Voltron’s Shiro On Clones, Fans, and Yelling at Lance

Josh Keaton gives his insights into playing an angry Shiro, how his kids influence his acting, and which Shiro hairstyle he supports.

Voltron Season 5 saw a shift in the fan favorite character of Shiro. More prone to outbursts and working outside of the team, something was amiss. With the revelation Haggar was able to see through his eyes, something is up with the Black Lion pilot.

We talked with Josh Keaton (Shiro) about these changes, interacting with fans on social media, and a possible idea for a Shiro sitcom. You read that right.

Talk a little about Shiro, or Kuron, or whatever the hell your character is in season five. Take us through the whole season and what it was like playing him.

You start to see a lot of the stress from everything that’s been happening with the team and with Shiro. You definitely start seeing him make some more unilateral decisions, shall we say. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’s very inconsistent behavior for Shiro, and there might be a little bit to that.

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However, Shiro is definitely somebody who is no stranger to hard choices. We talked about that with Pidge in the very, very first, the very, very first season, when she really wanted to go and find her family. In war you’ve got to make the hard choices.

This season we saw more of an angry Shiro. He’s yelling at Lance and that’s a new side for the character.

You start to see a little bit of the fact that Shiro is not completely emotionally infallible, that he’s flawed. You saw those flaws really started to wear on his nerves and you see a little bit of that coming back out again. I think it’s no surprise to anybody, by this point, that there is definitely some PTSD happening with Shiro. We’re starting to see some of the situations where that can kind of rear its head.

In terms of playing it, what’s it like for you as an actor?

I mean Jeremy’s my buddy, so anytime I’ve got to like really legit yell at Jeremy I get kind of sad. I love Lance, and so some of the scenes where he really had to really be firm with Lance, those are definitely rough. I hate them. Lance just wants everybody to be happy. Having to do that was not super fun. It definitely serves a story purpose and that’s what I’m here for. 

We spoke way, way back, even before the first season started, about how having kids of your own really helped inform you playing the role of Shiro. Now that your kids are older, and you’ve had more experience as a parent, has that continued to influence the way you play Shiro?

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Yes, I would say so. My kids have attitudes now. Back when we first started recording one wasn’t even born really. One of them was like an infant. Now they have opinions. Now they talk back. Now they’re not so easy to corral. I’ve definitely been getting more frustrated kind of, in parallel with Shiro. I still definitely use them as a touchstone though.

I think when a lot of people are growing up, a lot of people are very self-centered, and I’m no different. I didn’t really have to think of anybody outside of myself. Even being married, my wife is still an independent being. I know she can take care of herself. It wasn’t until I had kids that I actually kind of felt that responsibility for something, for people, the lives of people. In terms of acting, you’ve got to use whatever you can to kind of make a situation real for you.

Obviously even though the Paladins are not literally Shiro’s children, and he doesn’t literally think of them as his kids, as an actor, my love for my kids and my need to keep them safe is really what I tapped into for where Shiro’s at.

You interact with Voltron fans a lot on your social media pages. What’s that like? I know there can be hardships sometimes and not everybody’s nice. Most people are but are of course there are some bad apples.  What keeps you wanting to do it?

I would say the response. Yeah there’s some bad apples in the fandom, but I mean we’re talking like a mini, mini, mini, minuscule amount. I can’t say the mini enough. The overwhelming response from the fandom is so positive. I look forward to it. I look forward to seeing people’s art, and the cosplays, then meeting them at conventions, and sharing the show with them. I watch Voltron as a fan. I think that I’m probably just as big, if not a bigger fan, than everybody in the fandom.

Even if I wasn’t in this show, and it was the same show, I would love this show. It’s such a good show. Most of my interaction just comes from my love for the show, and wanting to fan out and do some cool stuff for the show. I’m happy that there’s so many people that like to share that with me. What honestly keeps me coming back is just having a fun idea, and saying, “Oh yeah, let’s do this.” My wife will say, “You should do this song as Shiro.” I’ll be like, “Okay, sweet.” It’s really just having fun. That’s what honestly keeps me coming back, there’s so much material in the show to have fun with. I love doing it.

You did that delightful music video of “You’re Welcome” with the Voltron cast. Talk about the genesis of that, the making of it, and the response?

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That was literally my wife’s idea. We have songs from pretty much every kid’s movie playing in our house 24/7. We have heard that song a ton of times, and my wife said, “You should record that as Shiro.” Then the wheels started turning and I was like, “Yeah. Yeah, sure.” I went and I sat down, and I started thinking about the show from season one until where we were at, what had already been released. I just rewrote the lyrics, and then I just kind of started re-watching the show for little choice moments with clips.

Learned Final Cut in that couple days where I was editing it. I’d never used it before. It was actually pretty easy to start picking up. I started going through all of the process to do it. I called up some of the Voltron cast. There were other people, I think Jeremy wanted to be in it, but he was filming his own music video for his band.

Tyler, Rhys, Steven, they’re always filming on location, so they’re fairly reasonably tough to get. Everybody that was in town came over. We hung out at the house. It was neat. I live kind of out in the suburbs, so I’m a little bit far away from everybody. I didn’t even really think anybody was going to come over, because that’s a little bit of a schlep. Everybody came over and had a great time and were commenting on how it isn’t actually that bad of a drive. Maybe I might have a little season six viewing party at the house. Maybe we’ll film some reactions or do some stuff like that for the fans.

It was really just a super. My wife had this idea and we just took it, we played it out until its conclusion. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People loved it. People have tweeted to me about it with other ideas, and like, “Oh, you should sing this and that.” That was just completely something that we did in our house for fun. Again, stuff like that, we love doing that.

Does that mean we aren’t getting an official Voltron musical episode?

I mean I don’t write the show. I can’t attest to whether or not that would be in there, but there will always be some silly stuff like that from me, coming out. I’ve actually already got an idea that I’ve started writing another song for. Yeah, keep an eye out for that.

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Speaking just as a fan of the show, let’s imagine that the OG season one and two Shiro meets the new (possibly cloned) Shiro. What would happen between the two of them? Would they fight? Would they bro it out? What would happen?

There’s really no way to answer that without assuming so many things. You would have to say, “Okay, is the first one the original? Is the second one a clone? Is one from a different reality? Do they interact with the same person?” You’d have to kind of assume one or the other for this situation to happen. Let’s just say that they are two different Shiros and they meet. I think that both of them are both kind of under the impression that they are Shiro.

You’d probably have that initial, “Whoa, whoa. Hey, you look like me. What the hell’s going on here?” It’s still Shiro, so I would have to think that they would want to talk to each other about everything. “Where did you come from?” “Where did you come from?” “Why are you here?” “Why are you here?” You’d have the Abbot and Costello Who’s on First happening for a little bit.

In my world, in my head canon, they would go and troll everybody. You’d have one Shiro showing up, and then leaving the door, and the other one coming in and surprising everybody from another door. Just that sort of stuff. That’s what I would love to see. The two Shiros working hand in hand to troll all of the Paladins and Coran. I think that’d be fantastic.

We talked a little bit about interacting with Voltron fans, and what’s it like. Obviously all the interactions are very special but are there any big interactions, whether it’s at a con or online with Voltron fans that have really stood out to you?

Absolutely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had fans come up to me and tell me how they suffer from PTSD and how Shiro has really helped them with their struggles. They’re seeing this character that for all intents and purposes is like them.

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He’s super strong and he’s infallible, or at least you think. To see that somebody like him still struggles with this on a daily basis and it affects how he approaches his life? The fact that they were able to see that in somebody as seemingly strong as him and how he still has to go through this, it’s so humbling to hear that.

I had somebody come up to me who was an amputee, who loved the fact that they could find representation for that in Shiro as well. All of that stuff, it’s immensely fulfilling to be a part of being able to help somebody through their life’s problems, even in a minuscule way, through a character that I’ve had a part in playing.

I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily why you become an actor, but hearing that makes every bit of rejection, and every part that you didn’t get, it makes it all worth it if you were able to make that kind of a difference in someone’s life. Those kind of things always stand out to me, whenever the character has been able to help somebody through a life struggle.

Somebody’s texting me, did you hear that? I just got a yoohoo, because my text chime is actually Sven saying that.

Oh my god.

My car’s named Shiro and I have Sven saying yoohoo to me when somebody’s texting me. I’m in some really weird crossover Shiro reality where the voice of Shiro is within the mechanical Shiro, which is now being spoken to by the voice of a Swedish Shiro.

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So some fans (okay, me) have come up with this jokey sitcom for Shiro called “All My Shiros”. It would feature every single Shiro that’s been in the show. What do you think that show would be like?

I think it might get a little confusing. I think that hair would definitely be important, because in some cases that’s really the only way you’d be able to tell everybody apart. I would definitely think that all of the situational things that have happened to each respective Shiro would have to be now canonized into a personality, and then you would have to really go overboard with all of those personalities. It’d be hilarious.

What do you think Sven and Slav are doing right now in the alternate reality?

I mean it’s the reality where everything works out fine. Sven is fine. They made it to space hospital. I’m sure that the space doctors took care of his space injuries very space well. I really think that they’re still doing their Gamara stuff. They’re out looking for more evil Altaians, and trying to make sure that nobody else gets the Haktrum put on them. They’re still being space cowboys and saving that reality.

Very important question for you. Which Shiro hairstyle do you prefer? Season one/two or season three onward?

Well you’re forgetting the one-off with the long hair. I like that one. I think long-haired Shiro’s pretty bad ass. I don’t necessarily hate the hair that so many people are hating on. As somebody who kind of has short hair that ends up going through the different stages at different points in time? I mean personally, I like my own hair pretty clean and sharp, so there’s always that weird place where it gets in between the short and long.

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I guess I would probably have to go with OG Shiro there. I do like the long hair. I don’t really see that big of a difference between the slightly longer hair when he comes back and cuts it. I guess that’s not enough of a difference to me, to really make me go, “This is so much worse than the other,” or, “This is so much better than the other.” I think that Shiro looks great with whatever hair he’s got.

Any final words to the Shiro fans out there, or just to Josh Keaton fans as well?

Thank you so much for hanging around and checking out my silliness. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the fans that still like what I do. I’ll always be around doing silly stuff, that’s what I love doing.

Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Netflix needs to order six seasons of All My Shiros stat. Follow him on Twitter!