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X-Men ’97’s JP Karliak Reveals How He Relates To Morph

JP Karliak, who voices Morph in X-Men ’97, reveals how he relates to Morph and what it means to him to be a part of this incredible series.

X-Men ’97 has debuted with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%, proving that fans are loving the combination of nostalgia and modernization that Marvel has brought to the beloved animated series. Many voice actors have returned to reprise their roles, but there is quite a bit of fresh blood as well. JP Karliak is one of the newbies to the X-Men, but he is not at all new to voice acting.

Well known for lending his voice to Boss Baby in the animated series, JP is also the founder and president of Queer Vox, a non-profit training academy and community for LGBTQIA+ voice talent that advocates for authentic and equitable casting opportunities. JP and voiceover pal Courtenay Taylor are co-founders of the nonpartisan organization NerdsVote, linking gamers, cos-players, con-goers, and pop culture fans of all kinds to voter registration opportunities.

We sat down with JP Karliak to discuss his latest role and what it means to him. He reveals how he relates to his X-Men character Morph and what makes this series so special.

X-Men ’97’s JP Karliak Reveals How He Relates To Morph

X-Men '97's JP Karliak Reveals How He Relates To Morph

Tessa Smith: What was it that drew you to X-Men ’97, and what does it mean to you to play Morph?

JP Karliak: I mean, I think, for starters, it was just X-Men as a brand. I actually didn’t really grow up with comic books. And I also didn’t really watch the show. By the time I would get home from school, I would sit down on the couch, I would turn on the TV, and I would see the end credits of X-Men because I was sitting down to watch the Power Rangers. That was my thing.

But once the X-Men movies came out, I became obsessed. This was before Wikipedia existed, but once it did, I would be doing deep dives like, wait a minute, who’s that character? And where did they go? Kitty Pryde? Tell me more. I would do deep dives of finding out, so I back ended comic books, where I was finding out everything that was happening, but in reverse, by being so intrigued by what was happening in the movies. And that was true of the MCU.

I’m a huge comic book movie fan and now that I’ve actually rewatched the series, and been like, Oh, my God, I love Morph, even before I was really familiar with him as a character just because he has such a tragic backstory that he masks with humor. He’s known for the giggles. He’s the man with the laughs and I really identified as a queer person with being somebody who’s experienced trauma and covering it up with humor. It’s a very universal truth for a lot of us. So I loved that part of him.

I also like being comic relief. I know it’s gonna be fun. So just auditioning for it was exciting. But then seeing the directions that the character goes in, being so funny and just being so dynamic. He’s so rich, even more than expected. 

Tessa Smith: Just seeing all of the characters that Morph turns into in X-Men ’97 is great.

JP Karliak: There were a couple of times where, without naming any names, there are some characters he turns into that aren’t established so I would be the one that would do a grunt or something. So I would know when doing that, but then there were other parts that I was like, Oh my God, I didn’t know I was them [when watching the show]. 

X-Men '97's JP Karliak Reveals How He Relates To Morph

Tessa Smith: What was your reaction when you saw the episodes for the first time? I cried multiple times just because they got it right.

JP Karliak: I got bits of script, so I knew what I was in. And I knew that it was funny. But the other thing about Morph is Morph is kind of a collaborative character because he’s a shapeshifter. So like, I voiced him, a bunch of other people voice him whenever he’s them. So I wasn’t even sure to what level I appeared in. So it was such a surprise.

It was really, really beautiful. Not only as a like, wow, they got it right, as you said, but also, there’s just so many emotional moments. Like, even my my husband, he’s a Broadway guy. He is not a comic book person at all. He was like, the drama! He was so into it. It hits on so many levels.

Tessa Smith: Something I love about X-Men ’97 is you don’t have to have seen the original animated series to understand it.

JP Karliak: They also do a really good job of, even within the course of the episodes, sort of harkening back to what has happened before so that you’re like, oh, okay, I get where this person is, or what this person is doing, or why they do this or whatever. But my husband who knew about the X-Men show, it was on while he was in high school, but he didn’t really watch it. He was very invested and he followed everything. He was very much on the edge of his seat by the end of the third episode being like, what’s next? So I think anybody, no matter where they’re at in their X-Men fandom, can just pick up.

Tessa Smith: It also perfectly combines the nostalgia of the original and also modernizes it, in a way.

JP Karliak: It’s strange. I was talking with somebody last night, and we were talking about how it strikes the balance between paying such specific homage to the original while also, the original was kind of created on a shoestring budget, and this takes what everybody imagined could be possible and like, let’s just do it. Let’s just make that happen and it just blows it up. It is a dream maker.

X-Men ’97 is streaming exclusively on Disney+, with new episodes every Wednesday.

NEXT: X-Men ’97 Review

X-MEN '97 poster

X-MEN ’97, exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 MARVEL.

About X-Men ’97

Marvel Animation’s “X-Men’97” revisits the iconic era of the 1990s as The X-Men, a band of mutants who use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them, are challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-MEN ‘97 is streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting March 20th.