CS Interview: AJ Michalka Talks Catra’s Fate in Season 5 of She-Ra
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 5 is now streaming on Netflix, and luckily ComingSoon.net got the chance to speak with AJ Michalka, who plays the complicated villain Catra, about her character’s fate, what fans can expect from the final season and what it’s like waiting for fans to see the final product. MINOR SPOILERS WARNING!
In Season 5, the ruthless Horde Prime has arrived and without the Sword of Protection and She-Ra, the Rebellion are facing their toughest challenge yet. In this epic conclusion unexpected adversaries are confronted and relationships are tested, broken and changed forever. Will Adora and the Princesses of Power be able to save their planet? Or will the universe succumb to the evil might of Horde Prime before love can conquer hate?
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is the story of an orphan named Adora (Aimee Carrero, Elena of Avalor), who leaves behind her former life in the evil Horde when she discovers a magic sword that transforms her into the mythical warrior princess She-Ra. Along the way, she finds a new family in the Rebellion as she unites a group of magical princesses in the ultimate fight against evil.
Based on the 1980s cartoon (available for purchase here), the series debuted to highly positive reviews from audiences and critics alike, who praised the colorful and beautiful animation alongside the diversity of characters, including well-executed LGBT representation, and the character development itself.
Carrero stars as Adora/She-Ra, Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad) as Glimmer, AJ Michalka (The Goldbergs) as Catra, Marcus Scribner (black-ish) as Bow, Reshma Shetty (Royal Pains) as Angella, Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black) as Shadow Weaver, Keston John (The Good Place) as Hordak, Lauren Ash (Superstore) as Scorpia, Christine Woods (Hello Ladies) as Entrapta, Genesis Rodriguez (Time After Time) as Perfuma, Jordan Fisher (Grease Live!) as Seahawk, Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as Mermista, Merit Leighton (Katie and Alexa) as Frosta, Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) as Castaspella, and Krystal Joy Brown (Motown: The Musical) as Netossa.
From Eisner Award-winning author and executive producer Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes, Nimona) and executive producer Chuck Austen (Dawn of the Croods, Steven Universe) comes a modern take on the ‘80s girl power icon for a new generation of young fans.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power seasons 1-5 are available for streaming on Netflix.
ComingSoon.net: What was it like playing Catra for the final time?
AJ Michalka: Oh my gosh. I remember the last, like official session farewell, and I think seeing a character, you know, you don’t get to always see a full arc play out because television changes constantly and it’s fickle and it lasts and it doesn’t it gets canceled and then it comes back or it just doesn’t continue. And we’ve been able to really see this full story play out. So you know, for one, I’m really excited, and I felt really, really going in there, knowing that Catra was able to tell her full story. But then, you’re of course like, oh my gosh, like, I love these people. So I’m hoping, you know, who knows? Fans can make anything happen, and I’ve always thought, oh, this show could continue in another way. Who knows? I want to play Catra for many years. I love this role. But you know, we are coming to a close now, and I think that we’ve all had a great opportunity to tell a wonderful story and that’s really due in part to Noelle. So I am thrilled. It was a bittersweet day recording the last session and I’m really excited for it to come out.
CS: Did you know the whole overarching plan or story from the beginning?
Michalka: You know, I think just due to keeping everything under wraps and also writers building out big arcs. We know season to season, but we don’t know full stories for one, two, three, four, five, until we’re much closer to that season. So for us, Noelle gives us the big, broad strokes for a season as we go through it episode by episode. We really don’t know where these are going to end. From the beginning to the end, we really are filling in the dots as we go, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in the final season as we work.
Noelle has been able to give us enough information where I think based on the writing and what we are able to do with these characters now that we know them so well, I am really excited about the performance because I feel like it was really what was necessary. And like I said, like we’re getting fed information as we go, we just don’t have like, full scripts necessarily until closer to recording. But I feel really good about the performance. I’m pretty sure every cast member, and I won’t speak for everyone, but I think we can all agree that all of our performances played out exactly as they were supposed to because we had a leader that knew exactly kind of where to tell us where to go.
CS: At this point, we’ve seen Catra go through so many different changes throughout this series, how do you think she has evolved throughout the show, and how have you evolved with her?
Michalka: You know, I think Catra, we see her become a woman and figure out what she wants and what side she wants to really play for in terms of is she a villain, is she a hero, what are her true motives? And I think at the end of the day, she just wants her friend back. And I think a lot of people can relate to, whether it’s a breakup or a friend that you had a falling out with and you haven’t had an opportunity to make amends, we all want redemption at the end of the day. We all want to save a friendship. And I think that’s something Catra really ends up going through as well as Adora. Definitely growing up, since I booked the show, I mean, it’s been a few years now and my career has changed. I’ve figured out how to work as a musician. I’m more confident in my work as an artist. So I feel my confidence plays a big role in Catra’s life as well as mine. And I think it’s kind of what serves her biggest purpose in this last season, which is finding redemption.
CS: What are the more personal aspects that you’re able to bring to Catra? Or maybe a better question would be like, what drew you to that character in the first place?
Michalka: I’m a huge fan of animated series, especially things that DreamWorks has created. And auditioning for that role was really exciting for me because I’d never really played a villain before, and I was really drawn to just the little details of that character. At first, when you’re auditioning, you’re only starting out with a few pages, and then eventually it gets further and you’re reading for more people and you have a little more information. And then you might see a picture of the character and you’re given very little, but enough to work with. And I just felt really comfortable with this role. And I think you know, from the early stages, I think they just knew this was the right fit. And then, of course, once the actor brings their voice to the role, the writers get little hints and realize, oh, this is what the actor’s bringing to us. Let’s just start writing this in. So eventually, little characteristics and things you pull off get written in for you. And that’s when you know you have a great writing team, when they start really noticing the details of the actor and going, okay, I know her strengths. I know what she can bring to this character and let’s write for it.
CS: When did that moment happen for you? Was it right from the get-go, did you feel comfortable in these shoes? Or was it after a couple of episodes?
Michalka: Yeah, you know, I can’t remember like a moment where that all kind of hit for me, but I definitely would say like, mid-way through season one I started feeling way more comfortable with, even fight scenes and certain sounds that Catra makes. I mean, I’ve never had a cat. I’ve been around plenty of cats. I’m like a huge cat lover, but I’ve always grown up with a family with allergies, so I never had one growing up. We always had dogs. But this show has completely invigorated my love for cats, and I think knowing how passionate Noelle is about her cats, it’s like almost helped me when I have to do like the cat noise or something that’s very cat centric. So it’s been really fun for me. And I think that my comfortability just grew and grew and it was a very safe environment. I mean, I think our entire writing staff is female. It’s a very female-driven show made by females for females and males as well, but I think that this show really puts women and our strengths at the forefront, and that’s what really drew me to the role initially. But now that my comfortability is there, I’m like, okay, I can do this for many more seasons.
CS: What’s it like once you’ve wrapped it up, having to wait for so long to see it actually play out in front of audiences?
Michalka: Oh my gosh. That wait kills me. I think the biggest thing is making sure like, everyone stays silent and there’s no spoilers. But I’m pretty patient. I mean, I guess I feel like after knowing where this show ends, there was this excitement rumbling as I got out of the studio that I was like, wow, I can’t wait for the fans to see this. And then, it is that anxiety leading up to the finale premiere, I was very anxious about this coming out, and I’m excited we’re finally here. I kind of think it dropped in a perfect moment. And I hope people that haven’t even watched ever are introduced to the show for the first time because of this final season, and they can go back and binge all five together. But yeah, I’ve been definitely anxious, but you know, I’ve been good about keeping things secret and under wraps. And I’m excited to unleash all of that soon.
CS: Are you still surprised by the results that you see on screen?
Michalka: Definitely because a lot of times we’re not recording obviously any animation, so we might see an animatic, a statue that moves, but you’re not really seeing things in their full form until you’re back in there for ADR, which you don’t always have to do a ton of. So a lot of times, we don’t see the final completed project. So when I sit down and watch a full episode, I’m able to see final animation and facial reactions and fight scenes and movement. That to me is when voice meets body and it’s just like, wow, that’s why animated television is so exciting. So it’s really thrilling for me and I have not really done much animated work and it’s something that I really love and want to do more of and I’m really lucky that this role kind of gave me the opportunity.
CS: So that was another question I was going to ask is you’ve had a career full of a lot of variety. You were in Super 8 you were in The Goldbergs and now She-Ra. What would you say is your ideal dream project having been involved with all of those different things? Are you more partial to big screen motion pictures, voice acting, TV shows? Or do you prefer the smaller scale projects?
Michalka: Oh my gosh. I mean, you know as an actor and someone who just wants to entertain and perform and keep working, you can’t really be picky. But I’ve been so lucky to kind of get my hands in many areas of the industry, whether it’s going on tour, releasing a record, doing animated television. I’m now the star of a show on ABC, which I’m thrilled to be a part of. I would love to do more film. A lot of times my year is filled up with nine months of shooting and then three months of touring or making a record, so I don’t really—I don’t honestly have the time to even fit in anything else. But I think for me it’d be really fun during a hiatus to do something on stage. I would love to do more theater, which I’ve definitely dabbled in a little bit, but never really done anything off-Broadway. I would love to dig my hands into a great play, something that really excites me. But yeah, film is also something that is really exciting. I think film is hard because there is a giant, giant tentpole release and then there’s the really little, you know, tiny, tiny indies that are wonderful, and then there’s a ton in between that’s sometimes not great. You have to be choosy about what you want to do. I actually think there’s almost more opportunity in TV right now. But I’m open to it all, big screen, small screen.
CS: Jumping back to She-Ra, how would you describe the final season and how do you think it’ll live up to the expectations of fans of the show?
Michalka: The final season is really triumphant. I mean, it’s like big television, but on a small screen. It’s crazy. The stories are big. I mean, the arcs that get finished up are really, really detailed. The final season is about redemption and remorse and figuring out exactly who you are and what you want in life and getting that. And I think all these characters have a moment to kind of wrap up. I really hope that it lives up to the hype. I honestly think it will. I think it does. I think the amount of detail and authenticity in this show has really piqued everyone’s interest and it’s why people are staying engaged. And I think when we finish this season out, it’s going to be known as some really, really influential animated television. I’m really excited, but we’ll have to let the fans decide.
CS: In a perfect world, where do you think Catra and Adora would end up?
Michalka: I think that they would end up back together as best friends, living their best life in the BFF best friend forever squat. I think between Glimmer and Bow and Adora and Catra, that to me sounds like a whole other show. You know it’s like the foursome of really strong people and strong characters. So I just want to see them become friends again, and then I’m happy.