American animation has been at a high point in quality lately, and many have pointed to Avatar: The Last Airbender as the show that instigated this trend of creative, thoughtful, and plot-driven cartoons aimed at children. When it came out, Avatar: The Last Airbender was quite unique for having a plot arc across all three seasons, for handling mature and complex topics like the ethics of war and the effects of genocide, and for its well-thought-out characters who developed across the course of the series.
One of these characters, who was beloved by the fandom despite being unambiguously a villain, was Princess Azula. Part of her appeal was in her voice actress, the iconic Grey DeLisle, and the performance she gave. In fact, DeLisle landed the role by taking a unique approach to the character in auditions. What did DeLisle do to make her interpretation stand out so much?
‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’: Azula is both a princess and a formidable soldier
Princess Azula was introduced into the show in the second season. The main antagonist of the first season was Prince Zuko, who was trying to capture protagonist Aang to be able to return to his home in the Fire Nation. However, after this season, Zuko becomes a fugitive, and Azula takes over his quest to capture the Avatar. Azula is shown to be a deadly fighter, whose fire bending generates blue fire and who can bend lightning.
Azula is also highly manipulative and a talented schemer. Much of her plotline in the second season involves infiltrating the Earth Kingdom and getting the better of the formidable secret police. Additionally, she travels with two other skilled fighters: Mai, a morose daughter of nobility who is talented with throwing knives, and Ty Lee, an acrobat who applies her skills in battle. Azula’s cool demeanor combined with her unique fighting skills made her one of the most popular characters on the show — even if she was evil.
Grey DeLisle emphasized Azula’s calm demeanor in her audition
Though Azula can and does explode with fiery rage in the show, the thing that makes her so intimidating is how she often seems incredibly cool and unmoved. However, according to Grey DeLisle in an interview with SyFy, many of the voice actors that auditioned for the role of Azula with a high emotionality and would break into yelling on more intense lines. When DeLisle read for the role, she kept herself restrained, and apparently “was one of the only people that didn’t yell as the part.” DeLisle thought about what Azula’s character would be like, and decided to be “very contained and quiet because I felt like Azula was just so powerful she didn’t need to yell at anybody.” Clearly, it worked, because Azula’s voice, diction, and poise made the character an instant standout, and made the moments when Azula’s poise broke that much more intense!
Grey DeLisle has acted many iconic roles
You probably would recognize Grey DeLisle’s voice if you heard it. That’s because she’s acted in numerous cartoons. One of the roles that really brought her fame was on another Nickelodeon cartoon: Vicky, the evil babysitter on Fairly OddParents (as well as other roles on the show). A year later, she would join What’s New, Scooby-Doo? as Daphne, and reprised the role for 2010’s Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. She even voiced some supporting roles on The Legend of Korra! On top of this, she does regular voice work for the popular Disney cartoon The Owl House, and has a role in an upcoming Cuphead series. DeLisle is clearly one of the biggest names in voice acting, and it’s not hard to see — or hear — why.