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How Netflix's Trollhunters Handled Anton Yelchin's Mid-Production Death

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This week marks the debut of Netflix's original series Trollhunters, a long-in-the-making project that boasts filmmaker Guillermo del Toro as creator, as well as a stacked cast including Ron Perlman and Steven Yeun. Perhaps most notably, the lead role was played by Anton Yelchin, who sadly died earlier this year when the vocal performances were still being recorded. Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, an executive producer on Trollhunters, recently spoke with CinemaBlend about the vivid and fantastical series, and when I asked how Yelchin's untimely passing affected things, here's what he told me.

I think for a very long time, we just had a difficult time wrapping our brains around the loss of Anton, and what it meant to the show. There was a long time when none of us really wanted to -- we knew in the back of our heads that there was a practical requirement that we find someone who could finish out the series in Anton's stead. The unfortunate reality, though, was that we were not ready to face that, and it took quite some time for us to even start having conversations about what we were going to do and how we were going to go about it. I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I think we all sort of knew what would help get us over that was the appreciation for the fact that the best way to honor Anton and to celebrate his life and his contributions to the show would be to get it out there into the world, and that involved finishing it. And that involved finding someone who could help us do that.

It sucks to deal with any occupational setback, but there's obviously nothing more devastating than someone losing their life. And from a purely business-minded standpoint, such a tragic incident is particularly problematic, as not only is there an unfinished job that needs a resolution, but any kind of delay costs both money and time from the studios and other actors. As Marc Guggenheim implied, it sucks that one's personal reality is still there and needing attention when something as intangible as death is at the forefront of the mind.

Guillermo del Toro was vocal in the past about Anton Yelchin's performance remaining in Trollhunters, and he refused to start over with anyone else. Another actor was eventually brought in to fill out the lines/episodes that Yelchin wasn't able to complete, though, and I'm sure that wasn't the easiest thing for that actor to go through, either. But to have it any other way would mean shelving one of Yelchin's final performances, and that would have been another tragedy of lesser standing. Having seen some of Trollhunters, I can attest to Yelchin being perfect as Jim, the teenager who finds a magical amulet that opens up a whole new and dangerous world.


Marc Guggenheim, who compared the character development in Trollhunters to that of Arrow, had lots of praise for Anton Yelchin's work. Pointing out how hard it is for some actors to put forth 100% in voice-only form, Guggenheim said Yelchin was a natural, and that this role will be one that honors him properly. Here are a few more of his kind words.

I think one of the things that people are gonna find when they watch multiple episodes is at some point, I think in the best possible way, you forget that it's Anton, and he becomes Jim. Given the fact that Anton hadn't had experience voice acting, I think it's a particularly remarkable accomplishment. We really got a chance to watch him grow into the role of Jim and also grow and really refine the craft of voice acting. The series itself is really a wonderful testament not just to his talent, but his spirit. His humanity really comes across in the voice of Jim.

Thankfully, you don't have long to wait at all to hear Anton Yelchin's stellar performance, as well as everyone else's, as Trollhunters will make its action-packed debut on Netflix on Friday, December 23, at 12:00 a.m. PT. To see what you can binge on in the near year, check out our 2017 Netflix schedule, and head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what you can watch all over the small screen in the coming months.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.