Voicing Korra

Janet Varney, the voice actress behind The Legend of Korra’s title character, talks to TFK

Oct 18, 2013 | By Kelli Plasket
© 2013 VIACOM INTERNATIONAL, INC.

The avatar returns for a second season of Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra.

The first season of The Legend of Korra—sequel to the hit animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender—introduced a new avatar in Korra, a fearless and stubborn bender from the Water Tribe. In The Legend of Korra Season 2, airing Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Nickelodeon, Korra’s peacekeeping abilities are tested by angry spirits. Janet Varney, who voices Korra, told TFK that the second season is a “real departure” from Season 1’s adventures against human enemy Amon. “In the first season, the enemy was very concrete,” Varney says. “In [Season 2], we start talking about how the impact of our physical world affects the spiritual world. It takes a whole other approach to deal with this new threat of angry spirits.” What else does Varney think about voicing the spirited character? Read on for more.

Actress Janet Varney voices Korra.
NICKELODEON
Actress Janet Varney voices Korra.

TFK:

What do you admire most about Korra? What do you think is her biggest flaw?

JANET VARNEY:

I think that we share all of the same flaws. I have to be real compassionate toward Korra because she starts to get impatient and just wants to impact change quickly and doesn’t think things through all the time. Those are always the easiest things to identify with, all the things about Korra that make her kind of stubborn.

As far as her attributes, I think that her loyalty is fantastic. Even when she is making choices that frustrate us as viewers, her heart is always in the right place. I think she is getting a little better at admitting when she's wrong. Also, her fearlessness. Obviously, she has fear, but it’s fun to see someone who really accepts and embraces her responsibilities and wants to do whatever she can to make the world better.

TFK:

What does Korra have left to learn about what it means to be an avatar?

VARNEY:

We sort of have our ideas on the inside, and I love to hear what the fans have to say about it. But do I approve of this idea that she doesn't think she needs [her mentor] Tenzin anymore? No. As a viewer and fan of the show, I don't think that's the right choice. But everybody has to figure out the lessons they have to learn in their own lives their own way, and maybe I'll turn out to be wrong. But I love Tenzin. He brings something to her life that should not be looked at lightly.

TFK:

Who is your favorite new character this season?

VARNEY:

I am an enormous fan of John Michael Higgins as a person, performer, and comedian, and he does not disappoint as [eccentric business deal maker] Varrick. I am always so excited when he's recording the same day as me. I just sit and laugh my head off. I think he is so extraordinary, and it is such a fun character.

TFK:

Korra has a polar bear-dog named Naga as her spirit animal. If you could have a spirit animal, what would it be?

VARNEY:

There are so many great ones on the show, but I feel fiercely loyal to Naga. I also have dogs of my own, and they are huskies, like winter snow dogs. So I feel like I have a couple Naga relatives.

TFK:

You get to record with other actors sometimes, which is rare in voice animation. Does it change how you read your lines?

VARNEY:

I think it definitely does. Nickelodeon really understands the value of that. There is nothing that can replace the opportunity, even as a voice actor, to be able to interact with and experience the great talents of the people [in the cast]. Great improvisers always say to surround yourself with people who are better than you, and that's how I feel about the cast.

TFK:

Is there a power in the Avatar world you wish you could have in real life?

VARNEY:

I just love the water bending. I love what you can do with it and what the movements look like, depending on what kind of bending you are doing. I'm from a desert in Tucson, Arizona, so I didn't really grow up around water. I think there is a part of me that feels very drawn to that.

TFK:

Why should kids tune in to Korra?

VARNEY:

There really, truly is something for everyone. My friend recently started watching Korra, and he sent me this text that said, "This show is so amazing because it feels so important without trying to seem important." That gave me chills. As a kid, you are going to laugh and see awesome stuff. It's so beautifully animated and fast-paced. There’s a ton of action, but you also get attached to the characters. It can help you understand yourself and your own life a little better. It's never too early to start doing that. I know a lot of young people who appreciate not being talked down to. I think kids are smart and cool and they'll get it and they'll love it in the same way I do.