Voice Actress Tara Strong On ‘Teen Titans Go,’ Shocking Credits And Bronies [Interview]
Tomorrow, Cartoon Network will premiere Teen Titans Go!, a new series that’s somewhat unusual in the world of kids’ animation. On the one hand, it’s a revival of the Teen Titans series that premiered in 2003, with the same characters and voice cast. On the other, it’s got a completely different format and animation style, with the goal of being a little less action-y and a little more funny, though the previous series had some of both, and this one will, too.
In anticipation of the show joining the DC Nation block, ComicsAlliance had a phone chat with Tara Strong, the voice of Raven, about the show and the many, many other iconic characters she has voiced over the years, including one very popular pony.
Tara Strong: My God, it’s crazy.
CA: You don’t have to look very hard at some of the early stuff from Teen Titans Go to know that it’s a very different show from that one.
TS: It’s really very different, except for the characters. We’re all the same. But it really is a different feel.
CA: What’s different this time around?
TS: For starters, I’d like to say that I, too, was a fan of the show. We were so psyched when we found out we had a pickup. I thought, initially, it was going to be a continuation of where we left off, with Trigon and all that stuff. Then when I first saw it was the smaller versions [of the characters] and it was sillier, I was like, “Oh, I hope it’s good. I hope the fans like it.”
Almost immediately, we were all sold on this crazy, new Teen Titans world. It’s all the original cast, and we just love each other so much. Getting back in that studio together was as magical as it was the first time. Us taking on this new feel was this adventure we were all willing to take along with these incredible writers, animators and directors.
It’s so much fun. We watched the first episode and couldn’t stop laughing. There’s no one that’s going to be disappointed when they watch it. You’re going to have to like it, because you’re going to laugh. It’s just a guarantee.
CA: The elevator pitch for the show I’ve seen is that this is what the Teen Titans do when they’re not superheroing. It’s what they do in their downtime.
TS: Which is why it’s funny, because they still behave as though they are [laughs]. You know, when they’re fighting over a sandwich or a couch or whatever it may be. I think the beauty of the show is they still have the same personalities, the same goals, and the same desires to kick butt and do the things they normally do, but they’re arguing over the most ridiculous things. You can’t help but laugh.
No one’s changed any of their performance. Maybe Raven’s more annoyed than she was before, because it’s all so vapid to her. But, yeah, that’s a very good description.
CA: You have a lengthy résumé of voice work, and you’ve played a lot of different types of characters, from action heroes to characters in very kid-friendly shows to characters in shows for grown-ups. You’ve done sitcoms. I’m wondering where this show falls on that spectrum.
TS: It’s not Rugrats and it’s not Drawn Together. It’s right in the middle. I think the audience will be, I’d say, 7-year-olds to the adult fan base. If you were a fan of the show before, you won’t be disappointed. There are so many throwback characters, with all the original cast, so you’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, I remember that guy, or that guy.” There’ll be some nostalgia along with feeling good and laughing.
CA: To look on your IMDb profile and see all the voices you’ve done, it can be a little bit of a shock.
TS: I like shocking people.
CA: That’s especially true for folks who grew up with both Teen Titans and The Powerpuff Girls, to see that you were both Raven and Bubbles.
TS: Yeah, it’s fun to do that. I think I put on my Twitter yesterday that I like pissing off 7- to 14-year-old boys by telling them I’m Ben 10 [laughs]. I like getting roles that people never suspected were me. Terrence from Foster’s Home [for Imaginary Friends] is a good one. Being able to play a cute little girl and some crazy teenage guy is certainly fun. It’s one of the reasons a lot of the voice actors who work a lot do because they’re so versatile.
So often, I’ll meet someone and they’ll say, [adopts a baby voice] “Oh, I really want to get into voice stuff because people say I have an interesting voice,” [back to normal voice] and I’m like, “I’m so sorry.” It’s not about having an interesting voice. It’s about being versatile and acting and bringing these characters to life. Certainly, that’ll work sometimes, but the people that maintain longevity in this business are versatile.
CA: Part of it, I think, is just being amazed that you can be as happy-go-lucky, and, for lack of a better term, bubbly, of a character as Bubbles, and then be Raven, who is so angsty and sarcastic. How do you get into the headspace for Raven?
TS: It’s so much fun, because, you’re right, it’s so not me. But sometimes I sit there and the other Titans are being so crazy, especially Beast Boy, who’s right beside me all the time, doing wacky stuff, and I’m like, “Ehhhhh.” It’s just sort of a funny, natural place to go to, as the antithesis of all the crazy, fun action that’s going on. It’s like this inner being. I guess she’s somewhere in me.
CA: You said how fun it was to get the cast back together for this. Did you guys just immediately fall back into the rhythms you had before, or did it take a little reminding yourself?
TS: It was even quicker than immediately. It was as if no time had passed, really. We all just fell right back into it. It’s one of those casts, and it doesn’t always happen, but we all genuinely love each other so much. And it translates when you see the show. We’re just all connected. Everybody knows their role so well. They bring them to life with such expertise that we have this mutual love and respect for each other.
CA: So you guys are in the same room when you’re recording?
TS: Yeah. We’re all side-by-side.
CA: That’s pretty unusual for a lot of animation, right?
TS: Not really. It depends on the show. Some shows are full-cast and some shows are individual. When you record with a full cast, there are great advantages, like being able to play off someone. You may be able to respond a different way, had you not heard a different actor’s take on the line.
Certainly, when you’re doing a video game, you’re by yourself because you may have 8,000 lines to get through. So to sit there and wait for someone else to do it would be pretty challenging and vocally taxing. But, you know, Powerpuff Girls we did with a full cast. The Batman stuff was full-cast. Right now, for My Little Pony, I’m by myself because the rest of the cast is in Vancouver, but they record together. So it’s pretty common that an animated series will be all at the same time.
CA: Now that you have brought up My Little Pony, I have to broach that topic.
CA: You are Twilight Sparkle.
TS: I am Twilight Sparkle.
CA: A friend of mine by the name of Chris Sims who also writes for ComicsAlliance certainly self-identifies as a brony, and I have to imagine that you have many thoughts about the brony community. How unprepared were you for that?
TS: Completely. Completely unprepared. I’ve never seen a fanbase like the bronies in my entire life. They are so hilarious and so supportive. They’re just the greatest ever.
The roles I’ve had have been such iconic, classic legacy characters. You’d think, wow, being Batgirl or being Harley [Quinn] or Raven would have these incredibly verbal fans. But there’s never been anything like the bronies. I embrace them. They’re adorable. They’re totally nerdy. They’re totally hip.
It just runs the gamut. There are kids that are 14, and I get letters from doctors in their forties. I just think they’re all so wonderful, and the fact that they can come out and say, “Hey, we like this show and we don’t really care if you like us.” I just love their bravery and how, for the most part, the community is just so sweet, so supportive and loving of each other.
There are these Army bronies that paint Pinkie Pie on their tanks and sing songs to feel good. If it’s making people feel good, we’ve all done something right. I really, genuinely love the bronies.
CA: Do you get to go to a lot of comic conventions or events like that where you get to meet fans?
TS: I did quite a few last year. I’m scaling back a little bit this year, only because my 8-year-old is really missing me. He was literally crying the entire weekend I was getting my Shorty Award.
CA: That’s a good reason to scale back.
TS: My 11-year-old is like, “Bye, Mom.” I’m sure it’s going to come to that soon [with the 8-year-old], but right now, he needs me. I definitely do quite a few a year to try to get out there and meet the fans. They’re always so loving and responsive when I meet them. I like to give back that way. I just have to scale back a little bit, because my little guy needs me.
CA: Given the vast array of characters that you have been, is there one character that people at those events seem to really identify you with more than others?
TS: I have a headshot that I autograph at conventions that has all my characters on it, and a lot of times people go [gasp] “You’re her?” [gasp] “You’re him?” Then they’ll be like, “Do that voice! Do this one! Are you really that?”
I’d say the most love I get at conventions is, of course, for Twilight Sparkle. Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls. Raven from Teen Titans. And Timmy from The Fairly Oddparents. They love Timmy Turner. People grew up with their families sitting and laughing and watching The Fairly Oddparents. So that’s a huge draw.
But, like I said, once they see my headshot, they go nuts, going, “You were that one and that one and that one?” They kind of have some fun putting together their childhood memories while I’m sitting in front of them.
CA: Let’s bring it back to Teen Titans Go before we wrap up. Give us a little taste of what’s to come. What’s something you’re really excited for fans of the original Teen Titans series to see?
TS: I’m really excited for fans to fall in love with this new genre of the Titans. I’m really pumped for them to laugh and to put on Twitter how much they laughed, and how it brightened their day. There is so much absurdity in this series, along with the classic characters, the same acting and actors. They just sort of embrace this new lifestyle while they’re not out kicking butt. They’re certainly still behaving that way and arguing over the most mundane, ridiculous things.
Sometimes they take on some more challenging things, too. It’s not just silly things. Sometimes they find themselves taking on dangerous things with silly overtones. The whole show is just, in my opinion, so genius and so well done. At the same time you’ll be sitting there going, “What is wrong with these writers?” you just have to laugh at them because it’s so absurd and so much fun.
CA: I know you probably can’t get into too many specifics, but can you just give me one little Raven moment that really cracked you up?
TS: I can tell you any time Raven’s asked to sing is really funny to me. That happens in this series a few times. Or when she’s asked to laugh, that’s kind of ridiculous because [sliding into Raven voice] nothing’s too funny to Raven.
Actually, the funniest moments are when everyone’s going crazy and Raven just goes, “Great,” or “Ha.” It’ll be like a two-letter word. She responds to all the wackiness around her and everyone has to laugh because it’s so Raven. Oh! “So Raven.”
CA: That’s so Raven! Oh man, I was so hoping that one of us would say something was so Raven.
TS: [laughs] It’s true.