DreamWorks’ Voltron Legendary Defender promises big changes to the universe of Voltron, none more so then in its characters. In the original series, Allura was, on the surfance, your typical princess. She’s now been transformed into a whip-smart alien princess of color. Pidge, who frankly sounded like a distant cousin of Kermit the Frog in the original series, is now obsessed with technology, withdrawn from people, and on a mission to find his missing family.
We spoke with the two actresses behind these new iterations of the Voltron characters, Kimberly Brooks and Bex Taylor-Klaus.
First up is Brooks, best known for her roles on Ben 10: Omniverse and Steven Universe, she discusses being part of such a diverse cast of characters, playing the leader of this new Voltron team, and the responsibility Allura is burdened with.
So we’ve been getting a lot of info about the new series trickling out but we haven’t heard a lot about the Princess Allura character. Why don’t you tell us a little about her?
The creators have stuck pretty true to the original story and she’s the daughter of King Alfor who was the leader of Altea and of course the creator of Voltron. He has since perished and Allura was placed into a cryogenic sleep for ten thousand years along with her companion, Coran. Now that she’s awake she’s got the challenge of this little tiny task of saving the universe.
Basically she’s a princess but she needs to put together a team to form Voltron and fight off the evil of Zarkon.
In the original series Allura was basically the head of the entire planet, do we have something similar for her in this series? If so, that’s pretty cool to see a woman running the whole planet.
She is in charge and not only that she’s linked to these lions that her father created in a life force kinda way. She is very attached to them and this is basically her only mission and it’s a big one but she’s up to the task. There’s going to be a learning curve and a lot of challenges and a lot of struggles and maybe even some failures in there but this is basically her life calling. She’s a very serious character in the sense that she’s got one thing to do and that’s to finish what her father started.
Do you think there’s going to be some interpersonal conflict with the other characters in that she seems very focused on the goal, what she’s gotta do, and do you think the other characters are going to try and lighten her up a little bit?
Well one, the other characters are from Earth. She’s from Altea so they’re different in the way they operate in general. Like any good leader she listens and she’s gonna learn and there’s a lot of adventures ahead. A lot of fights.
There will definitely be situations with the other team members because what they’ve done so well on this show is created and delved into the backstory of all the main characters. You will definitely see interpersonal relationships with each and every one of the other characters. It’s amazing what they’ve done.
Can you give us any hints to her relationships with the other characters? Especially Keith. I know there are a lot of Keith/Allura fans out there.
It’ll be interesting how that whole thing unfolds. I think fans are going to be really really excited about it. They do stick with a lot of what’s happening in the original TV series with some creative license and expanding of the story. People are going to be surprised but engaged. It’s one thing to have this awesome robot that goes out and fights these conquerors of the universe, but this show is built on the realationships. What all of this means to each of them is what’s really important and what I think the fans are really going to focus in on.
So it’s less about ‘oh man there’s a crazy monster destroying the universe’ but more about the characters.
Yeah, that goes without saying. We know we gotta fight. But it’s like real life. It’s much more interesting, it’s the people, it’s the personalities and what’s going on with the interpersonal relationships.
And it’s those interpersonal relationships that fuel the action and make it more intense and relevant.
Definitely. They’ve done such a good job on this show. I love the writing on this show. I’m not kidding, a lot of voice actors, because we don’t have to memorize our scripts we can kinda just go in and read. A lot of times if you have a project, maybe you don’t have time to read the entire script. Maybe you’re just gonna go in.
There is no way when they send me a script the night before we go record that I do not read that cover to cover on the edge of my seat. Every single episode, it’s amazing. I just look forward to where this show is going hopefully in the future and I look forward to the fans seeing this season because there’s a lot in store.
Were you a fan of the original Voltron?
I was! Not an overly huge fan of it but I definitely watched it. It was definitely a part of my television experience. I was a total TV addict latchkey kid and I just watched a lot of shows and that’s what was on. I definitely got into it and liked it. I rooted for Allura and it’s a show that is woven into the fabric of my television past for sure.
It’s cool to be part of something that’s being rebooted that as a kid I had no idea I’d be a part of it at some point in my life. It’s really neat to be a part of this rebooting.
What has the reaction from fans been like?
I’m so lucky because there’s a lot of people who support me and appreciate some of the roles I’ve done in the past so that always feels amazing. I think people are highly anticipating this, not just for me, but for the entire show. From the artists to the writers and the creators, everybody. Fans have been extremely supportive and very much looking forward to this.
The version of Allura in this version is very different from what we’ve gotten before. We aren’t getting a pink helmet and those boots, so what do you think about her look this time around?
Well she’s a modernized version, that reflects more of today’s society and fanbase and people who would watch this of all colors and all ages, all sizes. What’s great is that she’s Altean. In this show, not to give away any spoilers, we’re talking about the universe. There’s a lot of planets in the universe. I have a feeling that we’re going to encounter a lot of different species, a lot of different creatures, and people from all different kinds of planets. I don’t think people in this world are as fixated on looks and skin color as in the real world.
It’s wonderful to me that they made her a princes of color, I’ll call her that. It’s just a diverse cast. I think people will appreciate that, even if they don’t necessarily say it, I think it’s going to be appreciated by so many people that haven’t been represented properly in commercials, cartoons, video games, whatever it is. It’s important and I’m so happy to be a part of it.
So how long is it going to be before we can buy a Princess Allura action figure?
That is one of my dreams. So, I’m like, finger crossed. I can’t imagine that they would leave Princess Allura out because I know there’s going to be toys. Traditionally in the past it’s been more about male action figures but it’s a new day, it’s a new dawn and Prince Allura is here. She’s so badass you can’t deny her a toy. Hopefully they’ll get the memo.
What do you feel you bring to the role of Allura?
It’s really cool because you get to the audition and you see the word princess and you think, traditional princess. But she’s so not traditional so what I really love about it is she’s complex with the duality in her. She’s not just this figurehead and I look beautiful. It’s real. It’s gritty. She has a real job, things to accomplish, she leads her team, this is everything.
There’s a lot of weight to her. She’s a serious character but she can lighten up a bit, especially with the help of her friends and her teammates. That’s a really fun character to play and I hopefully I’m bringing that to the character, too.
When you said she almost has this spiritual connection to the lions, they’re pretty mechanical and yet she has this more, I assume, spiritual connection to them. How do you feel about that?
There is a spiritual connection. In this show we call it quintessence. That’s what so awesome about it, it’s otherwordly. There is a definite spiritual connection with the lions because it’s energy. It’s all about harnessing that energy.
The lions actually choose their pilots, so even though Allura has this connection with the lions, she doesn’t get to tell them what to do. They are really the deciders of who’s going to pilot them. It’s a very deep connection and Allura has that gift that was given to her by her father.
Is there a plot point where she wants to pilot a lion? Or is it just she knows she has to find pilots for these lions even if they aren’t specifically for her?
Exactly. Her whole purpose is for the greater good of the universe and to complete this huge task and in order to do it she’s going to stay true to what her father’s wishes were, stay true to the way Voltron works, and that’s how it works. Even if she desires to pilot it wouldn’t necessarily happen in that way. If the lions tell her she needs to pilot you know Allura would be up to the task.
Do you think Allura is going to struggle with all this responsibility? After being frozen for ten thousand years and having the weight of the universe on your shoulders, that can be pretty stressful.
I would say, yeah. For anybody that would be an arduous, overwhelming sort of task. There’s going to be some struggles, possibly some failures, and working through learning curves, all that stuff. It is big, it is huge, and you’re right, she just woke up! Like, gee, thanks. I just woke up and I gotta deal with all this, thanks. It’s gonna be an exciting adventure.
If you had to pick your favorite lion, which one would it be and why?
Ooo! They all have unique personalities, but probably the obvious answer would be the Black Lion. But you know it is hard to answer because they all need each other. One is no good without the other as far as forming Voltron and working together as a team, which is the whole essence of Voltron. If I had to pick one, it’d have to be the black one.
Check out the next page for our chat with Bex Taylor-Klaus, who plays the role of Pidge.
Bex Taylor-Klaus may be unfamilar to voice acting fans, but she is well known on the small screen with roles in Arrow, Scream: The Series, and The Killing. She discusses the audition process, comparing herself to the original Pidge, and Pidge’s journey through the first season.
You’ve mentioned that Pidge is great with machines but not with people, why do you think he’s like that?
Pidge grew up in the garrison, which is the military academy, and he always wanted to keep up with his brother. He wanted to be as smart and as successful in the garrison as his father and brother. He worked really hard at it and he’s a natural.
So that’s why he’s so good at machines because that was his place in the world?
Oh yeah, he loves it to. That’s not to be ignored. Pidge loves his technology and his machinery and he loves building things. All of that really came from a value in his family.
Do you think as the show goes on Pidge will make a new family with the other main characters?
I definitely think so. It takes him awhile. He wants his family back. Who doesn’t want their loving family back? At the same time, you’re right, he does kinda find himself thrown into this new family. It’s gonna be really fun to see him have to figure out humans again that aren’t his biological family again.
Pidge seems withdrawn from the rest of the world. Is that just because he’s so focused on finding his family?
Exactly. He’s very one track mind in the beginning.
What do you feel, as an actor, you bring to the role of Pidge?
I want to think I bring a little bit of excitement and energy. When Pidge gets excited about something new and alien technological, Pidge gets very excited. He is the quintessential geek out nerd. I like to say that comes from me but it’s definitely the writing.
Obviously Pidge has lost his family and that sucks, but has Pidge gone through anything else that informs the character?
Well, I could tell you that but it would spoil all the fun of watching it. There are a lot of layers to Pidge that it’s going to be very fun to peel off throughout our eleven episodes.
What kind of parent names their kid Pidge?
Ooohhhh. No one.
I guess that’s what a fantasy show is for, huh?
Hehehe. I hope a few parents will name their kids Pidge after we come out because I think it’s an adorable name. I would love to have it myself.
So what we’re gonna see in the next five years is a whole bunch of little kids running around with the names Pidge, Lance, Hunk, Allura, Keith, and Shiro. It’ll be great.
I’m very excited. I want to see all these kids playing in the sandbox together. I want to see a little Hunk and a little Aria having playtime in the sandbox together in Kindergarten in five years, that’ll be amazing.
Give us a brief rundown on Pidge’s relationship with the other main characters. What are some key touchpoints with them?
Pidge is not as amused with Lance as Lance is by Lance. No one is, but Pidge less than most. Doesn’t like dealing with his stuff all the time. He’s kinda sarcastic towards him.
Hunk is… Hunk is a big lovable buttface. Those are Pidge’s words, not mine. I’m sorry, I’m thinking of myself right now. I start thinking how much I love the characters. Sometimes I forget I’m not Pidge and also Pidge is a boy. Pidge and Hunk get along because they’re both pretty smart and they both work at the garrison on the same team. They’re both the tech guys of the crew so they get along on that level but at the same time Pidge keeps himself very removed from his team at the school. That’s not his focus.
When he gets rocketed into space it takes him some time to accept these people as his companions, his friends and family. He’s got some very interesting relationships with each one and each character is a very different person to him and holds a very different place in his heart. It’s fun to play around with those.
Since Pidge loves technology so much, do you think the bond with his Lion will be stronger than the others because of that?
Yep, oh yeah. He and his Lion are two peas in a pod. He loves his Lion. It’s his baby.
Tell us a little about the weapons the team gets. Everyone else have these big ol’ weapons but Pidge’s is smaller.
Well the thing I love about the weapons is each weapon is very distinct to each paladin and each weapon is distinct to each lion. Pidge is very small and unassuming but his weapon packs a powerful wallup. Something I like a lot is each weapon has properties of where each lion was found. I think it’s just beautifully done by our creators. I can not sing their praises enough. They are geniuses.
How do you feel about becoming the next generation of the Voltron legacy? The show has been going on for over 30 years with many different iterations. What do you feel is different about this version then the others?
Well I think our characters, while still having the same characters from throughout time, we’re bringing a new life to them. We’re kinda taking them deeper and taking them farther then I think the other generations have.
With the original Voltron, Pidge had this really squeaky, almost muppet voice. When you heard about the audition for Pidge were you like, “Oh god, I do not want to do a muppet voice.”
Well I was warned. When I went in for Voltron, I took the character and went in with a voice that I thought would fit the character. This fifteen year old boy. Not squeaky but not normal puberty boy level either. I went in there and they seemed to enjoy it and I was warned afterwards that the old voice had been so squeaky that no one would recognize me as Pidge. And I was like, “Okay, well, maybe they’ll like this one. Maybe they can listen to Pidge talking for more time.” And I didn’t wanna be a muppet. I thought it’d be more fun this way to give him a real voice.
Obviously in the voice acting industry they get women to play boys but do you think there was a reason they cast you specifically? Is it because they were going for that more boyishness with Pidge, because he is a little younger than everybody else?
Yeah, Pidge is the youngest on the team for sure and I think the reason they chose me? Well, for girls with more androgynous voices like myself, it’s easier to play up or down. So for Pidge it’s fun to play around with both just because he’s so young and kind of in the throes of age and all those changes.
These guys all get flung across the universe and they left everything they know and love behind, is that gonna affect them all as the show goes on?
It’s definitely something that gets brought up. With Pidge it’s not as much of an issue because suddenly he’s half way across the galaxy and he’s gonna miss his mom, he’s a little momma’s boy, but at the end of the day Pidge has a mission. Being out in space is really taking him close to his lost family and in a way the other paladins are being pulled away while Pidge is being pulled toward something. So it’s not as difficult for him.
How’s it feel that in a couple months you should be able to buy a Pidge action figure?
I still don’t believe it. I’m so ready for it and I will believe it when I see it and probably not even then. It’s like a dream come true that I didn’t even know was a dream.
Tell our readers a little about yourself, what do you do when you aren’t voice acting?
I like to work as much as I can, I love to find projects to be a part of. I love to hang out with my friends and watch a lot of Netflix.
What shows on Netflix do you watch and is it weird that a show you’re part of will be on Netflix?
I’m very very excited for everyone to see this project. It’s been a blast work on and I think it’s amazing. I’m excited for other people to get to see it on such an amazing platform.
On Netflix, right now I’m completely stuck on Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford’s new show. I think it’s fantastic.
Where would you like to see Pidge go as the show unfolds?
I would love to see Pidge in adventures that get him closer and closer to his family. Kinda see how that goes for him, get him close, but still not get there. See how he deals with that and how he changes as it gets harder and harder to find his family, I think that would be a lot of fun to play with.
This will probably be an obvious question for you, but favorite Lion and why? And your favorite, not Pidge’s.
Oh? For me. Ahh. I think my favorite Lion… You know, it might actually be the red. It’s just so fast and aggressive and so… AH! I just think the Red Lion is so cool. Red and Green are my babies I think. I love them so much but Red is definitely so strong. I know the Yellow is all about strength and all that but the Red has a level of strength in it that is different from the others to me and I love it.
We would like to extend a big thanks to both Kimberly Brooks and Bex Taylor-Klaus for taking the time to interview with us. A big thanks as well to Joshua Budich for the image used in the header for this article. Want more Voltron? Be sure to check out our interview with Voltron Executive Producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery here.
Make sure to check out DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender when it drops June 10th on Netflix.
Shamus Kelley is about to represent when this new Voltron gets served up on Netflix. Follow him on Twitter!