‘Legend of Korra’: Mako, Bolin voice actors talk ‘Book 2: Spirits’

Sept. 11, 2013 | 4:43 p.m.

Avatar Korra may be the star of the Nickelodeon series “The Legend of Korra,” but the heroine couldn’t have gotten far without her posse.

The animated series, which returns Friday for its second season after a 15-month hiatus, preaches the virtues of loyalty and teamwork, much like its acclaimed predecessor “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Korra’s best friends (and teammates on the Fire Ferrets pro-bending team) are Bolin, a fun-loving earth-bender with a heart of gold, and his elder brother Mako, a brooding fire-bender. Bolin is voiced by P.J. Byrne, best known for his roles in “Horrible Bosses,” “Final Destination 5” and in BET’s “The Game.” Voicing Mako is David Faustino, who has acted in dozens of films and TV series since his Bud Bundy role in “Married With Children” put him on the map.

Hero Complex sat down with Byrne and Faustino earlier this summer to talk about the show’s long-awaited second season, titled “Book 2: Spirits.”

HC: Did you have any idea the show would become as popular as it has?

DF: Absolutely no clue.

PJB: I personally had no idea. Actually, this is my first voice-over job. So stepping into this world … [“Legend of Korra” creators] Bryan [Konietzko] and Michael [DiMartino] are so loving and madly creative. We’ve been doing this for four years now, and I honestly think we both show up to work every day and are like, “This is so special, and these guys are smart, and the picture looks so beautiful.” That’s why it takes so long. It just takes a long time to make it look that magical.

DF: The writing is tremendous, so it makes our job so easy and fun, because it’s all on the page. They’re great writers.

P.J. Byrne, right, voices Bolin in "The Legend of Korra." (Nickelodeon; Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

P.J. Byrne, right, voices Bolin in “The Legend of Korra.” (Nickelodeon; Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

HC: For example?

PJB: In my head, it’s always like the four H’s. These guys have a gift. They write this incredible history. They made up this whole world and this mythology that was magical. All of the characters have a lot of heart, which is really important for us as actors, to play off each other. All of the characters have a lot of honor. They’re so honorable and they’re always trying to do the right thing. Except for the bad guys. And that’s a good lesson for the youth of America.

DF: And the world.

PJB: And the world. And the universe. But I don’t think people give them enough credit. These guys can write humor really, really well. That’s the fourth H…. History, honor, heart and humor.

DF: Now is that something you just made up?

PJB: I was thinking about it this morning, like, “What is this show? What do I love?”

DF: I’ll go with H.A.L.T. Hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Ha!

PJB: You can take away lonely. I’ll be with you. So lonely is removed. He’s a H.A.T. Haha.

David Faustino, right, voices Mako in "The Legend of Korra." (Nickelodeon; Brad Buckman)

David Faustino, right, voices Mako in “The Legend of Korra.” (Nickelodeon; Brad Buckman)

HC: Do you guys get to record together?

PJB: Oh my God, yes, which is the best part. We’re always together which is kind of awesome. Because we’re brothers. In real life. So we now bought a house together, and we’re really excited about it. No, I’m kidding.

DF: But we’re both Sicilian Irish, so we could be brothers.

PJB: Yeah, that’s fact. We could literally be brothers. That’s fact. Fact! … We balance each other really nicely.

HC: So what’s new this season? Are we going to see more Fire Ferrets?

PJB: We always have to handle this question delicately. Because we’re recording Book 4 now. America and the world has only seen Book 1, and then we’re also doing ADR for Book 2, still. So we’re trying to figure out A. Where we are, and B. What we’re allowed to say.

DF: It gets confusing because we are in so many story lines at one time, whether it be recording or doing ADR. We get so far ahead, so we get a little confused.

HC: So Book 2 is about spirits? What’s that like for your characters?

PJB: As regular guys, that’s sort of daunting and scary and exciting.

DF: We’re scared of the spirits.

"The Legend of Korra" Comic-Con 2013 poster. (Nickelodeon)

“The Legend of Korra” Comic-Con 2013 poster. (Nickelodeon)

HC: Do you get to go along with Korra for these spirit-world adventures?

PJB: We’re still team Avatar. We still have that Korra family. We’re all very close to each other. The family grows. Korra’s actual parents show up. I think it’s also nice for us, because we don’t have any father figures, because we were orphans. Not only do we love Korra and everyone in it, I think it’s kind of nice for us to be part of a bigger family, as brothers who were orphaned and had to take care of ourselves growing up.

HC: Bolin was so sad after Mako and Korra hooked up. Will Bolin ever find love?

PJB: All I can say is Bolin’s always looking for love. If he finds it, yes! If he doesn’t, depressing. But I can’t tell you any more. Let’s say I’m always looking for love. I’m over my brother dating Korra, though. I’m over it. I’m OK with it. I’m cool with it, sort of. It was hard for me.

HC: Do either of you relate to your characters in real life? Are you similar in personality to Mako and Bolin?

DF: I think that every character you share a little similarity, and I think that’s why you get any role, ’cause you bring some part of your life. I can speak from just watching P.J. — I think he’s very Bolin-esque at times. And for me, I can be very confused and emo at times as well about the ladies, haha. Soo yeah, there’s definitely a part of that.

PJB: Before we show up and record, we’re always early, and so at Nickelodeon you can have breakfast. So we hang out with Mike or Brian, and we’re like our characters, where Dave is chill and cool, and I’m like blah blah blah. And that’s sort of like our characters. I’m a little more energized, and he’s so chill. As far as Bolin, I love people. I’m a people person, I’m a peoplely people, and I think that’s what my character is. Except I’m an older person now, and he’s still 17, and he’s going to learn that if you trust people and give your heart too much, it might burn you. So I think that might be Bolin’s over-arching journey.

DF: Do you hear that kids? Don’t love and trust, or you’ll get burned, haha!

PJB: Ha! I think he just has no radar for any of that now. He’s going to turn on his radar at some point.

Korra and her friends Mako and Bolin. (Nickelodeon)

Korra and her friends Mako and Bolin. (Nickelodeon)

HC: One of the things that set “Avatar: The Last Airbender” apart from many other shows was that it was a deliberate, three-season, contained series. It didn’t keep going and going until people got tired of it. Is “Korra” similarly contained?

PJB: I think, just in general in any good writing, I think that happens in a scene. It grows from a scene. In any scene, you have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. As an actor, you know good writers when any scene gives you a good journey that way. And if you’re really talented at that and you kind of grow that out into a bigger story, especially into 14 episodes, and you’re always thinking about that, in any writing, that’s successful.

HC: If there’s one message “Korra” has for kids, or people of any age, who watch the show, what do you think that message is?

PJB: Never give up. No matter how crazy the odds are, or all these crazy things that are stacked against you, these impossible sort of tasks that are put in front of you, never give up.

DF: Yeah, and there’s going to be good days, and there’s going to be dark days, and that’s just the way life is. And you know, stay positive, and like P.J. said, never give up.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+


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2 Responses to ‘Legend of Korra’: Mako, Bolin voice actors talk ‘Book 2: Spirits’

  1. Juness says:

    So nice to hear from the guys that help make team Korra ^.^

  2. @jjneolover says:

    They're recording Book 4 already? Wow.

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