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In Rooster Teeth's gen:LOCK, Monica Rial brings authenticity to a Puerto Rican character

By Karama Horne
Colonel Marin in gen:LOCK

Monica Rial has voiced over 400 characters in her 20-year career, and she doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Her recent credits include RWBY, Attack on Titan, and the new hit movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly. She also voices lead characters on both the current run of SSSS.GRIDMAN and My Hero Academia, in which she voices Tsuyu Asui, the little frog girl.

So it was no surprise that when it came time to cast Rooster Teeth’s new series gen:LOCK, the Austin-based animation company called on Rial to voice Colonel Raquel Marin, a no-nonsense leader trying desperately to keep a new set of recruits alive in a growing war against deadly nanotech weapons.

The show’s creator, Gray Haddock, was thoughtful enough to create authentically diverse characters for the show and wanted a Hispanic actress from the start to play the Colonel. The catch: Rial is Spanish and her character is Puerto Rican. Here she explains how she got the role and how she made sure Colonel Marin sounds authentic.

Did Rooster Teeth offer you gen:LOCK since you already have a relationship with the company from playing Sienna Khan on RWBY?

I was familiar with the show and I played the role Colonel Raquel Marin in the initial trailer. But [what] we know as actors is that if you book a trailer or a pilot, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be a part of that show. So of course when I heard that Michael B. Jordan was attached to the project, you start to wonder, "Maybe they're going to use all Hollywood folks."

So when I found out that I was cast as Marin I really had like a girly screechy moment.

You mentioned Michael B. Jordan, but did you know at that point that Dakota Fanning, David Tennant, and Maisie Williams were also going to be involved?

All I knew is Michael B. Jordan, so that was enough to get me excited.

But then at AnimeExpo, since I was already there promoting Dragon Ball Super, Gray Haddock invited me to join the Rooster Teeth panel, because they were going to [officially] announce my character. So I was sitting in the audience when they announced Dakota Fanning (The Twilight Saga, The Alienist) and Kōichi Yamadera (Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Ghost in the Shell) and I'm sitting there going "What is my life?"

It definitely feels like I have one-upped to the next level in my game.

Did you ask to play Colonel Marin as a Hispanic character with an accent?

That came from [Rooster Teeth]. They told me, "We want her to be an older Hispanic woman. Can you give us like a 53-year-old lady?"

When we actually started working on the show and it came out that she was Puerto Rican, I knew that I needed to research the Puerto Rican dialect a little bit more. I didn't want to get too far away from my comfort zone. My dad is from Spain. So I grew up speaking Castellano Spanish, but I wanted to delve into the Puerto Rican accent a little bit without going too far. So I could [do it justice]. I've got a good ear for accents after years of practice.

Colonel Marin really has no time for nonsense. She seems pretty hard on her cadets.

As the story progresses you get to see she's got a maternal vibe with her pilots, and you see little bits of that in the pilot episode. There are certain reads that you'll kind of hear that give away that she's more concerned than you might think.

But yeah, she certainly takes no guff from anyone, especially not the Doctor [voiced by David Tennant], and he's not having any of it.

Are you actually in the studio with some of the other actors or are you all solo?

For me, everything was done solo, and normally that would be soul-crushing and difficult, but that's the way dubs sessions work on anime. Gray was phenomenal to work with, because he would always read along with me. So we were able to kind of create that organic ... theater-type vibe.

I actually chose to come to Austin [for one session] and that was really, really magical because working with Gray as a director and a creator, he has this vision. He knows how the world looks, he can visualize everything down to the room that you're in. He's really great at world-building and making you feel like you're just right in the middle of it.

gen:LOCK Hero

Since Gray is the creator of gen:LOCK and voices one of the characters himself, were you able to suggest things for your character or re-write lines for Marin sometimes?

He seemed very open to any ideas I had, but there really wasn't anything that I wanted to change because I thought she was so well written. That’s very rare to for a Mech anime actually and [other] shows that lean toward a more masculine fan base. Usually, they don't write for women very well, especially not specific types of women, like a colonel or a child and she was incredibly well written and so there wasn't a whole lot that I needed to change

Outside of the dystopian landscape, there are some pretty realistic themes, like tribalism, fear within the military ranks, a corrupt government.

Yes. This is 100 percent something that could happen in our future, which to me is terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. Because when a story hits home, it kind of sits with you a little touches your heart a little bit more and I think that that's one of the really cool things about this show.

What is it about this particular show that gets you excited?

Well, first of all, the storytelling is phenomenal. The visuals are ridiculous. The animation is stellar. Anime recently has kind of moved into the mainstream and more people are aware of it. Even if they're not fans of it, they are aware of what Dragonball is or what One Piece is. So to have something that's in the style of anime, that's going to appeal to such a broad audience because of each of these actors' fan bases and because it's just different than anything we'd ever seen before, that's what's most incredible to me.

It's made here in the United States as opposed to abroad and I think that that's really exciting because this could start a whole new generation of folks who take animation seriously. Just because the story is animated doesn't mean it's for children. And I find that really exciting.