When a beloved graphic novel or comic character comes to the big screen, they usually get something the source material isn’t equipped to convey: an audible voice. The filmmakers behind Netflix’s Nimona, based on ND Stevenson’s webcomic turned graphic novel of the same name, faced the usual challenge of figuring out how the characters sounded — and they did a pretty banging job.
Riz Ahmed brings a nervous yet moody voice to wrongly accused techno-futuristic knight Ballister Boldheart, while Eugene Lee Yang gives a softness to Ballister’s cohort Ambrosius Goldenloin. But Chloë Grace Moretz’s evocative performance as Nimona really becomes the beating heart of the movie.
Director Nick Bruno tells Polygon that Moretz made a perfect Nimona for many reasons.
“She’s incredibly funny, sharp, mischievous. But she also has this amazing soul to her, and all that comes across in her voice,” he says. “Nimona is so impulsive and surprising. And another thing Chloë does, which is great — she has fun playing in the room, just trying things like different voices, and being surprising, and saying things super fast, or really slow, or very devilish.”
Moretz fully embodies the eclectic character, a rebellious shapeshifter who solves most tricky situations by turning into a large animal and rampaging through obstacles. But Nimona also has a deeply vulnerable side. She’s an outcast who doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. Moretz sells that duality with her vocal performance, which has a brilliantly growling edge, but still feels grounded in genuine emotion.
Stevenson says that hearing what voice actors bring to his characters often informs his perception of the characters themselves. From the time he started the comic back in his junior year of college, he never really associated his characters’ dialogue with specific voices.
“Sometimes I’ll be writing and literally moving my lips or doing hand motions. I hear the cadence of the lines in my own voice in my head,” he says. “I’m not necessarily hearing a character. […] I’m hearing my own voice doing that voice.”
Stevenson adds that this was especially true for Nimona: “That’s literally, I think, what my internal voice sounds like. It was hard for me to get my head around anyone voicing her at all. And then Chloë comes exploding into that character with all of the energy and all of that emotion in everything that she is, and it just brought that character to life.”
Nimona is streaming on Netflix now.