Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe is back...well...for a little while at least, but just enough to give fans of the show a proper dose with a burst of episodes starting Monday, June 15 at 6 p.m. E/P. Steven Universe fans know that we live in a post-”Jail Break” world and the series has taken a more serious tone with Steven now completely aware of what’s going on between the Crystal Gems and the renegades of the Gem Homeworld.
So where does the show go from here? Newsarama talked to creator Rebecca Sugar and series writer Lamar Abrams about all things Steven Universe and where the series is headed now. Cartoon Network has also provided an exclusive clip of Monday’s episode!
Newsarama: Hey Rebecca and Lamar, it’s been a while since we last talked and there’s been a ton going on in the show since then. So what’s life been like for you since the show’s airing?
Rebecca Sugar: Oh, life...you mean people knowing what we’ve been doing this whole time? That kinda thing? Our lives? [laughs] It’s surreal!
Lamar Abrams: It’s been interesting. I’ve been getting a lot more questions on Tumblr, Twitter, and a lot of social media. It’s just been a lot more interaction. I think that’s new for me, is like, interacting more over social media about this show.
Sugar: The show came out and that was exciting and you know everybody knows the main characters and stuff, but since the show came out I’ve been waiting for everybody to know about Ruby and Sapphire and I’ve been sitting on that. People will talk to me about the show and it’s like you don’t really know what this show is until Peridot and Jasper show up. Even though it’s been out I feel as though the show really is out now.
Nrama: Going from episodes like “Jail Break” and “The Return”, which were some of the most world-building episodes to date, where do you go from here?
Sugar: Well now Steven actually knows what’s happening as the show is from his point of view it sort of becomes another show. To me, this is where the show starts. We catch him up with himself but now he’s going on an adventure with the Gems in real time where they don’t really know what’s going on either. That is truly different and I feel at this point we’re writing a very different show about him as an equal member of the team whereas there was this other show about him becoming an equal member of the team and that’s what’s exciting about it from me.
Abrams: When I came on this show it was always a surprise to me to see what episodes were being pitched by the board team and we talked briefly to Rebecca about what she has in mind and she always wants our take and wants to know how we feel about them. I’m always surprised by what’s coming up next. I’m excited to see what boarders take on what episodes and it always feels fresh to me. With the new episodes we get, they seem to have something from everyone. I like the quieter episodes sometimes where we get to know something personal about a character.
Nrama: With Garnet finally being confirmed as a fusion, I have to know if that was something always planned because in some episodes, in retrospect now, you’ve been hinting at that for a while.
Sugar: Yeah, since before the pilot. She was never not a fusion. [laughs] It’s always been planned. I think that who Ruby and Sapphire are like I always knew they existed but their characters came into focus as we wrote for Garnet, which was sort of interesting. The more she she grew as a character with what everybody put into her and the way she became gentle, but intense, I sort of got to reverse engineer the personalities of her past from what my team brought to her in the show.
Nrama: In the episode “Maximum Capacity," Greg and Amethyst have a fight and you’ve done some flashback episodes already, but are we going to see how their relationship was in the past?
Sugar: Oh Amethyst and Greg? Well, Greg’s relationship with all the Gems is really complicated. I think we are going to see some stuff about the past and we’re going to see his interactions with all of them. He was there with them for a while because he was a lot younger when he showed up, but it wasn’t a quick thing for him to be in with these people who aren’t really even people, so there was that learning curve for him. There’s definitely a lot of that to explore.
Nrama: Well that, to me, was one of Amethyst’s best episodes because she doesn’t seem to get a lot of character exploration compared to the rest of the Gems.
Sugar: Ah, well she has a lot of growing up to do. I don’t think that’s [laughs] going to happen overnight for her.
Nrama: How do you find the balance between going from episodes like “Jail Break” or “Lion 3 VHS” to something not has heavy as “Winter Forecast” or even “Horror Club?"
Sugar: [Laughs] I don’t consider those heavy.
Abrams: I think of it was one whole thing. When I think of Steven Universe and the characters, I think about life and people coming into your life and sometimes you growing and learning more about people. I feel a lot like I’m watching these characters grow and becoming more interesting because I know more about them and it’s not heavy to me. I get concerned, I guess?
Like when you see a friend have to deal with something and when heavy stuff comes along, I want them to get through it. It’s necessary because it’s a part of life and part of living. I don’t think of it as “something horrible is happening to Steven” but more of “I hope he gets through this and hope he learns something and if something else bad happens, I hope he’ll get through that, too.”
Sugar: I’ve been asked a lot genre-wise “what is this” and to me this show is about the characters. It’s not a genre thing where every episode has to be similar, but the characters have to be consistent. Well, not even consistent because they change! I feel like the show is so much like all of us that makes me free to explore different things and let it grow because it’s something that’s actually happening.
Nrama: We finally heard Rose’s voice and I love Susan Egon for that role. It’s difficult to not hear Megara from Disney’s Hercules, but it’s very fitting.
Sugar: One of the reasons I loved her, I love her as Megara, too, but I loved her as Gina in the dubbed Porco Rosso. If you’ve ever seen it, that’s how I was thinking of her. She’s so like calm and alluring, but confident. The character of Gina is amazing. She was on my dream cast, her and Tom Scharpling were the two people I knew for sure I wanted to do voices for my show if I ever could have a show. I didn’t have characters yet, but these are my favorite voices because I love The Best Show and I love Susan Egon so I made them lovers.
Nrama: Jasper and Peridot are still obvious threats, but still are the lackeys of Yellow Diamond. Are we seeing her this season or is it like a thing similar to Harry and Voldemort and there’s still plenty of time?
Sugar: I can’t tell you that! I can’t tell you about Yellow Diamond!
[Both Sugar and Abrams laugh]
Abrams: Next question!
Nrama: Music has played a role in the show since the beginning even going back to the Cookie Cat rap, are we ever going to see a full album?
Sugar: I would love that, but I’m only really involved on the show side. So that’s not something I have particular control over, but I’m really involved with writing a lot more songs. Several are coming up in this chunk that’s coming up. I wrote a lot of songs for this season.
Nrama: Who do you love writing songs for the most?
Sugar: Oh my gosh, that’s a hard question because everyone’s so different, but I love writing songs for Tom Scharpling as much as he doesn’t like singing them. He doesn’t claim himself to be a singer, per se, but I love his voice.
Writing songs for Deedee Magno-Hall is like incredible because I’m a huge musical theater fan and it’s just bizarre to be able to create something that’s even close to that actual world.
Writing for Estelle was other-worldly.
Writing songs for Susan, that was something else, too.
I wrote a song for Susan and Tom at the same time so they’re doing a duet. My voice cast dream exploding!
Nrama: I think we’re almost out of time, so real quick if you were a Gem, what would you be and why?
Sugar: You go first!
Abrams: If I was an existing Crystal Gem? I think I would choose either Garnet or Sapphire. I like Ruby and Sapphire both together as Garnet because she has a lot going on in her head, but seeing Sapphire by herself and dealing with the world, and her approach to the world...I don’t know, the way she sees the world is different than how I relate to than maybe how Garnet feels in her own head and seeing the possibilities and having to make a choice to go in one direction with those possibilities. I don’t know, I think that’s really cool and I can relate with somebody who over thinks a lot of things [laughs]. So yeah, if I could be a Gem, I would pick Garnet or Sapphire.
Sugar: I would be a Ruby because, yeah, the way that she is sort of frantic and extremely neurotic, but also really excitable and Ruby is pretty based on me in that way. Ruby also has no sense of what’s going on her around her [laughs] and she can only focus on one thing only at the expense of all things, which is how I function for better or for worse.