Cowboy Bebop voice actors nominate the best episodes for their characters

When Cowboy Bebop first exploded on TV screens in a shower of jazz horns and shots, it left a deep and lasting impression on a generation of anime fans and gained a reputation as not only one of the best anime of its era, but an ideal entrance for beginners to the medium. That reputation does not owe a small part to the original English voice cast that christened the series when it aired on the animated block Adult Swim in 2001. For many fans, the English dub. that final version of the series; with vocal performances by Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel), Beau Billingslea (Jet Black), Wendee Lee (Faye Valentine) and Melissa Fahn (Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV) as the last element that drove anime to the height of its popularity and critical reception.

When the original 26-episode anime was made available for streaming on Funimation, Polygon spoke with the original cast of Cowboy Bebop to tell about their favorite episodes and moments from working on the series.

“Toys in the Attic”, “Mushroom Samba” and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Steve Blum: Oddly enough, it took me through the entire series and making the film before I really found out who Spike was as a character, personally and professionally. There was a moment in the Cowboy Bebop movie where Spike and Electra were sitting in a prison cell and he actually had to access his pain and his vulnerability. And it felt like the missing item for Spike. I knew there was something in there and it was alluded to throughout the series. But that was when I really thought about who he was. What was the origin of the pain, the underlying sadness, and the confusion with which he seemed to go through life. It made everything else gel, and it made me go back and actually revisit what had been done before. I almost wish I had that insight right from the start.

But it happened when it was supposed to happen. And it affected me on a very deep level as an actor, as a person and as a man; to be able to express vulnerability while playing this naughty guy who really did not seem to care about anything. I was not that bad in real life, but I had shields to protect myself from getting hurt. And accessing it through Spike’s pain actually helped me on a personal level and turned everything else into gel for me. That was the one moment in that movie that did it for me.

Spike is sitting in a prison cell in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Photo: Sunrise / Bones

[If I had to pick one episode,] “Mushroom Samba” was just pure fun from start to finish and just really weird. “Toys in the attic”, also because that kind of got access to my science fiction fandom, the weirdness of it all and its comedy, and that’s the one thing we’ve been able to do live together, because it’s basically was only the lead role. So that episode also has a very special place in my heart.

“Ganymede Elegy” and “Mushroom Samba”

Beau Billingslea: One of my favorite moments in Cowboy Bebop is featured in “Mushroom Samba” when Jet speaks to his bonsai trees. He is stoned and speaks to his bonsai trees and just says, “Who am I really?” [laughs]

But overall, I have to say “Ganymede Elegy” when he goes back to Ganymede, when he talks to his ex and he solves their problems and he eventually throws the clock in the water and puts that part of his life to rest.

Jet keeps the broken watch left to him by his ex Alisa in

Image: Sunrise

I really enjoyed recording that episode because we had time to get it right. The voice director, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, instructed me through the process of recording it, and it was, of course, an emotional episode. And I really enjoyed it because so much of what we do in our world is not like that. We usually make voices for loud monsters or whatever else we do. But to do so, the legitimate barring of your soul as an actor, to portray that character was very special. I really appreciate having the opportunity for that, so that kind of balances “Mushroom Samba” as one of my favorites.

“Speak like a child”

Wendee Lee: I honestly hit when I performed Faye. I felt like I knew who this girl was. But I was super interested in discovering the layers. It was clear to me that there was something beneath the surface; she was hurt or there was something she was hiding. I was aware of this quite early on. But when we recorded, I had no idea we were going to get into her background story with “Speak Like A Child,” any of it. And it was shocking. It’s the richest story I’ve ever had for a character, especially after being with her for so many episodes and not warning that this would come. That she had been through real traumas and disasters, and instead of agreeing in a spiral of just unraveling as a person, she picked herself up and reinvented herself. I really got strength from that.

A young Faye Valentine performs a cheer in episode 18,

Image: Sunrise

I felt like she really raised the bar for me, or for any actress for that matter, who portrays her because it brought a whole different level of nuance that needed to be incorporated into all of her scenes from that moment on. Once one was aware of it, there was no going back or seeking safety in naivety. Once upon a time, she had a large footprint of a backstory that was to be drawn into her present. It became part of her DNA, so for me, the experience of performing with Faye just got richer after that episode, and I felt more protective of her over time.

“Jamming With Edward” and “Mushroom Samba”

Melissa Fahn: There are so many great moments for Ed throughout Cowboy Bebop. I even mean just her introduction in episode nine, “Jamming With Edward,” how she gets to the Bebop team, just as annoying as she can be to the characters, how she still merges with them. They all come from a place where they all need each other. I think Ed really needs them. You can look at Ed and she’s bubbly and childish. She brings a completely different energy to Beboppen, and it is needed. But she is also herself an injured character in many ways, and she is also trying to find her own path.

Ed rides a scooter with Ein in tow in section 17

Image: Sunrise

We talked about this earlier, and Wendy brought it up about how there is a musicality to Ed and to all of our performances working together, but especially with Ed. I myself come from a musical background, and then I was brought along by a child, the genius of a hacker. There are so many layers in Edward. A lot is happening below the surface and I was so proud to be able to bring those moments of vulnerability and depth. In her last episode, “Hard Luck Woman”, she eventually leaves to find her own path. Maybe she’s finding her father, or maybe she’s going back to the orphanage to find something to eat. It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite moment, but “Mushroom Samba” is my absolute favorite episode.

Cowboy Bebop is available to stream on Funimation, Netflix, and Hulu.

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