Last week we argued that it’s well past time Animorphs was rebooted. Just to make it easier on whatever network/platform takes us up on this idea (looking at you, Netflix), here’s who we would cast to lead the greatest 90’s YA adaptation ever. The focus is on finding younger, newer actors who could grow with the show. Hopefully younger audiences will grow with them. With that, here is our picks for our hypothetical (but hopeful) Animorphs reboot:
Jake is the reluctant leader of the team, who is drawn into the war when he discovers his brother is infected by one of the Yeerks, the alien slugs who are secretly invading the planet. He’s shown to be a natural born leader, though he constantly feels the weight of his responsibility. Think of the world-weary Aragorn, but in high school.
To capture that the charisma necessary to pull of the natural leader aspect, we’re going with Aramis Knight (Into the Badlands). Knight is also a basketball nerd, which is perfect since Jake balances fighting with trying to play high school ball. He’s got impressive physical skills from his training in Badlands, and a lot of experience from working beside Daniel Wu. Knight is the perfect choice to carry the team for a necessary 3-4 seasons.
My favorite character and all around bad-ass, Rachel is Jake’s cousin and the warrior of the group. She’s smart, though tends to be reckless because of her desire to jump into the fight. Rachel is the one you want beside you in the trenches, though not necessarily the one calling the shots. Think Ripley from Aliens, but a teenager and loves shopping.
Paris Berelc (Lab Rats: Elite Force), a trained gymnast and Disney Channel warrior: who could be better for Rachel? Berelc hasn’t had a long career, but she’s already headlined two Disney shows where she’s shown her action chops. She’s also in the web series Welcome to Howler, and plays a cold, calculating character; perfect for Rachel. What makes this character great is that she’s ruthless while also being a shopaholic; violent, but incredibly loving of her friends. Berelc has got the stuff to make this complex character pop on screen.
Marco is Jake’s best friend, and the comic relief of the group. He’s constantly cracking jokes, even during the most serious situations, much to Rachel’s annoyance. The key to his character is what lies underneath: the joking and general cynicism covers up the deep pain he holds over his mother’s death. He also takes care of his depressed father, while still trying to survive a war and high school (same thing really). Think a teenage Tony Stark, but without all the alcoholism.
Marco is going to be a hard character to get right, so going with a little more experience doesn’t hurt: Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) should be up to the task. Revolori exploded onto the scene after his turn as Zero, the dutiful bellhop in training in Grand Budapest Hotel. From there, he flexed his comedic chops in Dope and Son of Zorn. So far we’ve seen him prove that he can have an audience in fits when called upon, so it would be interesting to see him in a role that requires more action and weight, in addition to comedy. Hopefully he’s not too busy playing Flash Thompson in the new Spider-Man franchise to join this one as well.
Cassie is Rachel’s best friend, and the moral center of the team. She challenges the ruthlessness of Rachel and Marco, providing an empathetic perspective to the war she has reluctantly joined. Cassie is also an environmentalist and the daughter of two veterinarians, providing her with a deeper connection with the animals whose DNA the team absorbs.
We looked at another Disney alumna for Cassie: China Anne McClain (A.N.T. Farm). She’s best known for her work as Jazmine Payne in Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and in Grown Ups. McClain has impressive range for someone so young. She has shown her ability to project a presence far beyond her age. That’s exactly what will be needed for Cassie, whose empathy is, at times, both wise and naive.
Tobias is the odd-man out of the Animorphs. He’s the classic YA outsider: shy and quiet with nice eyes. He isn’t that good of friends with any of the members, but follows Jake around since he’s nice to him. Tobias is also an orphan from a low-income background, with an aunt and uncle who don’t care much about him. Most famously, Tobias spends most of the series trapped as a red-tailed hawk after spending too long in that form. Once upon a time, this part would’ve been played by Ezra Miller.
Miller is too old now, and too busy. So instead, we’re going with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games). This is the biggest twist in our casting, and for good reason: Stenberg identifies as bisexual and non-binary.
While Tobias’ sexuality is not explicitly coded one way or the other, his narrative lends itself heavily to a character who is not heterosexual or cisgender. Already an outsider who doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere, Tobias becomes stuck as a red-tailed hawk, though he reveals later that it may have been by choice. He struggles through the series with his new existence, but often describes feeling happier than when he was a human, as he is now free. Tobias literally transforms himself into who he “really” is. Later, when he gains the choice to change back, he continues to spend much of his time in his “true” form.
Stenberg delighted everyone as Rue in Hunger Games, and showed that quiet but sweet quality necessary to capture Tobias. Just as significantly, they have expressed their own struggles with acceptance, both from inside and out, with being bisexual and non-binary. This kind of experience lends itself to the performance, giving it both credentials and weight. The only downside is that we’d rarely get to see them, as they’d spend most of their performance doing voice-over work for a bird. Nonetheless, they’re the perfect choice.
Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill (Ax for short) is the last member of the team, and in case the name didn’t give it away, he’s not of Earth. Ax is the younger brother of the alien prince of who gives the Animorphs their power, and stranded on Earth. He is a rather complex character, often providing comedic relief while also being pretentious and annoyed at the childish nature of the team. Oh, and he’s shaped like a deer-centaur with a scorpion tail with two stalk eyeballs so…there’s that.
Honestly this one could go a lot of directions, but we’d like to see it go to Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant). Goodluck showed his emotional range and pride as Hawk in The Revenant, both of which are key to Ax’s portrayal. Plus, having an actor of Native American heritage voice a character who tries his best to keep invasive aliens from eradicating the life and culture of other species is a delightful kind of irony.
There aren’t that many more important characters in the franchise, but just for fun here’s some more. Tom is Jake’s older brother, and the reason he has an emotional stake in the war. Now I haven’t seen him since The Office when he played Ravi for like a half second, but Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes) is delightful. He’s old enough to play Aramis Knight’s father, but hey, that’s the magic of Hollywood.
Visser 3 is the primary antagonist of the series, as the only Yeerk to have taken over the body of the shape-shifting Andalites (Ax’s species, try to keep up). Basically, think of a shapeshifting Darth Vader. In the spirit of bringing back actors, Alfred Molina is wonderful and always plays an intriguing villain.
Elfangor is Ax’s older brother, and the fallen Andalite prince who gives the young group of teens their powers. If that’s not Liam Neeson, I don’t know who is.
What do you think of our casting? Let us know who you think should be in an Animorphs reboot. If you’re a casting agent, we’ll give you these ones for free.