News ► Exclusive: KHI Interviews Justin Cowden!

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Nov 1, 2009
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Greetings, all! You may remember several months ago when we announced that we would receive a grand opportunity to interview the one-and-only Justin Cowden, voice of Hayner! Our sincere apologies for the delay, but we're proud to finally unveil the results of that interview. You're in for a very special treat, so sit back, relax and enjoy!

Please note: unfortunately the recording was afflicted with technical difficulties. For the full experience, we recommend reading through the complete transcript provided below.

Remember to check out Justin's Facebook page and catch up on everything he's doing! You can also find him on Twitter!

Geir - Gexus
Katie - Taochan
Arielle - Master Spockanort

Geir: Is it working?

Arielle: Yes it is.

Katie: Yay.

Geir: Yay.

Justin: Yaaay!

Geir: Wow, you're happy!

Justin: I'm excited! 

Katie: Yeah, everyone on the forums is really excited to hear from you. 

Justin: Oh really? Cool! Honestly, I'm just super excited to do this for you guys!

Katie: It's awesome, we really appreciate it, thank you!

Justin: Thank you for having me! This is really cool. I saw the forum - my wife found the forums and I looked at it and went,

"Wow! Talk about some dedicated fans. This is great."

Katie: Aw, thank you!

Justin: Alright! Okay so, wait, one of you is in Canada and another is in Australia, and somebody's here?

Katie: I'm in Canada.

Geir: Um, no I'm in Iceland.

Justin: Oh, you're in Iceland! Oh that's cool, I wish I knew how to say something in, is it Icelandic; would that be the name of the language or is it something else?

Geir: Yes!

Katie: You got it perfect!

Geir: Yes yes, it's Icelandic. You got it perfectly.

Justin: Awesome, cool.

Katie: Yeah, Kingdom Hearts has a really big fanbase if you can't tell, since we're from three different countries.

Justin: I guess so! This is exciting, this is a lot of fun.

Geir: It's multicultural and everything.

Justin: It really is! When I started reaching out through Facebook to some of the fanpages, I didn't realize how many different versions of fanpages there were for not just the whole franchise but the individual games themselves. 

Katie: Oh gosh.

Geir: Yeah, exactly!

Justin: My goodness, the cosplay is incredible. 

Katie: It really is. Even up here in Canada, there's a ton of cosplay for Kingdom Hearts.

Justin: Oh really?

Katie: Yeah.

Justin: Wow. I gotta see that. We went to Kamikaze Con in LA (Los Angeles) and my wife saw a bunch of Kingdom Hearts cosplay, and she's like, "You know, my husband is Hayner," and I thought about, if I had the talent to make a costume, it'd be kind of fun to actually go as Hayner. 

Katie: You should totally do that!

Justin: I think that would be a lot of fun!

Katie: That would be amazing!

Geir: Now you really have to!

Justin: Maybe I'll do it! I was thinking about Wondercon or one of these other cons that are coming up, any of these individual... Did they actually - this is a stupid question - are there Kingdom Hearts conventions just solely dedicated to Kingdom Hearts?

Katie: There was a meet up where Arielle was at in California!

Justin: Oh wow!

Geir: It was celebrating the launch of the HD Remix on PS3.

Justin: Oh cool!

Geir: Yeah.

Arielle: There were a lot of fans there, over 5000 people in line just to play the game.

Justin: Oh my gosh...

Katie: Yeah!

Geir: Yeah, people really love the franchise.

Justin: Oh man, that sounds so cool.

Katie: Yeah it's kind of cool that it's been running for a decade and still has such a dedicated group of people following it.

Justin: Well I can't even believe it's been, oh my gosh, since I even recorded the game...

Geir: Seven or eight years?

Justin: Something like that, yeah.

Geir: Yeah, it's been a long time. Do you still remember everything?

Justin: Oh yeah! I remember a lot of stuff and then there are times that certain lines come up - I think somebody recently put a lot of my action sounds on Youtube? (Video uploaded by Youtube User Thamauturge / forum member Haeralis)

Geir: Yes, yes! 

Justin: I remember going, "I don't remember saying that." 

All: *laughs*

Katie: Like the battle grunts?

Justin: Yeah, what was it?

"I can't believe I lost."

Like that kind of stuff.

Geir: Yeah exactly, I remember that. It was fun beating Hayner as Roxas.

Justin: Yeah *laughs*

Katie: That did feel good. Yeah, we had so much fun beating you!

All: *laughs*

Geir: So did you want to ask a question first?

Katie: Oh, yeah. Did you get a chance to see the video that Joey (Chaser) sent you?
(Staff note: Joey sent Justin the video of Zero Points, the secret ending featured in Birth by Sleep Final Mix.)

Justin: I didn't. For some reason, my email didn't bring it up. Let me see if I can bring it up while I'm on with you. I have a Mac, is that possible? Do you guys know?

Katie: I have no idea if it'd work.

Geir: Yeah, I have no idea, I'm a Windows guy.

Katie: Same.

Justin: You're a Windows guy? Uh oh *laughs*

Geir: Uh oh, we're in trouble now *laughs*

Katie: Arielle's our tech guy.

Justin: Sorry gang, we might have a- no, I'm just kidding.

Katie: Aww.

Justin: No, but honestly, I'm not that tech-savvy, so as far as, you know, picking a PC? I have a Mac and I like it! 

Geir: It's perfectly fine.

Justin: Let me see if I can open this again. While I'm doing that, if you guys have any... hold on one second...
Oh, here it is, hold on. 
Again, very Mac. Have an iPhone and it's freezing *laughs*

All: *laughs*

Justin: Goodness gracious, I'm just forwarding it to my other...

Geir: The video actually is in Japanese but it's really the footage that you're going to like.

Justin: Oh, here it is! I got it!

Katie: Yay!

Geir: Yay!

Justin: Hold on a second, looking at it right now. It actually opened for me!

Katie: That's amazing.

Justin: Here we go, it's doing what it's supposed to do!

Geir: Wow, that's great!

Katie: Yeah, there's one scene in it that we wanted you to see.

Justin: It's near the end, right?

Katie: Yeah.

Geir: Somewhat, yeah.

Katie: I think Joey sent the minute-point it was at, but I can't remember.

Geir: Actually the whole video shows Aqua and everything before the trailer. 

Justin: Yeah, that's what I'm looking at right now.

Geir: You're going to want to forward a bit.

Justin: Okay, alright.

Arielle: Sounds about right.

Justin: I'm almost there.

Geir: Almost there!

Justin: Almost there!

Katie: So close!

Justin: I love that it's, is it dubbed in French or Spanish? Or not dubbed, but subtitled.

Geir: The subtitles are in Italian I think, but the dub is in Japanese.

Justin: Okay...

Geir: Multicultural!

Justin: Okay, I see Mickey now, have I gone too far?

Katie: No.

Geir: It's the perfect place.

Justin: Oh there he is! Yay!

Katie: You see!

Justin: Yeah!

Geir: *laughs*

Katie: You saw yourself!

Justin: Yeah, there he is!

Katie: Yeah!

Justin: What a cool trailer!

Katie: Yeah, that was-

Justin: Oh wow!

Geir: What happened?

Justin: Just the way it ended. I like it, it's kind of cool,

Geir: Right? Whoa!

Justin: It's like, "I can't believe I lost" - no, I'm just kidding.

All: *laughs*

Justin: Okay, so! Fire away, now that I've seen it!

Katie: Yeah, so we wanted to show you that there's probably going to be some Hayner action in the future since they took the time to actually put your character in that video. 

Justin: I know! That really excites me, that makes me feel very good *laughs*

Geir: Yeah!

Katie: We have no idea when or where, but we were super excited to see the Twilight Town gang.

Justin: Oh, you know it's so funny; right after I heard the announcement (refering to Kingdom Hearts 3), I had talked to my agent and just said, "Look, are we getting in on this and everything?"

And he said, "Yeah."

But they're still developing this, you guys already know. They haven't done any casting yet, So I don't think it'll be for a while before I hear when we're going to record. I think they do the Japanese voice actors first?

Geir: Yes.

Katie: Yup!

Justin: And then I'll hear later! It's a very interesting process when you're doing a character that's already in another language because they have to change - you can't translate word for word and the mouth flaps match the Japanese - so they have to create the English to match the mouth flaps. So the script takes on a different life when it goes into English.

Geir: And now we have PS4 graphics so it's going to be extra-realistic! They'll have to photograph your mouth or something.

Justin: Oh yeah! They actually did take some video because they tried to make some adjustments but, yeah definitely.

Katie: Did they really?

Justin: Yeah, if the tone - because Japanese is multi-syllable sentences that can mean multiple things, so it's very "lalalanana-lanananana" like "Oh my gosh I have to go over there" to literally match the way it goes up and down. 

Katie: Oh wow.

Justin: It's very funny. So they would literally video my mouth because I have pretty pronounced lips. They would try to make every little flap be as organic as possible, and these guys are amazing animators. In the last seven years, it's gotten even, I can't even describe it. The process is more refined and just the way they do it now... 

I have a couple of buddies who are animators and they said the process has changed so dramatically that you guys are in for a real... it's going to be insane, let me put it that way.

Katie: Yeah!

Geir: Oh really?

Justin: Oh yeah, if you're this excited to see the announcement, wait till you see what they've come up with. 

Katie: That's exciting!

Geir: Okay, that's really exciting.

Justin: Yeah!

Katie: That's really interesting because you sounded very natural with Hayner and I thought the lip movements matched really well even though it was a PS2 game.

Justin: Yeah, because like I said, I think they made adjustments. It was actually one of the more difficult and lengthy recording sessions I've ever for voice overs. It's no joke. It's really a long process. I mean I think I must have hit those grunting sounds.

The director at the time who ended up dropping out near the end - I didn't know he had dropped out near the end - who cast me, he's make me do like 25 takes on just a "Ugh!" or a "I'll get you!" and my voice started to really feel it.

Katie: That's so strenuous!

Justin: It was like Stanley Kubrick was directing my voice!

All: *laughs*
Katie: He's trying to hurt you.
Justin: Yeah, exactly!

Geir: I was wondering, when you were voicing Hayner, were there staff from the development team who were making the game, were they checking you out? Any Japanese people giving you instructions?

Justin: Oh yeah. We had actually a Japanese consultant that sat with our director and she would, literally between every take, go "Okay." She had a really thick accent and she would say, "Now in Twilight Town..." She would literally go through the whole thing for one word. For one word. That's how detail-oriented they were, and again I think that's a testament to the creative process that whereas I'm just this voice guy that comes in and burps into a microphone for a paycheck. 

These people really wanted it to be honest and genuine as much as possible.

"Oh, it's just a video game."

No no no. This is a new medium, a new art, This is new film to them, and they really wanted it to be an honest performance. They didn't want me to just go "uh", "uhhh," or burp, or say "Hey you." I had to know what I was saying "Hey you!" about, but the thing that got strenuous was that I would have to hear a five minute introduction to the "Hey you!"

Anytime I got tired, I had to remind myself, "You know what? I'm not digging ditches. This is what I love to do." And I have dug ditches before; I worked for my dad's contracting company. When you get to do a job like this? Literally, I know so many people who would kill for this job and I just reminded myself that I'm a very blessed guy, and to be able to work with these people that have created such a wonderful concept, wonderful universe... it was worth it.

It makes you tired, definitely. You need to drink a lot of water, but it was "Okay! Next line." after 80 takes of me saying "Hey you!" was... But you guys liked it, right? *laughs*

Katie: Oh my gosh, yeah! Kingdom Hearts 2 was my favorite.

Geir: Loved it. 

Justin: Oh, thank you!

Katie: Did you have a really good idea of the plot when you were recording the lines?

Justin: They were giving me everything, but the thing was that it was my section, my segment, and I actually at one point, I don't know how this happened, but I got a call and a message on my phone and this gentleman said he was President of the Kingdom Hearts fanclub and he wanted to know if I would reveal any details of the story.

And I'm thinking, "Who got- how did you get my number?" And then I paused and went, "You got my number! Cool!"

All: *laughs*

Justin: "Wow, somebody is stalking me, this is great."

Geir: That's creepy actually.

Arielle: You'd know you made it though.

Justin: Honestly, I'm such a comic geek. I'm literally so part of the fanboy culture that it was kind of neat to feel like I was part of something that people really liked. And at Comic Con this year, they were showing... I forgot what booth I was at - I was walking and they were showing the new game that went to the little mini... Oh god I'm going to lose all my street cred right now. 

Katie: Dream Drop Distance? Was it for the 3DS?

Justin: Yes! And they also had this other game that I did - I did the first two Saints Row video games - and they had Part 3. They had Part 3 of Saints Row along with a Kingdom Hearts game; that was really hilarious to me because they're so different. 

But, and I'll be honest, I purposely went over there to see if anyone knew of my character, and as soon as I revealed casually that I was the voice of Hayner, they were like "*Gasp* Can I get, oh my gosh!" And this one kid looks at me and says, "I'm so sorry I didn't recognize you!" Well... I don't look like Hayner, I don't have blond hair or wear cargo shorts and stuff like that, but I'll be honest with you, it was the thrill of my Comic Con experience.

To be able to have folks like yourselves who enoy the games so much that you'd honor me and allow me to be interviewed for you site, I'm very grateful to you guys.

Geir: We're grateful as well!

Katie: Yeah, you breathe life into these characters we love so much. You ARE the character!

Justin: Thank you so much. It's so much fun, I'll be honest, it is pretty cool to somewhat be able to originate the English-speaking version of the character. 

Katie: Yeah exactly! Because they send the English tracks out to Germany and other regions.

Geir: Iceland as well. 

Justin: Do they really? Oh wow!

Geir: The English version is the most common version actually.

Justin: That is so amazing.

Katie: Yeah, they usually just add subtitles to it but your voice is the one they hear in other countries as well.

Justin: Oh that is amazing.

Geir: Exactly, exactly. I can vouch for that. Your voice is here in Iceland as well, so yeah.

Justin:  Sweet, awesome!

Geir: A bunch of people have heard your voice. It must be a very special feeling. 

Justin: Oh, it definitely is. Although I had a previous job that I did for Disney where somebody took - the credit was already on IMDB - and someone decided to send a correction that took away all my credits and give it to a comedian who just happened to look like the character I was playing. I had to go back and forth with them for a while to get my credits back, it was ridiculous. 

Geir: Ohhhh...

Justin: It was a little bit disheartening.

Katie: It's weird with publicly edited things like that.

Geir: What was that?

Justin: I do a cartoon called "The Emperor's New School" that's on Disney Channel or Disney XD.

Geir: Ah, right!

Justin: It's in re-runs now but I play the voice of Guaca, who's the Emperor's sidekick. There was the movie "The Emperor's New Groove," and they did a spin-off, so that's what it is. 

Katie: I remember that!

Justin: I'm the little fat guy called "Guaca" that goes "Kuzco rules!" That's me.

All: *laughs*

Katie: That's amazing.

Justin: But yeah, I worked with Disney before and actually to be honest I think I did Kingdom Hearts before I worked with Disney... yeah. Yeah! I do! I wish I got to work with them more, a couple of the guys that did the voice stuff there. I was actually the original voice of, his name is "Kick Buttowski" now but originally it was called "Kid Knievel" and I was the original voice of that character before they went a different route.

Arielle: Oh, that show!

Justin: Yeah, that little daredevil kid on the bicycle. I was him in the pilot and then they, I don't know, the guy ended up picking did the exact same voices I did, so it was pretty funny. But I still played him!

Geir: I actually remember you from Ozzy and Drix [as Hector Cruz]!

Justin: Do you really!? You guys, that was my first cartoon!

Geir: No way.

Justin: Oh my gosh, and you know the best part of that was that they used to do ensemble recording where they had everybody in the room at the same time and it gave it just a different feel. But it always felt like inbetween takes, you were in detention having a good time with a bunch of kids because they all have a blast, and all of the voices that I worked with became my mentors in voiceover, and some of them did voices of some of my favorite characters when I was growing up. 

One of my biggest mentor's name is Rob Paulsen who is the voice of Pinky from Pinky and the Brain. He's one of my friends!

Katie: Oh really, that's so cool!

Justin: Yeah, he's a friend of mine.

Geir: That's really cool. 

Justin: Jim Cummings, I think you guys know who Jim Cummings is; he does a lot of Disney voices, Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger now. Jeff Bennett who did Johnny Bravo on Cartoon Network, and Phil Lamarr is a good friend of mine who did pretty much everything for Warner Brothers that year we were doing that, and they all taught me so much and I had so much fun that I didn't want to do anything else. 

I love on-camera acting, that's my ultimate goal, but this you show up at 2 in the afternoon and you get to burp into a microphone for a paycheck and go have a drink afterwards - that's just the best feeling in the world.

Katie: Yeah, and it sounds like you meet so many amazing people doing it.

Justin: Oh, we had guest stars on different shows. I mean I got thrown into the business right away in that show, and learned so much from some of the best directors; Ginny McSwain who directed that original 8, she directed a lot of stuff that you guys have seen and loved. 

Obviously the video game world is a little bit different but she's done a lot of stuff for Disney as well, but that whole group, I couldn't have been more blessed to be part of this community. It's just really really cool.

Geir: It seems like it is!

Justin: Do you guys have any other questions? I know you guys have a list, read them off!

Katie: Yeah, we have questions from our members.

Geir: A bunch of questions!

Justin: Do it! I've set my time for you guys so we don't have a time frame.

Katie: Did you want to answer some questions from the members?

Justin: Sure!

Geir: LaunchpadMcQuack asks, "Was Hayner a character you tried out for or where you contacted to play him? If you did try out, what role was it for and how was that experience?"

Justin: I actually got a call from my agent who said, "Hey, there's this new video game, just go try out! It's for this role." It's for Hayner, it was just for Hayner because they pretty much had almost everybody cast. I went in and I just read a few lines, I think it wasn't even a copy that was used in the game. 

I went in and the guy gave me a few directions, and usually you go into the booth, you say your name and you say what character you're doing, and you do your few takes, your few lines and the guy will get on and say, "Okay can you try it like this?"

You do that, and they say "Thank you for coming in."

Well, I went in, I did that, and it was funny because it was kind of going through at an interesting time in my life that wasn't so happy. So I went in and was like whatever - as soon as I came out of the booth expecting "Oh well, thanks a lot," the gentleman said to me, "Well the best part of this kind of audition is that I can tell you right now that you got the part."

And I went, "A-are you serious?" 

It was the first time I had ever gotten to actually know right then and there, because when you're an actor, sometimes, especially in voiceovers, sometimes you don't hear for like 6 months. I've been out for a part in a show that I cannot talk about right now to play a pretty famous character's sidekick, and it's been literally a year of auditions. They'll call me back in, they'll have me come in again and the producer will go, "Well we don't know if we want to spend this much money..." and it sometimes doesn't have anything to do with you but you literally get called out of the blue and they give you the part a long time later.

This was right away, and that instant gratification made me immediately forever love this game, and forever love this character. 

Geir: Wow, that's really great.

Katie: Especially since you said that it was at a tough time in your life. 

Justin: Oh yeah! Absolutely, and it was just this big "Yes! Score~" *laughs*

Geir: Finally!

Katie: Kingdom Hearts just makes everyone happy.

Justin: I didn't know how big it was until I got in to record and people were like, "You're doing WHAT? WHAT!?" *laughs*

Geir: So have you actually played any Kingdom Hearts games at all?

Justin: The second one, yeah. My wife's such a big fan and I kicked my own butt, that's what was actually funny about it. I'll admit, I am not the best at video games. Once the old control pad went past A+B for Super Mario Bros., I pretty much kind of lost it. I mean in Street Fighter, it's like "COMBO" and in Mortal Kombat I pretty much just push all the buttons and if something good happens, that's great. But my wife is really good at it!

Katie: Has she been keeping up with the series?

Justin: Oh yeah! She's essentially my number one fan/manager/everything and she'll keep up and finished the game and loves it, and thinks it's the greatest thing and most beautiful story; she actually cried at the end so yeah, she's looking forward to more.

Geir: That's really great.

Katie: I did the same thing.

Geir: I didn't cry but I came close, okay?

Katie: He just doesn't want to admit that he cried.

Justin: The songs are really moving. The music in it's great!

Geir: Yeah, Yoko Shimomura. She's the composer.

Justin: Amazing. Love to see her do more, out here even.

Geir: Yeah, totally. So, does your wife have an account on the forums?

All: *laughs*

Justin: She doesn't, and it's so funny, she said, "I'm going to make you a plan to put you on the forums." (Not sure about this, someone actually there needs to double check)

(To Mrs. Cowden - "They want to know if you have an account on the forums.")

She goes, "I don't!" and her eyes just lit up!

Geir: Well you're welcome to make your own account as well!

Justin: I think I'm going to have to! You guys are so supportive and I want to check in every once in a while and see how everyone's doing. 

Geir: You should actually troll the forums, that'd be really fun!

Justin: Yeah, it's so funny. A buddy of mine had a UStream show called "Now Loading." It was all about video games and things like that, but he went and put this announcement that I was interested in being in Part 3 on some forum, and I actually got a lot of badmouthing from people like, "I hate that character" or "That character sucks". 

I was just like, "Okay, that's cool."

All: *laughs*

Justin: It was kind of like Ben Affleck playing Batman trolling the forums and all he saw was, "Nooooooo!" and he was all "Okay I'm done."

Katie: Yeah, the bigger something gets, the more people you find that are weird like that. It just means that Kingdom Hearts is super famous!

Justin: It does! And it's the coolest. I actually got into a Comic Con party this year because my friend - it was the Geek and Sundry Party; Felicia Day from The Guild, it was her big party, Doug Jones who played Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, he was there.

There were so many people outside and my buddy got a pass and was like, "I don't know if we're going to get in, I got one pass." So we just walk up to the front and he goes "Oh I got a pass but this is Justin Cowden, Kingdom Hearts 2."

The guy's eyes lit up and was "Oh Hayner! Come on in!" and I was like "Oh my gosh."

All: *laughs*

Justin: It was awesome. It was such a great party too, it was cool.

Katie: That's really awesome.

Justin: I definitely think I'm going to have to do a Hayner cosplay soon once I figure out how to do it. 

Katie: We're going to hold you to that and you better come on the forums and post pictures!

Justin: That'd be great! You know what? 

(To Mrs. Cowden - "They want me to post pictures on the forums of me in a Hayner cosplay.")

My wife's looking at got thumbs up and like, "Heck yes." So okay!

All: *laughs*

Justin: Maybe we can get Hayden Panettiere and Haley and some of the other guys to do that! 

Katie: They should!

Justin: That'd be funny!

Katie I think David Gallagher would totally do it.

Justin: You know what? He probably would. I know that Jessica, oh gosh, Jessic Dicicco did umm... that's Jessica's last name - Jessica was actually on Emperor's New School with me and I told her, "Why don't we try to get everybody together?" Because we didn't all work together, but "Let's all just dress up and pose for the forums?"

Of course some are more popular than others, so some people won't even let their agents tell you "yay" or "nay". They just kind of say, "No, stay away." *laughs*

Katie: Oh no!

Justin: They're all nice folks. Some of them are very very busy. 

Katie: Oh yeah.

Katie: Okay, I'll ask the next one! What was your favorite part about being Hayner's voice actor? This is from forum member ChibiHearts249.

Justin: I'm not going to lie - being Hayner's voice actor [is such an honor and that he can be in all of these shows because of] the fact that I could tell my kids one day, "That's Daddy" and point to a cartoon? The fact that, again, right now what I'm doing, talking to you, that is probably the best part of it. Just knowing that I got to do something that people appreciated? That's incredible. It's so much fun, I think that's probably my favorite part.

Katie: That is an awesome answer. I love it! 

Geir: Oh yeah, perfect answer!

Katie: Arielle, did you want to ask the next one?

Arielle: Okay, If you could voice any other character from the series, be it Disney, Final Fantasy, The World Ends With You, or an original character, who would you be and why? This is from forum member LightUpTheSky452.

Justin: Well okay. I've actually done a character in Final Fantasy Tactics [as Luso]. It was a small part. As far as Kingdom Hearts would be, I would say - everybody's going to laugh at me about this and expect a bad guy - it's always cool to be a bad guy but, Goofy! Goofy the dog!

"Gawrsh. Hi ho golly, Mickey! Haha!"

All: *laughs*

Justin: Yeah, something like that, although that was a little more Bullwinkle than Goofy. I got to meet Bill (Farmer) who did Goofy and he is Goofy.

Geir: Oh really?

Justin: Yeah, he actually did a short film with my sister and ironically, we were out at Menchie's, the yogurt place, and my wife was talking to him and his wife because we have a golden retriever puppy dog, a service dog, and he - I'll get into that, that's a drop and drag, I've got another addendum to that - and he owns a golden retriever, him and his wife, and he's wearing a Goofy shirt! And I looked and I knew who he was and I went, "Bill?"

And he says, "Yeah?"

And I say, "You're Goofy."

And he says, "Well, yeah!"

So I say, "I was in Kingdom Hearts. I was Hayner!" Just getting to talk to him and I was like, "I would love to take over for you one day. That would be really cool."

All: *laughs*

Justin: But I'm telling you, that guy's going to live another 100 years. He's amazing. I say "another" but he's not 100 *laughs*

Arielle: Don't let him hear that!

Justin: I think it was Donald and Daisy, I believe, the actors are husband and wife. Or Mickey and Minnie, I'm not sure who are married, but it's really kind of neat to see them.

Geir: Mickey and Minnie.

Justin: Mickey and Minnie! And yeah, I love that. I love that folks who have made a living that aren't necessarily on-camera celebrities but they get to voice these characters, because a lot of voice actors - one thing I want to say, I don't want to pontificate for too long, but I will just say - I missed the unsung heroes of voiceover getting to really continue to do what they've always done. We've lost a lot of jobs because they've been giving a lot of roles to celebrities who can go on TV shows and promote them. 

People like Pat Frayley, Rob Paulsen and Jim Cummings - I'll go down the list forever - Jeff Bennett... they've deserve every role that they can get, and it really bugs me when they go for a celebrity voiceover. One of them who's always in the voice job, what's his name, Billy West and Frank Welker! 

Actually, little piece of trivia here, guys - Geir, you might not be familiar with the cartoon G.I. Joe because, I don't know, it's been years... are you familiar with it? 

Geir: I'm somewhat, yeah.

Justin: Somewhat, okay. Well, ladies, how about you? Transformers or G.I. Joe? 

Arielle: Yes!

Katie: Totally Transformers!

Justin: Okay, Transformers! Well, Starscream's grandson is my godson. 

Katie: What!?

Justin: Yeah, so I'm a part of that community. My little godson, Liam Cluster, he's the grandson of the great late Chris Latta who was an absolute - if he was around today, the video games? I'm not even kidding you guys, anything from The Sopranos to Kingdom Hearts, he would have voiced many of these characters. I get a little choked up thinking about it because he was definitely a pioneer, and I just have to throw the credit out to some of those guys because they don't get the credit they deserve.

Katie: There's a noticeable difference between voice actors and actors from television. Voice actors do so much more with their range and emotion.

Justin: You know, most of them are singers! Most of them are trained singers so they know how to project their voices.

Katie: Yeah! Like Jesse McCartney!

Justin: Jesse McCartney! And you know what's funny? When he was in the boy band and his own little thing going on, but I really have a lot of respect for him and obviously he voiced one of my favorite characters - he voiced Robin aka Nightwing as well - and he knows what he's doing. He's a legit voiceover actor.

Katie: In Young Justice?

Justin: Young Justice. And I will say right now, it went too soon. I miss that show.

Arielle: We all miss it, so much. 

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Katie: Arielle and I are big fans. 

Justin: Huge fan of that, and just as I was really starting to get into it - because they air the episodes so far apart - so it's like, come on! Let's get it all together! 

Then they fast forward it a few years. You could have gotten four or five seasons out of that show, but instead they replaced it. I won't dog it with what they replaced it with but I'm just saying... there was room for both.

Arielle: There definitely was. I think that's probably the biggest show that I loved and hated that they cancelled. It was amazing seeing all the fans getting so angry about it.

Justin: Oh I know.

Arielle: Can't really do anything about it now.

Justin: Well, I've heard rumors from some people... You never know, there might be a straight-to-DVD movie they might do.

Katie: That would be amazing. I would cry from happiness.

Justin: Oh man. I would love to be on that show, that would be so cool.

Katie: Maybe there will be a place for you!

Justin: I know there will be eventually. We'll see! I've been up for a few of those characters, but I'm looking forward to Kingdom Hearts 3! Literally knowing that I'm going to be part of it, or the character will be - I don't see why I wouldn't be asked back. I didn't burn anybody's house down.

All: *laughs*

Geir: Exactly! It's more than likely that you'll appear in Kingdom Hearts 3. He has to.

Katie: Yeah, the Twilight Town gang needs to be there!

Justin: I agree!

Geir: Twilight Town was featured in the trailers, so it would make sense.

Katie: That's true.

Justin: Yeah! And I think they're probably going to add a lot more that you're not even going to expect. It should be a lot of fun.

Geir: Okay, King Sora X asks, when you were recording your lines for Hayner, what parts of your personality, if any, did you convey into the character?

Justin: You know, it's so funny, mostly it's energy. It's mostly just my attitude, because they didn't always ask me to do different versions of my voice or anything like that. They can pitch it up like the guys on South Park - they just use their regular voices and they pitch them up.

They can do that but I think what I bring the most is, and you can probably tell just by my enthusiasm, is that's what is is, and I have to bring my personality! Like, I'm going to fight you! That kind of a thing, and I think what I try to bring that to every character I do is the energy.

Even when they asked me to do an African American soldier in Red Faction 3, I'm like, "Alright baby, what's goin' on? Let's do this, I'ma fire my gun-" 

Geir: It's really genuine!

Justin: It's a genuine range change but I'm still "You can't chuck it at me, baby~"

All: *laughs*

Geir: Does anyone want to ask the next question?

Katie: I'll ask! How does preparing for a role in voice acting differ from acting on stage? This is from forum member Jackstin.

Justin: Oh, huge, huge - okay, this is going to sound funny - hugely different, but still very much the same prep. You treat voiceover as if you were still doing Shakespeare. I studied with a teacher - his name is Gregory Berger Stellbeck, he's a teacher from Yale and also produced a drama with Paul Giamatti, Meryl Streep and Sanaa Lathan. Phil Lamarr actually, I don't know if Phil went to the drama school...

But anyway, the point is is that he was talking about how you approach the work with great respect, no matter if it's selling soap in a commercial or doing Shakespeare, you approach it the same way, and obviously it worked very well for Kingdom Hearts. You want to know the story, you want to know who you are in the given circumstances and so it's kind of fun to say who would Justin be if he was a member of the Twilight Town gang.

It sounds like I'm going in too deep but you know what? It's exactly what needs to happen when you're telling a story regardless of what the medium is. So I would say, the only thing different is that there might be a role that I might not be physically right for? It doesn't matter, and I don't have to work out for it and I can actually show up in my bathrobe. That's the big difference!

All: *laughs*

Geir: Touché.

Katie: It sounds like you put a lot of effort into figuring out these characters which is really cool.

Justin: Yeah, it's a lot of fun too, because you get to play. You think about when we're kids, and kids become the best actors because they just jump into it. It's like, "What am I? A spaceman? Wheeeee~" 

You know, they don't go, "Oh, what space station did I come from? Was my father an-," you know? They don't do that. They just jump into it, and I still get to play. I get to be somebody that gets to be around all these powers and keys and all that great stuff, and it's fun!

Geir: Right!

Geir: Did you get the Hayner lines we sent you in the email?

Justin: I did actually! Let me grab my little phone here and pull them up. You guys want to hear me say some of these?

Geir: Yeah! Actually there's this one iconic line...

Justin: What's the iconic line you want to hear me say?

Geir: There's this one about the "klepto club," do you remember that?

Justin: Ohhh, I actually do remember that! My inflections might be slightly different, it's been a while.

"I mean, it's true that stuff's been stolen around town. And we've got a score to settle with Seifer and everything. So if he wants to think we did it, I can't really blame him. See...that's not what really bugs me. What really bugs me is that he's goin' around tellin' everybody we're the thieves! Now the whole town and their mothers are treating us like the Klepto Club! Have you ever been this ticked off before in your life? 'Cause I haven't. Nuh-uh, never. Now...what to do."

Geir: Very nice, very nice! Actually Justin, I have an idea!

Justin: Okay.

Geir: Can you do the African American voice?

Justin: Yeah, you want me to do that? Okay, I'm just throwing this out there, we're just doing a different character.
"I mean, it's true that stuff's been stolen around town. And we've got a score to settle with Seifer and everything. So if he wants to think we did it, I can't really blame him. See...that's not what really bugs me. What really bugs me is that he's goin' around tellin' everybody we're the thieves! Now the whole town and their mothers are treating us like the Klepto Club! Have you ever been this ticked off before in your life? 'Cause I haven't. Nuh-uh, never. Now...what to do."

Arielle: That was perfect!

Geir: *laughs* That was perfect!

Katie: That was an amazing interpretation.

Geir: Amazing.

Justin: Thank you!

Geir: Actually there's one more line! Hayner appears in in a Nintendo DS game called Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and I thought it'd be fun if you could read one of the lines! 

Arielle: Whoa.

Geir: Hayner wasn't voiced in 358/2 Days so we have a couple of lines for you, if you'd like to voice them? It would be kind of fun.

Justin: Yeah, sure! Is this the "Better get flyin'" one?

Geir: Yeah!

Justin: "Better get flyin' if you don't wanna end up buyin'!"

All: *laughs*

Justin: Oh, I'm sorry, my director would probably get mad at me so I have to inflect a little more there.

"Better get flyin' if you don't wanna end up buyin'!"

Katie: Oh my goodness.

Geir: *laughs* Hayner gets the worst lines.

Justin: Oh, I know, I was like, "Huh?" I guess they've made Hayner into a rhyming guy.

"What do you think Hayner?"

"Well I don't know! I'm gonna play with snow!"


Is there another one here you want me to read? Is this...

"You new around here? How come you're bothering us?"

Geir: Yeah, that's all of them!

Justin: Awesome, yay!

Geir: Nice job! You still hold up as Hayner after all these years.

Justin: Thank you! 

All: *laughs*

Justin: My first job in Ozzy and Drix was actually because I beat out five 10-year-olds, and they told me, "Well, you're grown up and your voice isn't going to change anymore, so we'll hire you."

Geir: How old were you?

Justin: At the time? Old enough to vote.

All: *laughs*

Justin: Jeez Louise, probably... 25? 25-26, something like that. I'm like 55 now, I'm just kidding *laughs*

Katie: That's a lot of time.

Geir: Wow.

Justin: I'm joking. No, I was considerably older than a pre-pubescent, let's put it that way.

Geir: Okay okay, fair enough.

Katie: You don't have to divulge the information.

Geir: Just divulge what you want to divulge.

Justin: Okay.

Geir: Arielle, do you want to ask a question?

Arielle: I would, if I had the questions.

Geir: Just find a random question.

Arielle: Okay, for our friends out there who are keen to voice acting, do you have any tips or suggestions that would help them start out? This is from forum member Flanix.

Justin: Yeah! You know what's so funny is that I get a lot of people who ask about, you know, "how do I get into voiceover?" It's become a much more open field as far as putting together your media to showcase your voice. If you're talking about approaching an agent or something like that, what I would say is to look up different classes that are taught by people who actually direct anime and [run voice acting] workshops.

Two people I would recommend, I don't know if they do it over Skype anymore, I know they should be... One is obviously one of my biggest mentors, Rob Paulsen. He has a show on UStream called "Talkin Toons". Everybody should go check it out, it's a great show, and he gives a lot of advice. He actually does seminars over Skype, so he'll do voiceover classes where it's almost like pay-per-view, and you'll get stuff from him. He has the best advice, and he obviously has an incredible body of work and won an Emmy. But he could direct you on the right path!

Now on the flip side of it, I would say, even if you don't think you're a singer, take some singing lessons. Singing is learning how to warm up your voice and learning how to control, even if you're not the greatest singer, that really helps with range. Also, start practicing! If you think you can impersonate somebody or a character that exists, do it! If you know how to do your gym teacher, do him! Come up with your own little twists on those characters.

You're not going to get work right now if you're like, "I can do Bugs Bunny." There are about 10 guys who can do Bugs Bunny right now who have Emmy awards, but that doesn't mean you're not going to get picked. I really was very blessed to be put into this realm of the acting industry and I was embraced by the community so well. I just lucked out. Being straightforward, these jobs... they can be few and far between, but if you have the right attitude... That's the other thing! If you're fun, if you're a fun person to work with, I think anybody would tell you, no matter what job it is, people will want to work with you. You're going to get roles. 

There's a lot of movie stars right now who a lot of people make fun of and say, "Oh, they can't act!" But they continue to be in movies! People like them. They have a great attitude, and if you have a great attitude and enthusiasm, I say go for it! Get your reel together, look where you can do workshops, and make it happen!

Geir: Okay!

Justin: Also, don't let anybody tell you that you can't. Look at it this way: if anybody ever tells you that you can't, or why - if anybody ever says, "why," just say, "why not?" And if anybody ever says, "can't", use that as a "I'm going to make it now! Because that person said I can't," so let that fuel your fire. 

Katie: That's really good advice.

Geir: That's very good advice, yeah.

Katie: That actually can segway into one of the questions from the staff, which is, how did you get into acting?

Justin: How did I get into acting? 

Katie: Yeah.

Justin: I was a little kid and my dad went to film school - he's a film school grad - but he ended up doing something else. When I was a kid, he and my mom would write plays for our church, and they would give me one line here or there, just put me in there as a shepherd boy or something. After a while when I was probably like 4 years old, and I knew everybody's lines. My dad says that I would correct adults and say, "You're saying your line wrong!"

And then I would say it like how it was supposed to be done, and my dad would be like, "You can't do that."

"But he said it wrong!"

Then my dad said, "Let's give you a line," and little by little it just fueled my desire to act. By junior high, I started to do the Shakespeare Festivals every year and that's where it started. Then in 9th grade, my mom convinced me to try out for the high school musical, and of course I ended up being around all these girls and it was amazing! So I said, "Wow I've got to do this for the rest of my life!" It was amazing!

So it just kind of snowballed from there. I ended up getting an agent and everything just kept going, auditioning and eventually I did some on-camera work as well as a lot of theater. Obviously the voiceover world has been very good to me. My wife and I actually have an up-and-coming production company, stay tuned for it! I won't forget my Kingdom Hearts family, I'll always [try to get] front row seats at whatever we do. We're getting ready to promote a new company this coming year for everything from new movies to webseries to animation, everything! So just keep a lookout for it!

Katie: Wow, that's exciting! Good luck!

Justin: Thank you!

Geir: You better tell us all about it when the time comes!

Justin: Oh, absolutely! [You better not forget] me, because I don't forget this at all. First interview, by you guys!

Arielle: First interview? We're really honored!

Geir: You haven't been in any interviews before?

Justin: Oh, I mean you guys are my first Kingdom Hearts interview. I did something for the old G4 network called "Attack of the Blog" where a gentleman interviewed me about voice acting, but I think I only did, you know what, I don't think.. no, they did have some questions sort of about Kingdom Hearts but this is the first Kingdom Hearts-centered interview, so yay! 

Geir: Yay! Yay us!

Katie: Yay!

Geir: Oh, actually Justin, I included a joke question! How does one join the klepto club?

Justin: How does one join the klepto club? I'm coming up with a funny answer for this, I must know all about it! No, by proving... you know what, I don't think I'm even going to have a funny answer for this!

By being very well to do and having no reason to steal anything. 

... I guess? Isn't that what a klepto is? 

All: *laughs*

Katie: Yeah, that's what it is.

Geir: Perfect answer!

Justin: Thank you!

Katie: That's the most difficult question we've asked!

Geir: Yes!

Justin: It was! Threw me for a loop.

Geir: I just had to ask that.

All: *laughs*

Justin: When I find out more about where I'm going with the game, we should have another one of these! 

Geir: Oh yeah!

Justin: I'm sure I'll be bound by some kind of nondisclosure agreement, but maybe I could reveal any returning characters or anything like that when it does happen!

Geir: That would be very good!

Katie: That would be amazing! 

Justin: Give you guys the inside scoop~

Katie: You'd be KHI's hero!

Justin: Oh yeah!

All: *laughs*

Justin: But yeah, talk to everybody and see how things are progressing. Because you guys probably have a little more information than me at times. You've got a lot of good spies in the network!

Katie: Yeah.

Geir: We sure do!

Katie: Especially these two. They're our news team!

Justin: Oh cool!

Geir: Yeah! Me and Arielle.

Justin: Well, if you guys are ever out at the California/L.A. area or any of the conventions like Comic Con or anything that's close by - I'm doing Kamikaze Con - I'd love to meet up with you live, that'd be great!

Geir: Yeah, definitely! California's very far away from me, but I'll try my best!

Arielle: That's awesome!

Katie: Yeah, we actually have three members of our news team that live in California!

Justin: Oh, very cool! Well, next convention that anybody's at, you guys know how to get a hold of me, so we'll keep in touch for sure! 

Geir: Next time you're in Europe, just call me!

Justin: Oh, you want to know something? I might take you up on that! A lot of Europeans have been giving me business cards and going, "Hey! If you're ever interested..." So you know what? Be prepared! *laughs*

Geir: Be prepared, yeah!

Justin: Well, I wanted to thank you guys so much for having me on this. This has been so much fun and has really gotten my fire up for this game again and I'm actually really excited. I wanted to let you guys know that you're a big reason for that enthusiasm. 

Geir: Thanks so much.

Katie: Thank you so much! We're so happy that you did this. 

Justin: Oh, we love it! And honestly, your support means everything and we really really... I mean, I don't necessarily speak for everybody but I feel like I do because we're all very grateful for the fans of this and look forward to doing more.

Geir: Yeah, we look forward to hearing more from you!

Justin: Absolutely! We'll keep in touch with you guys!

Geir: Okay, great!

Katie: Awesome, thank you very much!

Arielle: Thank you so much!

Geir: Thank you very much, Justin.

Justin: My pleasure! And can I do a quick plug? You guys can find me on Facebook and share with your friends! I'm always doing different things.

Geir: Okay!

Arielle: Yeah!

Justin: Awesome!

Katie: ...was that the plug?

Justin: Yeah! You know, I didn't want to be like a douchey car salesman, so-

All: *laughs*

Justin: But yeah, my Facebook page - I actually just started it a while ago to keep in touch with everybody, so if you're there, like it! Could you like it?

Katie: Yeah, we can link it on the forums with the interview!

Geir: I'm liking it right now!

Justin: Thank you so much, guys!

Arielle: No problem! Thank you!

Geir: Justin Charles Cowden, right?

Justin: Yeah! Oh, my wife actually took a picture of me doing the interview with you guys; is it alright if I post that on my Facebook page?

Geir: Oh, please!

Arielle: Yes!

Justin: Okay! And I'll plug you guys at Kingdom Hearts Insider. Yeah, use it! Just feel free to take it and use it.

Geir: Okay, thanks!

Arielle: Thank you!

Katie: Awesome!

Justin: And please keep in touch, you guys! I'll try to be a little more digiliant with keeping track with the Kingdom Hearts family and see if I get to meet you guys in person eventually, even if I come to Iceland!

Katie: Come to Canada!

Geir: Yeah, you can definitely call me then!

Justin: Awesome, cool! Alright guys, have a wonderful, wonderful day, and I'll talk to you soon!

Arielle: You too!

Katie: You too!

Geir: You too! Thanks so much! Bye!

Justin: My pleasure, thank you! 



Prior to the actual recording, Justin told Geir, Katie and Arielle a little story about his wife. Due to technical difficulties, the recording only retained part of the discussion:

Geir: Heh, oh really?

Justin: Yeah! And the big story that was kind of hilarious is that, when we first met, she didn't know that I had done Hayner for Kingdom Hearts 2, and she told me about her bunny rabbit that she has named "Roxas".

And I said, "Your bunny rabbit's name is 'Roxas'?"

And she said, "Yeah."

And I said, "Oh, that's kind of funny becauseI'm Hayner."

And she's like, "WHAT?"

Geir: No way.

Justin: Yeah, so he's now my bunny subsequently.

Arielle: Oh that is so sweet.

Geir: Oh really? He's your "best friend" bunny.



Puella Magi
Feb 23, 2011
The Phantom's Lair, saving Raoul.
  • Steadfast Heart
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Aww! This was such a nice and fun interview... Such a pleasure to listen to, it is. And kudos to everyone who was involved with this! And here's hoping we hear more from Jason in the future:) Come on, Hayner, Pence, and Olette for KHIII!


May 4, 2008
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What a great interview! I love how enthousiastic and excited Justin is about his work! I was smiling the whole time because of all the positive energy he has during the interview. He sounds like a great guy! Btw yes, the bunny story was amazing!!


New member
Oct 25, 2008
He's such a cool guy, and awesome interview you guys!

I'm really excited and hoping to see Hayner again in KH3. You'll have to talk with him again sometime when the game comes out!


unwavering duck pilot
Jan 2, 2013
clothes shopping with your dad
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Haha, I'm just being super facetious.

I'm glad you guys get opportunities to occasionally talk to personalities like this. I'm very jealous. Sounds like a fun time.


Staff member
May 9, 2007
  • Curiouser and Curiouser
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Wow, Justin was awesome! He was so enthusiastic, and I love how much he seems to appreciate the fanbase! I also love how willing he is to do future interviews and keep in touch, he almost seems as cool with his fans as Guy Cihi


Silver Member
Sep 13, 2013
  • Dandelion
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Ah, the question from back when I was Flanix was asked! But Gexus said it was just a random question... T_T (just kidding lol)

Justin was so spirited throughout! I bet you guys had a wonderful time interviewing him as well. You can tell that he's very passionate about what he is doing, which is great. I wish him all the best for his future endeavours.

And I think I benefited from my own question. Thanks for the advice, Hayner; now to seek out voice acting agents in my city, which I wish there were. And I should probably consider keeping a bunny and name him Roxas for good luck.


Oct 14, 2013
  • Kingdom Hearts χ[chi]
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Must've been a pleasure to interview him.He was so up and active!Looking forward to the next VA interview if you have one.


New member
Oct 21, 2013
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This man is amazing. It's great that some voice actors are so open to their fans! Also, Hayner better be back for KH3, or I'll be ticked off! :p


KHI Site Staff
Staff member
Feb 19, 2008
  • Completionist
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Isn't Justin just adorable?

THe interview is up gang!! Thanks again to the Fantastic Kingdom Hearts Insider and all of the Kingdom hearts family! I am so proud to be a part of this amazing world! You guys mean so much to me!

I had so much fun talking to you guys! Thank you for your Support! You guys and all the fans are the best!!!


Silver Member
Feb 15, 2012
United States
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
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Yeah, I share every one else's sentiments about the actual interview :) Justin is super fun and energetic, and I love how much he seems to love the fan base :)

And I just have to say all these recent interviews with the Twilight Town Gangs' voice actors, with Jessica's AMA on reddit a little while ago, really really makes me excited to see what more is going to be down with them in Kingdom Hearts 3. I mean I have no doubt they will be included, and I know KH3 has so much to juggle and I obviously want it to be handled well and focused on accordingly, but I really want the gang to be utilized a bit more. You know, I hope they aren't just in a scene here and there with Sora and then I feel something in the end with Roxas is sure to happen, but then that would be it :/ I have no actual ideas for what they could do though haha :p


New member
Oct 21, 2013
  • 15th Anniversary
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  • Final Fantasy VII PC
  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
  • Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX
Also, I forgot to mention, I was surprised to see that he did some voice acting in Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, even if it was only a little bit. It's the best Final Fantasy game in my personal opinion (sorry ff7 fans).


Staff member
May 9, 2007
  • Curiouser and Curiouser
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  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue
Also, I forgot to mention, I was surprised to see that he did some voice acting in Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, even if it was only a little bit. It's the best Final Fantasy game in my personal opinion (sorry ff7 fans).
I was surprised by this as well. Considering how little voice acting was done in that game as well it's pretty awesome that he was in it. And I agree, best FF ever


Staff member
Sep 23, 2010
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  • Flix and Chill
I just have to throw it out there that it was an absolute pleasure getting the opportunity to speak with Justin. He has a very warm personality and he's so upbeat and personable that it's contagious.

Very grateful to him for taking time to interview with us!

Princess Marina

New member
Jul 15, 2013
That was such a fun interview! <3 I do hope some point Haley Joel Osment will be this cool enough to be interviewed by you guys!
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