If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a huge nut for animated TV. When I discovered the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was instantly hooked. The animation, the stories, the characters – everything worked together so well that it was hard not to fall in love.
Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, the creators behind the Avatar world, together created a sequel series, The Legend of Korra, which follows the seventeen-year-old reincarnated Avatar as she learns everything that it means to be the bridge between the spirit world and the physical world.
P.J. Byrne voices Bolin – a funny, caring earthbender, with a heart of gold – who is one of Korra’s closest friends. I had the chance to speak with P.J. recently about what it’s been like working on The Legend of Korra, what his last day in the studio was like, and what’s next for him, career-wise. Plus, we got the exclusive on the last line of dialogue that he ever had to say as Bolin. In addition to his work on the Nickelodeon animated series, P.J. has also appeared in Horrible Bosses, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Intelligence on CBS.
Jordan: What’s been the most exciting part about being involved in a franchise as popular as The Legend of Korra? Going into the show, did you ever expect it to have the huge fan base that it does now?
P.J.: Oh, well, right – this was actually the first cartoon I’ve ever done so I didn’t know too much about the world of cartoons and when I took the job obviously I watched the first Avatar and I saw what great artists and what a great cast they had, what a bright team Mike and Bryan were. And so, I guess the greatest thing of all was the relationship with Janet [Varney] and David [Faustino] and Mike and Bryan and that family culture that was established between all of us and how we all had the ability to make each other laugh and our ability to play brothers and sisters and then, I’ll be honest with you, when we showed up at the first ComicCon, it truly was a mind blowing experience because we got there like a day or two early and seeing people dressed up as my character waiting in line, 24 hours before just… it was the moment you really take pause as an actor and say wow, this is something bigger than myself and especially when I saw the incredible artwork that these guys do – the first time, the first season I was just so floored and I was like wow and I really feel like I’m part of the best artistic show ever, it’s so well done and thorough and I know all the work they do, travelling all over the world to make sure the colour correction is perfect and there are so many talented people involved – that’s just my take.
Jordan: It’s absolutely, in my opinion, one of the best animated shows on TV right now.
P.J.: I love everything that came out of your mouth, Jordan. Everything that came out of your mouth, I love it.
Jordan: Oh, thank you! If you had to pick a cast or crew member to live with for the rest of your life, who would it be?
P.J.: Wow. That’s a great question. Holy moly. It’s gotta fall between Janet and David. Can we live together – is that alright – can I live with both of them?
Jordan: Absolutely, I think fans of The Legend of Korra would go nuts! I think they’d be banging on your door, day and night.
P.J.: Dave will help me get the party aspect going and Janet will sort of get the calming sense – I can decide if I want to go see a movie or play, I’ll go with Janet. If I want to go to like a rock concert one night, or watch Dave sing, I’ll go hang out with David, I think… I think the more hands to help raise my child, I think is more beneficial.
Jordan: You really get the best of both worlds.
P.J.: Is my wife allowed to come too? Because I love her as well.
P.J.: I’m going to be living with about six people – that’s good – we’ll need a big house in the Hollywood Hills. I’m thinking definitely a couple of guest houses, jaccuzzi, large pool, a nice view.
Jordan: I think that sounds like the dream for most people
P.J.: You wanna come with us? You can come too. That makes seven. Seven’s a great number.
Jordan: You better be careful what you say because I will hold you to that.
P.J.: I like the cut of your jib so let’s think about it!
Jordan: (laughs) Thank you! So, likewise, if you had to pick a character from the show to live with, who would you pick?
P.J.: Right – who would I live with? Uhm, I guess I gotta go with Opal – I love her, you know that’s how my character – I think hopefully – I can’t say, as far as season four, the character Bolin most pined for and wanted to live with is Opal and, you know, I like her, she kind of reminds me of my wife: she’s strong willed, she’s a strong woman and yet she has the ability to understand…. and completely and I love it.
Jordan: I think most fans would be happy if Bolin and Opal ended up together.
P.J.: I don’t know, I can’t tell you; I can’t tell you if that happens; we’ve gone through a lot – it’s been a tough year.
Jordan: Yeah, I’m pullin’ for it!
P.J.: Okay, pull for it. Good stuff.
Jordan: Okay, so, The Legend of Korra, it’s spanned four incredible seasons, or Books as they’re referred to. There’s Air, Spirits, Change, and Balance. Which book would you consider your favourite and why?
P.J.: I guess if you’re posing this to me, I’ll be selfish with my answer; my favourite season was when I was a mover. I got to be the other character who is Bolin-esque – I got to be the character Bolin with lightening in his body; he had all this energy and would use it all so honest and real and at the same time he was a mover star who didn’t quite understand the process of that. As for me personally, as a character, that was my favourite season. I could argue other things where season four I have a nice big character arc, I’m a little bit older, a little more grounded, things are little more funny, so grounded, you learn so much. I know he’s learned to be on his own. It’s a toss up.
Jordan: Yesterday, you posted a picture of yourself in your Tumblr account at the nickelodeon studios and wrote that it was your last day ever voicing Bolin.
P.J.: It was emotional – very emotional.
Jordan: That’s what my question was. What was your last day in the studio like – was it particularly emotional? Or did you feel a sense of finality?
P.J.: It’s funny with these things; you know it’s coming to an end; you mentally have time to prepare. Unfortunately, I was working on another show, so I couldn’t be there with Janet and David to do the final recording with them, which was heart wrenching on some level, and Seychelle [Gabriel] and John Michael Higgins and everybody, but it was really just me, Mike, and Bryan and some of the tech team which was kind of like me alone with this character, saying these final sounds, and I guess I’ll put it out later, which I think is so appropriate, but the last thing I ever said for this character, and this is an exclusive for you, they wanted me to look at the screen – when we did all our words and things and we had to make all these sounds and the special effects and how they put it together – the last thing I ever had to say – it said “Bolin makes a little laugh”, and then it’s over.
Jordan: Oh, wow!
P.J.: So, the last sound that came out of my mouth was a little chuckle. I thought that was so appropriate.
Jordan: It’s so strange, I’ve watched interviews with you from Comiccon or other conventions and your voice really is so incredibly similar to Bolin’s. I kind of feel like I’m talking to him now.
P.J.: I kind of feel my personality is kind of close to Bolin – as a kid I always kind of hated my voice – you know I always played sports and my buddies were these big dudes and everyone was a manly man and their voices dropped when they were nine and I was like “when the hell is my voice going to get lower?” and mine never did – so I always hated my voice but now I’m lovin’ it – it’s perfect – it’s found a home.
Jordan: I guess it’s good that your voice never dropped completely – you had the last laugh!
P.J.: Yeah, well said!
Jordan: So, my last question for you is – what’s next for you career-wise? Are there any projects that you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?
P.J.: Yeah, actually, funny you should say that. It was just announced yesterday, there’s this new show I’m doing for HBO that got picked up, it’s still the untitled rock and roll show – but you know everyone involved – I mean I thoroughly love everyone – the actors, like Bobby Caannavale, Ray Romano, Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple, Max Casella, a bunch of incredible actors. Jack Quaid is in there and then, obviously, Martin Scorcese is directing and producing and Terence Winter is writing it and Mick Jagger is producing with Victoria Perlman, it’s great – the pedigree is loaded. I’m so happy to be a part of this new show and HBO is such a great network and I can’t tell you how pumped I am to work on this.
Jordan: That’s really exciting – that’s awesome!
P.J.: Yeah, I’m pumped. It’s a period piece and I’m going to look ridiculous at all times so I’m pumped.
Jordan: That’s everything I wanted to ask. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me.
P.J.: Of course – hey whatever you need – anytime, it was really great meeting you – and stay warm up there in Canada.
“Operation Beifong” debuts Friday, Dec. 5, on Nick.com and the Nick App. During the premiere, Bolin helps Opal and Lin save the Beifongs from Kuvira; Korra visits the Spirit World, looking for help.
The Legend of Korra Book 3: Change is out on Blu-ray and DVD now and is available for purchase on Amazon. Check back in the next day for our official review and a giveaway!
If you could ask P.J. Byrne one question, what would it be?
*This interview has been condensed to avoid boring you all with my unfunny jokes about the heat in Los Angeles.*