TEEN TITANS GO! & DC SUPER HERO GIRLS Interview With Cyborg Voice Actor Khary Payton (Exclusive)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead) talks about his latest appearance as Cyborg in Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, sharing hilarious insights into bringing this hero to life.
In Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, Lex Luthor wields an ancient Kryptonian power and unites the world's supervillains to capture the DC Universe's heroes. With only the fan-favourite DC Super Hero Girls left to stop the Legion of Doom, the team must cross dimensions to rescue their fellow superheroes from the Phantom Zone, but a fortuitous wrong turn leads them to Titans Tower...where they find much-needed allies in the iconic Teen Titans!
That's the premise of this awesome blockbuster event, and we can promise you'll have an absolute riot with this hilarious, action-packed crossover. Ahead of its Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD release on May 24, we had the privilege of catching up with Cyborg himself, Khary Payton, to discuss his latest appearance as this iconic version of Victor Stone. Clearly, the actor had an absolute blast making this movie.
Below, The Walking Dead and Teen Titans Go! star shares his hilarious reason for why he enjoys playing Cyborg, earning the freedom to improvise in the recording booth, and those meta-jokes.
We also hear from Payton on getting to interact with DC Super Hero Girls' character Bumblebee, the challenges presented by imagining all of Cyborg's amazing weaponry, and the ridiculousness that ensued when he got to sing as the character in this movie. This was a fun conversation, and we're sure you guys will have a blast hearing from the actor who has become synonymous with Cyborg.
You’ve been playing Cyborg since 2005, but through all those different iterations of Victor Stone, what is that you love about playing this Teen Titans Go! version?
It’s the endless possibilities. When they first said we were going to do this version of Teen Titans, we didn’t understand the concept. I think after the first or second episode we recorded, all of the Titans died in a volcano. We were all dead and floating ghosts and, at the end of the episode, we all looked at each other and went, ‘Now what?’ They actually put that in at the end of the episode. It wasn’t written, but they thought it was so funny that the five of us were going, ‘What is going on? You just killed us all!’ [Laughs] We didn’t understand that it was literally a reset button and you’ve got to start over every time. I think at that point, we started to realise that what we were getting was this crazy, euphoric playground.
It’s like going out for drinks…you know what, it’s not like going out for drinks with your friends. You’ve got to be careful about how much you drink when you go out. This is like staying at the house and everybody has a little too much to drink, you pass out, and you wake up the next day and are like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was crazy. What happened last night?’ That’s what Teen Titans Go! is. It’s the old show getting way too drunk at the house and waking up the next morning and wondering what on Earth just happened. Can you write that in an article about a kid’s cartoon? I don’t know. Go for it.
I always appreciate the in-jokes and meta-commentary we see from the Titans, but how much fun is it for you to get the freedom to say things that would probably be frowned on in some comic book adaptations?
I think that’s the beauty of it. You hit the nail on the head when you said ‘freedom.’ There’s a freedom that comes with the Teen Titans Go! that’s all about breaking the rules and breaking conventions and being the anti-superhero superhero show. That’s what endears it to so many people. We’re not going to pretend to be something that we’re not [Laughs]. These Titans know they’re not superheroes. They’re five kids living alone and Lord knows what would happen if that actually happened. I think that was the gist of it. They’re five kids living alone! Who knows what might go on? That’s the impetus of the new series and with that comes a whole lot of freedom and a little bit of Lord of the Flies.
When you’re playing a more comedic superhero character like this one, do you get a little more freedom in the booth to play around with the lines and, as you do know this character so well by now, put your own spin on some of what he says?
Oh my gosh, yes. I actually get in trouble when I’m not playing Cyborg and I’m doing other shows. I forget that I don’t get as much freedom in other projects [Laughs]. I get a lot of that with Cyborg, so I have to reel myself back in and remember that I don’t get to just change things and move things around. On Teen Titans Go!, sometimes they’re like, ‘No Khary, you’ve got to say it the way we wrote it.’ There is that freedom as everybody is of the mind that we don’t care how it happens as long as it’s funny. As long as we can make each other laugh, nobody really cares if the writer writes it and the director comes in and rewrites it and then we come in and rewrite it and improv over the top of it. Then, the animators come in and they add their flair to it. It is this playground. It really is a freedom playground that we’re given to make this thing what it is. It’s a gift that it’s become popular enough that we’re all trusted to not screw this up and have fun with it [Laughs].
I had a blast seeing Cyborg interact with Bumblebee and the way the movie explores their shared interest in technology, but what about that dynamic did you enjoy delving into?
Bumblebee has been the closest thing to our sixth Titan. In the show, we had five or six episodes where Bumblebee joined the team for a little bit and, in the old show, she was the leader of Titans East. It’s always fun to have Bumblebee come in. There is that connection and they’ve had that since the comic books. It’s always nice for her to show up in whatever iteration it might be.
Cyborg is a badass character with a lot of awesome weaponry and gadgets, but is it challenging for you in the recording booth to have to imagine that side of things or just second nature to you by this point?
You know what, ever since the first audition, that’s been one of the most freeing things that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve done a lot of theatre and on-camera stuff, and all of that is great, but you’re held down in a certain way by your physical body. The cool thing about a cartoon is that all you’re held down by is the limitations of your voice. When they wanted me to do all these efforts and stuff, I just felt like a kid on the playground again. Once again, we get back to this sandbox and playground and it’s the playground of your mind because you can go and do anything. The cool thing is that if you come up with an idea and you throw it out there, these amazing artists will draw it [Laughs] and throw it up there.
You get the chance to sing as Cyborg in this film, of course, so what was that experience like for you working on this project? It’s such a funny scene.
I thought it was really cute. It was like our Beegees version of a song with a late 70s, early 80s twang. It was like a romantic love song. It was hilarious. Even as Cyborg, I’ve never sung a song like that. It cracked me up. Because of the pandemic, this whole process took a lot longer, and when it came back I forgot that the song was in this particular movie. When they started singing, I just died, and it all came rushing back.
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Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD on May 24. The movie event also premieres on Cartoon Network on May 28 and starts streaming on HBO Max beginning June 28!