“She’s Like a Pair of Fine Gloves,” X-Men ’97’s Lenore Zann on Returning as Rogue (Exclusive)

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

The X-Men are back for ’90s fans and a whole new generation as the highly anticipated X-Men ’97 premieres on Disney+ this week!

Many of the voice cast from X-Men: The Animated Series, which ran for five seasons on Fox between 1992 – 1997, will be reprising their roles, including Canadian Lenore Zann as Rogue.

The TV Watercooler had the opportunity to speak with the accomplished actress, singer, and politician following the Canadian premiere at Toronto Comicon this past weekend. Zann opens up about slipping back into the role after almost 30 years, previews what’s coming up for Rogue this season, as well as the impact she has made with environmental racism in Canada.

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

Hearing your voice again just brought me back to my childhood. Do you get that a lot from fans?

Yeah, they tell me that my voice is like a warm hug.

It really is! And I’m not just saying that because you’re in front of me.

I appreciate that!

It just unlocks those warm feelings…

Of when you were a kid?

It’s safe.

That’s good! I’m glad about that. I mean, if I was going to give anything to the fans, that’s what I want them to feel. I want them to feel the love, the acceptance, and the warmth from Rogue. That she’s got their back. And that I have got their back.

Were you a fan of the comics before you got this project 30 years ago?

No, I didn’t know the comics. I wasn’t one of those comic book geeks when I was a kid. I was more into swords and sorcery stuff. I was into fantasy, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I loved Lord of the Rings… That kind of stuff.

When I got the role of Rogue, it was new to me, so I based my character on the scripts that I was given and I went from there.

Was there any hesitation to come back after 30 years?

No. Oh, no. Rogue is inside of me. She’s a part of me. I basically just walked into the studio, put on the headphones and within two seconds, I realized, “Yeah, there she is. She’s right there!” She’s like a pair of fine gloves that are well-worn that you just put on and they’re so comfortable.

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

X-Men ’97 is a continuation but are we seeing a wiser Rogue as you’ve carried her with you for 30 years?

No, because it’s only been five weeks after [the events] of “Graduation Day” [the X Men: The Animated Series’ finale]. So, we pick up basically where we left off. There’s no real character development that has happened in that time. And that’s great, because I slipped back right where I was, and where she was. It was very easy to do.

It looks and feels like no time has passed in the premiere.

Good! Glad to hear that!

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

Obviously it’s in HD now! Were some of the old guard present to make sure it was a smooth transition?

Yes, the new folks are huge fans of the show and reached out to Eric and Julia Lewald, and to Larry Houston and asked them to be their senior advisors for the show. So, they’ve been there. They aren’t writing the scripts or directing it, although Larry Houston did do the opening credits, so he directed all those. But they’re right there! So yeah, it’s been pretty seamless!

Just hearing the theme song got so many cheers at the premiere. It’s so iconic. Its cues have been used in other Marvel productions well.

Yes, you hear a little it of that [in other projects]. The little hint of it!

It’s just so nostalgic.

I know!

How did the fan reaction make you feel?

Oh, my goodness. Hearing it at the premiere was unbelievable. We were at the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and people started screaming, cheering, clapping, and crying. It was an emotional outpouring of love for the show.

Every time one of the characters came on, they’d scream and cheer as well. It was amazing. It makes you feel pretty good and that you are part of something that has that kind of effect on people in a good way.

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

For X-Men: The Animated Series, did the cast record together in a booth in Toronto?

Yeah, back then we did. We were set up at Sounds Interchange in a circle with microphones for each of us.

We basically went through the script as if it were a radio drama. We played off each other many times, making fun of each other between takes, and making each other laugh! It was a real bonding experience.

As time went on over the years [the original series ran for five seasons], some of us were in different cities. I was in L.A. part of the time and in Vancouver the other part of the time. Then they would pick us up separately.

But in those beginning years, it was great to be all together!

Now, you know, after the pandemic, people are used to using Zoom and they’re used to recording by themselves in the booth. I’ve been recording my lines in Halifax for the most part. There are some actors that are [still] here in Toronto. There are some in Vancouver. There’s one in New York. The rest of them are in L.A.

Is not seeing them harder?

It’s interesting because in my head, I see them all anyway. I know the show so well and I know the characters and actors, so I can hear them in my head. I’ve always had a huge imagination!

Did you meet some of the new cast for the first time at the L.A. premiere?

Yes! Some of them I met for the first time. But the ones from the original series, we’ve actually been appearing at some other conventions. We went to a few before the pandemic and then after, we’ve [already] been to four or five. It’s been great to see each other!

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

Do you feel that the themes from the show resonate a lot more now than they did 30 years ago?

Sadly, yes. I mean, they did resonate back then as well. All of the social justice, civil rights, human rights, and people being other being attacked, was going on 30 years ago.

Sadly, I feel that humanity has taken a step backwards. And that’s why I think it is so important that The X-Men are making their presence known again now because I think that the world needs us!

For the kids that grew up and felt more including by watching the show, now that they’re older, do you feel like there are still elements that the older audience can still connect with? Like with Rogue’s loneliness?

Yes, that’s what I’m hearing from the fans when I’m meeting them. The fans who were kids when they first watched the show, many of them are now parents, and they are so excited that they’ve been able to introduce their kids to The X-Men. Their kids are loving it! It’s nice to be able to spread that love to the different generations.

Some are even grandparents now and their children were into it, and now they’ve introduced it to their grandchildren. So, you’re getting three generations sometimes in families that love The X-Men! They love them for different reasons and I think that’s just so cool!

What has playing Rogue taught you?

Rogue has taught me to constantly persist and not give up, no matter what! To always reach for the heights, to go as far as you can, and to try to make the world a better place, even when there are some people trying to stop you. Those who are trying to stop you, are only hurting themselves.

The X-Men are mutants who are trying to help save mankind from themselves and that’s what I try to do in real life too, and in politics.

Speaking of which, it’s a big week for you. Not only does X-Men ’97 premiere, but a bill that you introduced will be at the Canadian Senate on March 21.

Yes, Bill C-226. It’s a national strategy to address environmental racism and environmental injustice.

Not many people know what environmental racism is, would you mind telling us?

Sure! Environmental racism is the disproportionate number of toxic dumps, waste sites, landfills, and toxic polluters that are placed on or beside racial lines, and communities.

That means that those communities have worse health outcomes than people from a different postal code.  

So, this bill is addressing that issue. I think it’s a bill whose time has come! It’s right now in the Senate. It has already passed through the House of Commons. It’ll be at the Environment Committee on March 21. If it passes the Environment Committee, which I believe it will, it will go back to the Senate again, for a third and final reading! So, one would hope that sometime this year it will actually pass and become law in Canada.

What an amazing legacy. When I first learned about it, I couldn’t even believe it was a thing. That people were getting away with this. Real-life villains.

I’m writing my memoir called A Rogue’s Tale and it in it, I talk about my childhood in Australia. I was born in Sydney and moved to Canada when I was eight.

When I was a little girl with my parents, we had a place in Sydney. Mum and dad were teachers and while they were having our house built, they sent me to live with my grandmother, my mother’s mother, out in the bush in Australia. It was a tiny little place called Karuah, which is up north of Newcastle in New South Wales.

My grandmother lived on the edge of an Aboriginal reserve and one of her best friends was Mrs. Ping. Mrs. Ping was an old Aboriginal lady who lived down the street. It was like a dirt road between their houses. Mrs. Ping had a lot of children living with her who had been abandoned by their mothers and she was bringing them up.

So, we would run back and forth between my grandmother’s place and Mrs. Ping’s place. Our grandmothers would tell us stories about the environment in the bush and the little creatures that lived in the bush, as well as the fairies and witches, and all these kinds of Aboriginal legends.

At one point, I noticed that these white people were driving by and throwing garbage in Mrs. King’s yard! I asked my grandmother, “Why do they do that?” Why are these people putting garbage in her place? That’s not nice!” And my grandmother said, “That’s because there are some people that are racist, and they think that they are more important than others because our skin is white and not black like Mrs. Ping.” I said, “That’s not fair! Why should they do that!” I just didn’t understand it.

So, when Dr. Ingrid Waldron, years later, came to me when I was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia and told me about environmental racism, I said “Uh, huh! I’ve seen it as a little kid.” I remember feeling outraged!

The white society has been dumping their garbage and putting this stuff all beside racialized communities because they don’t think that they are as important. To be honest, it’s like they’re saying that they are garbage. Well, that’s not okay and I will do anything I can to try and change that.

And you have. It’s incredible.

Thank you.

What can you tease for us about Rogue’s story this season?

I can share that Rogue has a deep desire to be able to be in love and to touch someone else, and have them touch her. She’s been on her own for so long, but she loves Remy (Gambit) and he really loves her, but they can’t touch!

In this new season, there is going to be another character joining [the team] and Rogue has a past history [with this person]. She has not shared it with the team, or with Remy. There are going to be interesting sparks flying!

I will leave it there.

Very soapy.

Rogue is going to have some major decisions to make in the coming episodes.

Can you tease anything about Theo James’s appearance?

I can’t really! I don’t want to spoil it!

Beau DeMayo, who created X-Men ’97 is no longer attached to the project. He seems to have been such a creative force behind the show.

Yeah, I loved working with him.

Creatively, are there concerns about future seasons without him?

I loved working with Beau. I found his creativity fantastic. We gelled really well together, and everybody that has been on the show – Disney and Marvel – they’ve all been amazing!

Jake Castorena, who is our supervising director, has been phenomenal. I met our other two directors, Emi Yonemura and Chase Conley, beautiful people. They’re doing incredible work. The writing is fantastic! It’s a team effort and it will continue to be a team effort.

lenore zann rogue x men 97 interview

X-Men ’97 premieres globally on Wednesday, March 20 on Disney+.


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