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‘X-MEN ʼ97’ Interview with Rogue Voice Actor Lenore Zann

After 27 years away, Marvel continues the story from 1997 with X-Men ‘97. The series captures the nostalgia of the original animated series and has electrified its way back into our lives with a drama filled and action packed new season. Nexus Point News was fortunate enough to sit down with Lenore Zann, the voice actor for Rogue. Let's dive in!

Image Courtesy of Marvel Animation

(NPN): How does it feel to be back in this role and continuing this story with Rogue 27 years after the original series ended?

Zann: It's mind-blowing really. I mean how many actors get an opportunity to play a superhero anyway, let alone twice in their lifetime and like 27 or 30 years apart. It's kind of surreal, but in another way, it just feels right. It feels like it's the right timing for this show to come back and for my character to be as strong as she is when the world in real life is facing so much danger, so many extreme right-wing crazy ideologies that are so harming so many people, and when you have you know political people trying to roll the clock back and take away rights that people have fought to get for many many years and whether that is you know racialized community or the lgbtq community. It's really sad to see that humanity is once again at each other's throats and I think that it's time for the X-Men to make a reappearance so it's perfect timing.

(NPN): Over the past 27 years, did you ever think you would be returning to this world and this character and continuing this story? 

Zann: About five years ago we were invited to a Comic Con in Texas, and it was the first time we'd been invited to a Comic-Con. We hadn't done any before that and it was like the original cast, about six of us and at that point we met for the very first time, we met Larry Houston, our original director, and we met Eric and Julia Leewald, the original writers. We'd never met before because they were in Los Angeles and we were in Toronto recording. So we all got together, we fell in love with each other. It was so nice, it was like a homecoming. We went out for dinner, the final night we said ‘Wouldn't it be nice if somehow our show got rebooted, and we got asked back and we got a chance to continue with the stories we never got to tell?’ We had a moment, we're putting it out there to the universe to bring us back.

Image Courtesy of Convention Life

(NPN): I didn't realize you hadn't met until recently, that's a long time!

Zann: They had a voice director in Toronto, who was guiding us but the voice director in Toronto was hearing what the people in Los Angeles were saying. Once in a while, a couple of the producers would fly in. So the interesting thing was when I did my audition, I skipped the first audition just because I was doing movies and television. and theatre. I just came back from New York, I did a play off-Broadway for like nine months. So the idea of doing an animation wasn't exactly my main go-to place. I only had done one animated series before. I just kind of didn't take it that seriously and I didn't go to those first auditions, but when the agent called me back and said “Lenore they still haven't found the right actress for that one role and it's because it's you”. 
When I did the audition I looked at the picture of the drawing of Rogue with her hand on her hip [with] sassy attitude and I went “Oh yeah I could do that”. Then I went into the booth and I just said the first little paragraph that they had of dialogue for her and it started “My dad liked to kill himself when he found out that I was a mutant” and then it went on from there. Then I heard the screams in the headphones from the producers and it turns out Larry Houston in LA said “oh my God! That's her, don't let her leave the building!”

(NPN): When I read comics and I'm reading a Rogue scene, I just hear your voice so I can't imagine anyone else doing this role.

Zann: Oh, thank you! I like to tell the fans I should be paying them because I've been living rent-free in their heads for 30 years.

(NPN): How does it feel to get that call saying “Lenore, Marvel wants to bring back the show, they want to bring all their original actors back?” and continue with what you guys did you know back in the 90’s? 

Zann: First of all, it started as an email from the comic-con agent who had brought us to Texas that very first time for that reunion five years ago. He emailed me and said, “Hey Lenore don't know what you're up to,” but I was in Truro Nova Scotia, and I'd been in government for the last 12 years as a member of Parliament. He said, “I'm getting the word that Disney's trying to find you for something like a new show, not sure what it is but I have an idea so would you be interested in doing an audition for a show for Disney,” and I was kind of like, “oh yeah right, Disney's trying to find me.” I said, “Look, if it's serious, if it's real, get give them my phone number and tell them to call me,” and then I got the call from Meredith Lane, who is the casting director and the voice director for the show, and she said, “hi Lenore, yeah actually I'm working for Disney and Marvel and we're working on a new show, they asked me to try and find you, and would you be interested in auditioning?” I was like, “Yeah, of course, yeah,” but she still didn't say what it was, and she said, “Well, I'm gonna send you a script, like a script with a few lines, and if you could just record them and send them back, that'd be great.” I said, “Okay,” so I got the page and I looked at the lines, and the lines were lines I had already recorded years ago but with the name Maria or something, I was like, “Oh my God, this is X-Men, I went oh my God,” so I just conjured up, I just brought up my Rogue, and I did my Rogue, and I sent it off and thanked her.
About a month and a half later, I got word back from her that the producers loved it, and that they wanted to meet with me on Zoom, so she set up a meeting with Beau DeMayo and Charlie Feldman. We had an amazing time on Zoom, and they got me to read it one more time, and then Beau just broke down, “Oh my God, Lenore, I don't even know what we're doing this, we want you, you know, we are geeking out here, we are, and we are fanning all over the place, you are hero, would you please come back and prize at the role of Rogue in a new series X,” and I don't even think of the name yet, so I was like, “hell yeah, sugar, sign me up!”
It was touching and it was emotional. I had been grieving because my niece had passed away. I've talked about that in a few interviews, my 17-year-old niece, and I had just lost an election. I won four elections in a row and then we had the terrible pandemic, but then we had this awful tragedy, a mass shooting in my constituency, and I was asked on television as the Member of Parliament, “Is it too soon to talk about more gun control,” and I said, “it's never too soon to talk about more gun control if it's going to save lives of our citizens.” They got hold of that and they said they were going to take me down in the next election, and I started getting death threats, and I had defense for like a year.  My niece died, and then I ran for election and I lost my seat, so I was devastated. I was really, really depressed, and then X-Men called it to come to me, my accent to me, my X-Men, it was like “You can't make this stuff up.” I feel like it's one of those moments where it's the right time. Everything happens for a reason. It was great that I was available. I went through a lot of pain to be available, but I was available.

(NPN): How did you apply your personal experiences to some of the scenes that we see in ‘97? 

Zann: I mean, I have lived, I have fully lived, and I have experienced a lot of the high points and the low points of life. And to be honest, when I set out when I was a young person, I wanted to do that. I wanted to experience everything because I felt that if I experienced everything, then I could put that into my work as an actor. And it would just make it that much more, give it that much more depth and make it more attentive. So now I have this pool of experiences deep inside me to draw from when I'm performing. And it makes my job much easier, to be honest. I also believe that really good acting and really good storytelling can lead an audience to a cathartic experience where they can be taken away from their own lives and lifted to this sort of spiritual place, where they experience whatever the character is going through. And they feel it. They are, in that way, able to feel their feelings and other emotions that maybe they've repressed or they just haven't dealt with. We're able to do that and then bring them back down to Earth again. Hopefully, they can find healing in that. That's what I hope that I could do with episodes five and seven in particular.

(NPN): How does it feel to be telling these more mature and darker storylines as compared to the original series? The original show was a Saturday morning kids cartoon so I can only imagine the limitations to the stories you guys were able to tell back in the 90’s. 

Zann: We've never talked down to an audience; we've always elevated them to think about things from a different level. Our audience, we believe, is a lot of the children of the 90s who are now older and have kids of their own, some of them, many of them. And the world has changed, and we've seen so much destruction and wars and hatred and bigotry and all of these ugly things rising yet again. And so it's very easy to lose hope and to be overwhelmed by all the enormity of what's going on around us. So I think this new show addresses that and also is going to give people hope that we can change things. And it's a story, you have to follow the storyline. It will take you down some very different and dark paths, but you have to ultimately believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. And I believe that, and I've been through that in my own life, so I know that we can do that with this show as well.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Animation

(NPN): I love that and it's a great way to look at the show - I have more of a fun question that folks fight about every day, they want to know… Remy or Magneto? 

Zann: I believe Remy is Rogue's soulmate, and I believe they are star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet, only, they act out their passionate play on a whole different level or in a different universe. And true love is true love no matter what, the person is alive or they've passed. I know that everybody's broken-hearted about Remy, as am I. But again, what I would say to the fans is that this is a story, let it play out and keep the faith.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Animation

(NPN): I have to ask, you know, what does it feel like when you get the script and you know you're reading it and you're seeing all of these darker moments play out? What was your reaction to that? 

Zann: I was as shocked as everybody else and brokenhearted, and I just took it for what it was. I took it for a reality that had happened. And sadly, I mean, as I said, my niece had just died eight months before, and she was only 17, so I'd already wrestled with the whole thing of fairness and how come some people live to be a hundred and some people die at 17 before they've even had a chance to live their life. So it just touched my heart and my soul, and I was able to use it to express my grief and also to hopefully help others heal, and that's how I saw it. I just hope that because of the pandemic and everything, so many people have experienced loss. I felt like, well, the show is now just showing what happens in real life and allowing people to feel the feelings that are associated with losing somebody that you, truly, deeply loved. 
And there was this moment with Magneto on the dance floor when we were dancing, we touched and we kissed. Rogue has made up her mind for the greater good, she's going to do this, like to help all of the mutants and also because she wants to have a life with somebody whom she can maybe even have children with at some point. So she kisses him, but then she pulls back, and the first line is, “Sorry, thanks for the dance, sugar”. And then they had another line, but I said, “Hey, Beau, how about if I repeat what Remy said earlier in the episode and I say, ‘Thanks for the dance, sugar, but Remy was right, some things are deeper than skin,’” and he went, “oh my God, that's it, do that.” I just felt like it expressed so much to so many, and including people in real life, it's like, yeah, it's deeper than skin, yeah, yeah, right, it's so much deeper than skin, oh my gosh, all right. So I thought it good that I was able to contribute to that moment, you know, and then, of course, the fans are upset that she never got a chance to, tell Remy, by the way, I'm coming back to you, I'm not with him anymore, you know, they just start going on trying to have to say, people, yeah, I'm thinking about to episode 5, not just so good, so good, all right. I mean, it's like watching a movie, isn't it, like people say that, it's not like watching a cartoon at all, it's like they feel like these are living breathing characters.

(NPN): Exactly, I can't wait until everything is out so I can rewatch everything and just like one continuous watch.

Zann: Yeah, I can't wait!

(NPN): We know there's only so much you can say and we know how they are at Marvel - is there one word to describe, you know, what to expect for next week for Rogue, and what fans should expect for next week? 

Zann: Well, I would just reiterate that at this point that Rogue has a purpose now. She has a new purpose, a newfound purpose and that purpose is really to get justice for Remy, for all those other mutants that were murdered. That's her modus operandi and that will continue, so just you know all I can say is hold on to your hat.

(NPN): I also have to ask you about the MCU. Are you an MCU fan? Do you get the chance to watch those movies? Have you been following? 

Zann: Well, I love the Marvels, I do. I loved it, I loved it, I loved that so much fun. Oh, it was so much fun, I laughed, I cried, it was great, it was great to see those three incredible actresses for one thing, and you know, and I was really sad that people just sort of wrote it off so fast and then even seen it really and even the people that were like well I didn't even get that cats one, I'm like it was brilliant the cats music started playing and I mean I've done Broadway musicals right so I mean yeah, you know, I'm a musical babe so it, I loved it, I loved everything about it. I have enjoyed all of their recent movies, the Multiverse of Madness, I loved that one. I was lucky at Christmas time. I went home to Australia where I'm originally from and spent Christmas and New Year's with my Australian cousins. They love Marvel and they have a big home screen like a home theatre in their home so we sat every night would watch Marvel movies and we just had the best time. 

(NPN): Would you be willing to maybe ever bring your character Rogue into any other of the different animation series? There’s a Spider-Man series coming up, there's Eyes of Wakanda coming up and we have What If season 3. Would you ever be interested in pulling your character into any of those projects or any, you know, new projects?

Zann: Of course, I mean that would be fun. It would be fun. I mean, I love the crossover into Spidey [90’s show]... But I'd love to see like a feature film, an animated feature film, yeah, you know, I love that.  We were able to see [X-Men ‘97] on the screen, on the big screen, so we saw the first episode and I'll probably be at El Capitan Theater, Hollywood Theater, but I loved watching it and the fans just went crazy, so I think from what I've heard from fans that an X-Men animated feature film would go over extremely well, so I'm hoping that that might happen at some day. I think people are more open to the idea. 
One other thing I just like to say too is as a woman I appreciate the opportunity to show a really strong Kick-Ass woman who takes no prisoners, but it was also vulnerable. You know, that her greatest strength which is her ability to touch people and drain them of all their life forces and take it upon herself and become even stronger is also her Achilles heel, in Greek tragedies oftentimes the hero has an Achilles heel which is a fatal flaw, and her flaw is her strength is her weakness in that she just, she can never be closed to anyone, she can never let her guard down and allow herself to fall in love and to be with somebody which makes her so alone and makes her go through life as kind of a lone wolf, so I think that that it's just made for a very interesting character and one that I think the world needs to see.

(NPN): Have you started recording your lines for Season 2?

Zann: I have yes! I've done them yes. Of course, we keep being drawn back to do like ADR and make little changes here and there, but yes, I've done my lines and I love it. It's an incredible script, see, you're gonna love it, the same as this one, it's just fantastic. 


Be sure to catch up on the first 9 episodes of X-Men ‘97 before the season 1 finale premieres May 15th on Disney+. Follow @XMenUpdate & @NexusPointNews for all the latest X-Men news!


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