Voice Actors Suzie Yeung And Sarah Wiedenheft Talk About The Complexities Of Chainsaw Man [Exclusive Interview]

"Chainsaw Man" took the world by storm long before it received its anime adaptation from the talented Studio MAPPA. The manga, created by mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto and released in the pages of "Weekly Shonen Jump" from 2018-2020, is often praised for its hyper-violent action and surprisingly hefty (and sometimes existential) story. In a world where "devils" are born as real-world manifestations of human fears, "Chainsaw Man" centers around Denji, a young man in poverty looking to get out of debt and live the good life by being a devil hunter. It isn't until he's on the brink of death that his partner and pet Pochita (the Chainsaw Devil) make a contract with him, giving Denji the powers of Chainsaw Man.

When it came to the anime adaptation, there were lofty expectations not just for the animation of "Chainsaw Man," but also for the voice cast that would bring the characters to life. Every character has an unexpected layer, and that's especially the case for characters like Makima (Suzie Yeung), head of the Public Safety Division, whose demeanor and line delivery walk a tightrope of gentleness and intimidation. Then there's the fan-favorite Power (Sarah Wiedenheft), whose almost Shakespearean dialect is in stark contrast to everything the character stands for.

I had the opportunity to talk to Suzie Yeung and Sarah Wiedenheft about their roles as Makima and Power, respectively. From the actors' clean-slate approach to every new role, to the pressure of taking on an adaptation of extremely popular source material, it's clear there's a lot of passion and effort put into anime adaptations like "Chainsaw Man." If my conversation with the actors is anything to go by, the English dub of the series has just as much heart as the manga. 

'She's just extremely powerful, and she knows it'

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

My first question's for both of you. How did you two approach being powerful female characters that are vastly different from most female anime protagonists?

Yeung: Well, I think, first of all, I'm super pumped to be able to voice this kind of character because it's few and far between in the Shonen genre. But yeah, just being able to portray a character that's completely nonplussed about anything, not affected by a single thing. And she's just extremely powerful, and she knows it, and she's well-respected. So just keeping that very even and confident tone all throughout.

Wiedenheft: Yeah, I was also very excited to be able to learn that I got the character. I wasn't sure what to do with her at first because I hadn't read the manga prior to getting the audition. So I got the first volumes. My partner had already been dabbling in it. And it helped me go in the right direction for her. Because at first, when I looked at her design, really cute, but don't know what direction to go with her. Maybe she's got Gremlin energy, but it could go either way. You never know. And then I looked at the trailer, too, to kind of gauge where the Japanese [voice actor] went with it. And that also helped me in, like, "Okay. Actually, I was going in a pretty good direction."

'I got a really good sense of just how chaotic she can go'

Suzie, so many of Makima's lines feel ominous or threatening, but you deliver them in such a harmless manner. What was your process in finding that balance when bringing the character to life?

Yeung: Well, I think everything about Makima is very controlled. So I liken it to putting a little teaspoon of this and that and stirring it very gently. So not going overboard any which way. I really do love that she delivers everything very softly. So whenever I say her lines, I have very soft consonants and just keep them very light to disarm people. And that works very well with Denji. But at the same time, have that undertone of like, "You better not mess this up." Very threatening aura, but is also very alluring.

Wiedenheft: Yeah, like a siren.

Sarah, on the Power side of things, how did you bring the manic energy of your character while also showing her vulnerable side and the quieter moments like in episodes 3 and 4?

Wiedenheft: So after I completely devoured the manga, I got a really good sense of just how chaotic she can go. So knowing how far I should push in general. But with our director Mike [McFarland], he's amazing. Sometimes I think I need to push harder than what's already been done. And he'll have to be like, "Come back down a few steps, little one."

Something unexpected about Power that you don't initially pick up on when reading the manga but is evident in the anime, is her line delivery feels very Shakespearean.

Wiedenheft: She's very old speaking. That's one of my favorite things about her.

'Shock factor at the forefront'

Suzie, what are you most looking forward to exploring with your character and for audiences to discover about Makima as the season progresses?

Yeung: I'm excited to see everything unfold because it seems like she's the type of character that already has all the cards in her hand, and she's just watching the other players and seeing how it's going to play out, even though it feels like she knows the end result. So having that all-powerful, all-seeing [vibe]. I think that anime really hammers it in with her eyes and just being like, "There's something there." She knows something.

What were your first impressions of the extreme source material for both of you? It seems superficial and violent on the surface, but is very existential and intimate and a little bit profound when looking further into it.

Wiedenheft: I was a little bit intimidated and a little bit concerned because it seemed very, very gory and graphic. I was like, "Ah. It looks very, very cool, but I don't know if I will be able to get into this very easily. We'll see; I'll do my best." I have that morbid curiosity whenever I watch horror films. And I'm not big on them. I like psychological thrillers better because they're not there to scare me as badly. But once I got into it more, I was like, "Oh, that part of it doesn't bother me as much." And it's really good.

Yeung: I think I got whiplash reading through the manga. It was so fast-paced, and everything was happening all the time. It was hard to process. Especially, well, with manga, if things are extremely action-oriented, sometimes it's hard for me to discern what's going on, and all the exposition, I'm just like, "I don't really understand what you just said, but I'm just going to keep reading."  The character development is more like a slow burn, while the action and all the gore and stuff is the shock factor at the forefront. So that is the layer on top of everything that's going on behind all of that. And it's really woven in well.

'My other characters tend to be more on the surface'

So what, if anything, did you two bring from your prior voice acting roles to your characters in "Chainsaw Man?"

Yeung: I bring a new fresh take on every character that I do because they're all completely different from each other, and they all have different stories and motivations. So I go in with a fresh look on that. So tonally, she might be similar to other characters I've done. Still, she definitely stands out in that she has very specific motivations and intentions that is very interesting to tackle, which I haven't experienced with other characters before. My other characters tend to be more on the surface. You know what they're about, what they want to do. But with Makima, you don't know anything. You can't get a sense from her, at least at this point in time.

Wiedenheft: I also like to have a blank slate. This is a new character, and this is a new mindset. Whatever else I have done, I cannot think of that. The head is empty, only "Chainsaw Man," only this character. But if you were asking me, what does this character remind you of things I've done before? It could be a mosaic of different characters I've done. She reminds me of Kiriha in Tsugumomo, where she talks very, very old. And also, she's a little bit snarky and has a little bit of a tone every once in a while. But she's not always in that spot.

This week's latest English dub episode featured some absolutely incredible Power-centric end credits. What did you think of those, and how did you handle portraying a character that only continues to grow in popularity in such a short time?

Wiedenheft: I'm so excited to do it because I read the manga; I'm so excited to see each scene play out. I'm like, "Oh my God, here comes my scene. Here comes the scene. What are you going to do? What are they going to do?" Because they've also been adding in new scenes, too. I don't know if they had the daily routine for Aki in the manga, or at least I don't remember it, anyways. Little things like that. So I'm like, "Ooh, I can't wait to see what they did." A lot of it was very similar, and I was so excited. I'm like, "It's Power time; let's go." And yeah, there's been a crazy amount of feedback from everyone excited to see her come in and ruin everyone's lives.

Makima and Power's favorite movies

Movie references and movies, on the whole, are abundant in "Chainsaw Man." Even in the opening, many movie references are scattered through that quick opening before each episode. What do you think your character's favorite movies are?

Yeung: I think Makima is definitely the intellectual type. She wants something that challenges her to think. She doesn't like an easy watch, something that's too surface-level. I feel like she would like something completely left-field. She would like "Chainsaw Man."

Wiedenheft: Power probably would love "Fight Club." She would love that. She would love to see everybody beating the crap out of each other. "This is awesome. Let's make them fight more, again."

Any messages you want to give to fans of the show unfamiliar with the manga to get them prepared for the rest of the season?

Yeung: Thank you so much for watching it. We're just as excited as you are. And however you choose to watch it, just thank you so much for all your support and passion for the show.

Wiedenheft: Enjoy the rest.

"Chainsaw Man" is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Hulu.