Jay Benedict, who died on Saturday from coronavirus complications, was not a well-known name, but a well-known voice in anime. As one of the few American actors resident in London in the 1980s and 1990s, he was called up on multiple occasions to provide voices on “midlantic” dubs. Most notably for viewers of a certain age, he was the voice of Shiro Hagen, the hero of the puppet sci-fi show known in the English-language as Star Fleet.
He is credited with a handful of roles – notably GoShogun Time Etranger and the Captain on Project A-ko – although I know for a fact he appeared in many more that have slipped through the cracks, either under other names or as a member of an unspecified “loop group”. He was one of perhaps a dozen actors who formed the main squad on many early Manga Entertainment dubs, as well as a scattering of shows for Kiseki. Later in life, he would found the ADR service Sync or Swim with his wife, the actress Phoebe Scholfield (yet another anime dubber, and the UK voice of Kekko Kamen).
It was a source of comedic angst for him that he had been so close to stardom in not one but two major movie franchises. He had played Deak, one of the local slackers at Tosche Station on Tattooine, in a scene deleted from Star Wars: A New Hope, describing his performance as one of “playing space pinball” while Biggs (Garrick Hagon) told Luke Skywalker he was joining the rebel alliance, and Koo Stark “sat around looking beautiful.” When we worked together with Hagon on one anime dub, Benedict ribbed him about how Hagon’s character had made it to the final cut, only to get blown up above the Death Star.
A decade later, he appeared in Aliens as Russ Jorden, the colonist who is first attacked by a face-hugger at Hadley’s Hope. However, by the time the film had been cut to fit studio demands for brevity, his scenes once again ended up on the cutting room floor – his character’s daughter, Newt (Carrie Henn) would be the literal sole survivor. His scenes were eventually restored for the Aliens: Special Edition, but it was a source of constant annoyance to him that he had to specify which DVD he could be found on.
Outside the sci-fi ghetto, however, he had plenty of work and arguably greater star-power. His theatre work included the first-run of Steven Berkoff’s An Actor’s Lament, his TV work included a run in the French-language series Tide of Life, and his commanding presence and sonorous voice kept him supplied with a seemingly endless series of roles as supporting Captains, Doctors and Detectives. Having first appeared on film at the age of eleven, he managed the remarkable feat of acting in six different decades.