During SDCC, Nickelodeon unveiled a first look at the upcoming Transformers: EarthSpark animated series. Debuting this November on Paramount+, EarthSpark will introduce the first generation of Transformers robots born on Earth known as Terrans.
The Beat had the pleasure of interviewing voice cast members Danny Pudi (Bumblebee), Kathreen Khavari (Twitch), Zeno Robinson (Thrash), plus co-executive producer Dale Malinowski and executive producer Ant Ward to get the inside scoop on Transformers: EarthSpark.
Taimur Dar: Transformers is a franchise much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Star Trek that is a recognizable brand name. I’m curious what was each of your familiarity with Transformers before EarthSpark?
Dale Malinowski: I think a lot of us here grew up with this property. Beast Wars was the new series that I grew up watching and G1 was on repeat in reruns. What also kept Transformers in my household and in my life were the toys in the brown wicker toy chest in the basement of my parents’ house. My brother had Starscream and I bought him a new one recently that I’m sure his daughters will destroy in time.
Zeno Robinson: I grew up with the Transformers. Of course I had the toys. I had an Optimus Transformer. A lot of my consumption was through TV. There was an obscure anime one I think that was on Kids’ WB or something. That was the first one I watched. Then the movies came out and the movies were instrumental to me as an actor. A dream of mine, and it kind of still is, was to be in one of the Transformers movies. When I work out, I always have to be able to run as long as Shia Labeouf did in that one scene of transformers. That’s the goal! [Laughs]. And of course I loved Transformers Prime. I’ve been a fan ever since.
Ant Ward: I’ve been a huge fan of Transformers since my childhood. I grew up in South Africa where the show was on TV and I was a huge fan. Unfortunately it was the only toy that wasn’t on the shelves which as a bit exacerbating as a kid. But once a year we would visit relatives in Ireland and I would be able to stop over by Heathrow where they had a little toy shop and I’d get my Transformers toys. It was just a great adventure to build my collection!
Danny Pudi: My turn! I was a big fan of the show as a kid. Like Dale said, we had the toys. My brother and I would throw them at each other. His Optimus Prime toy was a little bit bigger and more durable. But it’s fun to relive those memories. It’s exciting to be part of this new generation.
Kathreen Khavari: I was an ’80s baby so I watched the cartoons. For me it’s super exciting to have this childhood connection with something and then to be an adult and be a part of it.
Dar: From what we’ve seen it looks like it’s aimed towards a young audience so I’m wondering if you could speak about the tone and the target audience for Transformers: EarthSpark.
Ward: going into Transformers: EarthSpark we wanted to make a show that the whole family could enjoy. The show is about family. That’s the core of it. It can be enjoyed by kids [as well as] old and new fans. Everybody is going to enjoy a little something out of it. The target audience is 6-11.
Malinowski: Like Ant is saying, 6-11 is Nickelodeon’s target audience. We’ve got legacy bots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee involved in our storytelling. So there’s a little something for every generation of fans in Transformers: EarthSpark.
Dar: For the actors playing the new Transformers introduced in this series, could you tell us about your characters?
Khavari: My character is Twitch and she is an Earthborn Transformers robot. They’re called the Terrans which is a new species. She is just discovering who she is through the help of Robby and Mo, the children they’re emotionally connected to, and also Bumblebee—
Pudi: Can’t forget good old legacy bot Bumblebee!
Khavari: You’re kind of a pain sometimes so it’s easy to forget.
Khavari: Through the support of everyone around them they’re learning how to become Transformers robots and use their powers for good. My character specifically really wants to show the world and everyone else around her what she can do.
Robinson: Very similar to what Kat said, [my character] Thrash is also a Terran Earthborn Transformers robot. He’s bonded to these two human kids. They all are a family now. Thrash is learning about his own emotions and this new world he’s not familiar with. He’s trying to adapt to it but also have fun the whole while and enjoy every bit of it. Twitch is very studious and pragmatic and Thrash is very wild and rambunctious. That’s their dynamic and how they operate.
Dar: Multiple actors have voiced Bumblebee over the years so I’m curious what the description and take was for the character in this version.
Pudi: First of all, I was just super excited to be part of this story and play such an iconic character. [He was] my favorite character of the Transformers robots. It was exciting to try something new. He’s on this secret mission and he’s trying to prove that he’s still got it. I think that’s kind of my catchphrase, “I still got it!” It’s been fun playing this new layer of Bumblebee trying to be this mentor to this group. For me personally, I’m a dad of twins [and] that’s all I do every day to tell them not to do what they’re doing. [Laughs]. But also encourages their individuality and allows them to express themselves. That’s what Bumblebee is trying to do.
Dar: I know that Ant and Dale were previously involved on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You’ve both been working at Nickelodeon for some time, so was Rise of the TMNT your first project together and how has your working relationship developed since then with Transformers: EarthSpark?
Malinowski: That was Ant and my first creative collaboration. I had previously been at Nickelodeon in a different role and was around other projects that Ant was producing and working on. The first time we got to collaborate was on Rise of the TMNT. I ended up in the writers’ room on Ant and Andy [Suriano]‘s show. When EarthSpark came about and we knew were going to get into development, we teamed up immediately and developed the whole thing from the ground up in early 2020 with our other EP and story editor Nicole Dubuc.
—Nicole Dubuc (@NicoleDubuc) July 22, 2022
Dar: Who’s the voice director for the show?
Ward: The voice director is Kristi Reed.
Dar: I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you recorded remotely. How was that experience?
Pudi: Literally today we show up and I’m meeting everyone in person for the first time! And we’re all wearing masks too so we show up and I’m like, “Dale?”
Pudi: It’s a unique process. Over the last couple of years we haven’t been in the same room with each other. It’s just a different way of working.
Khavari: We did at the beginning try to get everyone to record at the same time. There were some familiar faces and we saw a lot of each other on the computer in our closets. That was nice to start off the series being able to work together even if it was through a screen.
Robinson: I think it was very foundational, especially because it’s a show about family, having everybody together in the first records even if it was over Zoom. I think it was very important especially for me building connections with my cast members. Even when there are times when they’re not there, I know what Kat would sound like. I always have this joke. This is my first Nickelodeon show and I’ve never been able to go into the studio! I’ve been there for callbacks but I’ve never been there to record. The pandemic has robbed me of yet another thing. [Laughs]. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with Kristi and Kat and everybody.
Dar: Finally, anything you can tease for the first season that should excite fans? Maybe some familiar faces?
Malinowski: We can promise you lots of humor and heart and action and a lot of surprises coming down the pike that we’re hesitant to spoil. But fans of every generation will be happy.
Ward: Sure! There are definitely going to be some familiar faces. Some are going to be interesting scenarios and adventures. I don’t want to give too much away!
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!