Finn, played by Jeremy Shada, is an adventure-seeking 14-year-old boy in Pendleton Ward's hit animated series "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
Jeremy Shada, who voices Finn in "Adventure Time." (Darren Michaels / Cartoon Network)Link
"Adventure Time" creator Pendleton Ward, left, storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar, Jeremy Shada (Finn) and Tom Kenny (Ice King) attend 2012 Comic-Con International in San Diego. (Cartoon Network)Link
Lumpy Space Princess, Finn, Slime Princess, Jake, Hot Dog Princess and Wildberry Princess in a scene from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
Finn, Marceline and Jake in a scene from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
Jake, Finn and Key-per in a scene from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
A scene from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
The snail, Finn and Jake in a scene from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
Jake and Finn from "Adventure Time." (Cartoon Network)Link
The Emmy-nominated cartoon “Adventure Time” follows 14-year-old hero Finn and his pal Jake, a shape-shifting dog, as they face off against evildoers in the magical Land of Ooo. The show has become one of Cartoon Network‘s most popular programs, attracting both kids and adults to the whimsical and darkly funny world created by animator Pendleton Ward. The show, which kicked off its fifth season last week, continues Monday. Hero Complex caught up with Jeremy Shada, the 15-year-old actor who voices Finn, to talk about “Adventure Time” and more.
HC: How did you land the role?
JS: I got a call from my agent whenever this started way back three years ago, or something like that. We recognized it and it sounded familiar, and we realized that my older brother Zack [Shada] had done the pilot for it three years prior to this, to the audition, so then I looked it up on YouTube, the original pilot, and I was like, “Oh wow, my voice sounds a lot like his.” So I kind of even matched his voice more than I normally would when I met with Pen, the creator, and all the producers.
HC: Had you done a character like Finn before?
JS: It was pretty new for me. I did a lot of voice-over prior to that, too, but it was definitely a cool new thing to be the lead in an animated series. I’d never done anything like that. So it was cool coming back every week and getting to grow the character overtime.
HC: He has such a strong moral code. A good alignment.
JS: That’s one of the things I do like about the character. He’s just always trying to do the right thing. And even though sometimes that might not happen, or things get pretty crazy, that’s his main goal.
HC: Are there any cartoons that have informed your performance as Finn?
JS: I grew up watching a lot of stuff, like “Teen Titans.” But for performance of the character, probably not as much. It’s really an extension of myself for the most part. It’s turned into something more than that. It started off just kind of my normal voice, but now it’s become more of a character.
HC: You’d done voice-over work for “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”
JS: Batman, the character I did was a very well-known character. I got to play Robin, so there are plenty of people who played him in the past, and plenty of things you could kind of go up and look at. Plenty of character reference, as opposed to Finn, who was this new character, at the time when I was doing it, at least was not very known, so I kind of got to make it my own.
HC: How much creative input do you have in the show?
JS: When I’m dealing with my character, I do. I don’t have a whole lot of input in the story lines and stuff. I just get the script every week and I go in and record, and I just kind of do what I will with that. I have no input in what gets put in front of me, though.
HC: When you get a script, and you’re reading the plot, can you visualize it? Or is it too wacky?
JS: If I’m looking at the storyboard, it makes sense. If I’m just reading the script and the lines on it, I’m like, what is going on? When you’re going through it, even when I get it and I’m just looking through it, I can totally just hear the characters and their voices in my head doing the lines and stuff at this point.
HC: Do you record separately or together as a cast?
JS: We all record together most of the time, or at least we try to. All the other actors, they all have pretty busy schedules, but for the most part, we all work together, which is really cool, ’cause you get to play off the other people, and I think the reads are better that way. A lot of the shows don’t record together, they record at separate times. We’ve been lucky enough to have everybody there most of the time.
HC: Are you a fan of Dungeons & Dragons and the other geeky stuff that inspires a lot of the show?
JS: I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, but I’m actually pretty familiar with it. When Pen mentioned it [as an influence for the show], it totally, totally makes sense from that point on.
HC: How are you and Finn similar?
JS: Well, me and Finn are both sort of terrible at math, so I guess there’s one thing. We’re both pretty easygoing guys. He’s just a happy-go-lucky kid for the most part, and he just likes to have fun and go on adventures and stuff. He’s just kind of an animated, post-apocalyptic world version of myself.
HC: Speaking of a post-apocalyptic world, the show has taken quite a few dark turns. Are you surprised by these developments?
JS: I think I’m constantly surprised by everything on the show. I cannot predict what’s going to happen the next week or so. I never know what’s going on half the time until I get the thing. I guess by this point, I’m almost not surprised anymore because it’s so surprising every week, that I don’t even know.
HC: Did you have any inkling “Adventure Time” would become as popular as it has?
JS: Honestly, I did not have any idea. The things you think are gonna be super huge a lot of times won’t be. And the things you’re like, ‘Oh this is cool,’ I had no idea what it would be, and then it turns into this huge phenomenon, and it’s just spiraled upward from there, and it’s crazy. I loves it. It’s awesome.
HC: What’s it like seeing such devoted fans show up to conventions in costume?
JS: That was awesome. The fans just love it, and they show their support so much. They just go crazy over it. They don’t care what they look like when they show up. They all wear the Finn gear and stuff. It’s awesome. There’s a lot of people that wear even other characters now, too. They’ll make homemade costumes for Ice King, Princess Bubblegum, the Fiona hats and stuff. They’ll just go all out. And so it just really reminds us how much they love the show, and how big it is.
HC: Do you ever attend conventions in “Adventure Time” cosplay?
JS: Me personally, no I don’t. I’ve never dressed up with a Finn hat. I don’t know if I ever will.
HC: Who’s your favorite “Adventure Time” character?
JS: Probably my two favorite would have to be Ice King and LSP. They’re awesome.
HC: Why do you think kids relate to Finn and Jake?
JS: Above everything else, it really is about their relationship and about them being two best friends for the most part. I mean, you’ll have these crazy adventures and everything else going on around them, but it really just focuses on Finn and Jake’s relationship and them just being best friends and having these funny conversations you would have when you’re just chilling with your buddies.
HC: What about that age gap between Finn and Jake?
JS: I think it’s just kind of playing off like it’s him in dog years. He doesn’t look down on Finn in any way, shape or form. They’re definitely equals. But he does kind of play that older brother role, in a sense.
HC: Why do you think the show is so popular among adults, as well as kids? It’s pretty zany.
JS: I think I was probably more surprised by it when I first saw it. Now it makes perfect sense to me. I mean the show itself is very silly in the way that kids like. It’s got tons of silly humor, and even the animation style is very colorful and bright, which the kids love. But it does have a lot of over-the-head humor as well, and a lot of things that parents and adults and college people will get that kids aren’t likely to get.
HC: You get to do a lot of singing in the show. Is that something you were expecting?
JS: I didn’t anticipate any singing whatsoever actually. That was something that just kind of came up on the spot, and I was like, ‘OK.’ It’s not supposed to be like the most amazing, Grammy-winning performance. It’s just supposed to be real, on the spot.
HC: Would you want a career in music?
JS: I would definitely not be opposed to it, that’s for sure. I’m pretty open that way, as far as most things go. I try not to shut any doors before I even get there. I like doing music. I like singing. I love all music. Music kind of goes hand in hand with acting anyway.
HC: I saw you covered a Justin Bieber song on YouTube. Would you like to be the next Biebs? You are a cutie-pie.
JS: Nah, no, hahaha… If that happened, that’d be great. He’s a lucky guy. He’s been very, very successful. It’s a little bit of a lighthearted parody. It’s funny, but shows off some of my singing skills at the same time.
HC: What’s next for you? Some on-screen acting?
JS: I’ve actually done a lot of on-screen, live-action stuff prior to “Adventure Time.” That’s actually what I got my start in. Live-action has always been my focus and my passion. I love voice-over, and I definitely could see myself doing some voice-over, as much as I could, and even if I ended up doing only that for the rest of my life, and I could be successful at it, that would be great. But I think my real dream is to do films and live-action films. I have a new live-action series I’m doing, which I’m one of the leads in, called “Incredible Crew.” It’s a live-action sketch comedy project. It’s supposed to start airing in early 2013.
— Noelene Clark
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