Amazon Prime’s new children’s series Nike and the Sword of Light has the distinction of winning an Emmy award on the strength of its pilot before airing any other episodes. And part of that success comes from well-drawn supporting characters like Lyra and Mandok. In fact, voice actors Kari Wahlgren and Tom Kinney told Comicon as much when we spoke to them during Comic-Con International: San Diego.
The series follows Niko, a 10-year-old boy in a fantastical world pledged to defeat an evil sorcerer and restore his world. He also happens to be the latest in a long line of champions charged with the task. Armed with his magic sword, Niko journeys to the Cursed Volcano with friends like the perpetually teenaged Lyra (voiced by Wahlgren) and the treasure seeking Mandok (voiced by Kinney).
Based on the Imaginism Studios motion comic, executive producer and showrunner Rob Hoegee said he wanted to “experience every moment” as an animated show. And while it was easy to take moments like the Shrimp Kingdom and the giant talking mountains and incorporate them into a story, he said the greatest potential for the show was to “build a fantasy universe inspired by this world and see what comes of it.” It led to the “creatively rich” environment in which Lyra and Mandok developed.
Kinney described Mandok as “a small guy used to living by his wits.” Though a familiar character type, he said Mandok goes on a personal journey over the course of the first season. “He goes from being a self-invovled, out for himself character to caring about people and being part of the collective,” he explained.
Lyra also resembles a familiar character type: the take-charge princess. Wahlgren described her as a mentor of sorts for Niko, whose lack of readiness alters the situation in her kingdom. She also has her own issues to work through while on the quest, like being stuck as a teenager for 700 years. “I love the way they made Lyra so three dimensional,” she said. “She’s very poised. She’s very smart. But she’s also trying to find her way and so they’ve managed to make her vulnerable and intelligent and warm all at the same time.”
“It’s a great time for female characters in animation,” she added. “There’s so many different types of characters for girls and boys to look up to.”
“All the characters could be simpler and more by the numbers than they are,” Kinney said. “Lyra’s not just a tough taskmaster. There’s more to her and to her relationship with Niko. Same with Mandok. He’s not just a slippery fast-talker. There’s more to him and it’s fun to play characters with those nooks and crannies.”
Hoagie said the secret to a successful supporting character was if they could “be the star of their own show.” He added, “In many ways Lyra could have her show. Mandok could have his own show.”
Both voice actors were thrilled with that idea. Aping the voice of a commercial announcer, Kinney joked, “Coming in 2020, Mandok the show! From the people who brought you Lyra the show!”
Niko and the Sword of Light is available now on Amazon Prime Video.