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Animated show ‘Drawn In’ spotlights St. Louis voice actors and representation

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Nine PBS
Local actors Ricco Martin Jr., Mariah Richardson, Riley Carter Adams and Leia Yogi pose with their "Drawn In" characters.

In the world of “Drawn In,” you won’t find any of its diverse cast of characters talking about St. Louis. Rather, they live in “Midland City,” a fictional place somewhere in the Midwest. But those voices — each comes from a young St. Louis voice actor.

Produced by Nine PBS for children ages 6-8, “Drawn In,” which premiered Monday, follows four characters whose love for comic books becomes a vehicle for imagination and a love of literacy.

Despite the show’s often fantastical subject matter, Ricco Martin, who plays “Tyler Agbani,” told St. Louis on the Air that it’s for the characters to be representative of the way people live in the real world.

“My character didn't have to be African American. But because he is, I am able to bring so much more of myself to this,” he said. “It’s OK to go out and show ‘This is who I truly am.’ And I am able to do this with ‘Tyler,’ even if it is animated.”

Riley Adams, who plays “Neveah Campbell,” noted that being an actor means “you bring something special” to a role.

“There's always like a certain aspect of representation you bring as yourself,” she continued. “I think that's particularly shown well in ‘Drawn In’ because the group is diverse as a whole.”

‘Drawn In’ actors discuss literacy and representation

The show is paired with a curriculum of educational materials to help parents and teachers boost the literacy lessons conveyed in the characters’ adventures onscreen.

“We know that imagination is such a critical part of reading,” said Alex Stallings, Nine PBS’ senior director of early learning. “It’s being able to envision the story and feel that you are a part of the story and that the characters come to life for you.”

During a typical episode, the characters “might deal with a nemesis or two” while trying to solve problems that come to life from a comic book.

“As that character leaps from the page, they must come together to make the world right again,” Stallings said, “and be able to close the chapter on those books.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."
Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.