Season 4 of Voltron: Legendary Defender has arrived on Netflix, and the preceding weekend at New York Comic Con saw the cast and crew on hand to preview the six-episode batch for fans: Co-Executive Producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, as well as voice talent A. J. LoCascio (Lotor), Kimberly Brooks (Allura) and Josh Keaton (Shiro).
Season 3 of Legendary Defender established a new status quo for the show, with Prince Lotor taking charge for a crippled Emperor Zarkon, while the Paladins of Voltron were compelled to adjust following the mysterious disappearance of their de facto leader Shiro. Now with Shiro back after Keith’s rocky tenure as leader and Zarkon’s gradual recovery, new questions about the future of the Galra and team Voltron exist as our heroes work to build their resistance movement. Toonzone news had the opportunity to participate in roundtable interviews with the crew and cast and ask about the state of the show and what fans can expect.
Season 4 of Voltron: Legendary Defender is available to watch now on Netflix, as of Friday October 13th.
Roundtable Interview with Co-Executive Producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery:
TOONZONE NEWS: So, season 4: can you set the table for us, what’s the big thing that’s happening this season?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: We’re sort of continuing a lot of what we set up in the previous season, a good thing about serialization is that we get to continue that story. We obviously left on a big cliffhanger, we saw Zarkon’s eyes open up. We’re going to see vying for power on the Galra side of things. And there’s a little bit of confusion and sorting out that needs to be done on the Voltron side of things. We’ve got the building of the coalition, which is really important. I think taking the fight in a much bigger, broader, epic scale to the Galra is something we can look forward to.
TOONZONE NEWS: With the coalition building, would you say it’s about introducing more new races or rallying the old ones?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Both.
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: They’ve done so much work up to this point that they have a few allies they can count on, and they’re going out and trying to build their forces even further and get new allies in the fight.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: I’m sure there’s a bit of a syndrome going on where these people who have been oppressed for so long are just used to the oppression. And so, it’s about convincing those types of planets and systems to come out of it and fight back.
Q: In the clips that you showed of Lotor going through the [dimensional] rift, during that Lotor addressed the fact that he knows Minerva is his mother. But as we know from the final episode of of season 3, Haggar doesn’t realize that she is Minerva and they have an antagonistic relationship. Does Lotor actually know that Haggar is Minerva, and is that something that will be at play in season 4?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We’ll have to see what’s going to happen with that! Lotor is definitely not a fan of Haggar. Who knows what’s going to happen. Spoiler territory!
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Obviously we’ve given everything around the source of the problem. Hopefully we’ll get to push the button and see how it plays out.
Q: Are we going to see more with Shiro? It’s kind of almost obvious there’s maybe mind control going on, a sleeper agent –
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: No idea what you’re talking about. *Lauren Montgomery laughs*. I mean yeah, all that stuff we like to set up and we also like to throw a lot of curveballs. Who knows how that will shake out. I don’t even know, you know, when Shiro made his escape, what he was seeing. Was what he was seeing a hallucination, was what he was seeing a very real thing?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We tried to walk that line to basically allow for any option in the end, when we reveal what really happened. Is this our original Shiro, or a different Shiro? We don’t know. Riding that line!
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Was the Shiro that landed on Earth the original Shiro? I don’t know what’s going on.
TOONZONE NEWS: Was there always a plan to eventually have Allura come in to take Shiro’s place as a pilot?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: From day one we wanted it, for sure. We go through the story organically and things change around, we knew we wanted it and we saw it was something we could do. I was thrilled, because she was my favorite pilot in the original.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: It was in the books from the beginning.
Q: At the panel you revealed Keith was going through Blade of Mormora training. So is he going to learn more through them about his heritage and how to channel his abilities as a half Galra?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Yes, I think that’s safe to say. He’s finally got a clue as to who he is, so now he gets to push into that further and lean into that.
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: I think that’s what makes him want to look into that more. He’s curious about his past and he wants to be a better leader, he knows he wants to fill Shiro’s shoes. He looks at the Blade of Mormora as a way to satisfy both of those needs.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: I think all that comes into play. It’s tough – is it selfish to want to know more about yourself and take away from the team? All those things come into play.
TOONZONE NEWS: Beyond season 4, how far ahead have you plotted out the show?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: I’m not sure we’re allowed to answer. We definitely have stories we want to tell, for sure.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: In our minds, Voltron is going on until we’re old and grey and in the ground.
TOONZONE NEWS: Would it be fair to presume season 4 won’t be the end?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: I don’t know.
Q: We got to see that Pidge is off hunting for Matt, and Keith is with the Blade of Marmora. Are we going to see other characters go off on side journeys, either together or alone?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We don’t always do every character every season, because then you end up with one person and no Voltron. And the show is called Voltron, so we try to keep them around. So I think we’ll see these characters get their moments to shine throughout the series, but we still gotta keep those team members together.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Logistically it’s tough with so many characters, to give everybody their moment. Some of these things might be slower burns than others, but everybody gets their moment and their time to evolve and come into their own.
Q: It’s been a nice evolution of these characters. It’s very organic. I have to be honest, I grew up with original Voltron and I was hesitant to watch it. But when I did, I was hooked. The delivery, the dialogue is very natural.
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Well, that’s a testament to their performances too. You can write so much, and we have a fantastic crew of writers and we’re incredibly proud of the story we’ve all crafted. But when you get them all in a room together, they have a natural way about them.
TOONZONE NEWS: With Lotor, what did you have in mind for updating him from the original? I feel like in the old show, he was very obsessed with getting Allura while here he’s more of a benevolent-seeming yet conniving antagonist. Was there any of the old guy you wanted to carry forward, or was it a matter of rebuilding Lotor?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: I think there’s a lot of the old guy still in there.
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: There were some obvious tropes we thought we needed to leave in the past, but there was subtlety that was in him – he had a lot of friction in his relationship with Zarkon in the original.
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: And some of that is present in this new one, which we’ll hopefully get to see more of. As the story evolves, you’ll see where we cherry pick bits from the old character. We knew we couldn’t just make him obsessed with Allura, because that doesn’t always make the most compelling villain. “I just want a hot chick!” He needed a bigger motivation, so we needed to make certain adjustments.
Q: Going off of that, is there going to be any motivation like seeking out the Paladins for any reason? Seeking out Allura was a big part of his character. Is there something beyond Allura as a beautiful woman that’d make him seek her out?
JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS: Lotor’s a free thinker, he doesn’t adhere to Galra traditions. He’s a “by any means necessary” kind of guy. So if it benefits him, something like that might be a possibility. That’s a character trait, he gets the job done.
Roundtable Interview with A. J. LoCascio (Lotor), Kimberly Brooks (Allura) and Josh Keaton (Shiro)
Q: I want to start with Lotor. Obviously in the clip we got a bit about how he knows his parents are Minerva and Zarkon, but he has a fairly antagonistic relationship with Haggar. Has he put 2 and 2 together yet, or is that something that’s going to come up?
A.J. LOCASCIO: I don’t know what he knows. I also forget, because I have no memory, which really works out for things like this! I know he doesn’t care for Haggar, but for what reason I’m not totally sure. I think he’s trying to figure stuff out, but he doesn’t know anything.
A.J. LOCASCIO: An annoying person that he had to grow up around. Thank you for that! *laughter*
TOONZONE NEWS: Based on your recording for the 4th season, what’s your feeling about Lotor as a character? I have this impression he’s a calculating but benevolent guy, what do you think?
A.J. LOCASCIO: I mean, he has his own specific agenda he’s trying to achieve in the wake of his father’s destruction and madness. He has a plan that he thinks is right, and his own version of how to make things right from his perspective. We’re going to see an intense and driven Lotor as he makes his way toward that goal.
Q: In one clip they showed we can see that Shiro and Keith are going through a spat, whereas their relationship had always been supportive and solid before. How was it playing that kind of tension between them?
JOSH KEATON: It was weird, man. I’m always used to Shiro being so supportive. But that’s also when things are going better, and now he’s not the pilot of the Black Lion, and he’s having to evaluate his part on the team. There’s definitely some frustration, because he sees greatness in Keith and he’s stuck out his neck for him a lot. And now there’s pushback from Keith. But he’s still got to be there, and be supportive and do what’s best for the team.
TOONZONE NEWS: I’d like to repeat that question about Lotor for Allura. Where do you see her going right now?
KIMBERLY BROOKS: She’s very focused on her mission and getting the team together, and obviously enlisting the help of other species and planets that are fighting the Galra. I think we’ll see more of the same, but maybe more intense now that she’s got a handle on the Blue Lion. The possibilities are endless, the battles are going to be pretty epic – we hope!
KIMBERLY BROOKS: Yeah, and there’s a lot of leadership dynamic shifts. Keith and Shiro, they’re both so polite about it too. They’re like, no you lead, no *you* lead! Allura, she had no choice in this matter and what happened to her. Now she’s more comfortable, she loves her team, she knows she needs the team and others too. It’s fun to play that, it’s really neat to have her be an atypical princess.
Q: With the coalition spreading over the next season and also season 3 bringing the possibility of surviving Alteans around, is there a potential that Allura finds more Alteans?
KIMBERLY BROOKS: There’s definitely that possibility and there’s been a lot of exploration, they’re doing different things. There could be, hopefully, though overall her planet’s destroyed.
TOONZONE NEWS: Voice director Andrea Romano was with the show and now she’s retiring. Do you have anything you’d like to say about her or the last session you had?
KIMBERLY BROOKS: She’ll be so missed, she’s amazing and her energy is a big part of the overall tone of the show – what she’s able to get out of the actors.
JOSH KEATON: She’s the heart of the performance.
A.J. LOCASCIO: Absolutely, yeah.
A.J. LOCASCIO: She’s the bar, she’s the perfect director. I’m not putting it on, we’ve all worked with a lot of directors she’s it. If you named perfect cartoons – Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender – she did it. She’s everywhere – Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, all so much fun and it’s because of her.
KIMBERLY BROOKS: We had the privilege, all of us were at her retirement dinner. And the love – if you’d seen all the voice actors. People sobbing and just missing her! So that just shows you, she’s going to be really missed. But I mean, I’m happy she gets this new chapter in her life.
Q: Lotor is obviously half Galra and half Altean, his generals are half Galra and half something else. We also know Keith is also half Galra and half human. If Lotor discovers that, is there any way he might see that as an in to break up the Paladins?
A.J. LOCASCIO: He’s cunning enough to use that, if he knew that. I could imagine him using that to his advantage if that were a thing.