No, You’re The Joke: The Cast Of ‘Steven Universe’ At Comic-Con 2014 [Interview]
Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe has quickly become one of my favorite shows on television. The action, the comedy, the fact that there’s an episode all about secret underground pro wrestling where the lead character becomes a manager named Tiger Millionaire, these are all things that I tend to respond to pretty favorably.
That’s why I sat down for a roundtable interview at Comic-Con International with Zach Callison (Steven), Deedee Magno (Pearl),Michaela Dietz (Amethyst) and Tom Scharpling (Greg Universe) to go behind the scenes and find out what their favorite episodes are, what the response has been, and the magical formula for turning into Aimee Mann.
ComicsAlliance: Has the response to the show been what you expected for this being your first Comic-Con?
Deedee Magno: I had no idea what to expect. This is my first cartoon experience, voicing a cartoon character. I did one little snippet, many many years ago, but this is my first time voicing a character. I know these guys are pros at it, so I’m just enjoying the ride and really having such a blast. It’s unexpected and amazing!
Michaela Dietz: The scene is amazing. I haven’t been on the floor yet, but I’m really looking forward to it, and in terms of the response to the show, I’m so excited. We have the panel coming up soon, and just to see the fans of the show and hear their thoughts.
Zach Callison: This is my second Comic-Con, my first with the show. I’m beyond excited. We got the Indigo Ballroom, which I saw last year, and just seeing how big it is and knowing it’s going to be full of fans of the show, that’s really cool to me.
DM: I can’t wait to take pictures of all the cosplay.
CA: I usually see a lot of Stevens.
CA: I don’t often see the other Crystal Gems, though.
MD: Are you trying to hurt our feelings?!
CA: Well, Steven wears a t-shirt! It’s easy! I saw an amazing Garnet, though! She even had the eye under her sunglasses.
DM: That’s so awesome.
MD: That’s real! Maybe it was Garnet!
CA: Can you tease what’s coming up in future episodes?
DM: Oh, goodness no.
MD: A lot of great things. I think that we, and certainly Rebecca Sugar and all the writers, have set a precedent for keeping the fans on their toes, so there are plenty of surprises just waiting to pop out.
DM: A new day and a new time.
ZC: New stuff.
CA: How do you get into your character when you go in to do the voice?
DM: It’s so funny, I feel like our characters have evolved, from the beginning of recording, we’ve grown into the characters, and the characters have grown into who we are. We just sort of walk in and we’re that person. That’s how it is for me, anyway. We’re together, too, so the banter and the chemistry of going back and forth is really helpful, too.
ZC: The chemistry between us certainly helps the chemistry on the show, I think, especially as we go on recording every week. Getting into the character, for me, is about getting the voice first and everything else falls into place. When I get the voice, it triggers the character. I have a couple of lines from way way back in the first episode, the original pilot that I did in the first audition, that I can say to get me into the voice, and then I’m Steven.
CA: Which lines? Something that sums up the character or just something to say?
ZC: Some are general, like “Hey, I’m Steven!” There was one from the original pilot that was like “No, you’re the joke!” The way I did it in the audition, I was really happy with it. I was breathing weird during the line or something, and whenever I can recreate that, it falls into place.
CA: Any favorite scenes from the show so far? Anything that stands out?
DM: Efforts, for me. Those are the most fun.
MD: When we record, I feel like I’m laughing for maybe 60% of the time. These guys are so funny, so any time Deedee opens her mouth, there’s an earthquake. I don’t know why, it’s just the funniest thing.
ZC: Our engineer, Robert, whenever we make a really stupid noise when we’re making effort noises, or when we say something and we don’t think he’s recording. Actually he records everything, and he puts it in a little folder, these sounds that we make, and plays them back at the most random times. It gets us laughing every time.
CA: So you all record together?
MD: We do! For the most part it’s the three of us in a room, and again, I think that helps all of us embrace each character and the dynamics between us, just because we now have this natural… I’d like to say friendship.
DM: Absolutely friendship!
CA: The different voice actors who have been on the show are really interesting to me. I’m a big fan of Tom Scharpling, so it was nice to see him as Steven’s dad, but it was also really fun to see that you two join together and form Aimee Mann.
DM: I have no idea how that was worked out. It was Rebecca and the team’s decision. Maybe they heard something between us? I don’t know!
MD: If you’re going to fuse together two ladies and make an even better lady who’s musical and highly talented, I would put my money on Aimee Mann, but we had no input in that.
CA: It’s a pretty solid choice.
CA: What episode sticks out that you loved doing?
DM: For me personally, because my kids watch the show and I watch it with my family, was it the first one with the Cookie Cat? “Gem Glow,” where Steven sings “Cookie Cat?” My kids love that. They just love that song, and they memorized it and sing it often. They actually memorize all the songs that they hear on the show, but that one sticks out. They do a dance to it!
MD: I’d say “Beach Party.” For the first time, we see the Gems out of their element and Steven taking the reins a little bit, and the guest voices on that episode are incredible.
ZC: I really liked “Tiger Millionaire.” “You couldn’t afford it!” All those Mean Steven lines, it was so fun to be a little different. Steven’s usually so nice, and when he realizes that he’s so out of his element as that character, it was just a little bit different from anything else we’d done at that point.
CA: Tom, you’re not a voice actor by trade.
Tom Scharpling: No, I’m not.
CA: How did that call come?
TS: I did a radio show, and Rebecca had written me and said “Hey, I’m working on a cartoon, and if it ever gets going, I’d like you to do a voice on it!” I was like “Okay, sure, whatever you say, kid.” You just get emails from people proposing things, and you don’t know who’s legit and who’s writing something at four in the morning on a flight of fancy. So I was like “Sure, please let me know what’s going on,” assuming I would never hear anything. Then a year later, “Hey, remember when I wrote to you about this cartoon? Well it’s happening!” “Oh my God, really?!”
She said “Can you just record this one page of dialogue, even if it’s just into an iPhone, and send it so I can get you approved?” and it was that fast and weird, but it was such a strange way in. She heard me on the radio, and then wrote a thing that she thought would be right for me. It was very flattering.
DM: That’s the best way in!
TS: I didn’t audition or anything. I read a thing into an iPhone, and then I had a job!
DM: That rocks!
CA: When you found out you were playing this very supportive dad who was also super weird, was it easy to get into that?
TS: I saw the first picture and thought “Okay, I guess that’s who I am.”
TS: Yeah, it was fun. It was so much fun to do, and right from the get-go, it’s just fun and funny, and very easy to get into the flow of everything. The first time I did my first session for them, I was in LA anyway. Usually I do everything in New York, and they’re patching me in, but the first thing I did was in front of them, so it was good to get in and see what they wanted. It was a good way to start, and then got everything moving a lot smoother because of that. They also got to see me sweat.