The two female characters Makima (Suzie Yeung) and Power (Sarah Wiedenheft) in the popular anime series Chainsaw Man are diametrically opposed to one another. Makima is a tremendously stoic leader who unwaveringly oversees her oddball staff, which includes series protagonist Denji, as the chief of the Public Safety Division, a special section of the Japanese government entrusted with hunting Devils (Ryan Colt Levy). Power is a continually impulsive Devil that leads with her burning emotions as she battles other Devils all across the world while collaborating with the Public Safety Division to strive towards her own redemption. The two are among the few individuals capable of protecting Japan from an increase in enormous Devils, despite their odd alliance.
In an exclusive interview with AnimeRanku, Chainsaw Man stars Suzie Yeung and Sarah Wiedenheft revealed how they each approached their performances as Makima and Power. The pair shared some of their favorite moments from the anime series and reflected on the fan response to the show.
In some ways, Makima and Power are diametrically opposed to one another; whereas Power is completely unpredictable, even to herself, Makima is completely unflappable. How did it compare to your individual performances?
Suzie Yeung: Makima is completely non-affected by pretty much everything, so it's just having to keep that stable tone all throughout. She's the stable one compared to the other three, who are just freaking out over in one corner. [laughs]
Sarah Wiedenheft: It's so fun! [laughs] I absolutely adore the whole section of Power in the manga, too, where she showed all the sides of herself of being very selfish, being a pathological liar, and that she enjoys murdering things. [laughs] She knows she's cute, so you can tell that she's very confident in herself, and she also doesn't really give a crap about others. [laughs]
One of my favorite moments with Power has her feeding her cat, only for it to cut to her eating a live cow.
Wiedenheft: Originally, she was going to eat the cat because she wanted to fatten it up because the only thing that she cared about was blood and eating for a long time. That was kind of horrific to see what she was holding! [laughs]
How did you find the voices for your characters? Was it a matter of listening to the Japanese voice cast or looking at the manga artwork and finding your own performance?
Yeung: Whenever I approach any character, I look at their art -- what they look like, what really draws me to them, and what I think they would sound like. For Makima, I think she looks to be in her mid-20s, a young woman but also quite assertive. I sort of make it into my own.
Wiedenheft: I did a similar thing. I like to get a visual reference of them and gauge their personality and the way that they look. I also looked at the trailer after I had already done a few takes of the audition. [I'd be like] "I'm not sure. I want to look at the trailer and get a reference there." Apparently, I wasn't too far off! [laughs] It was nice to hear the way they were doing it because I was having a bit of a difficult time measuring just how energetic or chaotic she might be with the read.
In the manga, she'll say things like, "I only get along with cats. I hate humans!" and then in all capital letters, she'll say, "AND I HATE DEVILS TOO!" I'm not sure how crazy it's going to be in the anime, so I gave a few reads like that where it went from zero to 100 and then back to zero again. [laughs]
How was it working with voice director Mike McFarland in the booth?
Yeung: It was awesome! He has such attention to detail and definitely knows what he wants to hear, and he will get it out of you if it kills him -- he will yank it out of you! The cool thing about Mike is that he gets you to look at things from a different perspective or try to tease out tones of you that you wouldn't even think of in that scene. You do a read, and he'll be like, "That was good, but try it a little more like this. She's a little more intimate in this moment." It's really cool to make those minute changes with him guiding.
Wiedenheft: He's awesome to work [with] like Suzie said. He'll get some reads out of you that you never even thought of doing. I specifically remember this scene where [Power] is like, "Ha, they're probably running away from me because I smell!" [laughs] He was like, "Why don't you do it like this and this so that you flow into it?" I would be like, "Okay, I see you. Let's try it -- holy shit, that's so good!"
Yeung: When you look at the final product, you're like, "Oh, that makes sense!" Sometimes, in the moment, you don't really know, but you trust it because it plays off of the other characters and makes a lot more sense in context. He's very good at looking at the big picture [while] we kind of zero in on our own lines and only see our own scenes, so it's really helpful to have him help guide us through that.
Makima is a very stoic figure throughout everything happening around her, and that gives her a comedic quality. How is it finding the humor underneath that unwavering veneer?
Yeung: I always say that she's not necessarily an active participant, but she's an observer of all the comedy that's happening before her, but she'll lightly play along. She'll be like, "That's cute." [laughs] Whenever they're all yelling at each other, she'll just be patiently sitting there and say, "Okay, moving on now," with this very scary look to her. I think that's just hilarious because Power will be like, "Okay, I'll shut up now." [laughs]
Wiedenheft: I feel like she does make a lot of jokes on her own when Denji is asking her things like, "What's your type?" and she'll be like, "Hmmmm. The Denji-type." She's playing with him. [laughs]
Yeung: Yeah, she's playing the fiddle right there.
For all her chaotic energy, there is a vulnerable and tragic side to Power, and she'll certainly do anything for her cat. How is it exploring those moments for the character?
Wiedenheft: It was fantastic. I loved seeing that backstory and that whole side to her. I actually had a cat whom I loved, who I absolutely adored, and she passed away, I'd say, about 12 years ago. Every once in a while, I'll still remember her, and going through this anime opened up those wounds again, and I needed a few moments to step away because I remembered her again. It wasn't too hard to get into that mindset -- fortunately and unfortunately. [laughs]
The one character in Chainsaw Man who can get under Makima and Power's exterior is Denji. What do you think those two see in him?
Yeung: I think she sees him as a dog. She straight up says that in the anime. [laughs] "What a cute, interesting animal. How can I get him to do some tricks for me?" [laughs] I think intrigued is definitely the right word for it. She's like, "You're special. I know more about you than you know about yourself."
Wiedenheft: I think for Power, she doesn't really think much of him, at least not at the beginning. She's just like, "How can I trick this stupid human? I think he's an easy one to get. I can sway him very quickly." After he rescued her cat, I think she became more empathetic and maybe even liked him a little bit more. I think she just sees him as a toy at the moment, just a fun thing to play with. [laughs]
Yeung: It's funny how both characters see him that way but from different perspectives.
How has the fan response been? You debuted the first episode at New York Comic Con, and it's since gone on to become one of the biggest anime shows on Hulu and Crunchyroll.
Yeung: It's been insane! You guys are so incredible! There is so much fan art, and you know it's made it when a bunch of memes pop up, too. [laughs]
Wiedenheft: I just love seeing all the videos and edits people make. They're super creative.
Yeung: We knew it was going to be big, but now that it's actually out there, seeing the fan response makes us even more hyped to be in it.
Which of the Devils we've seen so far are your personal favorites?
Wiedenheft: I'm going to go with the Fox Devil because I just love that you can hopefully pick apart, especially if you're pretty because then the fox likes you. [laughs] I'd love to be able to get the head.
Yeung: Yeah, she has such a beautiful and majestic voice, too. I like her, but my favorite will always be Pochita. He's so cute. I want him to appear more! [laughs]
What else can you tease about the coming episodes of Chainsaw Man and the continuing adventures of Makima and Power?
Wiedenheft: I can tease a little bit about the continuation of Power's scene [with Denji]. I think people are going to love it!
Based on the manga series of the same name created by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Chainsaw Man is directed by Ryu Nakayama and Masato Nakazono. New episodes are released Tuesdays on Hulu and Crunchyroll.