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Jeremy Shada dishes about 'The Nine Realms' Season 2, new 'Adventure Time,' and more

Jeremy Shada checks in about Dragons: The Nine Realms Season 2, new Adventure Time, and the gone-too-soon Julie and the Phantoms

By Tara Bennett
Thunder and Tom

Actor Jeremy Shada may only 25 years old, but he's already got a stacked resume. Name a beloved contemporary animation franchise — he's probably in it. He voices Finn the Human in Adventure Time, Lance in Voltron: Legendary Defender, and he recently joined the How to Train Your Dragon franchise as Tom Kullersen in Dragons: The Nine Realms. The second season of The Nine Realms premiered May 5 on Hulu and Peacock, and continues the contemporary-set story of Tom and his dragon-rider friends discovering that dragons are still alive in our time.

SYFY WIRE got on the phone with Shada where we cover everything from his already venerable animation acting career to voicing such a complex character as Tom in The Nine Realms, and even some updates on Adventure Time and how fans are still mourning the end of his live-action series, Julie and the Phantoms

Did the role of Tom Kullersen in Dragons: The Nine Realms appeal to you because of the franchise or what you could do with the character?

I think it was definitely a little bit of both. I've been a massive fan as the Dragons movies for a long time. When I heard they were doing not only a new kind of show in that universe, but it was also a new direction that took place hundreds of years later in the same world, I was like, "Oh, that's such a cool concept." And then seeing what the character was and seeing a little bit of the art for it, I was just like, "Yeah, I want to do this."

Tom is such an interesting character because he has a lot of youthful hubris but there are now stakes with the introduction of Thunder to his life. Talk about dialing in your performance to make him someone the audience roots for even when he does crazy things.

I think Tom is that kid that jumps before he knows where the bottom is. [Laughs.] He does things before really thinking them through just because he's competent and has an adventurous spirit. And he definitely gets into a lot of trouble at times. It can come across as being someone who's too arrogant and that's definitely one of the weaknesses of him as a person. But I think it comes from a place of this genuine love for discovery that is very relatable to a lot of people. And I think that was the balance to strike because it comes from a good place and a good heart. I think it's so great when you see someone who's so used to being a lone wolf and the only child being on his own, then forced to really have to work with other people. It builds him and makes him stronger as a character when he realizes that he can't just rely on his own self at times and really needs to trust other people's abilities. 

Animation works ahead sometimes by years so is Tom's arc something you can track in the voice booth between Season 1 and the new Season 2?

It's so interesting because in terms of the audience, they get to see these six episodes packages from season to season. And they definitely have their shifts just in terms of what's happening in the story and this natural story break, But for us on the acting side of it and the recording side, we've done all of this virtually for the past year and a half so it's just been trucking through for us the whole time. For me, it's really just felt like one long progression as the character. 

Alex, D'Angelo, Tom, Wu & Wei, and Jun from Dragons: The Nine Realms

In voicing Tom, have you been directed to change his voice much between arcs to show growth or something else core to his story?

Honestly, it's a voice that's probably one of the closest to mine that I've done. They really wanted that natural tone from people. For me, it's just been making sure that he still feels like a kid and he doesn't feel like someone in their 20s. [Laughs.]

You mentioned this has been a pandemic-produced series, so have there been any joint voice sessions or just you alone in your closet?

This is probably the first show that I've really done in the voice acting animation realm where I really haven't gotten to record with almost anyone. The only person that I actually recorded with was Julia Stiles, who plays my mom, Olivia. And that was really only once or twice. They wanted to get us together for very specific scenes and sessions to have that live energy together, which is really fun. And I love doing those. That's my favorite. 

Being by myself has only worked because our voice director has just been amazing. She really does a great read embodying all the other characters. I'm reading with her and she does such a great job of getting those different emotions. And so I'm always reading off of someone who's really killing it. And then on the other side, it does make it interesting because I'm talking to dragons and creatures that can't really speak a lot of times.  It's not like a back and forth anyway. [Laughs.]

This year marks 12 years of Adventure Time. That's a long run to have on any show. Do you feel the legacy of it more after all this time?

I'm very loyal to the shows that I work on, especially the people that you get to be close with over a long period of time. In Adventure Time's case, we started doing that show in 2009. It's been close to 13 years now. It's such a huge part of my life. To have that break, suddenly, and then to come back and do the HBO Max specials, and now they have this Fionna and Cake spin off, which they're also doing for HBO Max, which I may or may not be in that. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say that, but yeah, I'll be doing some stuff in that, which is just crazy. I just did that very recently and it was so weird being like, I started this when was 12 and I'm still working on it at 25. That is nuts because that does not happen. When you are so blessed and so lucky to get such a legacy role that people just relate to and they love and you get to keep coming back to it, I think that's just a really special thing as an actor. I'm only more and more thankful for that as I get older and as time goes on, because there's not many roles that are like that.

Do you ever see it truly ending?

That's definitely one of the properties where there will be a point where the last episode in that universe is made at some point. But it's such a huge thing to so many people that it's just gonna keep living on because of the impact that it had on people, which is so cool.

Lastly, Netflix canceling Julie and the Phantoms broke a lot of hearts. Do you know where the story would have gone?

It's another one of the properties that just really hit with a lot of people on such a deep level. There was so much relatability in that show in terms of family and loss and loved ones and just amazing music. We had multiple different versions of what was supposed to be either a second season, or there was also talk about possibly doing instead of the second season, a movie for a little bit. Both had similar elements in each but both were very different. I probably shouldn't have, but through the grapevine, a friend of a friend might have shared some of the central script for a second season. There's a lot of things that would have been very fun to film and kind of flush out, but it's just gonna live on somebody's Google Drive.

You can stream Season 2 of DreamWorks Dragons: The Nine Realms on Hulu and Peacock.