Panthro is back and living large, with fistfulls of nunchucks. The living legend makes his long-awaited return in tonight's episode of Thundercats on the Cartoon Network. We were lucky enough to get to talk to Kevin Michael Richardson, the veteran voice actor who's taking on the mighty role of Panthro.
Minor spoilers ahead. Plus check out a couple of clips from tonight's episode!
Kevin Michael Richardson is one of those voice actors you've heard in a million things. He's Kilowog in the new Green Lantern cartoon, and multiple characters in Transformers. He's also been in Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And he voices Cleveland Jr. in The Cleveland Show.
He told us he likes playing Panthro, as a chance of pace from some of the lighter roles he's done. "He's more serious, instead of the more silly, goofy, funny side [of] Cleveland, Jr. I love playing this guy. Panthro is very cool. He's this hero, which I always like. [He's] a little bit of a badass, and it's a great honor to play him, because I felt Earle Hyman did a great job of playing him [in the original cartoon.]"
And Richardson is especially thrilled because they're letting Panthro keep a lot of his cool stuff, including the nunchucks. And the Thundertank, which he especially loves. "If that sucker comes out as a radio-controlled tank, I'm going to be all over that." But Richardson stresses that he's not trying to copy Earle Hyman's performance, because Hyman "was so good, he did the role such justice that I didn't want to mess with that... I tried to do my own different take on him, and it worked out."
Panthro is going to be more of a mentor to the other Thundercats, especially now that Lion-O is younger in this version. In the original series, Lion-O was put into stasis but his stasis tube cracked and he grew older — but the new version has a completely different take on Lion-O's history, and Lion-O is still a teenager this time around. Richardson says he has great chemistry with Will Friedle, who voices Lion-O. Unlike some other series, Thundercats records all the voices as an ensemble, so there's a great opportunity to build chemistry with the other castmembers. "As long as you have a great director like Andrea Romano, you're in good hands," says Richardson.
Richardson adds that Panthro is going to have some unfinished business with Grune, who double-crossed him early in the series when the two of them went out on a mission to find the Book of Omens. There will be some flashbacks filling in Panthro and Grune's past together, while Panthro tries to settle the score with Grune in the present. You'll have to watch to see if Panthro and Grune "come to fisticuffs," says Richardson.
This version of Thundercats "definitely has an apocalyptic feel, especially when you see what happened to their fortress, to their land," says Richardson. "They're all grieving. They're carrying this huge experience that happened to them. They're going to have to find food, they have to survive, they have to fix the tank. They have to find this stone, that stone... it's definitely not a boring life. It shows their struggle, which is good. Each victory they have is well earned, it's well deserved. I's not, 'Hey, we saved the day, let's go home and have cookies.'"
Here are two clips from tonight's episode: