“We don’t have any prepared statements,” actor Janet Varney joked Saturday at the “Voices of Avatar” panel at Emerald City Comicon. Varney, who voiced Korra, and Steve Blum, who voiced Amon, reminisced about working on Nickelodeon’s “The Legend of Korra” and fielded questions from the audience.
Every seat was filled, with some fans standing in the back, and the line for questions stretched to the back of the room.
The first question centered on what it was like to work with veteran actor J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Whiplash”) on the relationship between Korra and Tenzin. “You’re talking about Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. It was amazing,” Varney replied. “He wasn’t always at the same recording sessions, so it was such a treat when he was there. It was a total honor working with him.”
Another fan asked the actors what they’d like the next series set in the “Avatar” world to be. Blum said he’s “looking forward to ‘Amon the Musical.’” “I’d like to see the live version of that,” Varney added. Blum imagined it as “like ‘Rent’ but a lot happier.”
On a more serious note, Varney said, “I would love to see the very first Avatar. But really, anything that Mike [Dante DiMartino] and Bryan [Konietzko] ask us to do, we just say, ‘Absolutely.’”
Varney revealed that while her background is in improv, she rarely ad-libbed lines for the show. “I’m so intimidated by how great the writing is that I feel like I would super freeze up if they asked me to say something that I thought Korra would say,” she said. Blum agreed, adding, “The story is so succinct and perfect the way it is that I don’t want to touch anything.”
Blum said he didn’t do much preparation before each studio session, partly because he didn’t get much information beforehand. “My preparation was having 20 years of experience,” he said.
“This was really my first big voiceover job,” Varney explained, “so I spent the first year expecting to be fired. So I was trying to figure out, how do I fast track myself to feeling comfortable in this world?”
Both agreed that director Andrea Romano and creators/showrunners DiMartino and Konietzko did such a thorough job of establishing an immersive world that the experience was fairly straightforward.
A few questions came from aspiring voice actors looking for advice about the industry. Blum recommended I Want to Be a Voice Actor, the website created by industry veteran Dee Bradley Baker.
When asked if they ever find themselves acting in character in daily life, Blum joked, “I act like Korra all the time.” He also said, “I live in LA, so I’m in the car a lot, and I find myself talking to myself. I’m not sure if it’s in character, but there’s a lot of stuff running around in my mind and it just comes out.”
“I wish I felt that I acted like Korra in any part of my life,” Varney said, adding that she’s naturally impatient, so “I really carry around ‘Be the leaf’ in my head. That’s not a character, but it’s something from the show that’s really impacted my daily life.”
Asked about the romantic relationship between Korra and Asami Sato, Varney replied that she’s “a huge supporter of Korrasami.” She explained that DiMartino and Konietzko had’t set out to write that relationship, but, “When you’re a writer, if you’re very lucky you create these characters that you fall in love with and you feel like they’re guiding you rather than you guiding them.” About her involvement, she said, “I couldn’t be more proud.”
In response to rumors about alternate endings that had been written, Varney said, “Anything that they had decided, I would have been totally on board for. As it happens, I was extra-excited about this particular ending.”
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