NYCC2011: A Roundtable Interview with Voice and Casting Director Andrea Romano
Of all the interviews I’ve done in my time at Toonzone News, one which I was especially elated to get and is still one of my personal favorites is my interview with casting and voice director Andrea Romano before Batman: The Brave and the Bold premiered. I do need to correct and expand on some information in the biographical summary in that interview, though; at the time the interview was conducted, Romano had been nominated for a total of 23 Emmy Awards and taken home 6 (several of which have been accessorized); the current tally runs at 24 nominations and 7 wins.
At the 2011 New York Comic Con, Toonzone News was able to sit down with Romano again for a roundtable interview session with several other members of the press. Questions we asked are marked.
Q: Kevin was saying something about the use of actors who were not voice actors per se, but people you thought of as being good actors for the job. Could you talk a bit about how that informs your casting choices?
ANDREA ROMANO: We have the opportunity with all the different television shows and cable shows and movies that are out there to see so many actors work, so you can gauge someone’s acting by that. It’s not like I have to go out and do auditions to say, “Jeez, is Nathan Fillion a good actor?” I can actually watch some of his work and say, “Yes, he’s a good actor.” Now, the next question is, “Do they have voice over experience?” If they don’t, I don’t shy away from them. It just means that I have to teach them maybe the technique to working on microphone. For instance, if they’re strictly a film actor, they tend to work very small because the camera’s right in their face and they have to work very small. We have to goose the energy a bit to get the right voice tracks to be animated.
You can cast a very wide net when you look at the entire entertainment industry. Firefly is a great show because there were so many talented actors in that. I think for one project or another, I’ve pretty much hired every single actor in that show at this point. But you basically look for good acting. Microphone technique and animation acting, you can teach in a very short time. I can’t teach acting in a four-hour recording session. Acting is something that they’ve got to bring to the table themselves. You think, “Here’s what the character looks like, here’s what the character is. Does that actor’s voice sound like what the character looks like? Do I think he’s got the acting ability?” Say, for Batman: Year One, I watched Ben McKenzie do Southland, and I thought, “Absolutely, he can handle what happens in Batman: Year One.” So I’m never afraid to take a shot with someone who’s never done it before because we don’t ever want to repeat ourselves.
However, for Justice League: Doom, it was a joy to get the response from the employers when they said that I could bring back the cast that I had cast some twelve years ago from the Justice League series. Some people who hadn’t worked together since we did the last Justice League a decade ago got to work together again. I said it’s like going to a family reunion where you’ve hand-picked your family (laughs). It’s really nice.
ANDREA ROMANO: Absolutely. A perfect example of that was when I was working on Teen Titans many years ago, there was a brand new actor in town named Greg Cipes, and he auditioned with 150 people for Beast Boy. I sat with the producer, Glen Murakami, and we listened to all the auditions and I said, “I’m convinced this kid is Beast Boy. I’m absolutely convinced he’s the right actor.” I kind of had to convince my bosses that this is the right guy, and sure enough, he was a wonderful Beast Boy. Then he went off and has begun this ridiculously huge voice-over career. But yeah, you do have to take that leap of faith and say, “It feels right to me. I think it’s right.” And I’ve been doing this now long enough that I should have some sense of it.
I can be wrong. I’m the first one to say, “You know, I brought this guy in and he wasn’t perfect, and I apologize,” but you gotta take a chance. You can’t just play it safe. You gotta go for something new and take a chance.
TOONZONE NEWS: One thing I’ve noticed in some of the newer movies is more natural sounding dialogue.
ANDREA ROMANO: Good! We did that deliberately. That was a conscious decision.
TOONZONE NEWS: Does that affect the way you cast, or the way you will drive a session as a result of that?
ANDREA ROMANO: Yeah, both of those things. There are some…for lack of a better term, “cartoon voice actors” who are always going to be broad. That’s what they do, and they can do multiple voices and have remarkable skill, but ideally, when you know that you want a very realistic style and you want it to be a live-action feature, you kind of look at the casting a little bit differently. Certainly the sessions you direct differently because you want that more intimate, quieter, more subtle performance.
Q: How does it feel to be the person who chooses all these voices that then go on to become the voices that people hear in their heads when they read these comics?
ANDREA ROMANO: It’s an awesome responsibility. It’s huge. Hopefully I make the right decision, but I don’t have the ultimate say. My job as a casting director, when I’m casting something is to present options to the people who do have the ultimate say, which is essentially the money people, the publicity people, a bunch of people who have say. Any casting director’s job is to present options: “Here’s these five people. Tell me who you like and in what order.” If they’re celebrities, “I want this guy first, go to this guy next, go to this guy next.” If there are auditions, you just present the auditions to them and say, “I like these five guys. These are my favorites. Who do you guys like?” And then they say, “Go to this guy, and then this one.” Certainly it’s the producers and not myself that makes the decisions.
Q: You’ve been working with Kevin Conroy & Tim Daly for so long. When they come back after not doing it for a while, is there a little bit of a learning curve?
ANDREA ROMANO: No, because they did the characters for so many years, it’s just like breathing. It’s like riding a bike. You don’t really have to think about how to ride a bike any more. You learn how to do it and you do it, which is why whenever I’m given a project like Justice League: Doom, my first question to my employers is, “May I go back to the original cast?” because I know it’ll make my job easier. First of all, I’m not going to have to re-cast all over again, and the actors will remember. Even though Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly aren’t acting in the same room together, they’re going to remember each other’s performances and what their performances are going to sound like, so they’ll have a better, fuller world that they can then act and react to.
Q: When an actor is auditioning for something like a Batman role or a Superman role, do you ever mention anything from Kevin Conroy’s performance or Tim Daly’s performance?
ANDREA ROMANO: No, because actors want to create something themselves. They don’t want to emulate somebody else. They want it to be their performance. If they came in just to do an impression of Kevin, I would just get Kevin (laughs). Everybody wants to create it themselves, and that’s interesting too. I like all the new different incarnations. I think it was in San Diego, or one of you guys told me how many times I’ve cast Batman. I think I’m up to 12 now. I didn’t even know, but I like all of them. If for some reason I don’t like them, I’ll probably replace them. I mean, Batman is such a huge property. You can’t do a mediocre job. It has to be good.
ANDREA ROMANO: You know, for all the shorts that have been added to the DVDs in the DC Universe, “Catwoman” is the only one I cast. All the rest were done by other people, only because I was too busy. I had 10 projects simultaneously and I just couldn’t do them all, and I don’t ever want to sign up for something where I can’t give it a very good job. So “Catwoman was the only one I did.”
Q: Where did Eliza Dushku come from?
ANDREA ROMANO: She had done Batman: Year One, and that piece came up short. We needed to do a little piece with it to make it a full-length feature, and there was a Paul Dini script that happened to be a Catwoman piece. We were like, “Eliza is available, she wants to do it, we’ve wanted to work with her for years, she’s on board for the long piece, let’s have her do both of them.” So it just worked out.
Q: You’ve been doing the DC heroes for so long, but how is it different from doing something like The Boondocks, which is not exactly “politically correct”, or…
ANDREA ROMANO: (laughs) What do you mean? (laughter) It’s great because I don’t get stuck in a rut, then. I found that there was a period of time when I was doing almost exclusively action shows and I felt myself yearning to do something silly and fun. Years ago, when I was doing Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain and all those musical comedy shows, then I was doing BTAS and Superman, that was a nice combination of different kinds of cartoons. Then, it just happened that it was a bunch of action shows, and I really started longing for the sillier ones. So when The Boondocks came along, I just jumped at that. We’re making more of those, by the way.
(click to listen to the following response)
Q: Are you ever uncomfortable with some of the material?
ANDREA ROMANO: Always! Always uncomfortable! And the funny thing is because the artists record separately very often on that…I’ve worked with a bunch of rappers and I’ve worked with Quincy Jones, and a bunch of different people, and I have to read them in. And so I have to say the lines that the other actor had to say (laughter) which is sometimes…and I’ll say the “n-word,” and the actor will just freeze in front of me. And I’ll say, “It’s because I said the n-word, isn’t it?” (laughs)
ANDREA ROMANO: Wow…good question. (click to listen) You know who was my biggest get? Steven Spielberg. I directed Steven Spielberg in a Tiny Toons episode. That was crazy. I actually do remember sitting there as I slated the show, I turned around to the crew and went, “I’m Directing Steven Spielberg!” Because lots of people can say, “I’ve been directed by..” but very few can say, “I directed him.”
There’s all kinds of people that I would love to come and work with me. I want any actor who’s ever worked to come and play with me at some point. There’s so many…you know, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, I love his voice, there’s so much texture to it, it’s really nice.
Q: Any women?
ANDREA ROMANO: There were a couple of people we tried to get recently, but…you know, the thing is that I don’t want to say because I may be able to get them, you know? There’s so many people.
Toonzone News would like to thank Andrea “Rockstar” Romano for taking the time to speak with us, as well as Gary Miereanu for arranging it and our fellow members of the press at the roundtable. Batman: Year One is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, and Justice League: Doom is due out in early 2012. Don’t forget to check out our coverage of the DC Animated Panel discussion and the trailer for Justice League Doom.