Madagascar animated series welcomes a nonbinary character in Pride episode sneak peek
Broadway star Ezra Menas of Jagged Little Pill voices Odee Elliott, the Okapi.
Ezra Menas couldn't identify with a character on screen until hir mid-20s. The actor from Broadway's Jagged Little Pill and the upcoming West Side Story movie — who identifies as nonbinary and uses zie/hir/they pronouns — saw actor Elliot Fletcher, a trans man, portray Aaron on an episode of The Fosters. It was "real, real late in my life," Menas tells EW. Before that moment, zie would project hir experience onto characters "always hoping for some kind of narrative to come through."
"Usually it didn't," Menas adds. But hir first voice-over role could help change that for new generations of kids.
Menas joins the voice cast of the DreamWorks animated series Madagascar: A Little Wild in its third season as Odee, the Okapi, EW can exclusively report. The show's first nonbinary character will debut in the Pride-themed episode "Whatever Floats Your Float," written by Laura Zak. The season premieres on Hulu and Peacock this Thursday.
As the gang prepares for the big Animal Pride Parade, Marty the Zebra (Amir O'Neil) struggles to find a float that fits Odee, given their zebra and giraffe attributes. None of the floats feel quite right for their new friend, leading Odee to realize, "It doesn't matter what we are as long as we're proud of who we are."
A clip (shown above) of the character's song "Be Proud," written by the show's songwriter, Alana Da Fonseca, sees the character sing, "I'm so much more than what you see/There isn't just one recipe/That's why you're you and why I'm me/So, let's celebrate us. Let me see you all be proud."
A full-length version of the song will be available Friday.
"If I would have seen this when I was a kid, I don't even know what I would've done," Menas says. "This kind of acceptance and love and celebration, I think, is the biggest takeaway from this episode. It's just a beautiful thing. Makes me cry."
Thinking back to how little queer representation Menas saw on screen as a kid, they believe a character like Odee would've made hir younger self feel less alone.
"We're so indoctrinated with the gender binary and gender stereotypes. If you're a man, this is your path. If you're a woman, this is your path," Menas says. "I think seeing Odee and the care from Odee's friends would have made me not feel so isolated. At times, I felt so isolated in my experience. I didn't know I was nonbinary as a kid. I didn't even have that language as a kid."
Odee being Menas' first move into the voice-over space felt like "the stars aligned." Hir girlfriend, whose parents happen to be voice-over artists, did V.O. work in the past, but it wasn't on Menas' career bucket list. Then a couple casting directors went to see Jagged Little Pill and heard hir voice emerge from the ensemble, leading to an audition for Madagascar: A Little Wild.
Menas felt confident in taking on the part from the care they felt from the script. GLAAD consulted on "Whatever Floats Your Float," and the actor clocked the queer people working in the show's writers' room.
"As a nonbinary person, I really resonate with this. This feels spot on," Menas says. "That gave me the confidence, just knowing that these people care about the stories that they're telling. They care about the authenticity. They care about how it's going to impact not only nonbinary youth, but people who are not nonbinary learning about nonbinary identities and accepting people for who they are."
Because of this show, Menas has now been bitten by the voice-over acting bug and has a few other projects lined up, including a part in the Netflix series Ridley Jones. Yes, zie will sing in them, too.
"The 'Whatever Floats Your Float' episode of Madagascar: A Little Wild shows kids and parents that there's a place for everyone to 'Be Proud' of who they are," Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD's director of entertainment media, says in a statement to EW. "The writers have crafted a beautiful episode about identity at a time when LGBTQ inclusion in kids and family programming is rapidly growing and more industry leaders like DreamWorks Animation are working with GLAAD to ensure that all families are represented on-screen. We can't wait for kids and parents around the world to fall in love with Odee, the same way that we have!"