Note: Season Three spoilers and mild Season Four spoilers of Star vs. the Forces of Evil below
I’ve been a fan of watching fun-spirited rebel princess Star Butterfly and her partner-in-doing-good Marco Diaz get themselves in and out of trouble since 2015 when a 14-year-old Star accidentally set the Mewni castle on fire with her magic wand and was sent to Earth to train. However, I hadn’t been able to watch the third season as it aired on television. But luckily, so it goes in life, I found out that the third season was finally available on Hulu and I just so happened to find this out slightly before receiving a request to interview Adam McArthur, the voice of Marco Diaz.
Call it a sign or a coincidence or whatever else it is you can think of–Adam calls it fate when I tell him about this at the start of our conversation. We talk on a Wednesday afternoon over the phone all about season 4 of Star vs. the Forces of Evil (or at least the most he can say without giving too much away), reflecting on being Marco Diaz, and the impact of the fandom. He describes later on in the interview that he’s sitting in his office which features a display case filled with toys of his favorite characters from the likes of Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and more.
Starting the interview off, I ask him what Adam calls the “question of the hour for everyone”: the premiere date for season 4. He shares that he’s limited to only saying it’ll premiere in 2019 and is relaunching on Disney Channel instead of Disney XD to expand its audience. “I think what they’re trying to figure out is when they’re gonna schedule the lead up to season 4. What they’re gonna do is completely re-air seasons 1, 2, and 3 on Disney Channel to hopefully get some new eyes on the show,” he explains. “And the fans can re-live the first three seasons before we go into the epic fourth season that will shatter everyone’s lives because it’s that amazing,” he teases.
Star Vs. the Forces of Evil is without a doubt an adventure/fantasy. But, it can also be classified as a coming-of-age story for the protagonists of the show. And throughout the show, we’ve seen a balance of that as the characters juggled crushes and puberty (mewberty in Star’s case), learning how to ride a bike, and trying to live up to parents expectations. Meanwhile, the characters were also taking down an oppressively uptight school for wayward princesses, trying to undo generations of mewmans looking down on monsters, and defeating determined villains, some of whom complicated for the characters the lines between good and bad.
“The thing is, some of the stuff that they go through, that might seem more mundane, is pretty important to them. It’s a lot of life stuff that people their age kind of go through,” Adam explains. “There’s still gonna be stuff like that so that we can get further character development and it’s not all just about the plot. But some of the bigger issues and some of the really big story points are also gonna be explored,” he says adding that the new season continues to offer a good balance while also raising the stakes on all of it.
Picking up right where season 3 left off, Adam first hesitantly describes the theme of the new season as ‘expect the unexpected’ before quickly taking that back. “You know how when you’re watching a show and you’re like, ‘Aw man, this is so good.’ And then something happens and you’re like, ‘Wait…what?’,” he starts. “It sort of just makes everything that’s already happened mean something slightly different but at the same time, it’s slightly the same. And then it kind of goes like in a way you were sort of expecting it to but that you never imagined it would.”
I mention that fans have speculated the Blood Moon potentially playing a bigger part in the show and ask if that may be something he’s alluding to, to which he responds, “The writers and everything, they pay attention. Everything is in there for a reason. Anything that seems important–I mean, you can watch anything and when you see something that sort of gets made a big deal of–it’s usually for a reason. So I’ll just say that.”
On that note, I also bring up a moment that happens in season 3 where, in the midst of the action, Marco uses Star’s wand and not only does the wand change, but Marco’s cheeks glow with green moon’s similar to that of Star’s and the other women in the Butterfly family.
“I probably had the same reaction the fans had when I saw/read that. I think I screamed while I was recording,” he admits. “See, the benefit though that I have is that usually Daron (Nefcy), the creator of the show, she’s in the room–or on the other side of the glass recording. So, I can be like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second! I’m gonna need a little bit of an explanation.’ And thankfully, she’ll kind of tell me what’s going on because I have the same questions.”
“As far as going forward, what that means, I can’t really say. But, I think it’ll be pretty cool to see some more of that,” he shares about the scene. However, he does reveal that there’s a relation to that moment and the fact that, as we’ve seen in the SDCC sneak peek, Star is now able to use her powers from her hands now. “It kind of goes back to some of the lore of the show and how magic works and doesn’t work,” Adam continues. “And it will all be explained.”
Season three marked a shift in the show location-wise as Star returned home to Mewni and Marco followed with taking on the role of her squire. “I think it’s interesting because we sort of see at the beginning of the series, Star steps out of her comfort zone and how she deals with that. Then, because of her responsibility and her ultimate calling, she’s called back to Mewni and we see Marco go back with her and sort of a reversal of roles,” he recaps.
“But, what’s cool about that is it makes both of the characters really stretch. We get to see them in uncomfortable places and dealing with things neither of them are used to. So, it’s been really fun from a voice acting standpoint to kind of go through that journey with Marco to see how he goes from sort of leading Star along and showing her the ropes–even though some great stuff happened on Earth–to being her squire and all that stuff too,” Adam explains about the shows predominant location switch. He adds that this comes together in a cool way in the new season.
I’m not gonna say it gets easier for them and they sort of just have to learn and adapt and see what happens. It’s gonna be really cool, but it’s not gonna get easier.
Star and Marco living in Mewni create a different kind of pressure for the two with Star learning more about the royal bloodline last season and taking on what it means to be a good princess and a good leader. But, while Star works to bring the Mewmans and Monsters together, we see the Mewmans trusting the Butterfly family less and, as seen in the season 4 sneak peek revealed at NYCC, looking at them as a joke.
“I think it’s always interesting to see people that you care about having a difficult time and see how they react. Really, what’s cool is with this show, we have an opportunity to see them put in so many difficult and weird dimensions, situations, or tough places,” says Adam. “All of that which allows us to see how they handle it which ultimately, we learn more about the characters. And if it’s a character that we love, it helps us love them even more because we get to know more about them.”
Adam shares that he likes the direction the show is going regarding that aspect during season 3 and where it goes in season 4, “I’m not gonna say it gets easier for them and they sort of just have to learn and adapt and see what happens. It’s gonna be really cool, but it’s not gonna get easier.”
The show’s main setting on Mewni can also add potential conflict (pure speculation on my end) with the reveal of Marco becoming a big brother. Adam shares that he can’t talk specifically about what happens inside the show, so instead, to think about how anyone would process becoming an older sibling while being apart. “Look, if I had a new sibling on the way, I would feel very responsible and I’d want to be there for them and take good care of them and all that stuff. So, I’m sure Marco is gonna have to deal with those feelings,” he says. “While at the same time, having to deal with things that feel even bigger, at least in the moment, so it’ll be interesting to see how he navigates all of those things and how it all ends up in the end.”
In season 3, we also found Marco and Star kissing for the first time under unplanned circumstances in a photo booth where they thought it was the only way they could escape. And then a guilty Marco confessed to Tom about the kiss after Tom declared him his best friend. “I mean, it is all so complicated. When you get these many different personalities all mixed together and there are romantic feelings involved and friendship feelings involved and best friends and all this stuff, I mean, I think we can all relate to some level of their interaction,” he starts about what’s happening between Tom, Marco, Star, and Kelly.
“I really, really enjoy where Marco and Tom’s friendship/hatred for each other continues to progress. I mean, it’s always fun to have that character, or that friend even, who you guys can fight but at the same time, you’re like, ‘Alright, we’re gonna be fine’ kind of thing.” Adam explains that he can’t give too much away in terms of just how exactly Marco, Star, and Tom processing the fact that Marco and Star kissed will play out in the new season. Instead, he wants everyone to enjoy the ride that season 4 offers without already knowing completely what to expect.
But, as the self-proclaimed (and/or fandom-proclaimed?) King of the Starco ship, Adam is able to share why he personally roots for the two to be together. “I just think it’s adorable that when two people start off as friends and they have to go through all these crazy things together and they end up together. I don’t know, it’s just so sweet,” Adam excitedly explains. “I mean, Marco–it’s so obvious that he cares about her and really just wants to take care of her. But, he also totally respects that she has a learning process and wants to do things kind of her way.”
Adam describes Star as someone who is “all over the place” in terms of life as compared to Marco who unlike Star has yet to outwardly reveal his feelings. “But, she’s one of those people who so much stuff is going on for that she doesn’t necessarily, in my opinion, she doesn’t really have time for a romantic relationship. She’s too busy. She’s got a lot of things going on her plate,” he explains.
“But, she’s one of those people who, in my opinion–I’m not saying this happens, I’m just saying this is why I like them–I feel like she’s going to be one of those people who is gonna stop one day and have a second to breathe and then dust is gonna settle and she’s gonna look and see through all the settling dust and fog that someone has been there with her the entire time and she’s gonna see Marco,” Adam continues.
And as an exclamation with what can only be described as if caps lock and fandom keyboard smash could be a voice, Adam perfectly concludes his point as he declares: “And they’re just so adorable, they belong together!!!! They’re so cute!!!”
Another dynamic that Adam really loves to see Marco in is the growing companionship we see him getting with King River. With a laugh, Adam explains, “It’s just, King River is so wild. I mean, he is the older male version of Star in a lot of ways. So, it’s always fun to see Marco hang out with him.” Along with hoping for those two to have more adventures together, he also hopes to see Marco and Hecapoo have their own inter-dimensional adventures as well.
Meanwhile, in terms of characters on the show that he thinks deserves more fan love, he chooses Ludo, due to how funny he finds him.
I’m very grateful to be a part of the show and to lend a voice to a character that is so unique in that there are lots of different versions of him and all that stuff.
Despite the show coming out in 2015, Adam has been tied to Star vs. the Forces of Evil for about five years. “Marco’s been pretty consistent from the beginning,” Adam reflects. “I mean, it’s always cool to see him embrace new situations and I think that might not have been something that would be expected of him if you’re watching, like, season one Marco. I mean, when he dressed up as Princess Turdina to infiltrate St. Olga’s and all that stuff, he really takes it seriously. He’s not reluctant to dress as a princess and start a revolution. He kind of embraces it all. That’s one thing that’s been surprising to me–not just that situation, that’s just an example,” he further explains adding that having Marco become more willing to step out of his “safe kid” expectation has shown his development.
“He’s grown up and he’s getting used to some of this stuff and he’s not afraid to protect Star and fight back and stand up for what’s right and all this stuff. It’s been really cool to see him go from this safe kid who was really worried about grades and all that stuff to this young man who is really stepping up to the plate.” Adam brings up the episode, “Running With Scissors” as an example of how Marco isn’t completely the same as who he was in the beginning, “It’s cool to see all that stuff. And that has been completely unexpected from the beginning to where we are now and it’s been a lot of fun to play.”
In terms of interpreting Marco (both young and old), Adam explains that it’s very collaborative because animation is so collaborative. “Of course, I have artistic freedom to make choices and Daron and the executive directors and producers, crew, casting department, and everyone at Disney is very, very encouraging of me sort of bring to the table what they originally saw in me as far as that goes but it’s not completely up to me. So when it seems like maybe it’s hard, they’re able to steer me in a direction that gives more clarity.” He credits the people behind the glass which includes Daron as well as the show’s voice director Kelly Ward for helping shape the creative vision. “We’re all sort of collaboratively able to get to a place where I’m feeling artistically fulfilled–like I’m doing Marco justice and they’re getting what they want from me as well,” Adam adds that it’s thanks to the people working behind the scenes on the show for why portraying Marco isn’t difficult.
The fan love for Marco Diaz is evident for more reasons than one. Similar to the other characters on the show, people love Marco’s personality and his ability to grow. But, there are also trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive fans who have shared online that they identify with Marco and appreciate Marco’s comfort with being Princess Turdina when the time comes on the show. “It’s definitely something that I’ve noticed and that I’ve seen. Fans, obviously as you know, are very vocal. This is something that’s really beautiful about shows and characters in general: what I identify with on the show and what I lean towards or what someone else leans towards or what you lean towards or what my mom leans towards could be completely different. But, it’s something there for everybody,” Adam says when I mention this to him. “And if that’s how you interpret a character or a storyline or a plotline and it’s positive for you, I think that’s amazing.”
“I think what I love about what the creative team has done is they sort of do things in a way that aren’t so defined that it alienates anybody. But instead, it sort of includes anybody and it sort of gives everybody somebody or something to identify with. And for that, I’m very grateful to be a part of the show and to lend a voice to a character that is so unique in that there are lots of different versions of him and all that stuff,” Adam continues. “I think Disney in general, with this show, does a really good job just sticking with their policy of creating shows that are inclusive for everybody and families and all that,” he praises the network and their efforts.
Aside from Star Vs. the Forces of Evil, Adam has lent his voice to multiple video games and animation including Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The LeBrons, and The Adventures of Puss in Boots. So, the world of cartoons is nothing new for Adam. But, his love for cartoons and stories about action and adventure extend far past the start of his career. “I grew up at a time where I loved Ninja Turtles and pretty much anything else: Thundercats, Transformers, G.I. Joe. And then, of course, there were amazing shows that came out in the 90s: Darkwing Duck, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers. I literally watched them all and what I would do is when I was younger, I would just sit there and imitate them,” Adam recalls including that there isn’t necessarily one voice performer from his childhood that he’d credit influencing his voice acting.
Anytime someone is affected by something that I’ve done when I’m literally just having fun and enjoying what I do for a living and enjoying my job, I’m so grateful for those moments.
“Sadly, DVRs didn’t exist at that time. So nothing was recorded unless I had an extra VHS tape lying around. But yeah, the crazy thing too is now, it’s so easy to when you like a show, go online and find out who voices what,” Adam explains having grown up a Saturday Morning cartoon kid. “So back when I was a kid, it literally never occurred to me–and I don’t even know that I would have been able to easily figure out who voiced what had I gone and looked cause I don’t know where I would have looked.”
Adam acknowledges Rob Paulson and his career which has ranged from the original Ninja Turtles to the 2012 one and voice directing the latest one as well as voicing Pinky from Pinky and the Brain and Wacko in Animaniacs. “He was incredible, so I look at all these guys and I just sort of try and less emulate voices and more emulate professionalism that I see displayed by my peers who have been in the industry a long time,” he says. “Because I think professionalism, even in an industry where we’re making voices and doing goofy stuff all the time, is incredibly rare. So, I always wanna be the person who is easy to work with and shows up ready to work and is good at their job.”
Like Marco, Adam is also a martial artist, having trained since he was young, something that was merely a coincidence (…or a sign or fate) considering Marco was always intended to be interested in the practice being obsessed with Dragon Ball Z and karate. So aside from the cartoons of the 80s and 90s, Adam also shares that he loved Power Rangers.
In terms of getting to be a voice and play a character that is influential and iconic in so many childhoods, Adam says that it’s surreal to experience. “I actually had a conversation with Rob Paulson recently, he said one of the coolest things is when someone comes up to you and says that they admire you for a project you voiced. And he said at this point for him, he’s had people say that they enjoyed stuff that he did 30-years-ago. And that’s just mind-blowing,” he reflects.
“For me personally, one of the things that I’ve sort of hoped for myself in the entertainment industry is that I could sort of do projects that would always make people happy and that I wouldn’t ever have to be ashamed of or be like, ‘Ah man, my mom/family see this.’ You know? Anything like that. And I’m so incredibly proud of Star vs. the Forces of Evil and, like I said, sort of how there’s something in it for everyone.”
Adam admits that seeing the fan response regarding how much the show has meant to people and impacted people means a lot to him, laughing as he describes himself as a pretty emotional guy, “I just appreciate people and I understand that everyone just kind of goes through things and we all have our things and all that stuff. So anytime someone is affected by something that I’ve done when I’m literally just having fun and enjoying what I do for a living and enjoying my job. I’m so grateful for those moments.”
“I’ll always be the person who takes the extra minute at the convention to stop and take a photo or chat with somebody. I love hearing these stories and I’m incredibly grateful that I’m anywhere near any kind of position where someone is looking at something I’m doing and appreciating it,” Adam says. “Because, you know, not everyone is fortunate enough, so I’m incredibly grateful.”
Bonus Fan Questions:
Teenplicity: If you could play another Star character, who would it be?
Adam McArthur: Ludo
Teenplicity: Wet socks on your feet for the rest of your life or not drinking boba tea anymore?
AM: Oh! Oh! That is messed up. But it’s messed up because it’s such an easy question for me to answer. I would choose wet socks for the rest of my life. There’s no way I’d go without drinking boba. But I know what that entails and having wet socks for the rest of my life. That’s messed up whoever asked that question.
Teenplicity: I was told by the person who sent this question, that this could change the face of animation based on the way you answer it, so no pressure. Would a laser puppy wear pants on their two hind legs or on all four?
AM: Only it’s hind legs. That’s the only correct answer to that question.
Teenplicity: Interesting…how did you come to that conclusion?
AM: If you think about it logically, it makes sense–okay think about this: if you were to stand on your arms, like your hands, and your feet at the same time and you put something on your arms and your feet that were all connected and you stood up, think about how ridiculous that’d look. But if you just have on pants like normal, then it’s regular. So, why would I choose anything different for those sweet little Barko Diaz puppies?
Want to hear the full answers/discussions to these three fan questions? Listen here:
Star Vs. the Forces of Evil returns on Disney Channel in 2019.