TEEN TITANS GO! & DC SUPER HERO GIRLS Interview With Zatanna & Star Sapphire Actor Kari Wahlgren (Exclusive)
Veteran voice actor Kari Wahlgren talks to us about playing Zatanna and Star Sapphire in Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, explaining her approach to both roles in the movie.
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. To mark its Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD release today, we're now sharing our recent interview with Zatanna and Star Sapphire actor Kari Wahlgren.
She's no stranger to the DC Universe, but has delivered what's quickly proven to be a fan-favourite take on Zatanna in DC Super Hero Girls. This movie takes the character on a thrilling journey, but also gives Kari the opportunity to play a hilariously villainous version of Star Sapphire.
In this conversation, Kari talks us through her approach to her heroic and villainous roles, explaining how she pulled off those unique spells and the way her music career has influenced what she does in the recording booth. We also learn more about her love of comic books, and you should click here if you're keen to learn more about her roles as Jessica and Rick's Computer in Rick and Morty!
You’re so terrific in this film, and I can really only imagine how much fun it was to play these characters.
Aww, yes, it was so much fun. I have to say, as much as I love Zatanna, I also really love Star Sapphire. She’s been such a fun, crazy villain to play. They’re both just great parts. It’s been a lot of fun.
Just like in the comic books, Zatanna has to speak backwards to cast her spells, so is that challenging as an actor or is there a little post-production magic there?
That’s a great question. It’s a little bit of both. We would record the line normally and then we would play it back through the studio and I would then perform the line as much as possible backwards. They would then put the nice effects on it, but it was definitely the most challenging part of doing that role. Man, every time a backwards spell came up, the director would say, ‘Okay, let’s come back to that [Sighs].’ [Laughs] We did everything else and saved those for the end!
Zatanna’s infatuation with this Matthew McConaughey-esque Aquaman is such a fun part of the film, but what did you most enjoy exploring about that?
It’s just so funny. I think we’ve all had…maybe not all of us, but I definitely know I’ve had a crush or two in my life that made me act a little silly. It just makes me laugh that, of all people, they made Aquaman like Matthew McConaughey. I laugh every time I see it [Laughs]. Zatanna is usually pretty on top of things, but whenever she sees him, she just turns to jello. He’s basically her Kryptonite.
You get to explore a more serious side with Zatanna through her relationship with Raven in the movie as well; what did you enjoy about that?
It was really satisfying. It was my favourite part of the movie. It’s interesting because Zatanna really struggles with that dark part of herself and Raven, of all the characters I can think of in the DC Universe, is truly one of the ones who can understand what that’s like. They were lovely scenes of her getting to talk to someone about the struggle she’s going through. It was nice.
In contrast, Star Sapphire has such a unique sound in this DC Super Hero Girls world that I thought was fun, but where did the inspiration for that come from?
[Laughs] Well, they showed me the artwork for her. She had this very poofy dress on and looked very pouty. They said they wanted her to have a little bit of a babydoll, anime, spoiled rotten vibe. So, [adopts Star Sapphire’s voice] ‘it just kind of naturally became this.’ It was so much. Some of her episodes where she’s obsessed with Hal Jordan are among my favourites of the entire series. I love them.
Having dipped in and out of this DC Universe on such a regular basis, do you find the comic books a useful tool to prepare for roles like these or is it easier to go with what each specific project wants from you as a performer?
Well, I will always use the excuse of research to read more comic books [Laughs]. I actually really loved comic books growing up. I read a tonne of Wonder Woman and Batman and then, when I got older, it was Birds of Prey. I love that getting a role like this gives me an excuse to dive into that world and allows me to learn a little bit more about a character. When we did Legion of Superheroes, I read a lot of those comic books, and then when I got the role of Zatanna, I went down the rabbit hole and read a lot of her comics and graphic novels as well. So, yeah, I don’t think I ever completely say, ‘Eh, let the director figure it out and tell me what to do.’ I do like to go back to the source material.
You’ve been part of so many franchises from Marvel to Star Wars and beyond, but what is it about the DC Universe that draws you in as an actor?
Man, I think a big part of it is because I loved comic books and cartoons so much when I was young. There was a Wonder Woman anthology of the Golden Age. You know, the classic Wonder Woman comics. It was in my local library when I was a child, and I checked it out so many times that the book fell apart. It went out of print for many, many years and, finally, some years back, I found it on eBay. It was the most magical thing. I loved cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series. I think having that sort of background of loving those characters so much and the superhero genre so much has given me a little bit of an edge and a much bigger appreciation for getting to be part of projects like this. It means a lot. Hopefully, I’m doing it justice.
As well as your acting career, I know you have your own band, but how would you say those careers complement each other for you as a performer?
That’s a great question. I think that a lot of voice actors are also musical to some degree. There’s such a rhythm and timing to voice acting, especially if you get into anime or video games where you have to be very strict with timing. As a musician and voice actor, having that skill is a huge help. Whenever you get the chance to sing as one of your characters or explore different things vocally, I always tell people who want to get into acting that voice lessons help a lot. They’re a great tool, even if you don’t consider yourself a singer. It’s been fun over the past few years as I’ve tapped more into doing my music projects on the side. It’s been really fulfilling and I’ve loved it.
I feel like these DC Super Hero Girls getting together and forming a band would be fun, especially if it brought some of your SlaughtHER work to Zatanna.
[Laughs] I would love that! Let’s get that going immediately. I love that idea.
There’s a great musical number in the film courtesy of the Teen Titans, so I’m guessing you were a little disappointed to miss out on that. Would you like to do a musical in the superhero realm? It feels like there’s room for that.
Anytime I get to sing in a cartoon, I am so excited about it. The Teen Titans have a pretty great number in the movie and I thought they just knocked it out of the park. We had a chance to do some songs here and there for DC Super Hero Girls during the series, so that was a lot of fun. Man, for the movie, I don’t think you can top Khary Payton and those other guys singing that number [Laughs]. It’s too good!
Looking to the future, what are your hopes for where Zatanna and Star Sapphire’s respective stories could be heading next?
I would love to see Zatanna get to explore that dark side even more and to find out even more about her mother who left when she was a baby. I think there’s some really interesting backstory there to explore. That would be my wish.
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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!