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JP Karliak – X-Men ’97

This is an atypical sort of “reboot,” given that it’s still set in the 1990s. Why is this the right time to go back to ’97?

Is there ever a bad time to go back to the ’90s? [Laughs] I mean, it makes sense for a whole bunch of reasons. One, I think, is the natural progression of where Marvel wants to go. We’ve seen the Avengers, we’ve seen them do their thing, and now we all miss the X-Men. There’s also what’s going on in the [real] world. The X-Men were born out of the Civil Rights Movement. They’re a group that, contrary to the Avengers, is not beloved. They’re actually hated. In spite of that, they still fight to protect humanity. As a group who are not understood and are outcasts, they’re very much understood by a lot of people today who have been persecuted. Also, I was in Forever 21 not that long ago, just walking through the mall, and I saw a Nirvana T-shirt and a Spice Girls T-shirt. I’m like, “Well, I guess the ’90s are back!”

X-Men ’87 on Disney+. Pictured: shapeshifter Morph.

How do you approach putting a new spin on a classic character?

When I did Boss Baby, it was a soundalike for Alec Baldwin. Period. When I did Wile E. Coyote, since most people think of Wile E. Coyote as being silent, there was more freedom — general homage to Mel Blanc, but not right on top of it. With this, even though Morph is in less than 10 episodes [of the original series], there is a strong understanding with the fans of what he is supposed to sound like. But where the freedom comes is that, by the time we get to Morph here, he has been on such a radical journey. He showed up, he was murdered, he was brought back to life, he was psychologically manipulated to be a villain, and has been rehabilitating himself. Then he just shows up in that last episode [of the original], and the curtain comes down. So when the curtain comes back up here, we’ve got a guy who is really just trying to figure out where does he belong in this team? I had the freedom to really find that out with Morph . . . I wanted to ground him. This is a guy who has such a visually exciting “power,” I don’t need to do a lot of gymnastics with the voice.

You also just did DC’s Suicide Squad video game. How daunting was it following Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill as the next Joker?

Just a yard littered with iconic performances . . . I think I got a couple “gimmes” here. One is that this Joker is an [alternate-reality] Joker, so at the very least it wasn’t up to me to impersonate a particular version that we already know. Phew! And also, this version is a younger Joker, where he’s just trying to get his own sea legs of, like, being a psychopath. He comes into this world of the Arkham games that had the iconic Joker of Mark Hamill, so he’s sort of taking notes and trying to figure out what his own identity in Jokerdom is. He has that weird meta experience himself of being like, “Oh, there was another one before me, and this is how he did his job. How do I do mine?” It’s fun to explore that — as I’m going through that.

Were you expecting the backlash to Morph now being nonbinary?

I wasn’t surprised. What was maybe more surprising is how much press has been . . . I think it was The Mary Sue that said: “X-Men ’97 added a character twist that’s pissing off all the right people.” So much backlash to the “backlash.” That’s been awesome.

X-Men ’97, streaming Wednesdays on Disney+


He may not look overly familiar, but if you have kids, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard JP Karliak. The Pennsylvania-born voice actor has played Wile E. Coyote in New Looney Tunes, and took over for big-screen “Boss Baby” Alec Baldwin in TV spinoff The Boss Baby: Back in Business. He’s also the founder of Queer Vox ( — a nonprofit dedicated to training and advocating for LQBTQ+ voice artists.


Karliak plays quippy shapeshifter Morph in Disney+’s sequel to X-Men: The Animated Series — with the character reconceived as a nonbinary hero struggling with their place in both the X-Men squad and the world-at-large. The roundly acclaimed first season wraps this Wednesday.

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