Jacob Romero Gibson on Netflix's One Piece: "There's so much heart involved"

Though you might not immediately think of "sniper" as a definite requirement for a pirate crew, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda's popular manga would seemingly disagree. Similarly, Netflix's live-action adaptation of One Piece includes its own sniper in the form of Jacob Romero Gibson, who portrays Usopp in the series.

The latest trailer for the upcoming live-action series shows off a lot of what to expect when captain Monkey D. Luffy and his crew make their initial launch on August 31. As anyone familiar with the franchise might imagine, it looks to include a lot of recruitment.

GamesRadar+ recently spoke with the Straw Hats all about the new series ahead of the show's impending release with each of them flexing different strengths, just like a good crew should. While Emily Rudd, who portrays Nami in the show, was obviously well versed in the canon, for example, Gibson frequently nailed the themes and core of the show.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Additionally, it was conducted prior to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, which you can read more about here.

Netflix's One Piece still featuring Usopp and his slingshot

(Image credit: Netflix)

GamesRadar+: Live-action adaptations of anime or manga can be tough to get into, especially for folks that have not experienced those before. How do you personally sell the show to people?

Jacob Romero Gibson: Oh my gosh, yeah. Yeah. Understandably, understandably. To me this show… I mean, it's an epic adventure story about finding your family and chasing your dreams. I think, on the level, that is something very important that we can all get behind, and One Piece carries so much heart. The show carries so much heart. Whether you're an anime fan or not, like it's got something for you, for sure.

Obviously, you play Usopp. What are three words you'd use to describe your character, and why those words?

Oh! [long, deep laugh]  I think he's a dreamer. I think he has a big heart. And he's a marksman.

You brought up the marksman bit. As anyone familiar with the anime or manga will know, he's the sharpshooter of the Straw Hat crew–


Are you a good shot? Was that something you had to work on?

Oh, I absolutely was immediately like, "OK, you guys need to get me a slingshot, and we need a target, and let's get it poppin', because I need to be deadly with the slingshot."

So, absolutely. Had a lot of time training my marksmanship and making sure – you know, just getting my rhythm, getting my position, the way that I shoot it. And I'm definitely pretty dangerous, so watch out.

Netflix's One Piece still featuring all of the Straw Hats from the show on Going Merry

(Image credit: Netflix)

Across the franchise, the entire length of it, the Straw Hat crew levels up or grows in various ways. And obviously, the Netflix show picks up early on in their growth, but I think it's fair to say that your character, specifically, maybe has the most personal growth over time. How did you go about laying the groundwork for that?

Man, you know, there's this thing of even though I know some of where our story goes, we're focused on East Blue in this season. And so I definitely leaned into the truth of where he's at, in that arc at that time, and still even in there, you're able to weave in these notes of what's possible for him and where he's going. And he has his triumphs and his ridiculousness, but it's exciting, and I'm very excited about where his character goes.

It sounds like you're at least somewhat familiar with the source material. Do you have a favorite arc? And if so, which one and why?

Oh, man, you know, I'm still a noob. You know, I'm not going to claim that I have the whole canon in my back pocket. But one of my favorite Usopp fights is the Alabasta Arc, so. [deep laugh] With him and Chopper and [deeper, longer laugh] just that whole scene of him riding on the hedgehog, like, so funny. So funny.

Netflix's One Piece still featuring Usopp on a boat

(Image credit: Netflix)

We talked about you working on your marksmanship, but what would you say was the biggest challenge of this whole project for you?

You know, there was so much wonder and magic throughout the production. And obviously there's tons of obstacles and unseen obstacles that you run into on sets and we're filming in South Africa and during COVID. And so many things could be happening to make it like such a challenging, heavy experience.

But there was so much heart involved in this production, there's so much heart involved in One Piece, the story. And to me, I feel that it's like the One Piece gods blessing us just with all this wonderful, trusting loving energy. And I'm like, the challenges seem so small in comparison to how wonderful this really all was.

It's probably fair to say that you are familiar with the franchise as a whole, more broadly. Best-selling manga of all time, right? It's got a wildly popular anime, it's been going for years and years. What is it about One Piece that is so enduring? Obviously, a lot of contemporaries have come and gone over that time.

Yes. This is something that I asked myself as well as the scale and the scope of this community came into view. What is it that's so powerful about this that has it running for so long, and has built such family behind it? And again, I really think that it's this heart, it's really the heart of the One Piece story. It's the lessons, the metaphors that are presented, the finding your family, the the supporting the chasing of dreams, the standing up for what's right.

In a way it all seems so simple and basic, but the way in which these concepts are presented throughout One Piece's story and the way they're revisited it's unbelievable, you know, it makes me tear up. I remember the first couple episodes or the first time that One Piece really got me, I'm like, "Oh my God, OK. I see what's happening here. I see where we're going in." And beyond that, it's also just deeply entertaining. Like, it's also a great time. So, it's a full-package experience for me.

One Piece Straw Hats walk across a lawn in Netflix still

(Image credit: Netflix)

Who would you say is the most powerful member of the Straw Hats?

[deep, long laugh followed by a number of vocalizations] I think for politics' sake, I'm gonna have to say Usopp.

I'm two for two! I spoke to Luffy himself earlier and he also said Usopp.

Oh yeah!? [laughs] Yes! Absolutely. Yeah, hands down. Single-handedly. I mean, the other guys are just there for show.

We haven't seen the full show yet. We've only seen the trailers. But what do you hope people take away from the show when they are finally able to view it in full?

OK, I got a two-part answer. One, I hope that people see our show, and then go check out One Piece as it already exists. Go read the books, go watch the show. Like, fall into it. It's such a wonderful experience. My dream is – even though the whole world already knows about One Piece – my dream is that someone, somewhere, somehow didn't, and this show helps them come to One Piece.

My second answer would be to really find your crew. Find people that inspire you and that support you and that can help hold the mirror up to you so that you can believe in yourself and find your own bravery to go after your dreams, whatever they are. I think that there's a lot of good to be done in the world in just following the dreams that live in your heart. So, I hope this show can help put a little fire under people.

The live-action adaptation series of One Piece is set to release on Netflix on August 31. Looking for something to watch on Netflix while you wait? Check out our list of the 50 best Netflix shows to watch right now.

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse, ComicBook.com, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.