The Legend of Vox Machina wrapped its second season with the heroes collecting a number of powerful Vestiges of Divergence and defeating one dragon of the terrifying Chroma Conclave. During the second season, Vax makes a deal with the Matron of Ravens and eventually becomes her champion, donning the Deathwalker’s Ward, a Vestige of Divergence. The Legend of Vox Machina has been renewed for a third season, and Mighty Nein, an animated series based on Critical Role’s second campaign, has also been greenlit.
Liam O’Brien is one of the founders and cast members of Critical Role. He also stars in and is an executive producer on The Legend of Vox Machina. Critical Role began as a one-shot to celebrate O’Brien’s birthday and has grown into a multimedia company spanning the original actual play series along with spin-offs, comic books, novels, and animation.
Screen Rant spoke with O’Brien about Vax’s journey in the second season of The Legend of Vox Machina and how it was changed from the original campaign. He also teases how Vax will change going into season 3 and what fans can expect from the upcoming Mighty Nein series. O’Brien also talks about creating his current character, Orym, and the incredible journey of Critical Role, which has streamed over 300 episodes over the course of three campaigns.
Liam O’Brian on Legend of Vox Machina & Critical Role
Screen Rant: It’s such a good show. Liam, I’m so excited. But I have to start with a very serious question. How bad does the Deathwalker’s Ward smell by the end of the season?
Liam O’Brien: Well, he flies a lot. The ventilation on it is pretty good.
Gets aired out?
Liam O’Brien: Yeah. And he flies through cedar trees and fields of lavender, so I’m not too worried about it.
I remember during the first watch-along this year, you were talking about why it lights up yellow. I was just like, “Oh, that’s gonna be bad by the end of the season.”
Liam O’Brien: I think the group has a fixation with making sure that I know that all my characters in the stream smell bad. And I believe they made a point of pointing that out for the armor during the stream game as well. To the point where, either as a joke or seriously, I invented a box full of lavender that I kept it in eventually.
That’s amazing. I definitely remember during the first episode of campaign 2, Laura immediately was like, “Caleb smells bad.”
Liam O’Brien: Yeah. I didn’t think that was fair either. They all live on the road. None of them are regularly in a bath or shower. They all wear one outfit all the time.
That’s so true.
Liam O’Brien: But Laura is Laura. So, here we are.
I really love some of the changes you guys made to Vax’s story this year. One of the ones that really stuck out to me was this connection between the Matron of Ravens and Vax before the tomb, even in the first episode, where he sees her during the dragon attack. What inspired that change?
Liam O’Brien: Oh, well, it’s one of the benefits of the adaptation process. I think even during the game we would invent new aspects of the character that would then apply backward through all their history right up to the end of that game together. But when we went through the process of adapting for the screen, we knew exactly where the story was beginning and where it was ending. And that allowed us to sort of accentuate the beats of the story by doing things like that by foreshadowing or by moving or bringing elements in earlier later.
We talk about often with the show, it’s like we’re building a sleeker, faster car, out of all the parts of a bigger, longer train. So sometimes a part that works really well over here on the smaller vehicle is not going to work where it is. So we take it off and slide it over into this part and adjust it. Ultimately, getting to the same place, just having to be more economical and having all of that hindsight and forethought at our disposal.
One of the differences I really keyed into and enjoyed was in the actual play; the bargain Vax makes with the Raven Queen is very public, and everyone knows about it. Whereas in the animation, when he makes it with the Matron of Ravens, no one else is privy to it. We really see him struggling with this and isolating himself, and I thought that was such a cool way to use those two mediums and really lean into what you could do with them that was different.
Liam O’Brien: Right. Because with the game, everything was 100% narrated. But with film, TV, and animation, you can go more internally; you can be right inside the character’s head, sometimes just through lighting or just through composition.
I also loved that the Calamity got incorporated. What inspired that decision? Because that was very different and very cool.
Liam O’Brien: Matt’s been in love with the Calamity since before the rest of us fully grasped the weight of it. But I think all of us get jazzed by creative ideas. And anytime something pops up that we love in one corner of our world, we then love to see it threaded throughout all the other corners. And then I think that’s what makes a lot of what we do feel so real and lived in because there’s just all these little nuances and intricacies. Everything connects to everything for us.
We had EXU Calamity before this, and I was curious if that was purposeful so that we could get to know more about the Calamity and even meet Purvan before we met him in season 2.
Liam O’Brien: I think that is more in the realm of fate than planning. We have a lot of plates in the air. I don’t know that we could have landed it intentionally like that. It just kind of worked out. We started working on the animated series, and those aspects were getting woven in long before EXU Calamity game happened. So, things just aligned.
Wow, that feels like Critical Role in general. And one of those moments that I love from the campaign and from the show is when Vax fully accepts being the champion, and really stops being afraid of Matron of Ravens and death and everything. Can you talk about seeing that moment fully play out on screen?
Liam O’Brien: Oh, my gosh. Those moments from the game and the sort of imaginary space that we all created together have lived in my head rent-free since then and probably will to my dying breath. And the beauty of playing these games together, there are no limits to your imagination. So what I saw in my mind was expansive. However, the artists, the number of unparalleled artists working on the show managed to create a version of what we spun out of thin air that exceeded my imagination. This never goes away.
We watch the episodes; I’ve seen them so many times, and I get emotional watching them. I’m blown away. When we get to the kill box with Grog, I’m busting out of my seat every single time. It’s beyond words, it’s beyond price, really, and compare just how fortunate we feel. Having been able to make this, I’ll tell you what Vax goes through and what Matt gave me as a gift as a friend around the table connects in a way to everything we do. So it’s well known lore by now that, Sam and I had a harebrained idea to ask Matt if he would throw one-shot at my birthday. Just so we could have the experience of doing a dumb game one time. And it evolved into what it evolved into, to the point where we’re at that table.
We hit that moment in the story, and I was going through some oddly parallel stuff in my life at that time. And Matt gave me a gift, sort of inspired by the fact that I had kicked the game off years ago. And knowing what I was going through at that time, he took a moment and just sort of twisted it and made it into something very, very special. And Vax’s story, accentuated even further in the animated series, is about fate. And those golden threads which came out of those moments, and that story beat for Vax, applies to all of us. And in the animated series, when he meets the Matron, there’s a moment where you see the gold threads running through him, but it also runs through the rest of the party and beyond. And there’s a reason why those gold threads are in the opening of the show.
I know that the thread of fate originated with Vax in the story, but I think they have a lot of meaning for all of us. Because the very fact that we’re here making this show and now another show and doing all the things that we do we often marvel at all the little things that had to happen just right. If this person hadn’t met this person, or you hadn’t moved there, or we had never worked on that project together, none of this would have happened. So there are just many days, all days really, where we’re floored by the chance. Chance and fate are two sides of the same coin.
Honestly, without a doubt, you guys are some of my absolute favorite creators, and part of that is the generosity and storytelling you have with each other and the audience. I love how it ties into the threads of fate in the opening. Even the Raven at the beginning of the credits and in that moment is so amazing.
Liam O’Brien: Yeah the callback for that moment toward the end of season two where Vax has his leap of faith moment and the Raven from the opening, I rolled out of my chair, when I saw it for the first time. And I think with everything we do, we are hyper aware of how rare the opportunity that we’ve stumbled into to do this. We know it’s rare, and we don’t take it lightly. So, we’re trying to be worthy of it. And everyone in this circle, that I tell stories with, we work very hard and we care about each other.
And we care about what we create, and are thrilled to see the ripple effect into the world and to hear and see, for years now about other people playing games on their own and finding their own little ragtag families again, and again, and again. To create something that has value to you is massive, and then to have that mirrored and have other people care about it as well and take part in it, nothing else like it.
With the animated series, I love that I get to bring my other friends in because it’s understandably hard to be like, “Hey, watch 400 hours of content. It’s awesome!”
Liam O’Brien: It’s definitely a big ask. I do like a lot of people have watched the show have been gone and they dive right into the stream and watch it. But there’s also people who they don’t go that far. They don’t have those 400 hours. But I know plenty of people will go and find the moments that inspire the moments of the animated series are also all out there. So even on that level, a lot of people are going to compare. It’s really cool.
Yeah, it’s so much fun. And obviously, no spoilers for season 3, but Vax has this giant shift in perspective by the end. How does that change him moving forward?
Liam O’Brien: Vax in his past, growing up with his sister, has just been a day to day survive with the one person who matters most. And I’m trying to speak as broadly and generally as I can while being truthful about it. That it’s no longer about just him or just the two of them. It’s about his family, and it’s about even more than them. So, he has to move through the fear that he feels and embrace the responsibility that he and his friends have.
I love that. And then I am curious because Sam and Travis have co-written an episode every season; are you interested in writing an episode either for The Legend of Vox Machina season 3 or for Mighty Nein?
Liam O’Brien: I would love to. We’re all involved in the writing process to a degree. And I definitely have hopes to wade in with Sam and Travis. Aside from that, there are weeks where we get in and brainstorm and kick around ideas. All the cast looks at every script and weighs in and bounces ideas. And so I can point to things in every episode that came from one of us in the cast in the revision process. But we also have immense trust in Sam, Travis, and the writers on our show. Maybe in the very first days. These characters are so specific and precious to each of us that it was a trust fall. Bit of a leap of faith to be like “Okay, here you go. Fly with it,” but fly they did.
And then what are you looking forward to fans seeing with season 3 and with the Mighty Nein series coming?
Let’s see well with season 3. Obviously, we all want to tell the entire story. So, I think the best case scenario for all of us is that we don’t stop until we reach those final seconds of the story that we told her on the table together. I think that both seasons are amazing. I feel like season two upped the game. And knowing what’s possible, we don’t ever want to dial backward; we just want to climb higher. And I know that our team, all our artists, and Sam and Travis, who helmed this ship, have learned so much over the years and bigger and better.
As far as the Mighty Nein goes, that’s an entirely different kind of story. I don’t know if I have anything specific except that we dove into that story a little bit more knowing what was possible, but not entirely. When we started Campaign Two, it was still somewhere along that golden thread further back. So, we still didn’t really know where all this was going, but when we started the campaign, we went in with a different sort of storytelling frame of mind. And god, Campaign Two’s story was so juicy and intricate. I can’t wait to dig into, I mean, we have, and I can’t talk about it, but every day is the best.
I originally started Critical Role of Campaign Two before going back to Campaign One, so I’m so excited for the animated Mighty Nein series to come out, and I loved all the little Campaign Two Easter eggs throughout The Legend of Vox Machina.
Liam O’Brien: Yeah, again, everything connects to everything. If it exists over here, it can be referenced over here and probably will be.
I was actually discussing the overall essentially Critical Role universe and how animated series fit into it. Do you guys see it as specifically an adaptation? Or is it almost like a bard’s retelling of the events of Vox Machina?
Liam O’Brien: Well, that’s open to interpretation. It’s how you want to think of it. It could be just one-dimensional shift, an inch to the left, or it could be a bard’s retelling. It could be Grandpa Scanlon telling his kids about it years later and boiling it down for them. We’d like to think that we’ve captured the essence and the heart of the original story in the shorter format.
Definitely, and then correct me if I’m wrong, but your first love as an actor is stage performance. You’ve talked about seeing Critical Role as a theater troupe. Are you guys discussing going back and doing those live-stage shows again?
Liam O’Brien: It’s definitely something we want to get back to eventually; as to when, I’m not sure. We love it too. And it’s a different experience than sitting around our private little table with the intimacy of that. Surfing and the energy of an audience full of people who are stoked to be there is an entirely different animal. And it’s just so cool to, in the moment, get the passion that people who love our stories have, to feel it in the room with you. And all of us love that. So I think we’ll get back to it; just a question of when.
Very cool. What was it like for you guys in the theater when you were watching the fans react to The Legend of Vox Machina premiere? Because I was in that, and that was so unbelievably cool.
Liam O’Brien: The best! Especially with the pandemic, with everyone in the world working from home. We just felt like we’re in a bunker, just like everybody did. So we would still occasionally get together and watch cuts of the show. And it was always a thrill to work, even from home. But that’s not the same as getting to see and hear other people see what we’ve been cooking all this time.
And so we’ve had a blast making it and sort of reliving those moments. But of course it was a thrill to eavesdrop and hide over on the side and hear people gasp or yell at Percy. Or squirm at at at a dragon the size of five Mack Trucks rubber-banded together, bearing down on Emon. Nothing like it. Love that instant feedback.
You had your 300th episode of the main Critical Role campaign at the start of this year. Not gonna lie, I think my favorite thing about that is that it’s peak Critical Role. The chaos of being like, “Oh, there’s bad guys coming. What do we do? We’ll fake an orgy.” And going from there to huge lore puzzle pieces falling into place was just so much fun.
Liam O’Brien: Kind of just depends on what we’re in the mood on the night. That one was a magical orb party.
It was so fun! And then, kind of going back to those threads of fate we’re talking about, what has it been like with Campaign Three to really see the consequences of Campaign Two, Campaign One, EXU, and EXU Calamity all converge?
Liam O’Brien: Well, with every passing month and year, the world just feels richer and more fleshed out because we are constantly painting in corners of existence in Exandria. And we are constantly surprised by the way Matt has been playing a long game—multiple long games over the years. And the things that were seeds planted years ago that are bearing fruit today. He’s good at what he does. Talented man.
Because it’s so interconnected in such a cool way. And you’ve done that a little bit too, because your Campaign Three character is connected to a character that you played in the Vex and Percy wedding one-shot. Can you talk about why you wanted to revisit that area? Because I think it’s so cool that he’s the son-in-law.
Liam O’Brien: A version of Orym has existed in my head since before the end of Campaign One. So I was always going to play him somewhere, somehow. I knew probably in a main campaign; I didn’t know if he would be a replacement for someone else if I lost Caleb or something, but I didn’t think that I wanted him for Campaign Two. So, he just kept percolating in the back of my head.
Vax wasn’t available for one-shots, we would run after Campaign One. So I was always bringing in a new character. And I wasn’t really big on the idea of going like, “Hi, I’m Johnny Adventurer, and I’m just walking by. Can I come to the ends of the earth with you?” So with Lieve’tel and with Derrig in some of those one-shots we did, I was wanting to think of a really plausible reason why someone was there with them both those times. Derrig was created to with that in mind, but also to sort of tee him up for the future. I knew when we were doing that one-shot that, specifically in that game, that character talks about his kids.
And that was connective tissue that I was laying out for Orym in the future. There’s more family members too. And I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to town, but there are aspects of our stories that sometimes never get addressed, but it doesn’t mean they’re not existing at all times. So, again, I’ve been thinking about Orym like a real guy for years, and I was just happy to finally let him walk around.
And then one of the things that’s so cool is that you’ve created all these different characters. Vax, for example, started as a character for a one-shot, but you’ve been able to flesh them out through the campaign, the comics, the novel, and now the animated series. What has it been like to revisit this character and build on him? And then also, how has it impacted your creation of characters like Caleb and Orym?
Liam O’Brien: I know that we’ve all learned the beauty of spending so much time with these characters. The reason we were able to make an animated series and just drop the audience in with this group of people is because right from the jump, and I’m just talking about the animated series, there are so many little intricacies and nicknames and patterns and relationships that exist and just bleed off the screen. It’s obvious, and that only came from years of bouncing off each other with them.
All of us, when we started, there was no forethought put into them. Sam made a character who could tell jokes and be silly, and that was the whole purpose. And we all watched Scanlan get more depth over the years and continue to. That was a big lesson for us, and we love that about Vox Machina, our first love, our babies. We love all our babies, but they were the first and taught us a lot. So we took those lessons with us into the future.
I love that. And one of the things I really think is so cool about Critical Role is how you guys have expanded into the comics and the novels. How has it been to work with authors, comic book writers, and comic book artists to explore these different aspects of your characters?
Liam O’Brien: It’s great. We’re all nerds. Many of us have read fantasy novels throughout our life. And I collect comic books, still. I didn’t for a long time and Taliesin Jaffe sort of spiraled me back into it. Now I’m in deep again. Thanks to Taliesin. We love animation. So all these projects we’re doing, it’s not like, “Alright, well, what can we do with this stuff?” It’s all things that we love. So it’s all a treat.
And we’ve been sort of gig artists ourselves for so long that we just feel there’s an immediate affinity with writers, directors, and animators. And we all just love being creative. So [I] love getting to create our characters and our stories, and [I] love empowering other artists and writers to take them and lend their vision to them.
Is there a medium that you guys haven’t really gotten to explore with these characters yet that you want to?
Liam O’Brien: Matt’s working on Critical Role Land, so you’ll just have to wait for that. We haven’t made a holographic experience. I don’t know that I need that. Maybe someday a cast of young actors will step in, stand in front of the camera, and do this. We definitely have hopes of getting into video games because we’re all big gamers. We’re kind of doing a lot of the things that are dreams for us. So I know there may be a few more corners that we can poke into. But we’re really thrilled with where we are now.
Has there been a moment on this journey where you’ve just had to stop and appreciate the moment you’re in? Because it was either fulfilling a childhood dream or a dream you never realized you had, and you just were like, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Liam O’Brien: Yeah, that’s most days. I swing between trying to juggle all the things that I’m working on at any given time and just taking a moment to breathe. And like now with the release of season two, that was definitely one of those moments where we never stopped moving but everybody kind of stopped, took a breath, and just appreciated. How far that thread of fate has run and what we’ve accomplished, grateful and hopeful.
Is there a favorite Critical Role Easter egg you’ve had in The Legend of Vox Machina so far?
Liam O’Brien: Back in season one there’s a pretty solid Dragonlance joke that I’m fond of in Gilmore shop. Dragonlance got a few of us falling down the fantasy rabbit hole so loved having that nod there.
I can’t get over that Sam wrote an entire song based on the “makin my way” joke.
Liam O’Brien: Well, he’s a singular man. He made an entire C-story about turning into a daisy. So who knows what he’ll do next? Not us.
I don’t know how you guys are able to actually be in the room with him during those ads because they are so ridiculous; they’ve gotten to be so intense and big in the coolest way.
Liam O’Brien: What I’d like to do is hook all of our abdomens up to a generator. And Sam Riegel could be a new green power source.
Yeah, we just found the new clean energy. Has there been a favorite moment for you of the show changing something from the campaign? Was there something that you wish had been able to be incorporated from the campaign but couldn’t because of timing?
Liam O’Brien: I’m kind of in love with the way we got inside Umbrasyl. It was a blast during the campaign, but I loved our streamlined, smoother version in the show because nobody’s ever seen that before.
For every two amazing moments that we’ve captured in the animated series for all of us, there are 100 smaller beads along that road, from big moment to big moment, and those still exist and we carry them all with us. The game we played around the table is as meaningful to me as our fucking amazing animated series. And I’ll never forget, every moment, every goof up, every swing for the fences and falling flat on our face moments we had. And every accidental moment of genius, and just a lot of laughs and a lot of love around the table.
One of the things I’ve always really appreciated that you’ve done with your characters is the LGBT representation and how natural it is as just a part of who they are. Why is it so important to you to incorporate that, especially in this fantasy storytelling?
Liam O’Brien: The world that we live in is not ideal. And it’s harder than we all wish it would be. So part of what we’re doing is, there’s dragons, necromancers, and demons living inside of firearms in the world. But we’re also trying to create a world that we wish could be and the hope of that is that some of Exandria bleeds back into the world. And so having characters of every form, shape, care, and passion in the world and just have them be is how it should be. That’s what we want in our stories, because that’s what we want in the world.
What does it mean for you that this was the coolest birthday present ever for you? It started as this one-shot, and it’s grown to be this multimedia, expansive story that you guys have created together and been able to share with the world and build a community around.
Liam O’Brien: When Matt shared with us the news that we were going to try to make this a show, A lot of people have seen this. I said it was the best thing we ever did, and I didn’t know how right I was in that moment. This is the most creatively satisfying endeavor of my life. I believe of all of our lives. I’m always thinking about those threads of fate and trying to carry the responsibility that comes with that good fortune.
About The Legend of Vox Machina Season 2
Vox Machina has defeated the Briarwoods saving Whitestone and bringing peace back to the realm. But the trouble has only begun when an even greater threat descends, a terrifyingly powerful group of dragons known as the Chroma Conclave. Now, Vox Machina must once again step up as protectors of the realm to fight the dragons before their sinister plans bring about the end of their world.
Check out our other The Legend of Vox Machina interviews here:
Both seasons of The Legend of Vox Machina are available to stream on Prime Video now.
Deixe um comentário