Earlier this year, the second season of the 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. The latest season of the series sees hosts Janet Varney (the voice of Korra) and Dante Basco (the voice of Prince Zuko) continue their examination of the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender with Book Two: Earth.
During SDCC ’22, The Beat had the chance to chat with Dante Basco about working on the podcast, teasing what’s to come, as well as the emotional passing of Uncle Iroh voice actor Mako.
Taimur Dar: I was able to interview both you and Janet Varney at NYCC last year right before you hosted the Braving the Elements podcast for the first time in front of a live audience. Now that you’ve done the podcast live a few times since then, how would you describe the experience?
Dante Basco: I love the energy of the live audience. Janet and I have been having such a great time doing the podcast at home in our studios. But when you do it front of the fans, they really get engaged. We’re fans of the show too as we’re rewatching the show. So it’s really great to connect with the bigger fanbase and dive into some of the questions we all have about the show.
Dar: It’s been more than 15 years since Book Two: Earth aired, so was there anything that surprised you or that you completely forgot during your rewatch?
Basco: So many memories come flushing back in. Like you said, it’s been so long since we did the show. There are things during certain scenes that come back to mind but also things I don’t ever remember saying. It’s a very unique experience for me as an actor to go back and rewatch a project like this and really go through with a fine-tooth comb. Me and Janet get to investigate everything about the characters and themes and be assisted by people like Michael [Dante DiMartino] and Bryan [Konietzko] or the voice actors or musicians. It’s been wild.
Dar: Toph is a character fans have been eagerly awaiting so how has it been to reconnect with the voice actress of Toph?
Basco: I love it! Jessie Flower a.k.a. Michaela Murphy is a dear friend. It’s great to have her on the show because we’ve kept in touch over the years and she’s grown up. When she did the show she was a very young girl like 12-13 years old. For her to go back and relive those days and talk about what that character has meant to her has been wonderful. Toph is the G.O.A.T.!
Dar: Who are some of the other actors whose characters are introduced in this season that will appear on the podcast?
Basco: We have a few people coming up like Phil LaMarr. Of course we have some fan favorites like Jack De Sena. Also Jennie Kwan. Special guest this season is fan-favorite Azula voiced by legendary Grey DeLisle who joins us on the podcast. There are a lot of great guests as far as voice actors. Also not only people who worked on the show but also getting the fans involved in the podcast.
Dar: Were there any guests you had on the podcast who stood out?
Basco: The music is so important so talking with the musicians like Jeremy Zuckerman has been amazing. He was brand new to doing music for television at that time so he explained how he came up with the sounds. I love getting that behind-the-scenes information. As actors we do our thing but to see other people in their respective art add to the show is so fascinating.
Dar: The relationship between Zuko and Iroh in Book Two really grows and develops in ways that pull at the heartstrings. One specific episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se”—
Basco: One of my favorite episodes of the show!
Dar: —Iroh’s segment always brings tears to my eyes.
Basco: You’re giving me all the feels! I think it’s a tearjerker for everybody. That’s one of the great moments and of course the dedication to Mako who originally played Iroh and passed during Book Two. It was an emotional time for us when we were doing the show and it’s an emotional time when you watch the episode. It’s such a beautiful part of the story. It gives everybody the feels for so many reasons.
Dar: Actor Greg Baldwin had the unenviable task of taking over the role of Iroh after Mako’s passing.
Dar: He knocked it out of the park. Is he someone you’re hoping to get on the podcast?
Basco: Of course. I would love to have Greg on the show. I look forward to talking to him about the character. We’re waiting for him to come onto the show when he actually gets to voice Uncle Iroh. I have so many really great tender moments and memories of him coming onto the show and being so respectful to Mako and Mako’s life and legacy even before he did Avatar. Mako was such a prolific and important actor in the Asian American community. For Greg to come in and voice match him, it was almost emotional the first time we heard him do Uncle Iroh.
Dar: This being the midpoint of the series, it’s always the point in narrative storytelling where the heroes are at their lowest. Look no further than Empire Strikes Back. I think everybody can probably relate to Book Two: Earth more than ever, especially in these last few months. Has the second season resonated with you in any way?
Basco: Like you said with Empire, it’s the middle chapter and it’s so poignant for the days and times we’re living in. I think that’s one of the reasons for the resurgence of Avatar during the pandemic and when it came on Netflix it really hit hard and impacted everybody.
Dar: Finally, I know you still have to finish Book Two but when Braving the Elements gets to Book Three: Fire, are there any episodes you’re eager to examine and watch again.
Basco: The episode “The Beach.” I can’t wait to get to “The Beach!”
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!