Avatar actors Dante Basco, Janet Varney tease Braving the Elements podcast in trailer
It's not enough that they've worked to bring peace to the four nations; Zuko and Korra are embarking on another adventure together: starting their own podcast!
In Avatar: Braving the Elements, Dante Basco and Janet Varney, who voiced the two beloved characters from the Avatarverse, will recap every episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and break down key themes, notable battles, and behind-the-scenes trivia.
EW can exclusively premiere the trailer above, in which the co-hosts are joined by Avatar co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, plus voice actors Jack DeSena (Sokka), Jennie Kwan (Suki), and André Sogliuzzo (Hakoda/Bumi). They're among the talents who'll be stopping by the weekly podcast, which will air around 40 episodes. Basco and Varney say the goal is to recap the sequel, The Legend of Korra, right after ATLA.
"We never run out of potential guests; there's just so much to talk about. For us, getting to nerd out and be fans, even with our own peers, has just been a total blast," Varney, a veteran podcaster who also hosts The JV Club, tells EW.
Nickelodeon's Avatar: Braving the Elements debuts Tuesday, June 22 on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other platforms. Before you tune into the podcast, check out EW's interview with Basco and Varney below. The two chat about what people can expect from the podcast, how fans can get involved, Uncle Iroh's voice actor mentoring Basco in real life, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long has the podcast been in the works?
JANET VARNEY: Well, for me, it was fortuitous because it was something that I had talked about with Mike and Bryan a really long time ago, and so the timing just ended up being right. And when we started talking about what that would look like, it was like, "Gotta get Basco immediately. I need my Basco." I knew for a really long time, like last year, it was so hard. I'm so bad at keeping secrets. Mike and Bryan knew to never tell me anything about what was happening on Korra because I get in front of a fan, and I'm like, "I can't lie to you." I don't have any idea what's happening with Avatar Studios, really. Dante and I have to be kept in the dark because we are very bad at spilling secrets.
Have you prepped at all to recap the show?
VARNEY: I've really been hitting the books. I've spent a lot of time on the Avatar fan wiki. It's extraordinary. You could live there for a year and never come out again. There's so much hard work put into that. And reading the books and going back to the show, and really just in service of trying to show up Dante. [Laughs]
DANTE BASCO: I love talking about Avatar, but I don't know outside of what Prince Zuko did. I was Prince Zuko, and I walked around and did what I did. And so part of my goal going through it this time with Varney is really to help myself become a connoisseur or just a very knowledgeable person about the world that I voiced one of the cool characters in.
When do the Mike and Bryan episodes roll out?
VARNEY: I would say we wouldn't want the podcast to go very far in without hearing from them. Because obviously, none of this would exist without them. And so, we wanted to let them help lay the groundwork as we continue on. So I would say you won't have to wait very long.
Can you tease what kind of things you asked them?
VARNEY: Oh, my gosh, so much. And there's so much that we want to still have to talk about with them.
BASCO: Yeah, inspirations of how this all came about, questions of certain characters, everything. We're just fans asking them what a fan would ask them. You know, "What were you thinking about this? Why do you draw it like this? What does that mean?" I hope we weren't annoying them.
VARNEY: We don't want fans to think that we forgot to ask a bunch of questions; we literally ran out of time. So we will be hitting them up again because there are a million things that we still would like to know.
The fandom is so big — are you assuming people will have seen ATLA before tuning into the podcast?
VARNEY: You will want to have watched at least Book One to listen to the podcast. There's just way too many references. And believe me, I feel like we do an okay job recapping what happens in an episode — please do not take what we say happens in the episode as like, "It's almost as if I've seen it."
Dante, you rewatched ATLA for your Honor Society Twitch stream. For fans who've watched that, how will this experience be different?
BASCO: I love what we did on Honor Society, and that was my first time rewatching it. It was more just hanging out with cast members in COVID that we have not seen in a long time, with Avatar playing in the background of the party. And that was a lot of fun. This is a little bit more like going back to high school. It's like having an Avatar class, Avatar 101.
Having listened to the first episode, you have so many fun recurring segments like Animal Crossing and Most Valuable Bender during the recap.
VARNEY: Yeah, there's more too; we have so many that we keep rolling out as the episodes go. So there's some new ones that come out.
Will you address any of the longstanding fan theories that have come up about the Avatar world?
BASCO: Yeah. I mean, we go dive into some of those ideas sometimes, right?
VARNEY: Yeah, and I think that'll be an opportunity for us too. We've recorded some episodes without being able to engage in social media yet and without being able to do as much fan interaction as we want. And we've been so excited for this part of the reveal to the world happening because then we can really kick in and start getting some suggestions from fans. And I think that's going to be a great one. We're going to take a bunch of questions like that from fans. And we've already said, we will fully exploit our relationship with Mike and Bryan as much as possible. We are the ambassadors. We are happy to try to get answers that heretofore have not been answered.
Do you have a favorite episode you've recorded so far?
VARNEY: I do not feel like I can pick a favorite. You know, I love the Jennie Kwan episode because I love Suki so much. And I love Jennie, and I really fangirled, and she's such a positive person. We had this great conversation with her and recapped an episode; there's a ton there. So we talk about her career, we talk about racism and deep stuff that's happening not just in the Avatar world but in the real world, and really positive messages from her that are very inspiring towards how to cope with stuff like that. And then also just nerding out on Avatar because she too is a huge fan and feels so lucky to have been part of it. And then hearing about Jennie and Dante's experience in the moment, feeling like a fly on the wall for that.
BASCO: The Jennie Kwan episode was amazing. I mean, Jack DeSena was amazing. Got to hang out with Jack, shout out to Jack. He's so funny. And then Janet and Jack are like improv masters. They start riffing, and I'm just sitting there like, "Hello?"
VARNEY: Super fun. My face always hurts after we finish recording; my face hurts from laughing. So that's gotta be a good sign.
During the ATLA cast reunion in January, Jennie brought up her connection to Mako Iwamatsu's [original voice of Iroh] daughter and Dante, you've talked about knowing him even before working on ATLA. Does Mako come up in the Jennie episode?
BASCO: Yeah, we touched base on Mako because he's a part of the first book, and this is his last project that he got to do, so I'm so honored to get to do this with him, and he was very much an Uncle Iroh my whole life and my career. Being that I was able to work with him throughout my career, starting at age 12 in The Perfect Weapon and throughout my teenage years, and then my 20s and then my 30s. He's just one of those artists that is just a legend in our community in town, and the Asian American community, and someone that I've had the good fortune to get to touch base with as a younger actor to ask advice and have laughs and tell stories and just be a mentor throughout my career.
Did you get to record with Mako when you were doing The Last Airbender?
BASCO: A lot, all the time. I mean, we were there until he got sick. He got sick, and then he's out. I remember he passed away, which is very emotional for everybody. And then there were episodes where Uncle Iroh didn't talk, which was very odd where I was talking to him, right, and Uncle Iroh has no lines because he's in prison at that time. And then the episode where [Iroh's new voice actor] Greg Baldwin came in, and he did Mako's voice, and Greg was in the other room. So you can't see him, and then he starts talking, and everyone started crying. It was like chills, and I look up, and [voice director] Andrea Romano is crying; we're all crying. It was like Mako coming from the grave. It was crazy.
I loved Greg and Andrea's appearance in the cast reunion. Will you be having them on the pod too? What can fans expect, in terms of the guests segments?
VARNEY: I'll tell you what, I promise you every single person you could possibly imagine wanting to have on the podcast, we got on a big fat list. We are like, "Oh no, we will have to do a billion episodes," because there are so many amazing people who are part of it. I will say they are both an absolute must. So if for some reason that doesn't happen, it will not be because we did not pursue it with every fiber of our being, and we love both of them, and they love us too. We never run out of potential guests; there's just so much to talk about. For us getting to nerd out and be fans, even with our own peers, has just been a total blast.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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