Voice actors Michael Tatum and Brandon McInnis have been a couple for seven years. In the first part of an exclusive interview with Instinct, Tatum and McInnis talk about how they first met thanks to anime studio Funimation, how they came to the realization they wanted to be with each other, getting engaged in Paris, and how they are spending Valentine’s Day.
Gerald Biggerstaff: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. My first question is how did you meet?
Michael Tatum: Ahh, THE question! We met at an anime convention in Kansas City back in 2010…
Brandon McInnis: That long ago?
Michael: Yeah, 2010. I was there as an English VO (voiceover) guest and Brandon was there interpreting for the Japanese guests.
Brandon: Yeah, I have a degree in Japanese and I would interpret for Japanese metal bands and groups that would come over and perform musical acts at anime conventions. And so, these cons would fly me out and I’d just interpret for the band for the duration of the convention and then fly home.
Michael: And we were introduced by a mutual friend, a colleague of mine, Brina Palencia, who was like been sort of my work wife for most of my career. We’ve just been paired together in a lot of shows and she was like, “Oh I just met the interpreter for the Japanese guests. You got to meet him. His name’s Brandon.”
So, we went to this dinner together that was being held for the guests and I’ll never forget it. It was one of the weirdest setups. We were in Kansas City. We were with the Japanese guests and we were having dinner in an Irish pub. And Brandon started serenading us with a French aria, and it was just like so many things going on. And I was like…
Brandon: There was a lot happening.
Michael: I think that’s when I felt the first spark. I was like “Oh this is everything but the kitchen sink.” (laughs) Then we found out that we both lived in Dallas, which was very improbable. I mean, on the convention circuit you’re lucky to meet two people where you’re from. And so we’re like “Oh you live in Dallas. Oh yeah! Me too!” And so we exchanged numbers and we started a friendship back home in Dallas. Then the rest is history. (both laugh)
GB: Who made the first move into dating territory?
Michael: Ooh! Who made the first move? That’s a good question…
Brandon (almost simultaneously): That’s such a good question.
Michael: It’s complicated. It just kind of happened. We were friends and we really enjoyed each other’s company and then suddenly we were just kind of like “We’re dating, aren’t we?” (laughs) “I think we’re dating.” It really just struck us …
Brandon: Well, it went through some twists and turns. Right?
Michael: It’s true.
Brandon: I accepted a job in Tokyo while we were friends, and I moved away. And being in Tokyo and living somewhere that’s not your home country that doesn’t speak your language primarily, I think puts a lot of things into perspective for you. During that time that I was there for a year, it really made me stop and question what makes me happy. What do I like? At the end of it, it was this realization of “I miss Michael. I want to be with Michael.” And I moved home to be with Michael.
Michael: So when he moved to Japan, originally we talked a little bit there, but, I guess, fallen out of the habit of calling each other very much because he was very busy and of course, living in a completely different time zone. So I noticed, I guess a couple of months had passed where I hadn’t heard from him, and I noticed he had posted this sad picture of the first sakura blossom outside his window…
Brandon: Oh my gosh! Wow!
Michael: and it was just the saddest thing. So, I decided… I had been, to try to impress him, teaching myself Japanese, not very well, and I tried to write in kanji (a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters) as a comment to his Facebook post that what I thought I was saying was “by the way, I miss you.”
But what I actually said was…
Brandon: “Now I let you go.” (Michael laughs) He didn’t mean to write that but that’s what it said.
Michael: Curse you, Google Translate!
Brandon: I had just overworked myself in typical Japanese office fashion and I had gotten really, really sick. Super sick for like three or four days, and the day that I felt good enough to go back to the office was when I saw the first cherry blossom on my walk to work. I took a picture of it and posted that. When he commented that, I messaged him and I said, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?! ‘Now I let you go?!’ What is this?” (Michael laughing in background) He went “No, no, no, no, that’s not what I meant!” So once we figured it out, it made me stop and go, “Wait, why do I care so much?”
Michael: It started a conversation.
Brandon: It did. It did start a conversation.
Michael: And then we were inseparable. I mean, we would call each other on the phone all the time. I’d stay up until four in the morning so I could call him at a decent time on his side of the world and vice versa. Then eventually, we just like, “You should move back. You should move back.” And he did and then we’ve been together since and that was seven years ago. A little over seven years ago. He moved home from Japan in December of that year and then…
Brandon: I flew back, and we moved in together the next day and we’ve literally been together ever since.
Michael: Yeah, it was kind of reckless, but it worked out.
Brandon: Well we knew it would work out very quickly.
GB: Brandon, I saw your video where you proposed to Michael in Paris. I found it thanks to Michael’s IMDB page, so I went and watched it.
Michael: We didn’t expect that to blow the way it did. We thought a few of our fans would be pleased and they were, but it kind of took off. It was great seeing it crop up in newspapers internationally.
Brandon: We got tagged in some Italian fan news site.
Michael: The trip to Paris we had been planning for some time and we kept having to move it because of scheduling, because of the projects we were working on. Finally, at some point, we had one final window where we could make it happen in that year. It was very important that it happened that year and I wasn’t sure why, but I suspected like “Oh! I know why.” Because Brandon had told himself ahead of time that “this year I’m going to propose.” So, at some point, I was like “Hey, babe, can we push back the Paris trip to like next year?” He was like “No, it has to be this year. (Brandon laughs) We are going in October.” And I was “ok, alright, I will make sure the studio knows.” Then the little light bulb went off. I was like “Oh god, he’s going to propose to me.” So, naturally, I come prepared. I’m a clothes horse, and so, I’m going to Paris and I brought-
Brandon: (laughing) Everything he owned.
Michael: I brought just about every fancy outfit that I could imagine needing (Brandon laughing uncontrollably) and about ten I didn’t. I brought them and in my mind, it was going to happen in some fancy restaurant or in the piazza or whatever. Then we just decided on a whim to go back to Notre Dame. We’d already seen it once, but we decided to do a tour where you could actually climb up into the tower and explore the belfries and everything, which is really cool, but it’s a bit of a hike.
We showed up at eight or nine in the morning wearing our shorts and our hiking gear. Going into this trip, I thought “oh yeah I’m going to be wearing my wonderful Robert Graham jumper.” And no, I was wearing a t-shirt and some shorts and my hiking boots, which was great. But it was perfect because, one, he chose to do it in front of Shakespeare and Company, which was a landmark for me.
I’m a big reader and I love how many ex-pats all over the world come to live and write in Paris over the past two or three centuries. And Shakespeare and Company was a big center for all of them. People like James Joyce and Allan Ginsberg and the beats and all that, all people that I loved.
So, Brandon did his research and thought “hey, there’s Shakespeare and Company. We can go there. It’s right across the street from Notre Dame, so, we can do that first. Get breakfast in the café and we’ll be ready to go explore Notre Dame.” I think “that’s great. That’s a beautiful idea.” He also chose the day that just happened to be Oscar Wilde’s birthday. That (part) was not planned. It was kind of perfect. Oscar Wilde is, of course, I consider him my patron saint. So, it was just perfect, and it was so great. You know those days you can just feel everything that happened. You can remember. Your body remembers. I can remember the temperature, the smells in the air, you know, every little thing. All these details. Hard to believe it’s been so long ago now. This past year alone has been a thousand years in of itself, so it feels like we were engaged like a thousand years ago.
Brandon: The thing is we were going to look at a wedding venue the day the lockdown started in Dallas. We had it all set up we going to go and then we get up that morning and then, city-wide lockdown, can’t go.
Michael: So we’re just kind of waiting for COVID to be over so we can have a proper big, fancy spectacular, and safe wedding.
GB: So what are your plans for Valentine’s Day?
Michael: Usually, our tradition is to go to some really fancy place. We usually like to do fondue. Or we’ll find a really cool Japanese or someplace we can go, and Brandon will ply the staff with his best Japanese so we can get amazing service, but this year, no. This year, we’re going to be sitting at home. I might cook us a little dinner. (Talking to Brandon) You cook brunch. I’ll cook dinner and then we’ll probably watch a scary movie. We love watching scary movies, but that’s our idea of a romantic time is watching horribly dark scary films.
In part two, which will be coming soon, Michael and Brandon talk about the projects they have worked on together, what it’s like working from home, what it is like going to anime conventions as a couple, and more. In the meantime, you can catch both Michael and Brandon in four seasons of My Hero Academia (dub) on Funimation. Also, check out the song that the guys wrote together last year, Brandon says is “a fun little comedic piece called Quarantango, encouraging listeners to stay at home during the pandemic.” Michael composed the music and Brandon wrote their lyrics. You can listen to “Quarantango” below or save the song from its landing page.