What is a daemon, you say? In the parallel reality of HBO’s His Dark Materials, based on Philip Pullman’s acclaimed novels, daemons are physical manifestations of human souls that exist outside the body as talking animal companions. Suffice it to say, they are an important part of this serialized book adaptation, so they need a voice cast to match.
On Friday, HBO revealed the talents behind the core daemons in the eight-part first season, as well as the man behind a certain armored polar bear.
Pan, the daemon of Lyra Belacqua (Logan star Dafne Keen) — a willful orphan girl living at Jordan College in this alternate world — will be voiced by the Kit Connor, who played a younger version of Elton John in this year’s movie musical Rocketman. Given that children are still trying to figure out what kind of people they’ll grow up to be, their daemons haven’t settled on an animal form to take. So, Pan, short for Pantalaimon, is constantly shifting between forms.
Comedian Cristela Alonzo will voice a hare named Hester, the daemon of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby. Miranda once teased, “I literally come into this thing singing a duet with my daemon on a big ass hot air balloon.”
David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) will voice Kaisa, the gyrfalcon daemon of the witch Serafina Pekkala (played by Ruta Gedmintas).
Helen McCrory of Peaky Blinders was already announced to voice Stelmaria, the snow leopard daemon of James McAvoy‘s adventuring Lord Asriel, Lyra’s uncle. For Ruth Wilson‘s Mrs. Coulter, a mysterious and dangerous woman, her golden monkey daemon doesn’t speak or have a name. Instead, Brian Fisher, a puppeteer behind Pikachu in Detective Pikachu, will provide the animal noises and vocal characteristics. Fisher also serves as the lead puppeteer and CFX coordinator on His Dark Materials.
The bond between human and daemon is sacred and, in most cases, one can never stray too far from the other or risk falling into excruciating despair. During a San Diego Comic-Con panel, the cast spoke of how the producers, wrangled by lead EP Jane Tranter, crafted puppets to stand in for daemons on set to help the actors form stronger relationships.
Then there’s Iorek Byrnison, that armored bear we spoke of. Specifically, these giant creatures are part of a race called panserbjørne, who live in the frozen wilderness of the north. They don’t have daemons, but their armor, made especially for them, is as close as they get. Actor Joe Tandberg (The Innocents) will voice Iorek.
In His Dark Materials, Lyra always wanted to join her uncle on his journeys to the arctic north, but was forced to remain at Jordan College. Then, a bunch of things happen: she foils an assassination plot against her uncle, she learns of a mysterious particle called Dust that holds vast secrets to her universe, her friend Roger becomes the latest victim in a string of kidnappings plaguing the city, the mesmerizing Mrs. Coulter arrives at Jordan, and Lyra receives a rare, mystical device called an alethiometer. All this propels her on a global adventure.
A premiere date has yet to be announced, though the series is expected to debut this fall. Season 2, which tackles the second book in Pullman’s trilogy, is already in production.