We here at When Nerds Attack were lucky to interview the cast and crew of Voltron at NYCC last year, and in honor of the second season that will be dropping tomorrow, we wanted to share it with you! [Special thanks to Sarah Fetter who was our correspondent on this!]
We first talked to Tim Hedrick, the head writer for Voltron.
Q: So what can you tell us about the thematic arc of season two?
Tim: Season two starts off with all of our Paladins split up. A lot of the beginning of the season revolves around how they find their way back together. The main theme of Voltron is always team work, and how everyone works together. I think the great thing about our version is that when they were launched into space they weren’t a team; they didn’t really even know each other that much, so we’re going to continue to see this team build.
We’re going to see new relationship forms between the different Paladins. We also have Zarkon out there and he’s going to be getting closer and closer all the time– we’re really building to a pretty awesome finale for this chunk of episodes.
Q: How much do you look at the old cartoon series, when trying to draw inspiration?
Tim: We watched the old Voltron when we first started working on the series; we watched Beast King GoLions as well. However, while we’ve seen them all, I personally don’t reference them very much, as we’ve gone off on our own path. We like to throw in some Easter eggs for the hardcore fans but we like to have a show that if you’ve never seen Voltron before, you can sit down and enjoy it without needing the prior context.
Q: Speaking of Zarkon: every villain is a hero in his own mind. Will we explore that sort of idea with him, or is he more a straight ‘evil’ villain?
Tim: Zarkon has a pretty deep relationship with Voltron, so we’re going to see that get fleshed out a lot more without saying anything spoilerish. But yeah, we’re definitely going to get into his mind a little bit more.It’s going to be, hopefully, a little bit more than just like chasing the Paladins around for no good reason.
Q: How do you work that balance between returning and new fans?
Tim: The old fans have been really excited about the new show, and that’s been great. I think that one of the things, if you go back and like watch the old show, is that you realize this may not be as impactful as I once thought. That was my experience; great in a lot of ways but it just doesn’t really stack up with what we expect from modern entertainment on a Netflix show. There was just a lot of room to grow with the new show that wouldn’t disrespect anything that was done before or even need major changes. I think we’re just fleshing the the story out more, and getting into new subjects, as well.
Q: Will this season focus on the team as a whole, or will we see episodes that focus on each individual character?
Tim: Hopefully we’ll get deeper into each individual character while being a team; that’s the challenge. You can’t form Voltron without all five Paladins. That’s the strength and the weakness of the show, and writing to that is the challenge– everybody’s got to be there. You’re never going to have that many solo episodes, but we get to do that at the beginning of this season where everybody is split off; we will see some interesting pairings and we will see people doing their own thing. But at the same time, we’re only 13 episodes in right now, so we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I’m not worried about running out of things to cover! We’re going to see these guys grow, for sure.
Q: That’s an interesting point to raise; at the end of season one there was a cliffhanger of sorts. Will season two have a similar season end, or will things be framed differently?
Tim: You want to end every season with everybody being like, “What?! Come on I got to watch more!” [Laughs] I mean that’s the sensation that I want fans to have. So that’s why we always want to build to an awesome battle and then uncertainty. I want to feed the fandom and then take it away from them, right when they want more.
Q: As far as season one goes, it felt a great deal like a movie. Was that on purpose? Or was it something that just happened naturally? Will season 2 be the same?
Tim: When we started thinking about how the show would play out, we knew that we were going to have to take up a certain amount of time in setting the stage. Then there has to be a certain amount of time spent training, gaining knowledge and only then can you truly get into the conflict. There’s a lot that has to be set up, but you really hope that it’s entertaining. In this next round we’re going to start to see more standalone adventures. We’re going to explore some new places and travel the galaxy a bit more. Also, we’ve got a lot of deep mythology that we’re still unpacking that that will continue to come out, as well.
Q: Do you all take the pre-existing mythology and sort of flip it on it’s head? Is there going to be some sort of surprise with that?
Tim: We know that King Alfor sent all the lions away, and that there’s something in the deep past with Zarkon and his connection to everything. So yes, without saying anything that might go into spoiler territory, we’re going to get more of that– there’s more of that to come.
Q: Was there any sort of bible you all used regarding the mythology for the show? Like a canon bible?
Tim: There’s a Bible that we created when we started the show that was in our initial pitches with DreamWorks. I wrote it with Joaquin and Lauren. We took a lot of the foundation from the original show, but there wasn’t a lot of deep mythology in that version until the very end of the series. We’re well aware of all that, but mostly it’s all generated fresh.
One thing that we definitely wanted to keep was like the fun tone of the show and not go super dark. You want to have a lot of action, you want to have cool robot fights, but at it’s heart it’s a kid’s show and we’ve always wanted to maintain that audience. We all started watching Voltron when we were kids, so it has to be kid-relatable. Aside from that, we’ve been pretty loose. We take stuff that we think is going to be cool and we try it out. I don’t think that we’ve done anything that’s outside of the world you know. They set the foundation, and there’s a lot of stuff there, but they didn’t do that much to advance it– so we’ve got a lot of room to run.
Q: Can you talk about it is to be in this new streaming format, and is it different from a traditionally animated show?
Tim: It’s pretty interesting. The main difference is how you watch the fanbase react. For example, on Korra, an episode would come out, then you’d get reviews and recaps. There’d be chat rooms where everyone would be discussing their own theories about what would happen next episode. Now everyone’s just sits down and watches them all. It’s really voracious; everyone immediately is ready for the next season. That part is a bit difficult. Also, you don’t get take a ride with the fans in the same way.
But it is awesome; I love to watch shows on Netflix just like everybody else, to be part of that experience is great. With this season, I think that it might be better to watch it all at once because then you kind of get it the way it’s intended to be seen– you’re not you’re not cooking up all your own counter conspiracies.
We next talked to Bex Taylor-Klause (Pidge) and Jeremy Shada (Lance)
Q: Can you both talk about what is interesting about your characters arcs this season?
Jeremy: Well Lance and Pidge just fall in love–[Laughs] no I’m just kidding.
Bex: Pidge begins to realize how much these people mean to her. That doesn’t mean that she deserts her search for her family. If anything, it makes her desire to search stronger. She still needs to find her family, but until that happens she’s at least got this Paladin family. You’ll see that feeling get stronger and stronger throughout the season.
Q: Will we have a moment where Bex has to choose?
Bex: We might…we might.
Jeremy: I think Lance is out to have a good time. He definitely has to take on a little bit more responsibility, this season. We start seeing the seeds of some leadership qualities that will pay out at some point, which is really cool. All the characters have their very unique personality, but throughout the whole show, Lance included, they will all have very cool character arcs. The versions of them that we see going through the show will definitely be different than where they started out.
Q: As far as the voice acting goes, when you all do your voice acting, do you all fly to LA or all go to a studio, or do you all have places wherever you live that allows you to record? For example in video games it’s a centralized place.
Jeremy: For the most part we record in L.A, together. But there are ways to do recording elsewhere if we have jobs out of the area.
Bex: Usually there’s only one of us completely caught up all the time. The rest have to come in and out.
Jeremy: Yeah I had to catch up on episode last week. Often things won’t necessarily make sense initially, as we do record some things out of order. The preference is to record together, though. Whenever we can have as much of an ensemble it is possible, it’s our favorite by far. When we first started the show, the first four or five recording sessions had everyone there together. That allowed us to get to know each other, and each other’s voices. So even if they aren’t there, you can hear their voice in your head and know what they’re going to do– which is super helpful.
Bex: Actually there was an ADR session the other week where we could tell that it had not been done in the studio together–our reactions were a little too different.
Q: What was it like playing Pidge? Her gender is obviously different than the original character, so has that caused any trouble?
Bex: Actually, no one has come to me with a problem about it. Everyone who has talked to me about it has been so incredibly grateful– or at least happy about it. The thing that I love about it is that, yes she is a she and she can still be one of the boys without needing to be their gender; she can still flow seamlessly into things with them. It’s lovely to see any sort of network–thank you Netflix.
Jeremy: I think it works well for that character, specifically; you’re not changing anything that made the character tick. Especially in the old show, Pidge was almost androgynous. I just think it works better for the character than before.
Q: To piggyback that, you’ve taken on a lot of different, big projects, Bex. You have Voltron, Arrow, and Scream. Which is the one you feel has the most intense fanbase?
Bex: I think Voltron might be the most intense fanbase, because it has such rich history. While all the other fandoms clearly love the work, it feels the Voltron fans almost need it. And I love that.
Jeremy: There’s a lot of fanfiction out there too; until their ages were released Shiro was being paired with everyone!
Q: So you’ve delved into the fanfiction side of things; you’ve got the snapchat side of things–what other kind of interactions with the audience do you like to do?
Jeremy: I think social media is a great way to interact with fandom. It’s just great that you can connect with them in a way that you never could have before; it doesn’t matter where they live–even if they can’t make it to a convention they can have a little bit of communication. It’s just fantastic.
Finally we spoke with Lauren Montgomery (Executive Producer) and Joaquim Dos Santos (Executive producer)
Q: Who comes up with all the weapons for the lions? I know that Tim said that you all had watched the previous show and it is something that you’re familiar with; is it something where you trying to do call backs to the old episodes original ideas?
Lauren: It’s a little bit of both. You know there’s definitely those times where I’ve thought this would be awesome, I want this. But then there are also those times where we do try to make them somehow hook-up with with the elements of the lion. So when it came, for example, upgrading the blue lion, we thought it could be a laser, or something that uses water or sonic waves–that definitely goes into the thinking of it.
Joaquim: The jaw blades, on the other hand, were a direct call back to the original.
Q: How do you feel about the past versus the future, and how you can forge your own way?
Joaquim: I think a lot of it is just using your gut instinct. We’re genuine fans of the original show. So if it feels icky to us, or specifically toy-driven, we stay away from it. We try to integrate everything into the story to make it feel natural.
Lauren: We also try to make sure we involve the things that we remember–we watched it when we were so young that there are a lot of things we’ve forgotten. If you’ve forgotten something it probably isn’t worth remembering. But there is a lot we do remember, and with those aspects we made we either stuck to them, or paid them some sort of homage.
Q: What was it like working on this series on Netflix; how do you feel now compared to season one?
Joaquim: There’s a bit of an alleviation, initially because you get feedback on the entire season right off the bat. But next day you got people talking about the ramifications of season one; you’re not on as much of a rollercoaster ride. I can remember on Avatar and Korra where I felt it was a great week, but then the next week you think, numbers were down so I worried that the network would move us. I think Netflix’s platform, to me, feels like a genuine evolution of the medium. We’re no longer in a place where we have to worry about advertising as much; we can just put out good content and the content can drive viewership.
Lauren: It also allows us to not stress out about having slower moments/episodes because it all comes out at one time. We’re able to have really jam-packed action episodes, and then we can have that nice quieter character history episode. Back on a network, if we had done that, it may have gotten dinged.
Q: Did you guys get a bigger budget for season two?
Lauren: The thing with animation is that in order for it to be done by the time it is released, you have to start forever ago. So we’ve known about season two for a long time; it was pretty much done before season one ever came out. So we didn’t get any sort of budget bump.
Joaquim: Honestly for us, season one and two feels like a giant season. Production wise it was very much like one giant season split into two. We tend to look at it as a 26 episode season.
Q: Are there any talks at this point of expanding this outside of Netflix?
Joaquim: They’ve been talking about a film for a while and I even seen some concept art for it online years ago.
Lauren: If it happened, it wouldn’t necessarily tied to our version.
Q: Have you guys ever thought about doing work out of animation?
Lauren: I think we’re just such animation nerds that we enjoy it so much; there are also a lot less eyes on you. You can do a little bit more of what you want– once you get into big feature films every executive. and everyone who has money involved, wants to tell you what movie to make. But you know, I don’t think we would ever turn something like that down.
Joaquim: I will say specifically when I watched Winter Soldier I turned to my wife and said I want to do that. Winter Soldier, to me, was a perfect film. I think times are very different now than they were even like five years ago, so there is more of a chance to do something unique.
Q: How much research is done into the specific science of space, or do you wing it?
Lauren: Tim, Mitch, and Bill definitely look into it, but there’s certainly a lot of liberties we take with the magic, the mystical, and the alien language.
Joaquim: Magic fills in a lot of gaps. But Mitch in particular will come at us with things he reads in science journals and we’ll try to integrate those sorts of things.