Amazon Prime’s new animated series, Danger & Eggs, has received nearly universal critical acclaim since I wrote about it earlier this month. Pretty much everyone agrees that it’s fun and hilarious and super weird. What really sets Danger & Eggs apart, though, are the queer and trans characters; and the fact that queer and trans actors voice so many of them. There’s never been a kid’s show with a cast and creative team of LGBTQ people this big.
Recently I chatted with a few of the queer and trans people who make Danger & Eggs: Shadi Petoski, the co-creator who also voices the Pigeon Lady; Her Story‘s Laura Zak, who worked as a writer on several episodes and voiced a few characters; trans teen activist Jazz Jennings, who voices a trans girl character named Zadie; speaker and model Tyler Ford, who voiced agender musician Milo; and Autostraddle favorite Jasika Nicole, who voiced Reina, the main character’s best friend. The cast also includes Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher, Stephanie Beatriz, and Angelica Ross.
Mey: Danger & Eggs has loads of queer people in the cast and crew. What was it like working on a show with so many other LGBTQ people?
Shadi: It feels like life. I guess I have the privilege of drawing from that network in hiring. I can’t imagine it any other way.
Laura: Honestly, I’ve been surrounded by LGBTQ people on my last several projects, so it is becoming somewhat second nature. I seek out inclusive work environments, and I’ve been spoiled to have found so many great ones.
Jazz: When I heard about all the other cast members who were in the LGBTQ community I was ecstatic! I’m honored to be a part of something so groundbreaking and I’m so grateful to Shadi for giving me the opportunity to play Zadie.
Tyler: Shadi really took the time to coach me on my audition, which I was so thankful for. Her investment in me and in our community means so much to me, and I’m so thankful and proud to be part of Danger & Eggs. I learned a lot from Shadi, and it was a blast being directed by her in the studio! I’m honored to be in such great company.
Jasika: The premise of it was freaking awesome, but in reality I haven’t really met many of the other people on board! I didn’t work with any of the actors and spent all my time alone in a booth with the crew on the other side of the glass, in particular creator Shadi and writer Laura (and whoever else on the collaborative team might be LGBTQ that I wasn’t aware of). Honestly it was like working on any other project that I have been a part of: everyone was super nice, professional, and supportive. I was definitely nervous to be a part of the project because I knew what a big deal it was and how important it was going to be to the community at large, but I tried not to let my nerves get the best of me, and again, Shadi seemed really confident in my abilities and excited to have me on board, so I just had to trust her judgement!
Mey: Queer representation in kids media is one of my all-time favorite things. What do you think this show would’ve meant to you if you saw it when you were younger?
Shadi: That’s all we were thinking about while making this. I mean, when I was a kid I was desperately looking for trans representation in anything. Any body swap. If some boy turned into a bucket of water, was that girl water? Our show was a bit challenging in that we don’t deal with crushes or romantic relationships. So we tired to show queer realities in other ways.
Laura: It’s hard to fathom the effect it may have had on my younger self, given that there’s really never been anything quite like this on television for children of a certain age. Queerness in Danger & Eggs is handled very matter of factly: in the episode “The Trio”, Phillip and D.D. use they/them pronouns for their agender friend Milo (Tyler Ford); in the show’s finale, we learn that Corporate Raider Jim has two dads; and Zadie (Jazz Jennings) sings about coming out as her “authentic self” at school. Other characters are implied to be queer, though it’s never explicitly stated. We aimed to weave the LGBTQ characters seamlessly into the world of the show in a way that normalizes and humanizes them. In a lot of ways, I think this is how children already process the world: discrimination and hate are taught and learned. These characters are appreciating their friendships and enjoying one another, including their differences.
Jazz: When I was younger, I felt so alone. It would have meant so much to me to see a character like Zadie who is strong and knows who she is. Little Jazz would have said, “Hey, she’s just like me!”
Tyler: I definitely would have been Milo for Halloween (though maybe I still will be)! It would have been a wonderful relief to see a character I resonate with on TV. I think it would have saved me some grief.
Jasika: I don’t even have the comprehension to think about what it would have meant to me as a kid to have cartoons of this caliber (and the caliber of so many comparable shows out there, like Steven Universe and Adventure Time). I loved the idea of cartoons as a little girl because I knew it was media made specifically for my age group, but I rarely if ever saw myself in the narratives depicted so I would lose interest in cartoon shows very quickly. Danger & Eggs is very special for so many reasons, namely representation in variant sexualities and gender identities, but also I have a personal connection to the role I play.
M: What’s each of your favorite things about the character/one character you play or role you have working on the show?
Shadi: Doing script polish with Laura Zak was pure joy. It was the two of us hanging in a room rewriting parts of scripts all day and trying to make each other laugh or crack something that wasn’t working in a story. I also like voicing Duncan ’cause I can be happy from gargling for ten minutes. I rarely get cast in things as a performer, so casting myself is a favorite thing.
Laura: It’s so hard to pick. I loved writing the friendship between D.D. and Reina. It reminds me of early friend-crushes, before I’d become mature enough to parse out the dimensions of the feelings. Sometimes you meet someone (in childhood as well as adulthood) and have this immediate chemistry and feel enamored and want to do everything with them for awhile. It was fun to keep the arc of their sweet dynamic going throughout the season.
I was lucky enough to experience many aspects of making this show: writing, voice acting, post-production. One of the coolest experiences was recording scratch audio for the D.D. Danger character – basically, my voice would be the place-holder so that the animatic could be made in advance of Aidy Bryant recording the lines. Getting used to mimicking D.D.’s cadence helped a lot with writing to her voice.
Jazz: My favorite thing about Zadie is that she is so outspoken and confident. The fact that she is able to get up on the stage and share her authentic self with everyone shows how confident she truly is. She embraces her uniqueness, and wants everyone else to do the same.
Tyler: I love that my character, Milo – an adorable black, agender musician – is an accurate representation of me.
Jasika: Reina is a cartoon character literally modeled after myself — a femme brown-skinned energetic creative who loves to make things with her hands and is empowered by the world around her instead of beholden to it. I can’t imagine what it would mean to have seen a character like that as a kid, but I know how amazing it is to see it as an adult. I feel very excited for today’s youth who will watch this show and start having important conversations about gender and the different shades of identity that exist in the world. It is a mistake to think that these topics are only for adults; the earlier these discussions happen in kid’s lives, the more likely they are to be see themselves on a spectrum and find commonalities in people who are like them, and the more likely they are to be compassionate and accepting of those who may not be like them. It’s just a win/win all around.
Mey: This show has a lot of important messages, but also it’s super weird in the most hilarious and fun way. What’s your favorite goofy or wacky thing about it?
Shadi: We try to kind of parody important messages a lot. We’ll do this sappy melodramatic music when someone learns the lesson at the end — where it would be in a lot of kid’s shows — that the audience got in act one. Not sure if it works, but it keeps me from being bored by structure.
Laura: Shadi and I would hole ourselves up in the writer’s room to punch up episodes, which means to do a line-by-line read through of the script to punch it up with more humor. Usually one or both of us would end up on the floor laughing. Shadi often talks about how we’re both “down to clown.” This came out in those sessions; we’d tap into our freest, weirdest, most absurdist humor, and find where it fit in the show. One of the runners that amuses me most is D.D. and Phillip’s unexplained animosity toward pastries and baked goods. Also, Kate Berlant as the voice of Rhonda the Realtor. I want her to have her own spin-off.
Jazz: I’m pretty goofy myself so I love every minute of the show. I think the best part is how it feels like an unpredictable adventure every moment; yet, there’s always an important message being conveyed.
Tyler: My favorite thing is listening to everyone bring the wacky lines and characters to life!
M: “Chosen Family” is one of the most amazing episodes of any show I’ve ever seen, especially on an all-ages or kids show. I loved seeing such a celebration of queer community and chosen family. When Zadie (Jazz) goes on stage and sings, it’s breathtaking. Later when the mayor (Angelica Ross) says “people like me haven’t always been able to choose where we live” and Zadie says “girls like me fight for justice” I started bawling. Can you tell me a bit about how you feel about being a part of the episode?
Shadi: You’re the first person to watch it and comment on it that didn’t work on it. These comments. Wow. A lot of what is written in that episode is just for us. So I am happy you found it. We knew we wanted to do something very visually overtly queer and normalizing. I was really inspired by the family-friendly vibe of Minneapolis Pride, which I always fly in for, where it’s political but they also have boat rides and craft tables. It feels amazing to share that part of the year that my family loves so much.
Laura: Yay! I’m so thrilled you feel this way about the episode. It was surreal to be working on this one more than a year ago, knowing its potential for impact. I admire how unflinching Shadi was in addressing the queer community so directly in the whole show, but specifically this episode. I still get goosebumps seeing the Mayor sharing the stage with Zadie. Also, the concept of “chosen family” will be helpful to kids regardless of whether they’re LGBTQ or not. Emphasizing that there will be people who care for them in their lives, even if they aren’t blood relatives, is a hopeful message that could bring comfort to anyone with a difficult home life.
Jazz: I’m very proud to be a part of Danger & Eggs, and being in an episode that takes place at a Pride event makes this role even more significant and meaningful. It’s so powerful and special. I know that LGBTQ youth will see themselves being represented in a kids cartoon an it will mean the world to them.
Jasika: Don’t laugh, but I actually am not sure if I am in this episode (ed. note: she definitely is), and if I am, I don’t remember it! That sounds so awful I know, but you have to keep in mind that the VO world is so different than tv and film — on this show (and it’s pretty common for animated TV in general), I didn’t record with any other actors and I didn’t even get a chance to hear what the other actors sounded like when I read my lines, so my recording sessions are literally me just saying my lines into a microphone; our director would lead me in with the line before mine, but other than that, there was a very little context. So in preparation I would skim over the episode to get the gist of it, but my performances were solely focused on whatever lines I had in the scene.
In this respect, doing VO work for animated series can feel very disjointed and a little lonely, but the good part is that when you to watch the completed episodes, it’s like experiencing the story for the first time as an audience member, which I love! TV episodes have never really felt like that for me, at least not in the same way — each scene I am a part of makes me feel like I am back on set instead of just witnessing the story unfold. So for VO performances as a secondary character, I get the best of both worlds! I get to be a participant in the show, but I also get to absorb the story as an (almost) outsider. My wife and I are actually starting the show tonight for the first time so I will finally get to experience all the performances by the other amazing actors and see the characters and story unfold!
If you want to be like Jasika Nicole and her wife and start watching the show, you can head on over to Amazon Prime and watch it today!