Lost In Oz: A Sitdown With Nika Futterman

by Matthew Mueller

There are pretty high odds that voice actor Nike Futterman has been part of one of your favorite projects with a creadit list that includes Hey Arnold and Avatar The Last Airbender as well as Batman Brave and the Bold to go with Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Suffice it to say that Futterman has enjoyed a successful career thus far. More importantly, it shows no sign of stopping.

Her newest project is Lost in Oz is an exclusive animated movie now on Amazon Prime that will also be launched into a full animated series. Futterman recently chatted with ComicBook.com about the series, but first, it was time to go back to when she first started voice acting.

"I mean I've been doing it a long time now, but when I first moved to Los Angeles, I thought I was going to be doing funny TV like I really wanted to do MADTV or Saturday Night Live," she said. "That's what I thought the trajectory of my life was going to be. Comedy stuff and funny, weird television or something. I had no idea that voiceover existed. I never thought about it. I wasn't a big TV watcher and I just didn't know. I'm just kind of like a character actress.

"My manager at the time, said, 'You should do voiceover because you're such a whack job. It would be perfect for you.' I was like, 'Wow, people make a living doing that? That's so awesome.' I loved the fact that it was, just sort of ... You were anonymous. You could walk out into the world and nobody would know who you were."

While Futterman is active in the film and television world, she's also made quite a name for herself in the video game genre as well.

Her work has been featured in games like Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Skylanders, Star Wars: The Old Republic - Shadow of Revan, and StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void.

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(Photo: Amazon Prime)

Futterman loves both genres for different reasons but does love the interactivity when working with a full cast.

"Here there's big differences. I think the biggest thing that jumped to my mind right away is with Lost in Oz, we had this amazing cast and we all record together. You get to act and work off of each other," she said. "The cast is incredible and so it just makes you better and makes your acting better and makes the whole experience incredibly fun and you just get to ... When you're acting with somebody else, it brings up the best stuff that you can do. When you have a scene with somebody else you work off of each other and it ends up being really wonderful.

"Not that with video games -- I love doing video games too, they're so much fun -- but you do it by yourself, most of the time; you hardly ever record with anybody else. You have to imagine that you're in the scene with somebody because there are so many characters in video games, sometimes thousands of characters. They can't record everybody together, so they just record you alone. I have to pretend I'm talking to somebody else when I'm doing a video game. Also, a lot of the lines are you're talking to the player, or you're talking. Each line is sort of a separate thing. There's no continuity. It's just a very different experience, and it's super fun, but you'll be like, for certain games, "Get down!" "He's coming at me!" You do single lines like that for four hours straight."Her current project, Lost in Oz, has a special that is already available, but Futterman describes it as the tip of the iceberg compared to what they're doing in the full series."The thing about it is that it's such a different take on the whole Oz thing and it's so beautiful," she said. "Listen, the specials out now, it's awesome, I love it. I honestly have to say, we've done a lot more episodes that are going to be coming out. I don't want to give away too much, but it gets really good. I don't want to say it gets way better, because then that's saying that the special isn't good, but they had to put a lot of stuff, they had to just jam a lot of stuff into the special. It's amazing, but where it goes is awesome. Super, duper awesome. It's so much fun, it's action-packed, but it's beautiful."

"It's a beautiful story about friendship and finding yourself and your place in the world, and people's connection to each other and good and evil and the whole thing. It's got everything in it. It's one of my favorite shows I've ever worked on and I'm not just saying that now. I just really mean it. Everybody who's on the show, I'm not just talking about the actors who are amazing, but the creators are such wonderful people and they care so much about creating something that matters. The visuals are so stunning, so we've only seen a tiny ... you're only getting a little, little piece of it. It goes to places that are amazing and it's so beautiful, visually, I was like, "Wow, Amazon has thrown some juice behind this baby." It's so gorgeous. Really, because I work on a lot of shows and the animation is sometimes nice, but this animation is like, "What?" It's stunning. Watching it just for the artwork alone is worth it.

Lost in Oz won't just be a retread of the original film either, as it's easy to forget that there is so much other source material from which to draw from.

"I loved The Wizard of Oz growing up. I loved it. It's so funny because I haven't read all the books," Futterman said. "There's this whole world I didn't even know about. The thing that they're doing with the show is that you're going to meet so many characters that I don't even think people know exist, from the books, from the whole series. It's a whole series. Most people think it's just one book, but it's actually many books, so there are all these different characters that they're going to introduce. That they introduce throughout the whole series. That's where the adventure goes. I think that there's a lot of people, especially young people that feel like if they haven't seen Wizard of Oz ... If they have, they have no idea there's this whole other world, that's based on the book series."

Futterman plays the character of West, a name you might recognize as one of the most iconic characters from the beloved tale.

"West is, basically, when you meet them, she's young but I would say she's based on the Wicked Witch of the West. Hence, her name is West. You get a sense that from the beginning, she's good. Everybody's good. She is best friends with Dorothy, who's amazing," she said. "Dorothy played by Ashley, who's the sweetest, loveliest, she is really a teenager. I'm not really a teenager. She really is. She's amazing. Anyway, they have this really interesting relationship because West is this very edgy, I don't want to say ... She's not bitter at all, she's more just sort of like that dark teenager that looks at the world at an angle, kind of like she's always wondering where people are coming from, or she's ... She's just got edge to her."

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(Photo: Amazon Prime)

The character has a memorable legacy, but it will be interesting to see how this version adapts her from the original.

"She has power. She's very powerful, but she doesn't know how or why. She doesn't know how to harness her because she's capable of magic. Doing magical things, but she doesn't quite know what that means or how she's going to use that in her life," Futterman said. "She has these friendships with these different characters, mainly Dorothy, who help her to learn the power within herself and to use it for good. She struggles as any young person would, to figure out, what's the good part of her, the bad part of her, the dark things that she thinks about. Part of the adventure is her utilizing her magic for the good and not falling to the dark side."

"That's what the end show would be these adventures that she goes on with her friend, does bring up lots of things and she is constantly put into a situation where she could go to the dark side or the light side, either for good or for her bad. So far, what you know is that her friendships are the most important things to her. At this point in the story, that's where she is, but she had to learn that right away because she was always sort of a lone wolf. Then, once she meets Dorothy, it brings ... She has this new best friend and she looks at life in a different way than she was before, I think. She was the loner, edgy, goth chick in school. Then Dorothy shows up."

You can watch the Lost in Oz special now on Amazon Prime, and the series is expected sometime in early 2017. For more on Nika Futterman, you can always head over to her official website.

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