Boasting a main cast of actors like Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, and Zazie Beetz, Amazon Prime’s upcoming adult animated superhero show Invincible is a star-studded affair. Set to premiere this Friday, March 26th on Prime Video, Invincible is based on the comic of the same name created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker.
Beyond its main cast, Invincible sees multiple alumni from The Walking Dead guesting in the voice cast, like Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad L. Coleman, Michael Cudlitz, Lennie James, and Ross Marquand. Further surprising guest roles come from the likes of Mark Hamill, Walton Goggins, Zachary Quinto, Mahershala Ali, Ezra Miller, Jon Hamm, Nicole Byer, and Jonathan Groff.
While it’s undeniable that the format of an animated show undoubtedly makes it easier for guests to participate in the show, I spoke with Robert Kirkman about this stellar casting to ask how these roles came to be cast. “I will say, no one auditioned,” Kirkman replied. “We work very closely with Linda Lamontagne, our casting director, and she was able to just say, ‘You know, I think we can get this person, I think we can get [that] person.’ These lists that she would bring in were just amazing. We’d be like, ‘What? Is that is this really possible?'”
For Kirkman and the fellow creators behind the show, it was about enticing the actors to the role. “All the actors were more auditioning us than we were auditioning them. I wouldn’t presume to [ask] Sandra Oh to prove to me that you can play Debbie, like, that’s not really gonna happen. I had a very long conversation with her trying to convince her that this crazy superhero world was worth our time.” For Kirkman, it was more about inviting the actors to join the gang, rather than calling for auditions. “It was a great process and I really can’t believe that we ended up with [the] cast that we ended up with. I feel like I’m gonna wake up and it was all one dream at some point, like, it just seems too unbelievable,” he mused.
From the actor’s side, Steven Yeun stars as the leading and eponymous character Invincible aka Mark Grayson. Mark is a teenaged kid growing up with a superhero dad, Omni-Man aka Nolan Grayson. He gets his superpowers late and quickly joins the fray of the other superheroes in his city to protect it from its enemies. Yeun has worked extensively with Kirkman before, most audiences would recognize him as The Walking Dead‘s Glenn Rhee. Since those days, he’s risen the ranks and most recently became the first Asian-American actor to be nominated for Best Actor for the Academy Awards for his role in Minari (this writer’s favorite movie of 2020!)
When talking about joining the cast of Invincible, it was a no-brainer. “It’s Robert,” he explains simply. “I love Invincible, and I read the comic book a long time ago. It’s so fun and so fresh, and I think [it’s what] a lot of comic book fans wished our favorite comic books were. So, to be able to make something like that and be at a time when something like that can be animated in America. Totally down.” He added, “It literally took me like two seconds, [Robert Kirkman] was like, ‘Do you want to do it?’ [And,] I’m like, ‘Yeah.'”
J.K. Simmons jokes that it took him three seconds, “Because I didn’t have a connection with Robert [and] I mean, I knew of Invincible, but I wasn’t really familiar with that universe. But once I read the first script they sent me, I saw just how grounded the relationships were and the characters. And Steven was already on board, and Sandra, I think. They were putting the great cast together so, yeah, it was definitely something I was anxious to be a part of.”
Simmons is no stranger to the genre, he is likely most notable in the comic book genre as the actor who plays J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. He’s reprised his role as Jameson in multiple Marvel projects, including in Spider-Man: Far From Home. On top of that, he’s also known for voicing Tenzin in The Legend of Korra, and his critical acclaim comes primarily from his role as the toxic music instructor Terence Fletcher in Whiplash.
Although, some of the main cast is fairly new when it comes to voice work, some are a bit more experienced. Gillian Jacobs of Community fame has had roles on shows like The Venture Bros., Robot Chicken, American Dad!, Adventure Time, and Rick and Morty. In Invincible, she starts as Atom Eve aka Samantha Eve Wilkins. “I’ve done some animated shows that are aimed at an adult audience, but not a ton,” she said. “This is very much a show for adults, so that was interesting. It really feels like a one-hour drama, that just happens to be animated, dealing with superheroes, and I really enjoyed that about it.”
Bringing together this fantastic cast into a show seems like a dream, in the words of Robert Kirkman. And, with multiple adaptations in the wings for this story (a live-action film is in the works) who can say what else is in store for this story?
The first 3 episodes of Invincible premiere on Prime Video this Friday, March 26th.
- This interview was edited for clarity and readability.