Since the final day of Comic-Con International in San Diego is Family Day, it’s traditionally when the bulk of kid-friendly programming gets its time to shine. And, it’s when the cast and crew behind Cartoon Network‘s incredibly popular “Teen Titans Go!” makes their way to Southern California to meet and greet fans of the young heroes and their wacky adventures.
On Sunday morning, “Teen Titans Go!” stars Tara Strong (Raven), Scott Menville (Robin), and Greg Cipes (Beast Boy) spoke with a group of reporters about revisiting and re-imagining familiar characters. Their friendship and ease around each other apparent, the actors readily shared stories from their time in the recording studio, gave a few hints about what fans can expect from future episodes and recalled their favorite guest stars before sharing their wishlists for future guest appearances.
Now that “Teen Titans Go!” has been going for a little bit more time, are you finding a lot more of a response to the show than previously?
Tara Strong: Definitely. I think people were really nervous at first that it was not going to be good, because it wasn’t a continuation of the last version, but I think people are definitely — they’re letting us know online that they’re definitely on board. We’re on board. We’re having so much fun.
Scott Menville: Yeah, actually. I met a fan for a different show that I was on a few days ago, and she came up and said, “I love the original series, I was so skeptical about this one, and I wanted to hate it,” but she said, “Now, I love it more than the original.” So I thought that was really cool.
Greg Cipes: It’s just awesome. It’s rad. And the ratings are also reflective of what’s going on. I think many times throughout the month we’re, like, the number one show every week, or often.
How do you think the storylines in the show have evolved since it first started?
Strong: I think they’re braver and crazier.
Menville: That’s a good word: ‘braver.’
Cipes: You never know what to expect.
Menville: They just get riskier, and wackier. Unchained.
Strong: Like when you think you can’t get crazier than a meatball episode or peeing in an elevator episode, it just keeps getting crazier.
Menville: Or a talking couch, or all the Titans dying at the end of the episode.
Cipes: Which is, I think, also, a beautiful formula that’s been created, because the show is rooted in, obviously, the original cast and the original energy of the show, so there’s the roots there, but it’s also flying now and free. And that’s what Michael and Aaron have brought to the show. The fact that Warner Bros. has acknowledged that and is allowing it to happen, I think it’s awesome. It’s rad, and it’s paying off.
Is it easier to get into the characters after all this time ? Or are there more challenges at this point?
Menville: Absolutely [easier]. I mean, we know these characters so well from doing five seasons of the original series, and now we’ve almost completed recording two seasons of this. We know these characters inside and out.
Strong: I think your job [Menville’s] is harder in this version. Because you get really creamed —
Cipes: He’s the hardest working dude on the show, for sure.
Strong: — and you’re always screaming at us.
Cipes: He’s so fun!
Menville: I drink a lot of water during sessions, because they have me screaming a lot.
Strong: He’s got a few episodes where he’s imitating all of us.
Cipes: I think Robin’s the funniest on the show. He trumps Beast Boy, and it pisses me off. So Beast Boy is a little more angry in this show.
Menville: I think Cyborg is the funniest, but that’s just me.
How much input do you have into the characters or storylines? Do you come up with ideas?
Menville: Well, this man [points to Cipes] wrote a song, an entire song, that made it into an episode that aired, so a lot of input right there. We’re allowed to improvise. The writers write these wonderful scripts, but they’re not attached to any lines necessarily. So if we have one that can be better than any line they’ve written, they’re open to it, which I think is a mark of a secure writer. They’re not insecure. They’re like, “Yeah, great. That one’s better, go for it.”
Strong: It’s nice that they let us play around. We don’t come up with episodes per se, but we play within the episode that they’ve written.
What is it like to play the same characters years [fater the original “Teen Titans” cartoon] in such a different context, in such a different tone?
Strong: I think we’re so grateful to be all back together that we would have said, you know, “This season you’re doing it all standing on your head the whole time.” “Okay!” We just have so much fun together.
Cipes: We’re family. We’ve been doing it for a long time together.
Strong: [Laughs, does a voice] Wait a minute. That came out wrong.
Cipes: We’re actually all moving into a house together in the next month.
Strong: We’re moving into the Teen Titans Tower!
Cipes: Yeah, the Teen Titans Tower. It’s a new reality show. Cartoon Network.
Have you found in the last few years that there’s more attention on the actors and that you get recognized outside of your voice?
Cipes: I see people dressing as Tara Strong — Tara Strong cosplay. It’s amazing.
Strong: [Laughs] It’s really amazing since the internet and people can look up who their favorite voice actors are. I think our predecessors had no idea how [many] childhoods they touched or how many people they meant something to. And we have people coming over to us saying, “Oh my god, you were my childhood. Thank you for my childhood.” They walk up to us and they know us and they recogize us. And also social media, we’re all pretty active on social media and so they follow us. We have a lot of fun at the sessions like Fondle Friday where we take pictures of us making out. [Hynden Walch] will not participate, which is still a big challenge but we’ll get her.
Menville: Hynden, who plays Starfire, and Tara, who plays Raven, in real life their personalities are switched on the Fondle Friday thing. [all laugh] [Hynden’s] more of the Raven, like “Uh uh — not gonna do it.”
Strong: [does a voice] And I’m like, “You will make out with me today.”
What’s it like during a recording sessions?
Cipes: Our voice director is constantly yelling at Tara.
Strong: [Laughs] She hates us.
Menville: [Laughs] At Tara? She’s yelling at both of you, dude.
Strong: She hates me and you [Cipes].
Cipes: Something that should probably take a lot less time. We knock out 2 to 3 episodes every week.
Strong: Plus pickup.
Cipes: About four hour sessions plus pick ups.
Menville: Usually 2 episodes.
Cipes: It’s so much fun. We mess around all the time, for sure, and we do get in trouble. I’m surprised they even let us record together still.
Menville: I know! I’m waiting for the day —
Cipes: ‘Cause that’s happened with other shows, where the cast, we mess around so much that they literally have separated us. But they can’t do that to us.
Menville: I’m on a show right now, a Disney show, called “The 7D” — The 7 Dwarves — and that happened. The pilot, we all recorded together, and after that it was like, you come in and record with one or two other guys because we were just goofing off too much. [Laughs] But this one’s fun. We read the scripts at home, come in, no rehearsal, and just go for it.
Cipes: I rehearse. [Tara laughs]
Menville: We all record together. I was just talking about a fun episode that’s coming up where the Titans go camping and we each get to tell a ghost story. As voice actors, it was very cool because we each got about three pages of dialogue where it was only us talking. As each actor was at the mic, the other four of us would sit at the couch [and] listen to these little story/monologue things, which was cool.
Which story did you tell?
Menville: I can’t tell that. I’m surprised they said we could talk about it [at all].
Cipes: I can give you a hint: My story is about a log.
Strong: — [Laughs] I’ll give you a hint: Your story’s not scary.
Cipes: Are you kidding me? Logs can be scary.
What does recording together add to the show?
Strong: It adds so much. We all play off each other so much. Depending on how someone says something can directly affect how we’re going to say a line. I remember one episode, everything [Menville] said was so crazy that it inspired me, like, “Okay, Crazypants. Okay, Crackerjack. Okay, Wacko.” Or whatever it was. And that wasn’t in the original script, but he was just so crazy.
Menville: And that wound up being a comedic gag, your little tags, each time.
Strong: Which wouldn’t have happened had I not heard him do it. So playing with a full cast is definitely beneficial, especially when we all like each other. I really think it translates in the show, how much we all love each other and how much fun we have. Even if we get in trouble.
Which upcoming or recently shown episodes are your favorite?
Cipes They all blur together for me.
Strong: I like the “Lady Legasus,” that was kind of fun!
Cipes: Oh, yeah, that was so good!
Strong: And I like when Raven plays with ponies, because that’s a little shout-out to my Bronies. Those are fun.
Cipes: Oh, there’s a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” crossover episode coming.
Menville: The one we’re screening today, I think, is pretty funny. With a little nod to her other show, “My Little Pony.”
Strong: Any time you [Menville] go crazy is funny to me.
Is there anything left that you think that you would like to pitch? Do you even bother trying to guess what might be coming next?
Cipes: Wouldn’t it be rad if we showed up? Like Scott knocks on the door, like as us? As humans?
Menville: You’ve kind of pitched that before, right?
Strong: Well, when I was working on “Chowder,” we had an episode where, right in the middle of filming, we lost money. So, suddenly, it’s the voice actors in the studio. We’re ourselves going, [in voice] “What are we going to do now?” And then we had a car wash on top of Cartoon Network. It was crazy! So maybe that would be fun if they did it on-camera thing.
Cipes: Or animate us!
Strong: Or animate us.
How does it feel to be sort of part of the DC Universe? A very different part —
Menville: I think it’s fun. To me, the true DC Universe is the original series, and all the dark stuff. This is a chance to step into an alternate reality of the DC Universe and just go nuts.
Cipes: I think we’re also breaking new ground. Even the first incarnation of our show was kind of a new style of animation. At the time, it was. All the other shows copied “Teen Titans,” and now it’s happening again where we’ve kind of pushed the envelope and now [it’s] like, “Oh, we’ve got to do a show like ‘Teen Titans Go!'” So it’s like, it’s cool that DC and Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network are allowing the show to be as free as it is, because it’s worth it.
When you were told about the new direction, what went through your minds? Were you hesitant?
Strong: I was nervous, for sure.
Menville: I was too.
Cipes: I wasn’t scared.
Strong: Once we started, though, I was like, “Okay, this is pretty darn funny.”
Menville: Yeah, I definitely would raise my hand and object sometimes, like, “Guys, I don’t think Robin would do this,” And they’re like, “Yes, he would — on this show. Just go for it.”
How often do you get recognized as your characters?
Strong: At Comic-Con, all the time. In my daily life, here and there. At GameStop — they always know who I am at GameStop. Or sometimes at a grocery store, they’re like, “Are you Tara Strong?” I think people know me, too, from my Vines and Twitter and stuff like that. How about you?
Menville: Definitely here at Comic-Con, for sure. In real life, as a voice actor, you kind of get to be Clark Kent. I have done some on-camera acting, as these guys have done too. So a lot of times it’s, “Hey, did we go to high school together?” Or, “You work out at my gym?” That kind of thing.
Have you had any bizarre fan encounters?
Menville: Yeah. [All laugh]
Strong: Mostly at cons, the bizarre stuff, I’d say. You know, “Sign my butt, so I can get it tattooed,” that’s pretty bizarre.
Cipes: Your fans are so sweet, though. There’s never really a problem.
Strong: [in a voice] Maybe you don’t have a problem. I have problems.
Cipes: Well, you’re a hot momma!
Menville: Most people are very positive and very cool. Definitely.
Are there any guest stars coming up? Any guest stars you’d like to have?
Strong: We had Wil Wheaton.
Menville: Wil Wheaton as Aqualad, Kevin Michael Richardson coming back as Trigon.
Cipes: Didn’t Mike Tyson come on the show and do [something]? There’s some other guest stars.
Strong: Mike Tyson — I think I would have remembered that.
Menville: Yeah, I would have remembered Iron Mike!
Strong: Did you dream it?
Cipes: I met him two nights ago at the Warner Brothers party. It was so cool!
Strong: Bowser was really excited about that.
Cipes: Just to shake his hand. Wow, how many people he knocked out with that fist!
Who else would you like to see on the show apart from Mike Tyson, then?
Menville: I’d like to get Henry Rollins back on. He did two episodes in the original series as Johnny Rancid. He was such a cool guy, and I got to hang out with him for an hour on a big long break while they were rewriting some stuff. I think it would be fun to have him back to reprise his role.
Strong: I think it would be cool to have the entire cast of “Game of Thrones,” just for my own fangirl sake. Jon Snow. Daenaerys. That would be great.
In general, are there any elements, characters, what have you, from the original 2003 series that you’d like to bring to the new one?
Menville: It’d be nice to get Slade back on.
Strong: Yeah, that’d be good.
Cipes: Yeah, Ron Perlman, that’d be great to have him.
Anything else for fans to look forward to?
Cipes: Everything. Be very excited, because you never know what to expect on “Teen Titans Go!” That’s the fun of it.
How crazy can the show get?
Strong: I think the sky’s the limit.
Menville: Just when we think they can’t get any crazier, they’ll turn in another script where someone is peeing in an elevator.
Strong: We like to say, “meatball’s the limit.”
Are there any more songs coming up?
Cipes: Yeah, there’s songs, a whole bunch of songs coming.
Strong: It’s really fun when we get to sing, actually. Sometimes they let Raven kind of “pop star out.” It’s so not Raven.
Cipes: We’re constantly doing new songs on the show, yes.
Do you watch it at home?
Strong: I do, because my kids love it, and I love it. It’s funny.
Cipes: It’s my dad’s favorite TV show. It is. He’s right there, look.
Cipes’ Dad: I think it’s the best show on the air.
Strong: It’s pretty funny.
Cipes’ Dad: It’s the only show that I watch every single episode.