An Interview with Zach Callison
Callison is a voice actor behind Steven Universe
Zach Callison, who voices Steven in 'Steven Universe,' will be one of several celebrity guests coming to the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo November 2-4 at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel. For more about Tulsa Pop Culture Expo, read Brandon Schmitz's article here or go to tulsapopcultureexpo.com.
Q: Considering how popular “Steven Universe” has become since it launched in 2013, I assume you’ve been to your fair share of conventions at this point. What’s your favorite thing about attending these sorts of events?
ZC: There’s a few cool things about it. Our fans are really gracious and it’s really cool to spend time with them. We always get really cool fan art given to us, which I always take home and keep. I get to travel to cool places, I’ve made a lot of friends, and when I come to cities doing other things, I have friends and people I can check stuff out with. It provides a lot of opportunities and fun times.
Q: Speaking of the fans, what’s it been like to see “Steven Universe” and people’s response to it grow and change over the course of five years?
ZC: It’s been crazy. There was a certain moment where I think all of us in the cast and crew realized ‘Whoah, this is not just a cartoon we’re working on anymore,’ this has become something a little more phenomenal.
We were at San Diego Comic-Con right after our episode “Jail Break” hit air, which was a really big turning point as far as narrative and art goes for the series. The fan reaction to it was so massive and so passionate that when we went to San Diego Comic-Con to do our panel that year, it was night-and-day from the previous year and every year since then it’s just gotten bigger and bigger. It’s just become this beautiful beast of a fandom.
It’s also nice to know that there’s sort of a place carved for it in animation as a larger medium. I feel like it’s been talked about by certain people in the media and animation industry as having a spot in the 2010s annals of animation.
It’s interesting how it’s been received in that way by not only the kids, but also the critics and it’s cool to see that that will always be a part of me and the rest of the cast’s career. I feel like “Steven Universe,” long after it’s over – whenever that may be – is going to be a part of my artistic profile and my life because of the influence it had on me and the influence it had on the people who watched it.
Q: Is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing in Tulsa when you’re not busy with the convention?
ZC: Generally, I only get out at nights, so I tend to do a lot of site-seeing stuff at restaurants and places like that. I’ll finally be 21 by the time I come to Tulsa, so if there are any cool bars around that are unique, I might check those out as well.
Q: Promoting literacy in children through comic books is one of the driving forces behind the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo. Did you read comics as a kid, and if so, did they have any impact on you?
ZC: A little bit. A read a lot of fantasy novels, sci-fi novels. I wrote and read a lot of TV and video game fan-fiction as a pre-teen. Most of our crew did it, too, because that’s sort of a hallmark of artists of this generation.
I’ve done a couple of things with this organization called Carolina Manga Library. They go to conventions and they bring this large library of comic books and manga for kids to come in and basically have a quiet place at the convention to read and introduce them to it if they haven’t read it before. They do outreach programs similar to what you’re talking about it, so I’ve done a couple of signings and promotional things for them.
Q: With the convention being this huge pop culture expo, what’s one piece of media within the realm of “geek culture” that you’re particularly fond of?
ZC: More than anything, probably “Mass Effect.” As far as video games go, that’s the go-to for me. That trilogy was the pinnacle of video game storytelling, character development – it taught me a lot about what could be done with the medium. I had the pleasure to work with and meet a lot of the voice acting cast in that.
It’s really cool how those actors have gone on to do so many other things – Mark Meer particularly. I had a talk with him briefly about this at a convention – about how it’s always going to be there for them and the fans will always be there for me no matter what. That’s the beauty about fandom and convention culture in this day and age. It celebrates things that might not have otherwise been celebrated but definitely deserve to be.