It’s barely been a decade since the character of Jessica Cruz debuted in the pages of DC Comics, but she’s already gained a wide fan following. As a member of the intergalactic peacekeeping team known as the Green Lantern Corps, Jessica isn’t the first (and likely won’t be the last) person from Earth to wield the Green Lantern Power Ring. But what separates her from all other members of the GLC is she suffers from crippling anxiety. Jessica’s perseverance in the face of insurmountable obstacles has resonated with countless readers. Since her introduction, Jessica Cruz has appeared in various media outside of comics including the current DC Super Hero Girls cartoon voiced by Myrna Velasco.
In a departure, this version of Jessica Cruz doesn’t display any overt issues with anxieties and is a pacifist, along with a vegan, animal rights activist and environmentalist. Jessica’s beliefs and willpower are put to the ultimate test in the new Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse crossover animated film. We had the immense pleasure of chatting with Myrna Velasco about her time voicing Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. During our conversation she opened up about how she was able to incorporate her own experiences into her performance such dealing with clinical depression as well as the friendships she developed with her co-stars like Cristina Milizia.
Taimur Dar: As I’m sure you’re already well aware, Jessica Cruz in DC Super Hero Girls is vastly different from her comics counterpart. Reinterpretation of the characters has always been a strength for DC Comics, so now it’s hard for me to imagine not only a different take on Jessica Cruz but anyone else but you voicing her! There’s definitely a lot over overlap between you and Jessica Cruz since you’re both civic minded, activists, and are cat owners. Is voicing her as natural for you as I imagine it to be?
Myrna Velasco: Simple answer, yes! [Laughs]. I’ve been playing her for 4-5 years now. It feels like a really comfy pair of sweatpants when it comes to her voice. At first it was definitely a process learning how to be Jessica and learning to grab from my personal life so that she and I have more overlap. I’m grateful to Lauren Faust and all the first season writers and Jase Ricci, the story editor and writer for Season 2 and the writer of Mayhem in the Multiverse. He sat with me and got to know me. He knew that this character is mine. It was really wonderful to have that support and learn to accept that this girl is more like me than I thought. If there is a Season 3, it would be really nice!
Dar: Jessica is the rookie of the Green Lantern Corps and you likewise are the youngest of the core DC Super Hero Girls voice cast. I’m willing to bet like me you grew up watching cartoons featuring your fellow voice actors like Tara Strong, Grey DeLisle, Kimberly Brooks, Kari Wahlgren, and Nicole Sullivan. You had to record remotely for Mayhem in the Multiverse, but how would you say you’ve grown as an actor just by being able to watch these consummate veterans in person?
Velasco: It was my master class and master program! Some people went to college to get a bachelor’s and a master’s. I was lucky enough to work on this show. How lucky am I, really? I’m the kid of the group! To be able to sit in the room with these women who have 20+ years of experience. And not just in the recording studio but for these situations [like] press junkets or promo. To sit and watch them work and embody the whole experience of making animation not just in the recording room was vastly important. The pandemic and recording from home is kind of my final test. [Laughs]. I think I did OK. I think I passed.
[I got to meet] Phil LaMarr who voices John Stewart Green Lantern. He literally was sitting with me and he was the one who was like, “So how many Green Lantern comics have you read? Do you know the history of the Green Lanterns?” And I was like, “No…” [He said], “Well, you know they’re going to grill you on them at cons?” [Laughs] If I had not had those 2-3 years of meeting these people and learning what it is to be a voice actor in this world, I’m not sure I would be talking to you right now! It was vastly important and paramount to my growth as an actress that I be able to learn from them. I’m so grateful that I did.
Dar: It doesn’t come into play in Mayhem in the Multiverse, but I LOVE the friendship between Jessica and Pamela Isley a.k.a. Poison Ivy. Adding to the meta experience is the fact that you are genuine friends with Cristina Milizia, the voice of Poison Ivy, who actually was the first person to voice Jessica Cruz in animation. Cristina has been open about some of the dark times in her life that she’s able to channel into Poison Ivy. I’m really curious about the parallels between Pam and Jessica’s friendship and your own with Cristina.
Velasco: It’s amazing! Cristina and I are really good friends. We talk over Zoom because she lives on the East coast now. She’s so sweet and such a wonderful person and so open. She inspires me to be as open as possible, to be completely honest. What I wish we had been able to explore through the Pam Isley and Jessica Cruz friendship, and you never know maybe we will someday, is that Jessica Cruz in her origin also deals with depression and high anxiety. I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 6-7 years old. It’s pretty wild to be a teenager with clinical depression so as you grow up and go through puberty your brain chemistry starts changing. The serotonin in my brain just doesn’t produce as much as it should to be a totally happy person all the time. Being able to know that is Jessica Cruz’s origin and that is why she is so driven and purposeful in our show was really important to have.
Also that relationship between Pam Isley and Jessica is fuller because Jessica understands what it means to be introverted and scared and anxious and only have the quiet things like your plant or cat to trust when the world gets kind of crazy. It has always been wonderful to be able to text Cristina, “Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous!” The other day we were both in a callback and of course it’s all through Zoom and I record at home now. I just texted, “Hey! I really miss you. Let’s pretend we’re in the waiting room together right now!” [Laughs]. To support each other and to have that support in real life, I think it really shows. I hope that we get the opportunity to show how deep that friendship is when two people confide in each other when they have anxieties that they can’t control. It’s just manifested differently and that’s kind of beautiful.
Partying at the #DCSuperHeroGirls premiere! #PoisonIvy (me) 🌿 and #JessicaCruz (@Myrnzilla ). Also, Jessica Cruz sisters! 💚💪 We also both belong to the amazing @AVOTalentAgency family. This picture makes my heart feel full. 💚💚💚 #InternationWomensDay #dcshg #MujeresPoderosas pic.twitter.com/k2HSRPlPGh
— Cristina Milizia (@MiliziaCristina) March 9, 2019
Dar: Although the film is very accessible even if you’ve never seen DC Super Hero Girls, it still touches upon past continuity. One specific episode that is referenced is “#HappyBirthdayZee” where you actually voiced Zatanna’s mother who abandoned Zatanna on her birthday and scars her daughter for life in the process. I was incredibly taken by how you were able to affect me on such a deep level with just a few lines. It’s a testament to your performance so I’d love to hear how this part came your way and how you were able to carry so much weight with such a small part.
Velasco: Thank you! It was a surprise to me when I showed up at work and Amanda [Rynda], the showrunner, said, “You’re also going to play Zatanna’s mom for a sec. You read the script, right?” And I was like, “Whoa, that’s heavy!” Full disclosure, my parents also had a tough time with us growing up. I think it was a conflict of parenting that they didn’t necessarily understand when they first got married that they would have different parenting styles. Reading that script even though it was Zatanna’s story [I said], “How did they know that I’ve gone through this?” Thank goodness there are others who have gone through this. It’s heavy to show kids but it’s also important that they recognize that it’s OK that parents sometimes argue, they forget that they love each other, [and] parents fall out of love with each other. It’s important that we see that so that kids can have a language for it and recognize that we are not alone. And we can grow up happy even when something as heavy as that happens. That’s what I had hoped to convey with Jessica throughout the series. In invoking that mother I went straight back into my own childhood and remembered the fights that my own mom and dad had and plugged it in.
Dar: DC Super Hero Girls was my introduction to you as a performer and you’ve been pretty busy voicing characters like Lucia in Madagascar: A Little Wild or the villain Escarlata La Pirata in Santiago of the Seas. Those may be geared towards a preschool audience, but I will watch anything you’re in because you have made such an impression on me as a performer. I’m sure you can’t reveal any upcoming projects because of NDAs but has there been anything you’ve worked on that you’re really excited for people to see?
Velasco: There is one big one that I am really excited about. I’m so excited I cry about it every day but I cannot talk about it! Madagascar: A Little Wild has been my favorite thing to work on right now. Because it is a show for 4-6 year olds, it’s super wholesome. In these times we all need at least fifteen minutes to a half hour of super wholesome. Lucia is another one of my favorite characters because she’s just so “go with the flow.” She reminds me, especially when I’m done recording her for the day, I just got to go with the flow and let it happen. Santiago of the Seas for Nick Jr. has also been really fun. If you want to learn Spanish we do a little half Spanish, half English in that show. And it’s another wholesome fun show. I do play the bad guy, Escarlata La Pirata. She’s based off of the Scarlett O’Hara character in Gone with the Wind so she’s very dramatic and silly. It’s all low stakes so if you’ve had a long day and had to deal with post-pandemic traffic or there was a COVID scare at your kid’s school, put on Santiago of the Seas or Madagascar: A Little Wild. Everything will feel a little bit better, I promise!
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital and will be available to stream HBO Max on June 28.