Teen Titans Go! to the Movies: Raven on the Record

We spoke with actress Tara Strong about her longstanding and beloved portrayal of Raven on TV and now the big screen.

Tara Strong is one of the busiest and most popular actresses working in the world of animation, with Strong providing the voice for such well-known characters as Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Timmy Turner and Poof in The Fairly OddParents, Dil Pickles in Rugrats and All Grown Up!, Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls and Ben Tennyson, Buzzshock and others in Ben 10.

While her superhero work includes shows like Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Wolverine and the X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man, she has been best known for 18 years as the voice of the half-human, half-demon superhero Raven on both the original Teen Titans series and the more recent Teen Titans Go!, playing the character both in serious mode and in the wacky, absurdist style of the latter, enormously popular series.

Now Strong and the rest of the Teen Titans Go! gang are headlining their own big-screen adventure, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which splashed onto theater screens this past weekend in a burst of brightly colored, musically flavored and frequently inspired insanity that proved the Teen Titans could extend their short (13-minute) episodes to a full 90 minutes without breaking a sweat.

While we had a chance to speak to three of the other Titans on camera a while back, Strong was not available that day so we managed to secure a phone conversation with her, where she spoke about making the movie, whether the Titans hung out with Nicolas Cage (voice of Superman), the bond between the actors and the experiences she’s had with fans at conventions.

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Den of Geek: Just in general terms, what made doing the movie different from doing the TV shows?

Tara Strong: Well, you know, whenever you go from series to feature you need a big story. You know, with the Rugrats, they had a new baby; all different kinds of animated features begin with a great idea. And I think the comedy of this one is that they just want a big movie! So it’s sort of taking that absurdity that makes the show work to the next level. It’s like there’s no real reason to have a movie, except that Robin really wants one.

I think in terms of the acting beats, it’s still the same, we’re still the same people, it’s just on a larger scale. And the music is bigger. The music’s really funny and was so much fun to record. So it’s pretty much what you see on television but blown up to theater-worthy visuals. And more hilarity, and more music, and brighter colors. Some really fun stars joining the cast.

This group has been doing these characters for so long, how have you grown together in the years you’ve been playing the Titans? I mean is it kind of like a second family?

A second family would be pretty accurate. We’ve been together, what is it, like 18 years or something ridiculous like that? We’re so lucky. We genuinely love each other so much. There’s been obviously a few different versions, and the fact that they kept us together is probably why the show still works, and we genuinely love each other so much. It sort of comes off in performance to have this camaraderie, and really love each other, and play off each other.

We have an amazing, amazing time in the studio, and I think that translates to how much the characters all get along and work together. We really do love each other. We laugh our butts off the entire time. We have lunch together. We have had happy times and sad times together. They were all there for me when my mom passed, when my dad passed. We all had kids around the same time. So we’ve definitely all grown together. Although the show may have regressed in age, the actors have all grown together for sure.

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Did you voice the movie together or separately?

We were together for some it and then for some it we were on our own. It was sort of a mix. When we do the series we’re typically always together, unless someone can’t make it, but the feature was a bit of a mix.

What do you like most about voicing this version of Raven?

Well I just love voicing Raven, period. No matter what the iteration. I once said “If they wanted us to do Titans on ice, I’d be down!” She is just such a fun character to play, and she never gets too excited. She never gets too upset. She’s just always Raven.

She has this amazing sarcastic side to her where she can’t really be bothered by anyone. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Her sort of droll, dry view of things is pretty unique in terms of a character that can sustain. Typically when the stage direction says she’s “tragic” or “boring” those characters don’t always sustain, because you have to make it somewhat entertaining.

She’s just one of those characters that speaks to so many different kids. I can’t tell you how many times at Comic-Cons where they say “Raven was someone that I could relate to, and really helped me though my parents’ divorce,” or “helped me through X, Y, Z.” She’s the opposite of a larger than life cartoon character. She’s really real and has a lot of familiarity to kids growing up.

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She’s so much fun. Because I’m the antithesis of that. I’m like the real life Bubbles. I’m like really sunny and happy and outgoing, and sort of play this character as pretty much the antithesis of Tara Strong.

I was going to say, how much of Raven and Tara kind of cross over?

I mean I’d say the similarities are I certainly enjoy my alone time, and when I don’t want to be bothered, don’t bother me. And when I have a conviction about something it’s pretty fierce, like her. When she believes in something she holds pretty strong to that, and I’m definitely like that too. And also don’t really take crap from anybody.

You’ve played so many characters, which ones do you get asked about the most?

You know it’s really a mix but Raven is definitely high up there. It’s typically Raven, or Harley, or Batgirl, or Timmy Turner, or Bubbles, or Twilight. I don’t know what horseshoe I was born under but they’re all such great legacy characters, that people know them and identify with them, and have been fans.  So when I go to cons, it’s funny. Some places will be mostly Raven fans, and some places it’ll be mostly be Pony fans. You never really know. But Raven is certainly high on that list.

What’s the most satisfying thing about doing all the voice work that you’ve done over the years?

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You know, I think when you go these cons and you get to meet people and you see how much you’ve affected their lives. I had a girl actually dress as Raven at a con not that long ago, and she was talking my ear off about how much she loves Raven. She was so sweet. I turned and I looked and her mom was crying. It’s not that uncommon to have people crying, but this woman was like a mess. I said, “Are you okay?” And she said, “My daughter is on the spectrum and hasn’t spoken in five years and when she knew you were coming she hasn’t stopped talking.”

So those kind of things are pretty special, to have that effect on people. And when you go to these cons and you meet the fans, and you see how much you mean to them and how much it affected their childhood. I hear all the time, “Thank you for my childhood.”

Doing this movie, did any of the guest stars come in to interact with you guys?

It was all separate unfortunately. We didn’t get to work with any of them, so I can’t tell you if they’re nice or not.

So Nic Cage didn’t come strolling in to say “Hi”?

I wish he did, because everybody knows his love for Superman so it would’ve have been fun to kind of witness it.

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This is a very meta-movie, as the show is. Was the story always that Robin wanted to get a movie, or did it change over time?

You know that’s the only one I heard, but that would definitely be a question for the writers. The only one that I was aware of was Robin wanting his own movie.

Have you met any of the people from the live action Titans show that they’re working on?

I haven’t met the girl playing Raven but the gentleman that plays Beast Boy came in and hung out with us for a day. I think he’d been friendly with Greg Cipes (Beast Boy from Teen Titans Go!). So he came in and he was such a sweetheart. He was so happy to meet us. That’s the only one I met.

What do you think it is about this group of characters, the Titans, that makes them so open to all these different iterations?

Well I think it’s like anything else when there’s quality characters and these relationships with these characters. And obviously it’s based on a comic book. It has years of fandom and stories built up. They become very beloved, these characters, so I think it just works in a multitude of different genres because the characters are so strong.

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They’re each so individual and strong. They’re completely fleshed out. We know these characters inside and out. So even though it’s crazy, we believe them in this silly, TV type world, even though we’ve known them from the more serious world. And then the fans will recognize them in the on-camera world. And I’m sure if there was an on-camera feature it would be the same. It’s really the depth of these characters and how they’ve been broken down.

Will the show address the events of the movie in any way?

I’m trying to remember if there’s anything…not really. Not that I can think of. But don’t quote me on that!

Are you back to work on the show now?

Yeah, we record every Friday in Los Angeles…We do, typically, two or three episodes each session. So they have you booked for up to four hours. So we’ll get through at least two, sometimes three episodes as well as pick-ups, within that four hour session.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is out in theaters now.

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