The Beat chatted on the phone with Jacob Tobia, who plays Double Trouble, to find out where they found the inspiration for such an unforgettable character and why the queer representation on She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is so important to them.
AVERY KAPLAN: Why was it so important to include this representation in season 4?
JACOB TOBIA: I think it’s vital for young people to have shows that reflect how they already understand the world. The thing that’s so wonderful about Double Trouble and the world of She-Ra generally is that this is not queer and trans creators being like, “Oh, we need to make a show that helps younger people in Gen Z understand non-binary or trans people.”
Gen Z already understands non-binary and trans people, it is part of their daily life. Most people in Gen Z know someone who’s non-binary, who uses they/them pronouns, they have trans friends. It’s about building a show that actually represents the world as Gen Z already understands it, and that’s what I think is so cool, being like, “we want to give you an accurate narrative.”
And non-binary kiddos deserve to have icons!
KAPLAN: Double Trouble is a gleeful agent of chaos. What was playing them like? Did you access your own personal well of chaos, or was it purely acting?
TOBIA: It was really refreshing and fun to get in touch with my most mischievous side for playing this character. To me, that’s what Double Trouble embodies: mischief, a little bit of chaos, and a whole lot of fun. I really enjoyed bringing them to life and having the chance to just play for a little bit, because I spent so much time in other parts of my career very grounded in the real world and real experiences.
I’m a memoirist in addition to an actor, so I talk a lot about what really happened in the world and what really happened in my life. So there was something really fun about being able to escape all that and just sort of float above all of that for a moment and have fun in a world that is just totally outside of our imagination.
KAPLAN: Why do you think Double Trouble is so perceptive about the relationships between the other characters?
TOBIA: Well, Double Trouble is a method actor, and as much as they are chaotic, they’re also deeply empathetic. In order to be an effective actor you have to be able to understand where people are coming from, you have to have an overwhelming amount of empathy, and Double Trouble has that and is able to use that to understand where people are coming from and get the dynamics of what’s going and embody those dynamics so effectively.
Double Trouble is able to understand the relationships between the other people partially because they get briefings from Catra and other folks but more because they’re just a really effective character study. They know how to watch people and see what makes them tick and then jump right into that role.
Which is the thing that is cool about them more generally, right? Their power is based in their skill. Yes, they can shapeshift, but their real power is being able to convincingly be the person they are shape-shifting as, to able to truly go undercover and not be recognized as a double agent. I aspire to be as effective as Double Trouble, as an actor – Double Trouble is my role model and not the other way around!
KAPLAN: Were there any particular characters or ideas that were particularly formative for your performance as Double Trouble?
TOBIA: Well, you know what I say about Double Trouble – and this is sort of just like how, when I was auditioning for the role, I sort of accessed them – Double Trouble is the president of your high school drama club who became a mercenary later in life. You know, Double Trouble in high school was probably belting Wicked at the top of their lungs, and then someone beat them out for president of the drama club or something and then they got a vendetta that spiraled out of control into who they are today or something. Noelle and I have not agreed on an official backstory for Double Trouble, so this is just me spit-balling and having fun, but I think it could be something like that.
KAPLAN: What are your thoughts on the only non-binary character on the show being a villain? Do you think Double Trouble has a shot at redemption or will they always choose their own side first?
TOBIA: In the world of She-Ra, in the world that Noelle has built, and this is one thing I think is really cool, is “villains” is a generalization that doesn’t quite apply, right? Like, there are people who work for the Horde and there are people who are part of the Rebellion and there are people who are in-between, but they’re not treated as villains in a traditional sense. Like, Catra both is a villain and very much is not, right? Catra is a deeply human person who is flawed and trying to figure things out. Even the princesses inside the Rebellion have moments where they do real hurtful things to one another and are humanized in such a way that they aren’t just “heroes.”
And that’s a thing I think is really cool about the show, is no character’s position is fully ethically consistent, like, everyone’s complicated. And that’s one of the reasons I feel really okay with Double Trouble joining as sort of on the Horde side of things is because it doesn’t rob them of the complication of their character, and it doesn’t stop them from being a fully realized character in this world in a way that I think in a lot of other franchises, it might.
The other thing I’ll say is that it actually feels really cool, and frankly quite badass, about Double Trouble being on the villainous side of things, is that one of the kind of unspoken rules of TV representation from marginalized communities is that when you introduce characters who are sort of historic and that are sort of major leaps forward in terms of casting and representation is that those characters always have to be kind of completely virtuous or they exist as a sort of public service announcement, but in narrative form. Right, like that’s sort of the tradition, is like, “Oh, the non-binary character is supposed to be really sweet and kind and perfect, have no flaws, and they need to come in and tell everybody about pronouns.” That’s the trope, that’s what’s expected.
And I love how Double Trouble’s character turns all that on its head. They come into the show as someone who’s effortlessly non-binary, who doesn’t even talk about it so much as just embody it, and they are powerful and they are central to the plot. And they don’t have to be this kind of virtuous, perfect non-binary character in order to still exist as a non-binary person.
Because that’s the reality of being gender non-conforming and non-binary and trans in the world is that we’re all just people too, right? We are entitled to our flaws. We should not have to earn the right to be gender non-conforming by being perfect. We should just have that right because it’s who we are.
I feel like Double Trouble’s character really kind of tells your respectability politics to shove it. We don’t have to earn our right to be non-binary, we’re here and we’re allowed to be non-binary because we’re here and because we’re good enough as we are. And we are gonna work on being nicer people, but we may not always be there yet!
The other thing I would say about them, I wouldn’t even consider them “good” or “evil,” I think that Double Trouble – and again, we don’t have an agreed-upon backstory, Noelle will have to sign off on all of this or, we’ll figure it out – but the way I sort of understand them is they are someone who has been hurt by power in some shape or form in their life. I think that power has really hurt them or someone with a lot of power really hurt them, and what Double Trouble is out to do is to mess with anyone who has power.
Their goal is to level powerful people and to mess with powerful people and to make powerful people more insecure and less certain of what they know. Because I think they sort of understand the core ethical truth that people in positions of power think they know everything and think they’re in control, and Double Trouble exists and their political agenda is to be like, “What do you know? Do you even know who the people around you are? Do you even know who you are?”
And they use their emotional intelligence to kind of be like, “Why are you so concerned with this power struggle? What is it about your past that makes you think about that?” They weaponize character studies to make people in power really question who they are and why they do what they do. I think that’s super neat, and it’s a very different ethical proposition than the Horde versus the Rebellion.
Any time someone gets power over Double Trouble, or thinks that they have power over Double Trouble, Double Trouble’s going to put them right back in their place. And be like, “No you don’t, you don’t own me. No one owns me.” And that’s really cool! And I think it’s something very aspirational. I want non-binary kids to go around being like, “Nobody owns me. I own myself! My body my choice, my gender my rules, I get to say what I’m doing in this world.” I want every non-binary person to have that energy and that sense of power and that internal compass. I own myself, I own who I am, I know who I am, you don’t have power over me, I get to set the rules for how I want to navigate this world. I could have used that message growing up a little bit more.