relies on American voiceover casts to create English versions of Japanese shows, this story was crafted in the U.S., out of Rooster Teeth’s studios in Austin, Texas. It also features an all-star (mostly) American voice cast, including David Tennant, Maisie Williams, and Monica Rial, as well as Michael B. Jordan, who stars as Julian Chase, and Dakota Fanning, who plays Miranda Worth, a leader in the Vanguard squadron who also happens to be Julian's love interest.

SYFY WIRE got a chance to talk to Fanning about what drew her to the project and why she’s such a huge fan of animation.

When you first got involved, what did you think of this huge story?

When I first met with [Rooster Teeth] they told me where the story was going and that a lot of the bigger themes were about human emotion and the relationships between the characters. Especially my character Miranda and for Michael's character, Chase, and their relationship. I really responded to all of that.

This futuristic, post-apocalyptic world that they have created is really big, and the animation itself looks very cool. I loved all of that, but I also just loved the relationships between the characters and that all the characters are so interesting and specific. I also liked that even though it is animated, they really wanted the acting in the voices to sound as if we were doing live action.

How did you go about making Miranda Worth your own? She's got a lot to deal with by Episode 2.

I know! It was interesting, because I recorded almost all of the episodes at one time initially, and so I got to know her entire journey compressed down into a couple of session hours. I got a good overall sense, and then when I went back, I knew where she had been and where she was going.

I think that the series definitely starts off with a bang, and the audience knows what they're in for from the beginning. It's a lot for Miranda especially. She has a lot to process, and I think just finding those quiet moments where she's processing, and of course the moments with Chase where they kind of get into it and fight about things, I just enjoy getting to convey all those emotions. It was really fun. I remember that first time I went in, I came back and told my friends that night that it was so much fun to do.

It's still rare to see such developed female characters in animation and anime. Did they let you change any of the lines or make them more your own?

You know, I didn't really feel the need to. I have to say it, I think that's why it was so fun, because it didn't feel like a cliche and the characters don't feel cliche. I think people find it freeing to kind of be exaggerated and over the top in animation, and of course there's a time and a place for all that. I definitely had to do a lot of grunts and battle cries.

But for the meat of the dialogue and the scenes, I got to just do it naturally. So I didn't really feel the need to make it too much of my own, because it felt so natural already. It was a very developed character, and she had a good, clear voice. It was automatically comfortable.

Besides Miranda, who was your favorite character when you saw the first episode?

I love Michael's character. I love Chase. Obviously, that's who I kind of have the majority of my storylines with, and I just love that character. I've only met Michael a couple times in real life. We didn't record together. We all recorded separately, but he's such a charming person and so friendly and warm and funny. And I think that he brings so much of that to Chase’s character. Even my character Miranda can't resist his charms, even when she's angry with him, and I think that that's something that Michael does so well. I love getting to see that character and how he's making the best of this sort of outrageous, very difficult situation.

I'm also a fan of Maisie Williams. ... I'm a big Game of Thrones fan, and I think she brings such a great spirit to her character Cammie MacCloud. There's so many talented people. That's the one downside to voice work — it was all separate. So maybe our paths will cross one day.

gen:LOCK has some pretty heavy scenes. What's one thing that really resonated with you with this series?

[Because] it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world in the middle of a war, it might be easy to look at it as hopeless and grim. But I think that through the new gen:LOCK technology, even though it's maybe not the best scenario, it kind of shows some hope. I think we see that really through Chase and how as long as there are human connections and emotional connections and relationships and friendships, you can overcome even a situation that seems really dire.

It shows the power of the human spirit and just how it can endure.