Voltron: Coran, Humor, Backstory, and the ’80s Series
Rhys Darby didn't think he was right for the role of Coran but after six seasons he's made the part his own, with his kids in tow!
When Voltron Legendary Defender was announced back in 2016 it came with descriptions of the major characters. Coran was called Allura’s “major domo” and “royal advisor.” It didn’t exactly get the hype train going. It actually sounded a lot like Coran in the original 80’s Voltron (voiced by Peter Cullen), a no nonsense character who never had time for the Voltron teams antics.
Boy did they undersell him. From his first moments on screen Coran was an explosion of energy and comedy the series has reveled in. No longer a stuffy advisor, Coran is now more of a semi-tech expert that pilots the Castle of Lions ship and is an active player in combat. He also once was infected with a parasite that made him put on an out of this world Voltron stage show.
Legendary Defender’s Coran is, to quote the character, a “gorgeous man” in both body and spirit. Much of that is thanks to Coran’s voice actor, Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords), for bringing so much zany energy to the role. Story editor Josh Hamilton says they specifically wanted Darby’s voice for Coran.
Darby himself was surprised to get the role. “I was like, am I worthy to be a part of this?” Darby had seen the original series and wasn’t sure he could play “the boring guy that puts the coat on Allura and says, ‘look after yourself!’ As time went on though he realized it was important to the series for this version of Coran to be more interesting and to give it life, “especially for kids!”
The part of Coran is filled with a manic energy and the character, despite being incredibly knowledgeable, can panic under pressure. When this happens Coran will zip around, fall over, yell at the top of his lungs, or his animation with go totally wacky. These are the most fun for Darby to be play.
“Quite often with those I’ll see the animation first and have to do all the voice work afterwards. It’s such anime that it’s kind of perfect for me to make all these weird noises.”
Darby quickly filled the role of Coran with so much humor that the writers actually started writing way more Coran in the scripts. Hamilton remembers that the scripts were so full of Coran moments they ended up having to cut many of them out.
With all that comedy though it could be very easy for the character to completely lose any credibility. Coran is still an important cast member who plays a vital part and if he was just a clown he wouldn’t work in the greater ensemble. Darby believes it’s the mix of comic relief, saving the day multiple times, and also being “sexy as hell” that keeps the character credible and so unique.
He also sees Coran’s sense of humor as standing out against the more serious sci-fi out there, making Coran more realistic than some might give him credit for.
“It’s important because when we live life whether we’re here on Earth or in space, we have senses of humor. We use those all the time and you don’t often see those in a lot of sci-fi that take themselves too seriously. I’d probably have more of a laugh if I was in (those) situations.”
Even with his funnier side, Darby would love to delve more into Coran’s backstory. Coran is hundreds of years old and had a much sketchier youth than his later life with Allura’s father, Alfor.
“He was sort of into gambling and hanging out in some pretty dodgy joints with some weird alien people, wheeling and dealing. Probably a lot of improvised dancing.”
Other bits like Coran dreaming of being a sort of superhero, thinking he can fly, and being into fashion are sides of the character Darby wants to play with.
“I’d like for him to let loose and be in some sort of competition that might even happen in the new season coming up where he doesn’t have to his smarts, but he can use his talents, and see where that leads him.”
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Darby is quick to give praise to the writers of Voltron for crafting not just his character but also the entire story. “That’s why this thing is so successful.”
It’s especially successful in the eyes of Darby’s two sons who love the series and are proud,” of the idea that their dad is this weird space wizard.”
Darby even found a way to work his kids into the series in the season 2 premiere when they were cast as younger versions of Coran when he was flying through a wormhole that constantly made him younger and younger.
“They’ve got similar accents and they absolutely adored that idea. They did their best work and got to see themselves on the show. It was the proud daddy family moment!”
Over the six seasons of Voltron, Rhys Darby has made the part of Coran his own, transforming it from the one note portrayal of the original series to a character beloved by fans across the world. He’s filled it with humor, heart, history, and even some of his own life. No wonder, when Rhys Darby took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con, you could hear fans shouting Coran’s catchphrase at him.
“Coran, Coran, the gorgeous man!”
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter!