Cyborg voice actor Khary Payton and “Teen Titans Go!” producers Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath visited the CBR Tiki Room during WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim to discuss their Cartoon Network animated series based on DC Comics’ Teen Titans. The laughter-filled interview covers the recording antics of the cast, how the show has evolved over time and why it’s the wackiest it’s ever been moving into Season 2. Payton touches on the many other characters he voices in addition to Cyborg — including the secret origin of the Couch — and all three divulge how fandom receives the show which takes a decidedly different approach to the DC heroes than previous animated series “Young Justice” did.
On how out of control Payton gets while recording:
“It’s completely out of control,” said Horvath. “When we first started you would say that it was a little bit more locked down. At this point, he doesn’t care.”
“But to his defense, the whole cast doesn’t care,” added Jelenic. “It’s him times five. It’s five people all competing.”
“It’s not that we don’t care, it’s actually that we care too much,” said Payton. “We care too much about the energy, that symbiotic fluid that has to move throughout the space in order for the funny to truly trickle out. That’s how we do.”
“They’ve actually turned our records into an opportunity to have great tweets,” said Jelenic. “That’s what they care about.”
On the show’s evolution and how it’s gotten even wackier after more than 40 episodes:
“We’ve had about 40 [episodes] air, we’ve already written about 80 of them, so it’s like the idea barrel is running dry,” Jelenic said with a laugh.
“Every time we think the idea barrel is running dry, they come up with the most brilliant stuff,” said Payton. “It gets kind of weird and crazy, and I was like, ‘Okay, they’re starting to lose it,’ and then out of that comes incredible brilliance. Once again, bad shellfish.”
“I think we sort of started in what we thought was a weird place, but looking back it wasn’t that weird,” said Jelenic.
“We thought it was weird that characters would die once in a while,” said Payton. “That kind of freaked the cast out a little bit, you know? We were like, ‘What’s going to happen now? Are we coming back?’ You know, ’cause we love the characters and we didn’t want to die. And we thought that that would be weird but I think actually leaving them alive in really screwed up and horrible situations is actually even freakier.”
On the many side voices Payton also provides and the origin of the Couch:
“That’s one of the fun things for me is I pretty much come in and they say, ‘Khary, you’re this guy. Come up with something.’ So I get to do the Couch,” said Payton. “I think they wanted it to be kind of like a deep, radio DJ kind of guy. My brother actually had just sent me this old video of Bootsy Collins, doing this crazy like [Singing] ‘I’d rather be with you girl.’ I thought about the deep thing and then I thought [Couch voice], ‘Maybe it’s even more relaxed than that, baby. I think everybody’s just got to cool down. … If you gotta relax, you gotta relax Bootsy style.’ So that’s how that came about.
“It’s what a couch would sound like,” said Jelenic.
“You hear it and you say to yourself, ‘That’s the Couch,'” added Horvath.
“That’s the Couch,” said Payton. “That’s the voice that tells you [Couch voice], ‘Don’t get up, just find the remote. Or call somebody and tell them to bring you the remote. Don’t get up and change the channel. It’s time to sleep, baby.'”
On the “Young Justice” fans who have come around on the series after initially dismissing it:
“Those are my favorites,” said Horvath. “There’s still people who are like, ‘I like this one thing.’ My favorite people are when I go on Tumblr or Twitter or whatever and there’s people just like, ‘I want to hate this show… but I can’t.'”
“But there’s still plenty of people who hate us and don’t want to like us,” said Jelenic. “So if I’m ever feeling good about myself I just type in Teen Titans, go on Twitter and they bring me back down,” he laughed.
“But the show’s doing really well,” Jelenic continued. “If I can give a teaser for next season, we sort of address some of the concerns about our show in one of the episodes. I won’t say more than that, but all of the criticisms we get we sort of go into.”