SDCC 2014: Meeting with Legend of Korra’s Janet Varney and David Faustino

David Faustino and Janet Varney

This past weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, my colleague and I had the opportunity to meet with two of the lead voice actors of Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra. We spoke to David Faustino (Mako) and Janet Varney (Korra) who shared their thoughts on the series, Comic-Con, superheroes, and their love for Game of Thrones. The conversation was so engaging, we were told to tone down the volume!

Nerd Reactor: Awesome, awesome. Have you guys ever watched the original Avatar The Last Airbender?

Janet Varney: Yeah, I mean it’s such a terrific first series. It’s not like you have to be a fan thoroughly of the first series to watch our show, but I think they created such an amazing universe and you know everything I love about our series kind of originated there.

NR: How do you guys feel, ’cause you know the original series was very light-hearted and kiddy, but then there were adult undertones in there. But Legend of Korra, it’s a little darker. The adult themes are brought out more. How do you guys feel about that?

David Faustino: It’s intense. I love the drama of it.

Janet: Me too.

David: The music is amazing, and the villains and how dark they are. I mean, I’m a giant fan of it. And to be honest, I didn’t know about it, I hadn’t watched Avatar until I got this job. And I was like, “Oh, I wonder what this is all about.” [chuckles] But I really love our show a lot and how dramatic it is.

NR: Are you a fan of martial arts at all?

David: I am.

Janet: Yeah.

David: I mean, not to say I’m a huge fan. But I totally respect the art.

NR: No favorite kung fu movies? ‘Cause that’s what a lot of Korra is based off of.

David: Oh, of course! I mean, so many of the kids that are into our show are into other anime and martial arts and things like that. But I don’t think, I’m going to take a shot at the dark here and guess that you’re not a giant kung fu-

Janet: Yeah, I can’t say that I’m obsessed with – necessarily with kung fu movies.

Also, one of the coolest things that I’ve ever got to do as part of Legend of Korra was sit in one day with the animators and writers as they watched an actual martial artist who choreographed the waterbending, airbending, and to see him and be like, “Okay, and for that scene- and then Mako fights, I thought we could do this,” and to see him do the moves that eventually gets captured and animated into cartoon-form is like THE coolest thing in the world. It’s amazing.

NR: For Mako, I know he’s based off of the original actor, may he rest in piece. Where did you draw his character? I mean, was it from personal experience?

David: When I auditioned for it, it was just something that I’ve– I don’t know, you know how there are just certain roles you connect with and certain roles you don’t? And this was something that was right away, I was like, “This is cool and I can vibe with this.” I mean it’s just a version of me as far as my voice goes, maybe an octave higher. He’s so well written that it’s easy to do it.

Alger's IG: alger_is_a_llamma

NR: For Korra, how about you? Where do you get her? Where did you pull from to get her fire?

Janet: Yeah.

NR: She’s just very spunky.

David: Janet’s actually very fiery in real life.

Janet: I mean, I do. I’d say the same as David. I think one of the great things about acting is that– I know that there are people who are really fascinated by kind of trying to be as far away from themselves as they can when they take on a role, but I’ve always been more in point-of-view of finding a piece of yourself, and that makes it more personal. So I didn’t have a problem accessing the kind of stubborn, sarcastic like, “I think I know what’s going on.” Not to say that I’m that person all the time, but great actors- we all as human beings have that stuff in us all the time and if you could sort of find a way to point a light on it and pull from it, then it will be a more honest performance.

David: It’s just acting. [laughs] Really, at the end of the day. Without a camera.

NR: Okay, quick question. Who are your favorite superheroes growing-up?

David: You go first.

Janet: I know, because I’m so ready to go. I’m definitely a huge X-Men fan. I lean hard towards the X-Men.

NR: Any specific X-Men? Just don’t say Wolverine.

Janet: I– why wouldn’t I– Wolverine. Ah, I don’t know. I also love Beast, there’s just so many characters. I also love Jean.

NR: Jean Grey?

Janet: Yeah, anything with Professor X and Jean Grey, with the latest movie- which I totally loved! The moment of the old Professor talking to the young Professor, the idea of burden, that empathy, that’s my favorite thing. It’s hard to feel what everyone’s feeling and still be strong enough to use it for good and help people.

NR: So I’m guessing your favorite power would be telepathy?

Janet: I mean it’s terrifying to me, but I also appreciate it the most. Also, to be able to move things with your mind like Jean would be great.

NR: Jean Grey it is, that’s cool.

Janet: She’s so tormented, but I love her.

NR: But Jean Grey’s a badass. Just like Korra.

Janet: I gotta go Jean Grey. There you go, I did it. I got there guys, I didn’t know what I was going to say. I know I love the X-Men and we got there. There’s my answer.

David: And now you know.

NR: How about you, David?

David: To be honest with you, I didn’t grow up with superheroes, man. No, I–

NR: Not even Superman?

David: I like them, but I- I love Spider-Man, but I was never obsessed with any of them. But if I had a superpower, I’d guess I’d want to be- just disappear.

NR: Invisible?

David: Invisible. So like, after I make a mess of my relationship in my life, I could just you know [snap fingers].

Janet: That’s great, get all clean.

NR: Any other plans during Comic-Con? Any panels you guys would like to go to?

David: I wanted to go to Game of Thrones today. I didn’t even realize that they were on today so I missed that. But that would have been amazing, because I’m a giant fan.

NR: Who is your favorite Game of Thrones character?

David: My favorite character is either Littlefinger or the dad–

Janet: Tyrion?

David: Tyrion was so good. But they’re all so good.

Janet: Tywin? Was it Tywin?

David: Tywin! That’s who I meant. Tywin was just so great. But, what about the guy who’s the trainer of all the guys at Castle Black? The guy who trains the Night’s Watch. The trainer guy, he’s a real dick! And he’s always yelling at them. He’s got this Irish accent. Who’s yours?

NR: It’s going to have to be Littlefinger. His speeches are just way-

David: Tremendous.

NR: I’d also have to go with Tyrion. He gets out of things, squirms his way out of situations.

David: He’s also the only character that’s sane enough to relate to one some level.

Janet: What about– you know who I like, the daughter? But why am I forgetting her name right now.

David: Who, Sansa?

Janet: No, no.

NR: Arya?

Janet: Arya, yeah. She’s getting tough, guys.

NR: Wanderer. She’s like all over the place. Traveling by herself. She’s learning.

David: I’ve always had a crush on- well, lately- what’s going to happen to her?

Janet: Who, Sansa?

David: Yeah, is she turning into a- her and Littlefinger are going to elope?

NR: Well, she’s learned all that stuff from King’s Landing with all the jerks.

David: She’s been poisoned. She’s been poisoned over there.

NR: Exactly.

David: It’s a great show.

With Legend of Korra moving to digital distribution, catch the newest episodes of Book 3- Change every week on Nickelodeon!

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