The Transformers: EarthSpark cartoon has certainly shaken up the Transformers franchise with the introduction of new concepts, specifically the first earth born generation of Transformers robots known as the Terrans. A new batch of episodes are available to watch today on the Paramount+ streaming platform that promises an epic season finale.

Ahead of the premiere of new EarthSpark episodes, during SDCC The Beat had the pleasure of interviewing voice actors Diedrich Bader (Mandroid), Stephanie Lemelin (Hashtag), Benni Latham (Dot Malto), as well as co-executive producer Dale Malinowski and executive producer Ant Ward.

Taimur Dar: Even before lockdown, it seemed like voice recording was shifting away from group records to individual ones. For the actors, how was the experience recording Transformers: EarthSpark both individually and remotely?   

Lemelin: Before the lockdown we used to do in-person auditions and run into each other all the time like the parking lot or waiting room. That was a whole culture that’s just gone! We [the actors] were just talking about how much we missed recording in person. [Benni], have you mostly recorded from home?

Benni Latham: That’s all I know!


TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#124 – “The Battle of Witwicky” –  Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Lemelin: For the young people coming up it’s so different because there’s no frame of reference to play in person. I always called it emotional ping pong because you would riff off each other and it would inform how you say your lines. Now you have to sit in a padded room alone doing voices and try not to look crazy.

Diedrich Bader: Also, you have to picture the rest of show whereas when we recorded together you could really get a sense of the story and your piece in it. You could see some remarkable guest stars. That’s something Steph and I were bonding about a little earlier. Working with guys like Dee Bradley Baker do those creature voices right in front of you is like somebody doing a sleight of hand.

Lemelin: When we did the premiere for this, that was the first time I met this woman [Benni] who plays my mom. We have been a family and working on the same show and I didn’t even know what she sounded like or her energy until I watched the show. I relied a lot on our producers and Kristi [Reed], our amazing director. You have to figure out how to ride a wave you can’t see. I don’t know if that analogy works.

Bader: It does! You do rely heavily on producers and the director in a way that’s much more reliant than it used to be. We used to be able to attune ourselves to the tone that existed. Now that just isn’t possible. I think in the early days we did some readings.

Ant Ward: Yeah, just so you could all meet together.

Lemelin: I wasn’t on [the show] yet.    

Bader: But they were all online. They weren’t in person.

Latham: There was one massive Zoom call where we did a table read. I just remember closing my eyes and listening to everyone because I didn’t know when I would hear them again. Thankfully, Jon Jon [Briones] and I have history together. We did stage work together.

Lemelin: That’s awesome!

Latham: So when I saw him, I said, “Oh my God! You’re my baby daddy! Yay!”


Lemelin: You guys have a great chemistry just watching the show and I didn’t know that. So that makes sense now.

Latham: Jon Jon’s like family. I’ve known him and his kids since the kids were really little. That helped lend itself to the performance. The children were an interesting twist especially with the new babies coming along.

Lemelin: At least in that regard we are new to you also and it plays in the storyline. With us coming in late and meeting us it’s true to the actual experience.

Ward: In the season specifically I don’t think it hurt because the Terrans are new to this planet and don’t necessarily have a shorthand and communication going back and forth. So any kind of awkwardness could be balanced out with just the notion that they’re learning who they are.    

TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#121 – “What Dwells Within” – Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: As you mentioned earlier, Kristi Reed is the voice director for EarthSpark. I know that Stephanie and Diedrich worked with her on previous animated projects. Benni, this is your first time working with Kristi Reed, correct?

Latham: My very first animated series period and my first time working with “the” Kristi Reed and she is everything they say she is. She’s amazing.

Lemelin: It was a very different experience from the first show I worked with her to this one. The first one [Harvey Girls Forever] we were in person, and it was a comedy. If anything, her job was to make me shut up sometimes! [Laughs]. In this, it was such a different tone. Like I was saying earlier, I was much more reliant on her and it she wasn’t reeling me in because I was surfing that crazy wave. She was teaching me the whole world because I couldn’t’ see it. She was really instrumental in having that beautiful ability to take all of that information and filter what needs to be said to the actors but not overwhelm them. I had to really trust her. That’s not always easy for me as an artist. I have very strong opinions. I felt grateful to have someone I trusted so much.

Transformers EarthSpark
TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#119 – “A Stygi Situation” – Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: I’m a big James Gunn fan. On a recent podcast interview, he was discussing how the majority of his films feature outcasts that he compared to the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rankin-Bass Rudolph special. It just occurred to me that the same could be said for Transformers: EarthSpark cartoon. Is that theme of misfits and outsiders indeed intentional?

Ward: A hundred percent.

Dale Malinowski: That was important to us, especially like what Ant was talking about with the Terrans coming online and experiencing things for the first time. It’s very similar to someone being on the outside looking in. That was our starting place for all five of those Terrans. It’s the same idea across the board.

Ward: Acceptance is the theme and them not only learning to accept each other but the world that they’ve been birthed into [but also] the world that they’ve been birthed into learning to accept them. That’s very much the Island of Misfit Toys. And they all have really unique personalities that don’t necessarily lend themselves to established Autobot and Decepticon personalities.

Latham: And I think it’s a really cool parallel how the children come from two different cultures like the Terrans. If you think about it, the parents come from different cultures because we have G1 and now we have this. It’s interesting to note that Dot and Megatron, their bond was formed during wartime so they’re war buddies. Their closeness was earned through time and experience. The balance of that is that she’s learning how to be a mom to hybrid children both human and children alike. And the kids are learning how to navigated this world filled with people with old ideas and a whole new generation.

Dar: Obviously, Transformers is a major franchise for Hasbro but you swing for the fences with unexpected twists. The best example that probably surprised a lot of fans was having Megatron on the side of the heroes. How receptive has Hasbro been to some of your new ideas in EarthSpark and the working relationship with the company?

Malinowski: Working with Hasbro has been fantastic. There’s a lot of teams that we interact with over there and all of them have excellent leadership. They were open to everything we were willing to pitch, and everything was a conversation which we really appreciated. We never got a hard “No.” It was always, “Tell us more.” The Megatron one was a really big swing that got their attention. We had some conversations about it and we explained why we wanted to start Megatron in this place for this series and where we would like to see him go. They were all in from the jump. We never met any resistance there which was lovely.

Ward: The only time we ever get any kind of questions about things is when we have a tool or a device we’re using to push things forward that might be similar to something that exists within a much larger canon. And they ask to use this one instead of creating something new because it’s thematically very similar. Sometimes it’s a discussion and we agree. And sometimes we don’t and that’s okay because it’s a solid relationship.   

Transformers EarthSpark
TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#122 – “Prime Time” – Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: Diedrich, as we discussed last year at NYCC you’re no stranger to playing villains. Those roles are always fun but are also a challenge because you don’t want to come across as a mustache-twirling bad guy. The character you play, Mandroid, is actually quite sympathetic. As a performer, how did you interpret him?

Bader: When somebody’s motivation is clear it’s incredibly easy to play. When it is not, and as you say it’s just a mustache-twirler and evil for its own sake, there’s literally nothing for you to do. You can throw out all the line readings in the world, but it doesn’t make any sense because he doesn’t have any drive. Mandroid really believes that he’s saving the world and that everyone else doesn’t believe him. That’s an incredible drive to have.

I was alerted to this very early on by my son who’s here at Comic-Con and the real comic fan, as you know. We were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and he asked me about Shredder and Splinter. I said they’re the good guys and the bad guys and they help drive the story forward. He said, “Good guys. Bad guys. They just want different things.” He also said that the Shredder is the other sensei which was always interesting to me. They have something to learn from the person that they’re battling. Mandroid almost unconsciously starts becoming something he’s trying to avoid. It’s a beautiful progression in the story and you’ll see where it’s going as it develops. He ultimately gets what he wants but it has changed or “transformed.”

TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK: EP#126 – “Last Hope, Pt 2” – Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+© 2023 Paramount Global. All Rights Reserved

Dar: Finally, what can you tease about the upcoming new episodes of Transformers: EarthSpark?

Ward: Our Terrans get to learn a lot more about themselves and how they fit into the world. Dot has an interesting encounter with a pan.

Latham: That she does!

Malinowski: Robbie and Mo are tested extremely hard emotionally and physically.

Ward: Mandroid goes through a transformation!

Latham: The kids figure out who they are and learn how to work as a team. That’s always a cool thing to see when the band is able to play together. What a concert that is. Analogies! 

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!