With season three, episode three of The Owl House right around the corner, we got to sit down with Zeno Robinson, aka Hunter, to talk about the series finale, the ending of Hunter’s journey, and the elephant in the room…the show’s upsetting cancellation. As Zeno Robinson is well-known in the world of animation, we also chatted about the current reality of animation for diverse stories and actors. Check it out below!
Off Colour: Please introduce yourself and the work that you’re doing at The Owl House!
Zeno Robinson: My name is Zeno Robinson. On The Owl House, most people know me as Hunter, The Golden Guard, as well as a couple of other guys here and there.
Let’s talk a little bit about your character Hunter’s journey. Out of all the characters, in my opinion, he changes the most throughout the show. He goes from being Belos’ right-hand man to one of his biggest opponents. How does it feel to see this incredible journey come to an end for your character?
Zeno: You know, I love an underdog story. There’s something fascinating about “evil” to good character arcs. It always reminds me of Zuko. How there’s a character, and you’re like, no, please, don’t turn to the dark side! So it was for me really fun to play because with that comes so many layers. The journey of being evil, the goals and ambitions, and why those are important to a character. Why that character has to then forsake those things, or what about them isn’t true to what the character wants. Then following what they actually want for themselves, where their actual heart is. That’s always a fascinating thing to play.
I had a lot of fun with Hunter’s journey. Going from this militant snarky, cocky, confident general. To this awkward, protective, dorky teenager, which is what he always was. I think down he just had to hide it under the mask *laughs* of being The Golden Guard.
What is something that you can tell us about your favourite scenes/moments from the final episode that’s coming up?
Zeno: I probably can’t tell you anything *laughs*. The thing that I can say is the final line in the final episode is really great. It’s really great! It wraps everything together really well in a fun way. I remember when I did it, I was like, Oh, that’s it. You didn’t leave any room for anything. And, yeah, it wraps up quite nicely.
The anticipation! What are some challenges of depicting that on a show geared for children?
Zeno: I never even thought of it that way. I was staying true to these feelings. The weight of it, the reality of it there. This is probably something that some kids who may watch the show go through, have gone through, or will go through. It doesn’t serve them to try to talk down to them about it or to try to underplay it. The seriousness of it or of its gravity. I think because Hunter is so young and because it’s coming from someone who he arguably loves, trusts, and adores. It makes it harder, it adds real weight to it.
Is there anything that any fan, any tweet, or anything that has made you go, “Wow, I didn’t think it was going to be that impactful on anybody”?
Zeno: The amount of people who I’ve seen in the fandom say they relate to Hunter. How Hunter helped them get through a hard time, or they see themselves in Hunter. I’d never thought that would happen. At first, when I was doing the show, I was just playing this evil kid who’s kind of snarky, and he’s the bad guy for this season. It was that simple for me.
But for others, it was like, oh, the panic attack scene was exactly how I would have a panic attack. Even all the head cannons, regardless of whether those were canon. The way people and fans attach themselves to it, like Hunter being trans, non-binary, or gay. The way people will attach themselves to the character or see themselves as Hunter is something I guess I never expected.
Speaking of your other works, you’ve voiced a lot of other characters. How do you feel about the current state of children’s television? Do you think that we have enough of it? Do you think that we’re accurately representing today’s children, especially today’s queer children?
Zeno: I think we can do better *laughs*. I think we have a long ways to go as far as representation for queer children, queer teens, and young adults. As far as representation goes, there need to be more queer people telling queer stories. I don’t really feel like I have the place to say that, as I’m not a part of the community. But in observation, I do think it’s incredibly important.
I think The Owl House is great queer representation. What I like about The Owl House is that it doesn’t do what I think a lot of other children’s media likes to do with queer representation and hide it. It presented queer representation in an upfront, realistic way. I think that’s why many folks from the queer community attached themselves to it. Because of how realistic, how honest, and how down-to-earth it was.
The Owl House has been such great queer representation, it is a shame that it got cancelled and season three got cut down. How did you feel when you learned it was going to be cut? And what were the cons, but also the pros, if any, in that situation behind the scenes?
Zeno: Knowing that it was cancelled was an unfortunate reality, and I hadn’t really known why. Of course, the assumption is because it’s “too queer”. I feel like the real answer is kind of that, but a lot of other things, too. I’m unsure about the specifics, and I don’t want to feed into any conjecture or anything. But it did feel like this show was doing something too out of what Disney wanted for their brand. That was unfortunate because I didn’t know how big the show was.
When season two was airing, it was one of the biggest shows I had ever done. Every week, it kept airing, and it kept trending. I kept thinking, does Disney not like success? It added to my frustration because this is such a great show. It was breaking records and trending every week. The New York Comic Con panel was the most insane panel I’ve ever done in my entire life. That doesn’t usually happen with American media.
But I also think some of the pros are you wouldn’t be getting the meat of what we’re getting in these three-part episodes. It would probably be spread out into more seasons. I think part of its cancellation and people’s being upset about it helped bring people in. The support we got, near Comic Con and even now, I think, is also fueled by its cancellation.
I think Dana (Terrace) can go and make another great show somewhere else where she hopefully doesn’t have to worry about someone telling her what she can’t do. She can be as free and as creative as whoever is smart enough to give her another thing to make. We all, as her community, can follow her wherever she goes. Somewhere she completely feels free to tell the kind of story she wants to tell. We, as fans of The Owl House, can follow her and support her in that.
100%, I will follow Dana Terrace anywhere.
At its core, what do you think is the point of The Owl House wants to get across to its viewers?
Zeno: I think the point that The Owl House wants to get across to its viewers is about acceptance. Being true to yourself, no matter what or who that is. Luz has always been like, I’m weird, and I know that I’m weird. Even in a world full of weirdos, she still manages to be one of the weirder ones. I think a lot of the characters go through this journey of self-identity. Hunter especially does, and we see him going from this militant character to a comic book nerd. He would tell himself I’m passionate about wild magic, but no, I can’t. Until the people around him tell him that it is actually okay to be who he is.
That’s how you find your tribe. That’s how you find your family, in sticking true to yourself. Because the right people always will gravitate to that. And that’s how you find your family, your “owl house”.
Are you seeing more opportunities for marginalized voice actors or is it not correlating with The Owl House’s success?
Zeno: I’m seeing more opportunities for diverse actors. I think it’s mostly because diversity is “in” right now. I see a lot more opportunities for people of color, and people of different backgrounds. A lot of stories that star different kinds of people. But I’m also seeing some of those things get cut though, which I don’t like. Like Craig of the Creek has been recently canceled, which was to me one of the most diverse cartoons out. It’s incredibly concerning.
I didn’t even know Craig of the Creek was canceled, I love Craig of the Creek!
Zeno: Thanks Warner Brothers! Thank you Warner Brothers Discovery! Thanks, Zaslav!
Time for some rapid-fire questions! What is another character that you’re currently voicing/voice that you feel perfectly fits into The Owl House universe, or the other way round?
Zeno: I think Hunter going to the creek would be very interesting. Well, he’s probably too old to go to the creek though since he’s like 16.
Off Colour: He could be one of the elders!
Zeno: He could, I play this character named Vanitas and The Case Study of Vanitas. He’s a vampire, who owns this book that lets him control the vampire world. That show is also sort of queer coded. I think it would be kind of crazy to have Vanitas come and introduce vampires in some shape or form to The Boiling Isles.
One of the running gags in The Owl House is that the characters often make fun of Hunter’s voice. How does that make you feel though that it’s a running gag in the show?
Zeno: It’s funny because a lot of the crew was like, Hunter sounds like he’s a bad boy, you sound so hot. Then why do you guys keep writing jokes that he has an annoying voice? I thought my voice sounded cool! I was trying to make it sound cool. But I think it’s hilarious. Because of the gag, moving forward from that episode I tried to make his voice a little less cool and a little more annoying in order to feed into the joke. But yeah, the way Hunter was especially in the beginning of season two, he was kind of annoying. It was like, bro, go away. You’re always in the way!
Are you pro or con Willow and Hunter together? Do you also ship them? We have to know.
Zeno: I like not confirming or denying. I like to play with the fandom and tell them that they’re just friends. It’s a running joke with fans about Hunter and Willow being friends. Like they’re gonna be in a relationship or something developing a romance just call it advanced friendship. You know, holding pinkies that’s just advanced friendship. So yeah, I kind of like that being a mystery, that way everyone can freak out. Maybe one day I’ll say my real thoughts on this.
Hunter and Luz, their relationship from enemies to being practically siblings. How do you feel about that transformation and where they’re at now?
Zeno: I think Luz saved Hunter in a lot of ways. There are people in our lives who are so much themselves, you hate them. Then you realize you don’t hate them, you just hate yourself. I’m not mad at this person, I’m just mad I can’t be like this person. I think Hunter had that a little bit with Luz. Luz’s heart is always, in the right place, and always trying to help everyone and save everyone, by being herself.
Hunter throughout his journey loses everything, his whole world falls apart. He didn’t have anybody. On top of that his “family” which is the only thing that was important to him. Serving his uncle and being loyal to his uncle was his purpose. I think Luz having this found family of everyone that she’s grown close to, and then grafting Hunter in and accepting him for who he is. I think it was incredibly important for his development to find a place where he belongs that’s accepting of him. Even though they’re different, it was about choosing what you love and who you love.
Do you have any advice for aspiring voice actors, especially Black and/or Queer voice actors that we don’t get to see as often?
Zeno: If you don’t see it in your industry right now, go be it. I’ve had fans who come up to me and are like “I’m trans. I want to be a voice actor but I just don’t, I don’t like my voice.” I was like, that has no bearing on your artistic ability. What’s so bad about your voice that it can’t be used? I told them they had a great voice. I didn’t like my voice when I started either.
In the anime sphere, I didn’t see a lot of prominent black actors. I could only name maybe two or three and we had to get more in there so that way people would know that that’s something that they could do. You never know what your community needs from you until you become it. You never know how much you can impact someone until you do what you love. If you love voice acting, especially if you’re queer, if you’re a person of colour, some other marginalized person may need you to know that they can do it themselves.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. It’s not like you’re doing it for them. You’re doing it because you love this art form, and you love the work. But the impact it has on your community can be greater than you can even imagine. So do what you love. I think that’s just with anything, do what you love, and your community will see it and be inspired by that.
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