SDCC 2016: A Roundtable With Steven Universe’s Ian Jones-Quartey And Zach Callison

Credit: Cartoon Network
Credit: Cartoon Network

If you haven’t heard of Steven Universe, then can I ask where have you been these last couple of years?

The Cartoon Network juggernaut has only increased in popularity since it debuted 2013. It has only grown since then to include a large and incredibly dedicated fanbase.

Seriously, I was going to cover the panel. I couldn’t even get into the panel. The line wrapped around the Hilton Bayfront for the Indigo Ballroom.

For those not in the know, Steven Universe follows the titular protagonist as he grows up raised by his human father and his mother’s alien rebel group (the Crystal Gems) to protect the Earth from corrupted Gems and the invading forces of the Gem homeworld. While the show can be incredibly dramatic and almost aching in the emotions, the overall theme is love, acceptance, and the importance of being kind.

Luckily, however, 4 Your Excitement was able to interview the amazing cast in crew of Steven Universe.

First up was series main star Zach Callison and Supervising Director Ian Jones-Quartey.

In the most truest to life character move, Zach Callison was eating through the interview. It was perfect.

Jones-Quartey talked about the various influences for the show, which holds a lot of nods and tone towards shows of the 80s and 90s. It all goes down to passion: what the crew is passionate about, what inspires them, what they love. That’s what makes it into a show like Steven Universe: love.

Other projects helped along the way as well such as Jones-Quartey’s work on The Venture Brothers. What he learned there helped him improve on the designs and the direction for Steven Universe. It was over time that the little things came into fruition such as how Steven can go, literally, starry-eyed (it came back from Rusty on Venture). It comes from wanting to push hard on characters and their emotions within the artwork and animation of the story. He wants to push people further and harder to make the moment more about the character’s “core of being”.

Callison talked about literally growing up with the character of Steven. He didn’t even find out that the show got picked up until going to do some ADR work. Someone eventually congratulated him on the show getting picked up and that’s how he found out. With casting a young male actor, however, there is a risk that he can’t do the voice anymore once it changes. Callison does need to go in an upper register to voice Steven, but doesn’t find it too hard. He honestly finds the real challenge in singing over anything else. One of the great things about the show, in Callison’s opinion, is that Steven is growing up as the show goes on. So naturally his voice would also change over time. (Although, he does admit that he accidentally borrows a bit of Ash Ketchum’s voice for Steven. No word yet on if Callison is playing Pokemon Go.)

Callison called “Jailbreak” his favorite episode in a lot of ways. He felt like the story really reached a crescendo in that episode, the artwork was gorgeous, and “Stronger Than You” still remains his favorite song. Callison’s favorite part of playing Steven is how much compassion he has for everyone. He thinks that Steven’s strong sense of caring and love are what make the show really stand out as something special, especially since Steven presents a different view of masculinity to the audience.

Steven Universe is currently airing new episodes on Cartoon Network throughout July and August. You can read our other roundtable interviews here and here.

Bec Heim