Last week the second season of fan-favorite original podcast, Avatar: Braving the Elements, the official companion podcast for Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra launched from Nickelodeon and iHeartMedia. Hosts Janet Varney (the voice of Korra) and Dante Basco (the voice of Prince Zuko) move on to re-watch Book 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which sees the introduction of beloved characters including Azula, Toph, Ty Lee, and Mai.
The Beat had the chance to chat with Janet Varney about what she and Dante Basco have in store for season two including upcoming guests as well as bringing the podcast to upcoming conventions.
Taimur Dar: From the trailer for Season 2, it looks like you recorded some video for the podcast. So is there some kind of video component for this second season?
Janet Varney: There still isn’t an official permanent video component. We are still recording from home. Part of it is just the location of some of our guests. Dante has been on location. I’ve been on location. It’s very much still audio. But we always like to try to grab video when we can and screenshots. When we were recording our trailer we definitely captured video for that. People will have to imagine cartoon versions of us or stare at pictures of us!
Dar: I enjoyed the format you established with the first season and all the little games you played. Is there anything new or different for the new season?
Varney: That’s a great question. I’m trying to think if we introduce any new razzle dazzle. We haven’t recorded a ton of Season 2 which is one of the things that we love. We’re ahead of ourselves a little but we like to be present and in the moment in case there’s stuff we want to talk about that’s recent. We’re certainly doing a bunch of themed deep dive episodes. We are once again leaning into the amazing Avatar-verse fandom and bringing in people to talk about their passions and debate about things in the Avatar-verse. I’m so excited to engage with the fans even more this season. Dante and I love that because then we don’t have to make any decisions. It’s just about hearing from people who really know the show and learning along the way.
Dar: One of my favorite shows from last year was Only Murders in the Building. I don’t know if you watched it as well.
Varney: I did watch it!
Dar: It’s funny, that show is about a group of people producing their own true crime podcast and podcasts in general seem to be in the zeitgeist right now especially since during the pandemic it’s almost as if EVERYBODY has a podcast.
Varney: Totally! For sure!
Dar: Obviously you’re well versed in podcast production so what’s the secret to making a good podcast, especially for something like Avatar: The Last Airbender?
Varney: For us it really has been getting all of the other voices in so far. And of course there are so many characters introduced in Season 2 that we were chomping at the bit to get on board and have on guests. Engaging with the listeners has been such a huge part of it for us. Nickelodeon has been such a great partner in that because they have always had such engagement over on the Avatar YouTube page. There are folks who are bringing in their own life perspectives. That integrative give and take is what makes a great podcast. Certainly people who have a sense of humor about themselves, I’m speaking about Dante and me right now, never hurts [and] not to take yourself too seriously even if you’re taking the material seriously. Ultimately, at the end of the day you can only be so engaging and have so many great voices coming in with perspective if the thing you’re talking about isn’t amazing. But we’re very lucky because we have the most amazing thing in the world. If I was asked to do a podcast about a show from the ‘70s that I only saw once and no one ever watched I would be in trouble! [Laughs]
Dar: Nickelodeon held a panel for Braving the Elements at NYCC last October and unsurprisingly it was completely full. I was only able to get in because Nickelodeon provided me a wristband pass. Recording an episode in front of a live episode has such a unique and different energy. With conventions coming back, I have a strong feeling it won’t be the last time. SDCC is right around the corner, so I don’t know how much can you say but are there definitive plans in the works?
Varney: There are definitive plans to do a live show. I can’t announce yet exactly when the next one will be. We did have an amazing experience doing NYCC. We did a live iteration of sorts of the mini SDCC that happened in the winter. Anytime Dante and I are at cons together we always ask that we get put on panels together. At ECCC we had a panel with Dee Bradley Baker and talked with the fans and our amazing moderator. We released that as a bonus episode. We do love that live atmosphere. There are things that we can’t do live that we are so happy to have the podcast. But also, you’re right, there’s a spirit to live shows that we feed off of as well. [We are] definitely going to do more. Stay tuned to where and when!
Dar: Any particular guests or episodes you’re looking forward to fans to experience?
Varney: I’m so glad you asked! You’ve seen the trailer so you know we could not have gotten our favorite folks we’ve been waiting to get in. One of the things that comes up all the time for us is, “When does Toph get here?” If you haven’t watched Avatar in awhile you know that Toph is part of Team Avatar so you sort of incorporate her into your memories. And then when you’re watching Book 1 you’re like, “Oh yeah! Toph is not going to show up!” We’ve been waiting to get into all things Toph and of course we’ll have Michaela Jill Murphy who voiced Toph. But also just talk about how iconic the character is and what she has meant to people. Just like the energy that Toph brings to Team Avatar when she joins the gang, so then do we have this whole new energy that is brought to the podcast with the inclusion of Toph.
On the other side of things, also bringing in fresh new energy that has to be discussed is the character of Azula. Here we have Grey [Griffin]. We’re finally bringing her in on the podcast. She’s one of my best friends. It’s been wonderful. Dante and Grey love each other. Then we have characters like Ty Lee and Mai. Some very powerful non-bending ladies I know a lot of people have been saying, “When do those girls show up?” We just have so many voices that we’re bringing in that we haven’t been able to yet because we’ve been working chronologically that we’re so excited about. That also absolutely includes James Sie who plays the cabbage merchant and is also a published author and an amazing all-around human being. That is just a sprinkling of the people that will be on the podcast. There are going to be a lot of favorites from last season because we had so many amazing guests. That’s the hardest thing because we have so many people we want their voices to be heard on the podcast. How can we make enough episodes per season to make that happen? I can’t wait!
Dar: Once again Janet, a pleasure as always to chat with you. With any luck this won’t be the last time!
Varney: Thank you so much! We really appreciate the support!
Avatar: Braving the Elements is now available across iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and wherever podcasts are found