This past weekend at New York City Comic Con, ComicsVerse got the opportunity to speak with the executive producers for VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDERS! The executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos and co-executive producer Lauren Montgomery gave us what goes through their minds when working on the show.

How they adapt some elements from the original cartoon from the 80s to personalities of the characters. They both also provided some insight into what fans can look forward to in Season 4. Check out the roundtable press junket below.


ComicsVerse (CV): Voltron: Legendary Defenders Joaquim Dos Santos, Lauren Montgomery.

Interviewer 1: Season 4. When is that coming out again?

Joaquim: October 13th. Lucky 13.

Lauren: A week from yesterday.

Joaquim: Real soon.

Lauren: I hope it’s lucky! I hope it’s not unlucky. That would be horrible

Joaquim: No. It’s gonna be very lucky.

Interviewer 2: I was gonna ask just a very, kind of broad, simple question. What kind of new things can we expect to see from Season 4, especially considering that we got a lot of nice backstory and cliffhangers coming off of last season?

Lauren: I think we can expect to see a little bit of a shake-up on both sides. We’ve got the Galra Empire, which has Lotor trying to lead it. And Zarkon’s just woken back up. We’ll see how does he like that, how does he like what Lotor’s done? Then we’ve also got this clearly new Paladin crew that’s kind of trying to figure things out and little bit of Keith’s reluctance to accept his leadership, but Shiro is trying to coach him and help him along. A little bit of —

Joaquim: Is that the coalition still building and building and you’re trying to make that, the scale of that battle they can bring to the Galra Empire even bigger. You know, flipping planets. Making them … turning them back to …

Lauren: Flippin em. Selling em for a profit?

Joaquim: Yeah, you know it’s a new show on HGTV. Planet Flippin’

Interviewer 2: It just has Shiro and Sven hanging out with the Property Brothers?

Joaquim: There yeah go! I like that very much.

Interviewer 2: I am a producer now though. And then actually, I’m just gonna piggyback off that because one thing I love about the show is you guys do really great persona character studies, which I appreciate. Like you were saying, with both sides now we have these personal issues of like Zarkon and Lotor, then also the shifting team dynamic. How important was it for you guys to have these kinds of interpersonal issues on both sides?

Lauren: I think it was something that kind of evolved organically a little bit? It was something that we knew was a possibility, but it just so happened in our story that they ended up kind of hitting at the same time and it was stolen as duality, and it was-

Joaquim: The duality sort of, yeah, struck us after the fact. We knew we wanted to build some complexity. We didn’t want, you know, Lotor to just be like, “I must ask Zarkon.” So there’s a ton more there.

We knew we wanted that. It’s just, it was interesting to see them sort of like veer off kind of mirror each other in a weird way. Yeah, honestly without all the character stuff you can get into all the battles you want. None of it’s gonna matter, it’s you gotta care about what’s really going on.

VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDERS — Josh Keaton, AJ Locascio, and Kimberly Brooks at NYCC 2017

Interviewer 1: I notice that Lotor is much more of an open-minded character as far as who he lets into his company. Everyone else is very strictly pure blooded Galra, whereas he has …

Joaquim: He’s half, half Galra.

Interviewer 1: …and they’re all women too. So, was that something, I barely remember anything from the original series. Was that a conscious decision to do?

Lauren: It was a conscious decision first, but it wasn’t something that was straight from the original series. I think Lotor’s probably, there was always a little bit of kind of a friction, I think, in Go-Lion, the lion in the original series? There was definitely friction between the comic book characters. In Voltron there was some but not quite as much.

Joaquim: It was kind of goofier, it was just ya know, the goofy version of what was —

Lauren: … a lighter take on it. We knew we wanted to bring some of that in but we wanted to kind of, I think, amp it up a little bit and just explore themes that still happen today in the same way that the film Zootopia had touched on like some really incredible themes, in their own world. We feel like we need to do that too and just show …

Joaquim: Societally, there was that moment where those two generals were talking while Lotor was battling in the gladiator pit and they sort of said to each other “I hear he works with a bunch of half-breeds.” Clearly, there’s a hierarchy within the Galra that don’t believe in any of that.

So, he’s already a rebel in that sense. I think we made this weird analog to the original where he had this harem of women around him in the original series, and we didn’t go out there saying “we’re gonna do the same thing.” We just knew that he saw value in what the Galra might have looked down upon.

Lauren: Yeah, he wants to win anyway. If the person is the best for the job, then they’re the best for the job. It doesn’t matter who they are.

CV: Part of what I love about him at that moment, which you were describing and explaining, is that he showed mercy at the time. Then you find out that he was just playing angle right there.

Joaquim: Manipulating.

CV:  I love that. That makes me respect you in a way. As a villain, I don’t really like you, but I respect you.

Joaquim: He knows how to work the crowd. He knows how to work the fans. And you know, I do think some of that there’s an element to him that’s very genuine. At the same, he’s just getting the job done, and he’s doing it the most efficient way possible.

Interviewer 4: I was thinking with the Voltron coalition. Are we gonna see some characters, like Shay and the Balmeran’s maybe coming back?

Lauren: I think it’s safe to say that we’ll definitely see some characters come back. You know they’ve made a lot of allies on the road and they’re gonna make some new ones too. Why make allies if you’re not gonna use them?

Joaquim: Yeah, exactly. That’s the thing, they’re gathering up the forces they already have and then taking those forces. They’ll try to recruit more.

Interviewer 2: To that point. Do we also get to explore any bigger alternate universe stuff? We’ve got a nice episode with the return of Sven and Ariella. Is that another thing where they just all go and recruit like 20 other teams of Voltron?

ComicsVerse’s New York Comic Con Coverage

Joaquim: I mean, we’d love to but budgetarily that gave me, like, a heart attack right here. Yeah, the possibility’s always open when you sort of open that door, like to other realities it’s always lingering out there. Exactly when, how, or if that’s gonna play out we can’t really say. I think we’re just really excited we created like this multi-verse possibility, you know.

CV: You were talking before how you picked off some things about the characters before from the original show? How did you know what things you wanted to keep and what things you wanted to change or adapt into this new series?

Lauren: Well, I think we just kinda had to follow our gut a little bit. There were things about characters that we felt kind of stepped on other characters a little bit. Like they were kinda in the same area. When we made adjustments like Shiro we kind of made him the leader.

So we don’t necessarily need Keith to be another perpetrator. So we make those adjustments and we kinda look at the characters and we say, us, as fans, would we accept this character or would this character be a complete betrayal to what we knew of Voltron and if we’re down with it we just hope that other people are also okay with it.

Joaquim: It’s so funny because, when we were first making the rounds and doing this, you don’t realize how much your own investment in what you’re telling now sort of effect you. I grew up with the original series. I had the metal Voltron. I watched the cartoons.

And we were doing one of these and I was like, yeah, Shiro was the leader in the original and Lauren went nope. And I was like, Shays or right? She was like, NOPE, sorry man. Like, it was Keith. Really? Now it just feels natural, it makes sense. It’s that thing you sort of go with your gut and go with what feels right. You end up… it worked out.

Interviewer 1: One thing I wanted to say. I’m sure you guys heard it before. Leading in Season 1, was that, I’m glad that Pidge is a girl and that she is like the wonder kid. I was talking about this with my roommate earlier this morning and she hasn’t watched this series, so she was under the impression that she might have been like a sort of a transgender type character. Was that kind of the idea going in? Maybe she was kind of a low key transgender type, or just she was just wanting to ….

Joaquim: I think she’s just Pidge.

Interviewer 1: She’s just Pidge?

Joaquim: You know what I mean? I think she is who she is.

Lauren: The idea of Pidge is that she is there to represent pretty much anyone who feels like they just don’t fit a gender norm. Allura is definitely a female and she is very, the female that I always watched in all the shows growing up. She’s clearly there. We definitely evolved and made her a much stronger, self-assured person. She is not the exact replica of the original Allura. When I was growing up there were never any girls that weren’t pretty. Pretty much all of the role models were pretty.

VOLTRON Season 2: Still A Leader in Representation!

Joaquim: They’re more, like, classically pretty, considered like.

Lauren: So if I didn’t feel pretty then I felt like I can’t be that girl and I was like — What? You don’t have to be a supermodel to be a woman and to be valuable. That’s something that we just need to get out there. You don’t have to look the part. You don’t even have to feel the part. You can still just be a completely valid, valuable human being. Just from what you bring to the table.

Joaquim: I think it’s tough, cause, we obviously we want to give representation to literally everybody. We want to have this show be the most inclusive show possible. It’s impossible to do. So on some level, you have to allow people to come at it to find their own representation within the show. We can’t necessarily build it outright. So I think Pidge definitely became that for a lot of people, Which is awesome.

Interviewer 2: One last question? Alright. I guess I’ll ask that. As both of you have worked in the cartoon industry for years, have you found that trying to explore these different things, making it as inclusive as you can, kind of doing the things that you do with it narratively and exploring these social issues.

Have you found that that’s something that’s become easier as time has gone on? Is there something that’s of value working with a streaming service like Netflix as opposed to a network? How have you seen the industry evolve as far as what you guys can do?

Joaquim: It’s evolved, sure I mean it was a non-issue. In the past it was just territory you didn’t delve into and now …

Lauren: It has evolved. It’s still very situational. There is a different property in different studios that have different feelings about the things you can touch on and how far you can take some things, being that it is still considered a children’s property. And so we just try to do the absolute best job we can of representing those people within the parameters were given.

Joaquim: And I think, like I said, it’s when we first got into the industry, this was subject matter that was just not on the table. So the fact that we’re here talking about this openly it’s all … It’s a step in the right direction.

Interviewer 2: Excellent. That’s all the time that we have. Thank you guys so much.

Lauren: Thank you.

Joaquim: Thanks so much, guys.

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