After breaking into the world of voiceover starring as the lead character “Gumball” in Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball, Hopkins has made a name for himself in the anime genre. In the hit series To Your Eternity, he currently lends his voice to the lead character Fushi, an immortal being who takes on the form of a deceased nameless boy. The show is based on the Japanese manga series of the same name; the highly-anticipated second season recently premiered on Crunchyroll. The story picks up 40 years after the events of the first season as an older and more jaded Fushi as he continues to navigate the challenges of his immortal life. Things aren’t slowing down for Hopkins. He also showcases his talent for Crunchyroll viewers in the lead role of Oishi in the sports anime Prince of Tennis and Prince of Tennis II. Other anime series he currently appears in include Netflix’s Komi Can’t Communicate, Boruto, and the Funimation series Tribe Nine.
Hopkins is no stranger to the entertainment industry. At the young age of five, he landed his first film role opposite Stephen Moyer and Paul Bettany in the film Priest. His big break came when he was cast as Vampire Authority member Alexander Drew in the hit series True Blood. Soon after, Hopkins started appearing on The Goldbergs in his long-running portrayal of Chad Kremp. He also starred as one of the lead characters, Miller, in the movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life alongside Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Retta, Isabela Moner, and Thomas Barbusca.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Jacob to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry, and here’s what went down:
Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
I got into acting, thanks to my dad! He was an actor before me, and one day we ran errands together and stopped by his agent’s office. At the time, I was five, and they asked if I was interested in acting. I immediately shot up and exclaimed, “Sure! What’s acting?” And from there, the rest is history.
What do you like most about acting?
I love to escape, explore life through the minds and hearts of different people/characters, and tell their stories from their points of view. The idea of being able to become a completely different person has always fascinated me, and that is most apparent in my role as Code in Boruto. Code is malicious, conniving, and a godlike being, which are traits that would (I hope!) never apply to me. However, being able to become that evil person I could never be and live in their shoes for short periods is an interesting factor in itself, and it’s part of why I love acting.
What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?
Sometimes I tend to overanalyze a scene/line and do a bunch of takes until I feel I’ve gotten it right. If I had a nickel for every time I recorded four different takes for a voice-over audition only to listen back and like the first one the best, I wouldn’t need to be in this profession anymore! Even so, I like how critical I can be of myself. It helps me improve and learn new ways to play characters.
What are your strong points as an actor?
I’ve always loved world-building for my characters. I like to create backstories for them that aren’t in the script because it gives the character extra layers to uncover, thus making them more interesting. This method really helps define a character for me, making them second nature. Once you don’t have to think about how to be a character after internalizing them, the rest comes easy. For example, in the first episode of To Your Eternity, Fushi and the nameless boy whose form he takes are two completely different characters. The former is more solemn and brooding than the latter, but both emotionally broken characters deal with their pain differently. For Fushi, his backstory comes easy as we watch it unfold throughout the show, but we’re introduced to the nameless boy after his entire village has died. This allowed me to world-build for him, giving him memories of playing with other children, maybe being scolded by his mother for running off in the snow, making snow forts with his brother, etc. These tiny details are crucial for portraying his happy-go-lucky optimism and make it more painful to see his soul crushed when he realizes that there is no escape from the unrelenting cold.
What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
I’ve learned everything I learned about voice-over from Richard Overall. He was the director for The Amazing World of Gumball, my very first lead and voice-over gig. At the time, I was eleven years old and had about seven prior years of acting experience but not one inkling of voice-over experience. Voice-over and theatrical acting are very different in the sense that, when you’re behind a microphone, your body language and facial expressions won’t be picked up. All of your emotion has to come through your voice, which is tricky as one needs to exaggerate their tonal inflections while keeping their performance relatively grounded. Even though Gumball Watterson is anything but grounded, I still needed to learn a fine balance of believability, which Richard helped tremendously in bringing out of me.
What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
Since I grew up as a child actor, I’ve always had to deal with balancing school with my career, and I still do to this day as I am a student at UCF! I’ve always had to be five steps ahead when planning recording/filming dates and auditions regarding assignment due dates, exams, etc. Thankfully, I’ve always had very understanding teachers who wanted me to succeed, and I’ve always tried to develop good relationships with them so I can get assignments/class info ahead of time to stay on top of things. Coordination is key in this business!
What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
You have to be comfortable with becoming someone you’re not. You have to be able to read a script as if you’re reading a memoir, becoming the character as you learn more and more about them. You have to create backstories and lives for characters and reflect upon their memories as if they were your own. Sometimes, it might be difficult to do this as many people don’t want to let go of themselves. Being yourself is comfortable, and becoming someone else is stepping into the unknown. You have to leap into the known, and only then will you be able to bring a story to life.
What do you do when you’re not filming?
Studying! But when I’m not doing that, I’m usually training at my UCF taekwondo club, playing my drums (currently learning “Love From the Other Side” by Fall Out Boy), drawing, gaming with friends, or reading comic books. I must’ve read “Watchmen” fifty times by now…
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
The Amazing World of Gumball and To Your Eternity will always be my major highlights. Gumball was my first step into the voice-over world, and To Your Eternity was my first step into the anime dubbing world, which is a totally new experience. Western animation is usually storyboarded, voice-acted, and then animated. However, anime is animated before any voice acting is done, which is completely different from what I was used to. And because the very first episode of To Your Eternity is all me, I had to learn on the spot how to quickly memorize a line and speak in the timing of the character’s lip flaps. Even so, I was on cloud nine the entire four hours of my first recording session. I’m a huge fan of anime, and I remember having butterflies in my stomach the entire drive over to Studiopolis, hyping myself up. Whenever I think back on that first session, the colors of the room in my mind seem brighter. I’ll cherish it forever.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
Wendi McLendon-Covey is still an enigma to me, even though I’ve worked with her for years. On ABC’s The Goldbergs, I play Chad Kremp, the best friend of Adam Goldberg. Wendi plays Beverly Goldberg, Adam’s mom. She’s the most chill, most funniest, and most down-to-earth actress I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and when she hears “Action!” she goes into full-on helicopter parent mom mode, and it’s the most hilarious thing I’ve seen. It’s fascinating how quickly she can turn it on and off, and she makes it seem so effortless.
If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
Uh, obviously, the main man himself, Brad Garret! He’ll play the younger version of me, around 5–9-year-old me. Then there would be a time skip that jumps to 20-year-old me, who Mark Hamill plays, but he has to say everything in his Joker voice. Then the movie ends with a middle-aged me played by, well, me, and I’m married to Emma Stone. Huge blockbuster, going to make millions; I can see it now.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
Right now I’m studying business management and entrepreneurship at UCF to open up my own recording studio! I’m not exactly sure where, but Orlando is looking promising! I want to record cartoons and anime primarily, and hopefully produce my own cartoon I’ve been developing for quite a while and record it at my studio. I’ve got two more years to go, so I’ll see you all then!
Photo Credit: Lindsey Ruth