"Justice League: Doom" NYC Premiere Interviews with Phil Morris, Kevin Conroy, & Andrea Romano
At the world premiere of Justice League: Doom at the Paley Center for Media in New York City, Toonzone News was able to speak with actors Phil Morris and Kevin Conroy, and voice director Andrea Romano in red-carpet interview sessions for the press.
Questions asked by Toonzone News are marked. These interviews have been slightly re-arranged for flow and print.
Actor Phil Morris may be best known as slimy lawyer Jackie Chiles from the sitcom Seinfeld, but he demonstrated his dramatic abilities in a totally different role as Vandal Savage in the Justice League TV series. Morris reprises his role as Vandal Savage in Justice League: Doom; comic book fans may also recognize Morris as J’onn J’onzz from the TV series Smallville.
TOONZONE NEWS: You’re a comic book reader, right?
PHIL MORRIS: Big time, yeah.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you ever go for any other roles other than Vandal Savage?
PHIL MORRIS: Yeah, I did King Faraday in Justice League: New Frontier, which was very interesting because in that movie, I played opposite J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Then later on, the next week, I got J’onn J’onzz to play on Smallville. So it was really kind of ironic. But yeah, being a comic book fan helps immeasurably in understanding the universe, understanding the characters, giving them grounding, and taking them seriously. It’s what taught me to read, it’s what taught me to visualize, it’s what taught me to draw. So, no pun intended, but I drew on a lot of that experience as a comic book reader.
TOONZONE NEWS: Did you play this Vandal Savage any differently than how you played him previously on the TV show?
PHIL MORRIS: A little bit, because there’s been a few years since I did Vandal on the original series, and when I got to the record session, Bruce Timm and Andrea (Romano) told me that they were not married to anything I did in the past. This was a meaner, more manipulative…if it’s possible, dirtier, darker Vandal than we had previously seen. I think the one I played before was a little more lyrical, you know? A little more of a Renaissance man. Now he’s just a bad dude, and I quite liked it. It was a little hardcore.
TOONZONE NEWS: Don’t you think, though, that after literally thousands of years trying to take over the world and he hasn’t done it yet…shouldn’t he just give up?
PHIL MORRIS: Well, what else is this guy going to do? (laughs) I mean, he’s not going to move to the Hamptons, you know? He’s got stuff on his mind. He’s got bigger goals to achieve. And until he achieves them, he’s not giving up the ghost. Literally. It speaks to his determination, a little bit, and it speaks to his single-minded purpose. I think that’s his purpose, so maybe that’s what it is. We all have a purpose, right? That’s Vandal’s.
Q: As a comic book fan, were you a fan of Dwayne McDuffie’s work before you worked on his projects in animation?
PHIL MORRIS: Yes. Yes, I was. I am a fan of his work, because his work’s going to live forever. Hopefully, what we’ve done in this movie is honor his memory in every word that we utter, and and every frame that you see. There is Dwayne McDuffie. If you ever met him, he was a beautiful, gentle giant. A beautiful, compassionate, gentle man who you wouldn’t think could write the kind of evil that he could with villains. He was a truly gifted individual. We will miss him.
PHIL MORRIS: Well, I always wanted to play the Black Panther, but I think I’m getting maybe a little old for that.
TOONZONE NEWS: Nah!
PHIL MORRIS: So, instead of playing T’Challa, I’ll play T’Chaka. I’ll play his dad. But yeah, I’d love to even play John Stewart.
I’d love a Victor Von Doom. Just to stand in the villain side of life. I said that I’d play him like Eric Braeden in The Young and the Restless, I’d be a little (laughs) a little bit like that. I like criminals that are intelligent. I like characters that have dimension,
A lot of people say that playing the villain is easier than playing the hero, and I don’t know that that’s true. I think it’s a lot easier to be angry. We get angry at the drop of a hat these days. In traffic, or in line at the Starbucks or whatever…we find that ire somewhere. Relatives, or your kids, or whatever. So that’s kind of right there for us, but heroes have to come from a place of light and compassion and understanding and hope, and we don’t have a lot of that to draw on, so I don’t know if it’s that easy to bring it out organically. You can proselytize or you can cheese it up or you can imitate, but to really look into someone’s eyes and tell them that there is hope in the world, and have them accept and understand that, is just as difficult, if not moreso, than yelling at someone and saying, “I’m going to take you down!” That, to me, doesn’t take a lot. The other, to me, takes more.
Q: With 5 other DC live-action series under development right now, any particular character you’re interested in?
PHIL MORRIS: I don’t know about all of them that are in development, but all of them catch my interest (laughter). I’m just saying. Someone asked me about J’onn J’onzz as a weekly series, and yeah, I’d love to see him. I really thought we could have had J’onn J’onzz be sort of a Rod Serling of the DC Universe. So we have him bookend the show and every so often the episode would focus on J’onn, but then we’d bring out these characters in the DC Universe that aren’t in the shows and aren’t in the films right now. You can do the same kind of due diligence that they did in Smallville, but feature them in a 3-episode arc. And J’onn sort of opens it and bookends it like Rod Serling. I thought that would have been awesome. So I might pitch that to the people at Warner Bros. The thing that I worry about in TV is that it’s such a right now thing (snapping fingers), you know, and even though Smallville was on for 10 years and we just dropped the 10 year collection, they’re kind of like “Yeah, yesterday’s news, been there done that” kind of thing. But for me, if it’s good, it’s good. That is timeless. Good is good, and if you can make it good…if you can get guys like Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, who have chops and who can get that done, good is good.
Q: I loved your performance in Star Trek: Voyager, because there were so many things there that are against an actor’s intuition, like speaking to the camera and acting by yourself. That was a really cool episode.
PHIL MORRIS: Thank you! “One Small Step,” it was called, and doing voice over helped, because there’s a lot of times when I’m in the booth by myself and I’m having to play with these incredible states on a cue from Andrea or Bruce Timm or whoever the vocal director is, and you have to bring a lot of yourself, because when you have the ability to look in another actor’s eyes, you throw the ball and the ball comes back. That’s a lot easier than having to throw the ball and….kind of determine and engage how it comes back for yourself. Vocal acting possibly helped me with that, but thank you.
PHIL MORRIS: One? That’s all I get?!? You ask tough questions! (laughter)
Batman. I met Christopher Nolan at a function and I thanked him, not as an actor, but as a comic book fan, and I think he thought I was a little bit geeky. Fine! I don’t care! (laughter) Bring it, dude! Bring Batman with you! (laughter) But I thanked him for getting it right. Getting it right in terms of the integrity of this medium. They played comics small, and I think to their detriment. Comics have done, for me, just personally, they taught me to read. They taught me to visualize. They taught me to role-play. They taught me to draw. They taught me about compassion, good vs. evil, morality things. That’s all that comics are. They’re morality tales. So for Christopher Nolan and those guys to get that so right, it gave me hope that the industry is not playing it small any more. Not just because of the bottom line, they’ll play it as big as they want when the box office numbers are huge. But The Dark Knight Returns…that’s art. And I don’t think you could have said that before.
Q: What are your favorite comics?
PHIL MORRIS: Well, even though I have 20,000 of them, I’m not collecting right now. I was a Marvel guy…when I was younger, you had to pick sides (laughter). I was a Marvel guy because Marvel had the first representations that I could relate to. I felt that they were dealing with a much more compassionate face. It wasn’t so much primary colors, in a way. I didn’t trust Superman. He was just too goody-two-shoes for me, as a kid. Now, I like the DC Universe. I think the writers are on point. It’s a writer’s medium now.
Q: What projects do you have coming up next?
PHIL MORRIS: Well, I’m doing the Green Lantern animated series, and then I do a show called Love That Girl! with Tatyana Ali who plays my daughter. We’ve all been nominated for Image awards, which has been wonderful, that’s next Friday night, so hopefully, you can pull a couple of ‘em. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not what they think about (laughs). It’s what we think about. Then I’m doing Shake It Up for Disney…I’m playing Dad’s these days.
I’m writing my own hour-long action/adventure/drama, which is based on my 10 years of martial arts. I’m a kung fu teacher/student, and my father was in the original Mission: Impossible, and I did the new Mission: Impossible. With all that I’ve done in genre work, I think that it is time for me to step out and get out there and do what I’m supposed to do, and bring to the world a certain reality, but it’s always going to be grounded in this compassionate world for me. What are the answers? Why are we still fighting? One of the episodes I have, my character starts out in a comic book store. And he’s reading a Batman comic, and he’s not a comic book guy, and he goes to the clerk…and he goes, “Why is Batman…Batman, still? Superman, still?” “Dude, evil never sleeps!” Well, that’s true.
TOONZONE NEWS: Have you ever thought of writing your own comic?
PHIL MORRIS: I have, but right now, I’m busy writing my scripts. You know…I sing, but I’m not a singer, because I have such reverence for singers. So to write a comic book and just to start writing a comic book…I’ve been reading scripts my whole life. So to write a script isn’t so far beyond the pale. To write a comic book, even though I think it’s similar to scriptwriting, it takes a muscle that I don’t know if I have. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have so much respect for comic book writers that I don’t want to mess it up.
Q: With your background in martial arts, what films have you seen in the past year or so that really stand out that they got it right in terms of the action scenes.
PHIL MORRIS: The Bourne Trilogy. You watch that, and you think, “Ow! That hurts!” That’s reality. I really liked the choreography in that. Ip Man 2 by Donnie Yen, and Ip Man 1. I’m actually in the features of Ip Man 2 on DVD, in what’s called “Wing Chun in Action.” Wing Chun is a system that Ip Man studied, and he taught Bruce Lee and my sifu, Bruce Lee’s best friend in Hong Kong. I’ve been with him for over 25 years. So, I’m there as Phil Morris talking about Wing Chun kung fu.
Of course, I loved The Matrix. I wished the third one was better (laughs), but…I think they lost the plot there somewhere. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if we all could have been The One? If that was the message?…I might write that comic book after all (laughter). But yeah, those movies really got the choreography right, and the action as well.
PHIL MORRIS: I would have done it! I had one flash, I think in a two-parter. I get knocked into this canister, and you get a real quick flash of an occipital lobe Martian thing. I told them I’d do a Michael Dorn. I’d do it! If I could buy F-18’s and stuff that Michael does with his money? (laughter) No, just to legitimize the character and to bring him to the place that most of the fans know him as, I would have done it. I’d be happy to do it. I’ve done a lot of Star Treks. I’ve been Jem’Hadars and Klingons, I’m on that. I meditate under that stuff. It would have been a wonderful place to go, but it’s not my show.
Q: We had a vote and if Carl Lumbly wants to take a little vacation, we’d love to see you back as J’onn J’onzz in the cartoons.
PHIL MORRIS: Oh, thank you, thank you!
Q: Would you consider it?
PHIL MORRIS: Well, I don’t want to take a job from Carl! (laughter) Carl’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant J’onn J’onzz. I’m happy to play Vandal all day long. I would play John Stewart on camera as well, I’d love to play John Stewart as well. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Phil LaMarr, either, so he can have the voice over stuff. But give me a chance to do this on camera again, and I guarantee you it will be exciting.
Fans of DC animation need no introduction to Kevin Conroy, who has been the definitive voice of Batman for more than 20 years. In addition to reprising his role as Batman for Justice League: Doom, Conroy has reunited with Mark Hamill playing the Joker for the recently released video games DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham City.
KEVIN CONROY: It was different from the usual recordings for Warner Bros. Warner Bros. really likes to get everybody in the room together, because they get great interaction. And Andrea likes to do that, too. But this, because it was such a big cast, and everybody’s so busy, everyone was not together. I didn’t really get a sense of the whole piece until this weekend when I saw it. Warner Bros. sent it to me, and I sat down and watched it, and I was able to get it all together in one piece, because we did it in separate sessions.
Q: What do you find when you have to do different versions of Batman. You’ve been the consistent voice for so long, but with so many different scriptwriters and different adaptations, what do you try to bring to each different one?
KEVIN CONROY: You know what’s funny? It’s funny you ask that, because depending on the scriptwriter and depending on the director, they all bring their ideas, and invariably, they say, “You know, we want to try this,” or “We want to try that” and I always have to kind of nudge them a little bit and say, “You know? The audience is so loyal to this character, they’ll know in a second if the sound isn’t genuine, and if it’s not the sound of Batman. Of who they know. So just trust me on this (laughs).” You’ve got to be true to the guy. You’ve got to be true to the guy, so I always try to bring them back. Does that make sense?
Q: Mark Hamill has said he’s retiring from doing the Joker voice. How do you feel about that?
KEVIN CONROY: I can’t imagine it without him. And we work so well together. I wish that the audience…I know he has a huge and loyal following, but if they could see him in the recording studio, they would have a hundred times more admiration for him. He’s a really talented actor, and his whole body gets thrown into the recordings. I mean, it looks like the guy is going to devour the microphone. He’s so all over the studio. He’s a very exciting guy to work with, very creative, intelligent actor. Much more than the average actor. Great man.
TOONZONE NEWS: Can you see yourself ever retiring from Batman?
KEVIN CONROY: I hope not (laughs). I can’t see it, but you know…there’s going to be other people doing it, like the live-action movies. They’ve had so many different actors do them, and it’s interesting to see how a different actor has a take on the role.
TOONZONE NEWS: You ever watch Young Justice or one of the other direct-to-video movies where you’re not playing Batman, “Oh, I could have done better than that!”
KEVIN CONROY: (laughs) No, I kind of like to see the different takes on it. It’s interesting to see. Everybody’s got something unique to a role, and just like I liked seeing all the live-action Batmans. They’ve all been unique. But Christian Bale is incredible. He’s incredible. He was the best of all the live-action Batmans. And Heath Ledger…what a tragedy. He was just inspiring as the Joker.
KEVIN CONROY: Well, the way I approached it was that Bruce is the performance. That was my first take on it. Putting on the cape and the cowl isn’t putting on a costume. That’s where he feels the most comfortable, and can be himself. Putting on a costume for this guy is putting on a business suit and a tie, and performing for Gotham City. That’s the performance. That’s the way I’ve approached the role. I think the audience picks up on that.
Q: Is there anything graphic novel-wise that you’d like to tackle? Something you want to get your hands on?
KEVIN CONROY: I read a lot of historical novels and biographies. I just finished a book called 1861, about the first year of the Civil War. I love historical literature.
Q: Can you say what you have going on next?
KEVIN CONROY: I’ve been doing the games, more than anything. I’ve been doing a game that’s been ongoing, and I’m still involved in that. For the last two years, I’ve been doing that.
TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve played a number of DC Comics characters. Is there any character that you haven’t played yet that you’d really like to play?
KEVIN CONROY: I love doing character voices, and I don’t get a lot of opportunity to do it just because the competition to doing character voices is unbelievable. There are people who make a voice of a panther in heat, and you would swear that there’s a panther in heat in the room. There are people who are incredibly talented at doing specific types of character voices. But I love doing character voices so I’d love to be able to do more of that, but the competition is very hard on those voices. I just have a very good romantic lead voice. It fits that category really well, so that’s what I get put in all the time. So I appreciate that. I appreciate that they want me for those roles.
Q: Has Batman’s voice changed over the years? 2012 marks 20 years, if I remember correctly. Have you ever found yourself getting comfortable in the role, or found a way to break out of that comfort and keep an edge?
KEVIN CONROY: I’ve had to play with the sound at times. I mean, it’s funny…you do get comfortable in something and you almost think you’re in the voice and you’re not. Especially after a few months being away from the voice, Andrea will bring me in and we’ll start recording, and I’ll start doing it and she’ll go, “Uh, OK, let’s start again,” and I’ll realize that I’m not there. It’s going to take a while to find the sound again. Because I originally found the sound not by imposing it on my throat, but by sort of getting into the head of the guy. From an internal place. Just getting to a very dark, and what I found was a very painful place. The pain of his youth. It’s not the kind of thing you can just click on and off. So it’s funny you ask that because there have been times when I think I’m doing it and I’m not. And Andrea will say, after an hour, “OK, now you’re there, we can go back and start again. We’re going to go back and start again from the top, Kevin, because (laughs) you’ve just been playing around for a while, you haven’t been there.”
It’s interesting, it’s a very subtle kind of world, the voice-over world. I’ve brought friends into bookings sometimes, and they’ll say, “You know, it’s fascinating, you did something and they asked you to change something. I couldn’t figure out what they asked you to change, but you not only knew what they were asking you to do, but you changed it and came up with a different sound and everyone was happy. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What are they talking about?’ I didn’t even know what you were saying to each other. But I heard the difference at the end.” I thought that was a very interesting observation for an outsider to make, because it makes you realize that we kind of do have a language that we use to talk to each other. We know what we mean. I know how to tweak the sound to get the dramatic effect they want, while an outsider doesn’t even know what they asked for.
Q: Do you remember a specific scene or moment in playing Batman that really challenged you? You mentioned you had to go to a dark place to play Batman. Were there any particularly grueling recording sessions?
KEVIN CONROY: Yeah, there have been. There have been a number of them that have been really hard. Usually, they’re the ones that require a lot of vocal range, and producing the sound, getting down into that deep register and then having to scream in that sound or do it for a couple of hours can be very, very difficult. Just physically taxing. So in the physical sense, there have been episodes that have been very hard. One of my favorite episodes is called “Perchance to Dream,” because I played about four different characters in the show and they’re all different versions of Bruce Wayne. They all had to be related, believably, but distinctly different, and it was basically an hour of me performing with me. Any actor loves that kind of challenge, but it was incredibly difficult to keep it clear who was who and just to vocally support it.
(Editor’s Note: The audio at this point was garbled, but the question related to the audition for Batman.)
KEVIN CONROY: There are usually five or ten people who can do a role really well. It’s just a question of who the director chooses to do that project. And often, whether it’s a voice job or an on-camera job, you go in to test for the network against three or four other people and you’re looking around the room thinking, “Anyone in this room could do this job. Really well.” It’s just who’s going to be the flavor of the day? Who’s the one that just tweaks it the way they feel like seeing it. It’s not often who’s the best. Once you get to that level, where you’re testing for the network, you’re all the good ones. You’re all right for the role. There are a lot of really talented people in this business, and Andrea is great at finding them, which is why the bookings are such a pleasure. Everyone wants to work on Warner Bros. projects when Andrea is doing them because you just know it’s going to be a room full of really talented people.
Q: Are you planning to direct one in the future?
KEVIN CONROY: No (laughs). Directing requires the ability to multi-task on a lot of levels, and I’m not that good at multi-tasking. I’m really good at making a choice and running with it. I’m very good at that. I’m not very good at making lots of choices and running in lots of directions at the same time, and you have to do that to be a director.
Q: Batman has been a popular character for 75 years now. Do you feel like he’ll remain that popular for the next 75, and why?
KEVIN CONROY: Oh, I don’t think there’s any question. I think there’s a timelessness about him, the writers really locked into a gold mine with this character. He is the archetypical hero: tested by fire in his youth, overcoming tragedy, and using his life to conquer evil. It’s an archetype in literature, and everyone relates to that. Everyone wants to be a hero. There was an incident in New York a few years ago where a guy fainted and fell on to the subway track, and an everyday guy had the presence of mind not just to be brave enough to jump in and save the person, which I pray to God I would have the courage to do. This guy had the courage to jump in and lay down on top of the person in the bed of the tracks, knowing…like Batman would know…that if you lay down, you’ll both be saved because you’ll be cleared by the trains. Can you imagine the panic and the terror that any of us would feel to jump and lay down under a subway to save a stranger’s life? When I heard the story, I thought, “This guy’s Batman. This is such a Batman thing.” He’s an everyday guy without superpowers, but he had the presence of mind and the knowledge of the system to know how to work it, and he saved the guy’s life. He got the keys to the city and everybody applauded him, and he was everybody’s hero. He was great.
(Editor’s Note: Kevin Conroy is referring to Wesley Autrey, who saved Cameron Hollopeter from a subway train in 2007. Follow-up articles on Mr. Autrey and Mr. Hollopeter have appeared in 2009 and just last week.)
KEVIN CONROY: I think the most interesting one was Mask of the Phantasm with Dana Delany doing the voice of Andrea.
Q: Is it true that the character in Mask of the Phantasm was actually named after a certain voice director?
KEVIN CONROY: “A certain voice director.” (laughs)
Q: (laughter) It is a true story?
KEVIN CONROY: Early on, we had this joke, Warner Bros, that when I’m doing grunt sounds and fighting sounds, it’s very close to sexualized sounds, so I’d be in the booth and I’m going, “Uh! Ah! Errgh! Uuuhhhhhh! Oh, Andrea!” (laughter). I just did it once as a joke. The booth was leveled. Bruce Timm couldn’t stop laughing. So it got to be a joke around Warner Bros. “And then you say…” “Oooh, Andrea.” So that got to be a joke that that was Batman’s love call. So then they gave that name to the love interest in that movie.
Q: So it is a true story.
KEVIN CONROY: Yeah.
(Editor’s Note: Check out Andrea Romano’s recitation of this story in our intervew with her from 2008.)
One of the most renowned voice directors in the business, Andrea Romano has been involved in DC animation for as long as the likes of Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Kevin Conroy. She has earned the adoration of fans everywhere who meet her with wild enthusiasm when she appears at comic conventions or premieres.
ANDREA ROMANO: There is an awards ceremony for voice actors called the Annies, and I would like to see more voice actors — I mean the rank-and-file voice actors, the voice actors who do this every single day — get acknowledged, say, at the Oscars, or anything like that. What tends to happen is that it becomes a celebrity-fest. One person who comes in and does one wonderful role as a celebrity, they get the acknowledgement. But someone like Kevin Conroy, who’s so stunning and has done this work for so long, isn’t acknowledged, and he deserves the attention.
Q: For this Justice League: Doom, you brought back a lot of the old cast members, Was that part of the plan, to bring back as many characters from Justice League into this movie?
ANDREA ROMANO: Yes, I’m a freelance director, so every single job that comes is like, “Andrea, do you want to do this gig?” And I look at it and I read the script and I ask, “Who can I cast?” and sometimes I have to get someone nobody’s ever seen before play Batman or Superman. When this one came across my desk, first of all it was a fascinating story, and it was written by Dwayne McDuffie, who was a stunning writer and a wonderful friend. Then they said, “Yes, you can use the old cast,” which we all had suggested. Bruce Timm and I said, “Let’s use the old cast if we can.” There’s a lazy factor to that, which is that I don’t have to say to Susan Eisenberg, “OK, here’s this character, Wonder Woman…” Susan Eisenberg knows who Wonder Woman is. She played her for years, so there’s that factor. But we did make some changes, like to have Nathan Filion come in to play Green Lantern. We just said, “Let’s just twist it a little bit and bring in some other people.”
I don’t cast this in a vacuum. It’s a large group decision as to who we want to play these roles. There are, I think 24 or 26 actors in this piece, some of them doing three voices, so it’s really filled with remarkable talent. But to bring in some of the actors who have played these characters before takes a little bit off my shoulders, so I can sort of sit back and just get off the button. I can just let them do what they do and they have lots of great ideas. It’s also a way to say to the producers, “You may have had an idea of what you thought this was going to sound like, but let the actors do what they do, and if their idea is better, can’t we adjust to what they do because it’s organic and real?” They’ve been working with these characters for so much longer, exclusively. Susan Eisenberg was Wonder Woman for a long time! She knows what she’s doing. So it’s always really nice to go back to that luxury.
Q: I know a lot of it’s solo, where you are directing them one-on-one, but a lot of big budget movies can have them all in the same room at the same time. Was there any of that here?
ANDREA ROMANO: As often as possible, I do ensemble records. I like that because a large part of acting is reacting, so when you want to have a conversation, you’re going ot react to me in a certain way because of the way I talk to you. If I have both actors there at the same time, they’re reacting off each other and that’s really interesting. That’s dramatically interesting. When they’re not there together, I have to remember what the other actor did, so I have to feed that one line to the other actor and say, “OK, here’s what Kevin did. Tim, now you’re going to react to Kevin.” I think that Tim and Kevin worked together a lot on this, and all of the smaller roles worked together in groups. And that’s always really nice to have that give-and-take and that play. It’s hard when you have to act in a vacuum, and that makes my job harder because I have to act for them. Which is fine, I don’t mind doing it and I like doing it, but it means I have to do maybe 20 recording sessions instead of 3.
ANDREA ROMANO: (laughter) I don’t know. Susan Eisenberg, I’m REALLY good at. I do a lot of Susan’s impact sounds and stuff because she’s not always available, so when Wonder Woman has an “Ooof!” it’s often me. (laughs)
Q: When you approach anyone and say, “Do you want to play Superman? Do you want to play Wonder Woman? Do you want to play Green Lantern?” has there been any hesitation?
ANDREA ROMANO: It’s often availability. It’s just that they’re so busy. It’s often money, because some of these people command a tremendous amount of money for their on-camera work, if they’re a big celebrity. There have been many celebrities I’ve gone out to because I am given the directive, “We want another Batman for this particular project. Let’s go for Joe Schmoe and this guy and this guy and this guy,” and they’re like, “Hey, I expect $100,000″ and our budget just doesn’t allow for $100,000. So sometimes, it’s that. Sometimes, it’s, “I just can’t do it, please keep me in mind for the next one.” I keep a list, and it might be five years down the line, but I’ll call up the actor and say, “Do you want to play Batman now?” “YES! I’m available!” So we try to give everybody a chance to play.
TOONZONE NEWS: In this movie, and in the Superman/Batman movies, when you cast Superman, you went back and got Tim Daly. Is there any reason why you didn’t use George Newbern?
ANDREA ROMANO: At the time when we were in production for this, George was living in Princeton, NJ, and Tim was in Los Angeles, so logistically it was simpler. The reason why we stopped using Tim Daly initially was that Tim had moved from Los Angeles to Rhode Island, and so that’s why we had to go to George Newbern because we couldn’t get to Tim often enough. We were doing a series, weekly recording, and I couldn’t get Tim often enough. It was never any kind of problem with him other than just plain logistics: how do I get him recorded in time for our production period? This was just the opposite: Tim was there, George was out of town, and it just worked out that way. And Tim expressed specifically that he wanted to come back and play again. I think Tim and Kevin make a really nice duo, as do George and Kevin. I can’t say I prefer one over the other. It’s just who was close by and available.
Q: When a character makes the leap from the page to the screen, whether they’re large or small, what goes into deciding the voice? What factors do you have for a voice that hasn’t had one before?
ANDREA ROMANO: I’ll tell you for this one, that hearkens back to Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote the script for this. One of Dwayne’s remarkable talents was his ability to make a script actable, so you put that in front of an actor and they say, “I can play that.” That makes my job a lot easier. When you look for someone, the key is not “how does his voice sound?” It’s “can you act?” Whenever people ask “How do I get into voice over? I can do all these wonderful voices!” but if you can’t act, you’re probably great fun at a party (laughter), but it’s not very good for what I need. So acting is key. We can manipulate the voice. I can teach people how to manipulate the voice in a 4-hour recording session. I can teach them microphone technique. I can’t teach them acting in four hours.
So I look for an actor first, voice next, and then someone I want to spend hours and hours and hours in a room with, because I’m going to have to do that. And someone who will listen to me, not go, “No no! I think the character should be played THIS way!” I like that they have their own ideas, but I need them to trust that I have enough experience that I can tell you, “This is going to work.” I often have trouble with some actors who have never done this before when I give them a line reading, they say, “Please don’t line read me,” so I’ll say, “OK, we can spend 20 minutes for you to find this organically, or I can take 3 minutes and get you to do it this way because it will animate more.” And always always, they go, “OK, tell me.” (laughs)
ANDREA ROMANO: I respect them so much, because I know what they go through every day just to get the job, get to the audition, get to the session. I have the terminology so I can speak to them in terms that they understand, and I have tremendous sympathy for when an actor puts themselves into a role and they feel what they’re going through. When I’ve got to have someone experience the death of a loved one in a piece, or put themselves at risk, they’re really feeling those emotions and I know what that’s like as an actress. I think that helps me be sympathetic to what they’re going through. If I have to sit in the room with them and work with them one-to-one, and they have to cry through a scene and they’re really doing it organically, I guarantee you that I’m crying with them. I will literally be sitting there weeping with them, and when I’m crying, I know that it works. When they have moved me to tears because they’ve gotten to that position, then I know that it works. So that they feel like, “If she’s willing to cry, then it’s OK. I can do it.”
Q: What do you see as the future of DC animation for releases. I know that last year at the All-Star Superman premiere, they were saying they were going to slow down the shorts…
ANDREA ROMANO: There are so many pieces in production right now. There’s two Dark Knight Returns pieces, coming up, and there’s at least 3 or 4 other pieces in pre-production, so even though they said they might be slowing down, you’ll never notice them slowing down.
Q: (Audio garbled; the question related to female headliners in a DTV feature)
ANDREA ROMANO: You know, I always like to have as much female stuff…I think there’s not nearly enough, so I always suggest it. The truth is that I have no decision making power in that. They bring their projects and say, “This is what we want you to make next,” and I always encourage them, “Isn’t there another female?” But it depends on what books have been written and what pieces have been written.
Q: I think that it’s good that now in the industry, females who are authors, illustrators, whatever, they’re getting the attention that they’ve deserved for years. Now even the male audiences are demanding that.
ANDREA ROMANO: Isn’t that wonderful?
ANDREA ROMANO: I hope so, and I always encourage that. I want that to happen. As a female viewer, I want to see that, and as someone who works in production, I want to see that. So yes, I hope so. I do. There’s not as many stories written. That’s just the reality of it. There’s just not as many female-centric superhero stories written.
Q: Kevin told a wonderful story how he came in to do Batman one time, and he wasn’t quite where he was supposed to be and you kind of guide him back. And you just talked about how sometimes you have new people. What do you find more challenging: a veteran who you know what they’re capable of and what you want from them who isn’t quite there, or someone who’s new?
ANDREA ROMANO: That’s a really interesting question. More challenging than either of them is an actor who fights me, and that can be a veteran actor or a new actor. Someone who’s…for whatever reason…they’re not trusting me to do what it is that I do. A major part of my job is saying, “Be comfortable, I’m here for you, I’m not going to let your voice go out sounding bad, I’m not going to let your performance go out sounding bad. I promise you I will take you where we need to go.” And that’s with both veteran actors and brand new actors.
Toonzone News would like to thank Phil Morris, Kevin Conroy, and Andrea Romano for taking the time to speak with us, and to Gary Miereanu of Warner Bros. PR and the staff of the Paley Center for Media in New York City. Justice League: Doom is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and On Demand. Check out our reviews of Justice League: Doom for the NYC premiere screening and the Blu-ray disc.