An Interview with Brina Palencia and J. Michael Tatum on Black Butler: Public School Arc about Ciel Phantomhive and Sebastian Michaelis
©Yana Toboso/SQUARE ENIX,Project Black Butler

‘Black Butler’ Voice Actors Are Just as Stoked as We Are To Return After 10 Years!

Black Butler: Public School Arc was one heck of a surprise for most fans, who thought the series ended definitively a decade ago, but our angsty Victorian child, Ciel, and his trusted demon butler, Sebastian, have returned to crack mysteries at Weston College. 

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Ciel and Sebastian aren’t the only iconic duo that’s made a comeback to the show. Their voice actors, Brina Palencia and J. Michael Tatum, reprised their roles as Ciel and Sebastian in season four of Black Butler.

So if you’ve watched the first episode of Black Butler’s latest season and felt deja vu, don’t worry. You didn’t fall through a time warp by accident. I had a chat with both Brina and Michael about what it’s like to return to Black Butler after ten long years. Needless to say, they’re just as stoked as we all are for this season!

Becoming Sebastian and Ciel After Ten Years

Brina, who didn’t have a role that required her to use an English accent after Ciel, had to relearn the accent a bit. She had to “watch a lot of English television” to get back to the swing of voicing Ciel.

Michael claims that some roles still “live” in him. “Sebastian is never far away” from him, and he still uses the voice weekly in his day-to-day life. It seems Ciel and the rest of us aren’t the only ones still haunted by Sebastian.

What they missed about Black Butler

According to Brina, Ciel has been one of her “favorite characters of all time” and has a “special place” in her heart. It has to do with Ciel’s complexity as a character and how “he endured so much.” But another thing Brina missed about voicing Ciel was doing his accent, since it’s fun for her. 

What Michael missed was hearing Brina perform again. He bases so much of his performance as Sebastian on Brina’s performance as Ciel. Michael says that “Sebastian bases his persona on what Ciel thinks, feels, and does.” Even if Sebastian is always in Michael’s head, it’s not the same without Brina performing Ciel.

Black Butler fans feel like time travelers

Like Michael, we couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Ciel better than Brina. If you’ve watched the first episode of Black Butler: Public School Arc, you probably experienced whiplash after you heard Ciel call for Sebastian for the first time in a long time.

You probably started squealing after you’d heard Sebastian say his iconic “yes, my lord.” Even I thought I went back in time to my carefree high school years. As Brina puts it, their voices are like the songs we’ve listened to back in high school, and it makes us Black Butler fans feel like we’ve time-traveled back to those good old years.

It’s all just a testament to how iconic Brina and Michael are to everyone who grew up watching Black Butler.

Welcoming the prefect four to the Public School Arc

Teamwork is key for both Brina and Michael, even with the introduction of the Prefect Four (P4). Both Michael and Brina are excited to welcome the new voice actors from P4.

Brina herself is also up to the challenge of reacting in different ways now that there are newer voice actors and even other characters who are younger than Ciel at play in this season.

A Different Side of Ciel

Unlike the previous Black Butler seasons, Ciel is in a prestigious all-boys college. It’s rare for him, as the Queen’s Watchdog, to be surrounded by other kids. Michael says that it’s interesting to see Ciel interact with kids his age because “he’s not used to that, and he had to grow up so quickly.”

Brina told me that she’s “not used to seeing Ciel be so unprepared.” To see him as someone who probably skips over rule books and then not getting his way is a first for her. He’s gotten away with so much rule-breaking to get his job done in the past seasons, but Weston College is a traditional and closely guarded environment. There are also several bright yet cunning students at Weston College who won’t make Ciel’s job easier for him.

Everyone’s favorite scenes of Black Butler season four

Michael had to play Sebastian in the background this time since he’s undercover as one of the teachers at the school. Among the scenes, he loved Sebastian’s first appearance, where he had to act like he didn’t know Ciel for the sake of the mission. Because Sebastian couldn’t be on call this season, Ciel had to handle many things on his own.

So everyone was surprised to see Maurice Cole back Ciel into a corner. We’ve seen Ciel scrape his way out of life-threatening situations before. Who would’ve thought a bunch of teenagers would be more brutal?

Brina loved this scene in particular because Maurice got under Ciel’s skin in a way that he “didn’t know how to deal with.” Seeing Ciel squirm and panic is a change of pace not just for us, but for Brina, as well.

Ciel and Sebastian may be iconic characters, but we’re seeing them in situations that we’re not used to. That’s perhaps what makes Black Butler: Public School Arc familiar yet so different compared to the past seasons we’ve grown to love. Nevertheless, this season is just as devilishly indulgent as those that came before it.


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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.