The sophomore season of Transformers: EarthSpark premieres this Friday on the Paramount+ streaming service. As fans are well aware, the Emberstone has shattered, so it’s a race against the Decepticons to find all the pieces. Ahead of the release, we had the chance to interview actress Benni Latham, the voice of Dot Malto, a veteran of the Transformers war on Earth and current park ranger, raising her family in peace in the quiet town of Witwicky, Pennsylvania.

Benni Latham

During our conversation, Latham not only discussed the experience working on her first Nickelodeon animated series but her own inner comics fandom including her first time attending San Diego Comic-Con last year. In addition, Latham teased what fans can expect in the new season of EarthSpark as well as some other animated projects she’s involved in.

Check it out below!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Dar: At this point the Transformers franchise is a household name even if you’re not a fan. What was your familiarity with Transformers before this project?

Latham: I grew up with the original series and I also saw the original movie. I cried when Optimus died. [Laughs]. I was one of the little kids who were traumatized. I really enjoyed the original series. The theme song is iconic. The character voices [like] Frank Welker and Peter Cullen are the voices of my childhood. To be a part of a series related to those iconic characters is very humbling and feeds the little kid inside of me.

TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#114 – “Security Protocols” Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: At the SDCC press junket, you mentioned you actually already knew Jon Jon Briones who voices your character’s husband in EarthSpark. How did you first get to know each other?

Latham: I was fortunate enough to meet Jon Jon and his amazingly talented family when we did a play together called Ragtime in West Hollywood many moons ago in this little, tiny 90-seat theater. It was a limited run but over the course of the production I made friends with Jon Jon. His wife was also in the production. Hearing his voice and seeing his voice on the roster felt like coming home and getting the band back together. All the good things you expect when you are able to work with someone you admire and respect tremendously. Jon Jon is incredible. It was like talking to an old friend.

Dar: The other major relationship Dot Malto has in the series is with Megatron who is now one of the good guys. I wasn’t expecting it to be as endearing as it ended up being. It’s almost like a classic buddy cop duo. How did you see the relationship between Dot and Megatron?  

Latham: Seeing as Dot is a veteran, I come from a family of veterans who served, I pulled from that experience. Whenever I heard my grandparents talking about their friends from the military it was always with such a fondness. It made me think that there’s a story there. These people have seen all kinds of crazy things and now they’re forever bonded. What would that be with a talking robot? I just reverse engineered the relationships my grandparents had with their friends in the military and shifted it to these two soldiers who are fighting for different things but ultimately both want to protect their home. That is where I found the connection between the two of them. As the series developed we see their closeness and it just further affirmed what I felt insitinctively from reading the character and through [voice director] Kristi [Reed] and input from the writers. It was a collaborative process because I borrowed from multiple sources and the material available to me. That’s how I arrived at that siblings-at-arms energy. I love the dynamic between the two of them. It is cool to see her standing on his shoulder like a parrot with a laser.

Dar: Obviously you’ve performed in other projects before this, but I can only imagine being part of such a major franchise to be quite intimidating. I would love to hear how you overcame any potential nerves.

Latham: That is a wonderful question because I never stopped getting nervous. I always want to put my best foot forward and give the best performance I can. That’s probably where the nerves come from. At the end of the day, I remind myself who this is really for. This is for the little 8-year old me who used to take my toys in front of the cartoons and do the voices. When I remember how fun it was to do that as a kid and how much more fun it is to do it as an adult, it lowers the nerves a lower bit. I focus on doing a good job but I remember to have fun. Imposter syndrome was something I dealt with initially. Everyone is incredibly talented and has all this experience that I love and admire. And I’m like, “Hi, I was a TSA agent for ten years.” These are some heavy hitters and I just want to rise to the occasion. Thankfully everyone have been nothing but kind and patient.  

Dar: An essential part of that process is the voice director who is Kristi Reed. Funny enough, she was kind enough to appear on a panel I did at WonderCon. One of the things she brought up to make actors feel comfortable was talking about their day. Can you talk about your experience with such an accomplished voice director?

Latham: Kristi is incredibly kind and she is also very intuitive. For myself with my sessions, she understood how big of a nerd I am. I also shared my love of comic books and other nerd lore. I think she leaned into that when it came to our sessions one-on-one. By the time we get a chance to break down some of the dialogue I already read most of the script and I have a pretty good idea of where the story is going. When I do my passes or takes as Dot, she’ll give her feedback, we’ll do our adjustments, and we’ll go again. Most of the feedback is on a technical level like hitting a line a certain way. All the tech stuff notwithstanding, she just lets me do what I do. She tweaks and shapes it so the people who mix all the stuff together are able to get the best performance to suit the scene. She is very calm and relaxed and chill about the process and that helps. Having a director who’s very trusting of you gives you more confidence as a performer. She’s really great at creating an environment where you as a creator and actor are able to explore. That’s something I’m very thankful for especially this being my first series.

Dar: You just mentioned that you’re a comics fan. So I gotta ask your favorites growing up and if you’re reading the current Transformers comic series from Skybound?

Latham: I got familiar with the IDW version once I found out what the project was. So I revisited some IDW Transformers comics. I still collect them. I also started a collection of Void Rivals, which is the G.I. Joe and Transformers crossover. It’d be cool if Dot was a Joe at some point in her journey. [Laughs]. How cool would it be if Dot knew Duke and then be friends with Megatron! As a child I was really into Star Wars and the expanded universe. I am currently reading some stuff from Stranger Comics. I am engrossed in Niobe. It’s amazing. I read my share of X-Men comics and Richie Rich.

Taimur Dar: As I mentioned before, I had the pleasure of interviewing you last year at SDCC as part of the Transformers: EarthSpark junket. Would love to hear your experience attending your first Comic-Con.

Benni Latham: It was exciting and a little confusing but it was a ton of fun. I’d been dreaming of going to Comic-Con and paneling since I was 14. In fact, I refused to go to Comic-Con for most of my teens and adult years because if I wasn’t paneling I wasn’t going. Thankfully it happened last year. It was a lot but at the same time amazing to connect with fans of the show and be able to see faces to the names of the people who comment on my stuff. It was very fulfilling. I just hope I didn’t embarrass myself on my panel!

TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#113 – “Missed Connection” Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: I know actors almost always have a wish list of properties they’d love to be part of in any capacity. I’m guessing Star Wars is one for you. Is there anything else?

Latham: That is a wonderful question. One of my dream roles would be Amanda Waller for many, many reasons. I’ve never played a villain before. I’m a sucker for a dramatic for over-the-top ‘80s villains. I would also like to voice Jazz sometime somewhere. I would very much love to do a New Orleans version of Jazz if they would have me. I loved that character growing up voiced by the incomparable late great Scatman Crothers. Also a Disney villain. You’ve arrived if you’re a Disney villain.  

Dar: Anything you can tease about Transformers: EarthSpark Season 2 to excite fans?  

Latham: There will be more characters from the Transformers lore. If you’re familiar with Primus and the Primes, there’s a bit of that going on. All of the children, both human and Terran, have grown and learning to work more as a team. We may get more Dot and Megatron backstory.

Dar: Finally, any other projects you want to plug?

Latham: I certainly can. Speaking of comics from earlier, I am part of the series Lackadaisy which is based on a webcomic. I play the role of Serafine Savoy who is a cat from Louisiana. It’s about a bunch of anthropomorphic cats in the 1920s. They’re bootleggers. The pilot is on YouTube right now. We’re currently working on a series.   

The first nine episodes of Transformers: EarthSpark Season 2 premieres Friday, June 7 on Paramount+.