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NYCC 2013: "Justice League: War" Roundtable Interviews - Jay Oliva, James Tucker, & Andrea Romano

At New York Comic Con 2013, Toonzone News was able to sit with Warner Bros. Animation’s Jay Oliva, James Tucker, and Andrea Romano — director, producer, and casting/voice director on Justice League: War, the upcoming new direct-to-video animated movie.

Questions Toonzone News asked are marked. Click any link in Andrea Romano’s section to hear her response (MP3 format).


JAY OLIVA

NYCC 2013 Justice League War Jay OlivaQUESTION: Tell us a little about Justice League: War. Where does this take place in the DC Universe?

JAY OLIVA: Justice League: War is kind of a loose adaptation of the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee comic book…I think issues #1-6 of the new 52 Justice League. It’s loosely based on events in that book. We didn’t adhere to it the way we did with The Dark Knight Returns, but we ended up translating that first graphic novel. This is the first true “New 52″ DCU that we’ve done. Flashpoint kind of was the old universe, and at the end we hinted at the New 52 universe. I’m hoping that somewhere down the line, we can do some other films that will hopefully connect the events from Flashpoint into Justice League: War and any other films we do in the New 52 universe, which would be kind of cool. We haven’t done that yet, but I’m hoping we can do that eventually. I’m trying to put Easter eggs throughout all the films. If you watch carefully, you’ll see them there.

QUESTION: You said you took this as a looser adaptation. Did that make it easier to compress that first arc from the New 52 into a movie?

JAY OLIVA: Whenever you do an adaptation, it’s never easy. Sometimes if you’re too close to the source material, then you feel like you’re kind of stifled. Sometimes, in this case, the material that was there wasn’t as deep as, like, The Dark Knight Returns, where we were trying to fit four graphic novels into two 70-minute pieces. With this one, it was just six issues and it’s really just one long fight vs. Darkseid, so it kind of gave some more flexibility on trying to interpret it. On the other hand, one of the challenges was trying to create set pieces. Whenever I do my films, I try to think of it as Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s the rolling ball sequence, there’s these fights with the Nazis, there’s the ending scene with the Ark. Whenever I do my films, I always try to figure out what would be a cool set piece. You want to keep the momentum going. In the comic books, there were certain set pieces, but how does that translate into the pace of a film? So I had to figure out, “OK, this is a pretty good set piece, let’s elaborate,” or “this particular sequence, maybe it went on a little too long in the comic.” Maybe we can scale back a little bit, or elaborate on things that the comic book only glossed over.

QUESTION: I’m assuming this will show more in-depth of the battle between Darkseid and the Justice League.

JAY OLIVA: One of the things, for myself, I’m a huge fan of the DC properties. Whenever Darkseid shows up, you’ve got to bring it when it comes to the fight choreography and the action. I rewatched all the Superman Adventures where Darkseid showed up, and on Justice League. I worked on Superman/Batman Apocalypse during the Darkseid stuff, so I looked at that fight sequence. I looked at all that stuff that had been done in the past and I asked, “OK, how do I push it forward?” Because I don’t want to do the same thing – Omega beams and explosions and stuff. I tried to keep true to what Darkseid was, which is this larger than life character. I wanted to make it seem like the Justice League had to band together to defeat Darkseid because by themselves they couldn’t do it, but as a team they can. So I wanted to try and push that fight choreography and the action so that Darkseid felt larger than life and a huge threat that needed all these heroes to defeat him.

NYCC 2013: Justice League War Superman, Batman, and Green LanternQUESTION: In comics, it’s pretty new how they got together. They don’t necessarily get along, they don’t know each other very well, and often in the animated shows and movies, they’re really close really fast again. Are you going to follow the comics where they’re still having difficulty learning with each other?

JAY OLIVA: Yeah, one thing you’ll notice with this versus what Bruce Timm had done with Justice League and Justice League Unlimited is that this is their first meeting. All these characters have never met before, they’re all brand new. So lots of times, their personalities will clash. Sometimes you’ll see characters that will get along right away and others will conflict. Whenever Superman and Batman meet, there’s always conflict (laughs). It’s kind of interesting that our takes on the New 52 characters will be very different than what’s been done in the past. It took me a while to get my mind wrapped around how this Superman’s very different from what we know as Superman. Batman’s pretty much the same, though (laughter). Like, there’s no jokes coming from Batman. There’s no change in his character, he’s pretty much the straight man. But everyone else has a unique take on who they are. Wonder Woman is very different, too.

QUESTION: If someone hasn’t necessarily engaged with the comics, but knows the universe through movies and television, will they still find Justice League: War accessible?

JAY OLIVA: Oh yeah, totally. The way we introduce the chars, even if you don’t know anything about the character, you’ll understand what the character archetype is. When Wonder Woman shows up, you’ll understand that she’s the warrior. When Superman shows up, he’s the protector of Metropolis. New fans will be able to get right into it, even if they know nothing about the characters. Cyborg is very new. In the comic, it’s actually an origin story for Cyborg. In the movie, you’ll see that and you’ll understand how he became the character he was and how he ended up joining the Justice League.

QUESTION: You mentioned Easter Eggs, and you wanted to use other characters in the other movies. Can you mention anything about what characters you’re working on and what direction you’re going to take?

GARY MIEREANU, SUPER PR GUY: At San Diego, we did announce that our next 2 films are Son of Batman and Batman: Assault on Arkham, but we’re not really talking about those films.

JAY OLIVA: Yeah, Son of Batman is announced. We’ll try to carry over the art direction because Son of Batman takes place in the New 52. What we’re trying to do is connect a lot of the films artistically, and if we can, we bring back the same voice actors. It depends on their schedule, of course, but there is some continuity between them. Not so much as maybe the Marvel live-action films, but there is something there. At the end of these films, maybe there might be a tag that might hint at the next film, or what might happen in the features. It’s good. We’re excited.

NYCC 2013 Justice League War Jay OlivaQUESTION: Who’s the one you would relate to of the five in this movie?

JAY OLIVA: Let me think…maybe Cyborg. When he gets the armor on him, he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, and as time goes on he finds his place on the team. He’s an integral part of the story. I think that’s who I’d relate to, because with a lot of these films, I’ll get a big name story and be like, “OK, how do I translate this?” I’m a huge fan of Jim Lee’s stuff. The fact that I had to translate his stuff was a little nerve-wracking. Because it’d be like…I can’t look Jim in the eye if he hates my film, or if Frank Miller hates my stuff. That, to me, is really what I probably would relate to: the fact that he’s in this pantheon of iconic heroes and he’s got to find a place and stand out among them.

QUESTION: Did you have any interaction with Jim Lee or Geoff Johns in adapting the story?

JAY OLIVA: I actually was able to meet Jim and Geoff, but the nice thing about those guys is that they never really tell me, “This is exactly what we want.” They know we will take artistic license and make it our own, but they have seen it and they dug it. I think Jim had mentioned that there were a few scenes the film where he said, “Oh, I wish I had done that in the comic.” When you’re doing it, you’re trying your best to translate what you’re envisioning, but then when you look back on it in hindsight, it’s like, “Oh, it would have been better if I had done this,” especially after I had done my take.

QUESTION: This is your fourth or fifth animated film, under the DC Animated Banner? What would you say was the new challenge to you in adapting this one?

JAY OLIVA: I would say it’s that the New 52 is very different universe. I wasn’t too familiar with it. I had followed a few of the books, but with my schedule, I don’t really get a chance to read the many comics, unless someone recommends it. When we started this film, I had to wrap my mind around, “What’s this version of Green Lantern? What’s this version of Wonder Woman?” We can’t just do the Justice League Unlimited version, because that’s the Bruce Timm universe. We’ve got to do something different. How do we set ourselves separate from that? That, to me, was hard because I’m used to doing Bruce’s stuff. Whenever I work with Bruce, I’m always diving into a Justice League Unlimited episode. For this stuff, James Tucker really wanted to try to set these movies different than what Bruce had done. So it will have a different feel. That’s what we try to do.

TOONZONE NEWS: Can you talk about the scenes in this movie where you felt, “I have got to take that one on myself.”

JAY OLIVA: You’ll notice in the film that I changed the way Cyborg’s origin is. I can’t go into detail, but I changed it because I needed it to work in the context of the movie a little bit better. That was one of the sequences where I went, “You know, I just have to do this myself.” One of the things that you will notice in the way I did the action in this movie is…I guess you could describe it as over-the-top anime action, a little bit. I go to Tokyo every year, and I had just seen a couple of movies that they showed in Tokyo, and one of them just blew my mind. It’s the One Piece movie, One Piece Movie Z. And the camera is moving crazy, in these crazy fight sequences. But I remember I was on the plane back thinking, “Why don’t we just try doing it that way?” Because it’s the New 52 — it’s different, you know? I would never try this with Bruce Timm’s stuff, because he doesn’t really like it sometimes, so I pitched it to James and said, “Do you mind if I direct the action a little bit different?” and he said, “Yeah, go for it.” So you’ll see that in that sequence. Characters animate into the camera and away from the camera, all in one long shot, a lot of really fast action. I try to make it kind of brutal in its own way but not as dark as Flashpoint. Flashpoint, to me, is a dark story so I had to keep the tone across. This one’s a little bit more fun, but I wanted to keep that realism and the action at a particular level. It’s like Die Hard action. I want to keep that. So that’s the one thing I did myself.

QUESTION: I’m curious if you can explain the process of directing that action.

JAY OLIVA: Well, the writer writes it, of course, then when I get it, before I hand it out to get storyboarded out, I have to have a vision. For one movie, I might be like “I want to direct this like a Die Hard film,” or “I want to direct this like a Guy Ritchie film.” I’ll have an idea of how I want to direct it, and and then I’ll know how I want the action to be laid out. Then I sit down with my storyboard artists and we’ll work it the choreography. Sometimes, the board artists will take a pass and I’ll get it back, or sometimes I’ll do it myself, “I like this, but we need more of this kind of action.” It’s all about pacing and flow, and I like my fight sequences to be “man ballet.” It’s ballet of action. I want to have that kind of flow to my fight sequences. So we’ll work through that and once it’s done, it’s shipped overseas to be animated, and then I cut it together and edit it and hope that it’s working at that point.

QUESTION: There’s no reshoots in animation.

JAY OLIVA: No, no (laughter). Normally, if you’ve ever seen the animatics for my films, they’re pretty tight, in the sense that what you see in the animatics is what you see on screen. Very rarely does it ever change. I’m always very meticulous of how I want these films to be. The fans expect some high quality stuff, and I gotta deliver.

QUESTION: If there was a choice of any series or any story in the DC Universe, what is the one you’d want to see next?

JAY OLIVA: I’d love to do Gotham by Gaslight. I think that would be really cool, just playing with Jack the Ripper and the Mike Mignola designs. I think that’d be one of the books that I’d like to do. People always ask me about Kingdom Come, and Kingdom Come would be cool, but I don’t know how we’d be able to do it. It’d have to be a CG hybrid that looks like painted watercolors, and I don’t think we have the technology nowadays to do it…or at least the budgets (laughs). Because we turn these things out really fast. We have about a year turnaround. We just wouldn’t have any time for that. But Kingdom Come would be kind of cool. I would love to do Long Halloween, and The Killing Joke keeps getting thrown around. But that’s a hard one to do…if you really read The Killing Joke and ask yourself, “if we were to translate that into a movie…” it’s hard! It’s really hard. It’s a Joker story all the way from beginning to end and I don’t know whether or not that would carry the whole movie that way.

One of the things I’d love to do — I always pitch this at every meeting and I get shut down — I would love to do Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it’s like Batman Game of Death, where he goes in there and it’s run by all of his villains and you just do that, like, Bruce Lee Game of Death, and at the end he fights the Joker. How cool would that be? And then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would just show up out of nowhere. (laughter) We’d just recruit him for Batman’s rogue’s gallery.

TOONZONE NEWS: And in the middle of the fight, Batman would end up with that giant footprint on his chest.

JAY OLIVA: EXACTLY! I would homage that SO much. See how cool that would be? I keep telling that every time. They say, “What do you want to do, Jay?” I say, “I want to do Batman Game of Death,” and they’re like, “….yeah, no.” But someday. Someday, I’ll get that chance. It’s like, “Why is Deathstroke here?” “Who cares? It’s going to be a cool fight!” (laughter)

TOONZONE NEWS: Can you talk about anything that you found was really hard to translate or that were particularly proud of the solution that you came up with?

JAY OLIVA: I think one of the things that I’m most proud of is the Cyborg origin, I kind of like the way I structured it. Also, I like the way that we did Darkseid. I made Darkseid the biggest badass ever. He comes in and he just kicks ass all the way through. That’s one of the things that I’ve always tried to do in my films. I always ask myself, “If it was a live-action film, how would they do it?” I always try to approach from that sensibility, like in Flashpoint, “If this was a live-action Flash movie, how would it look?” That’s what I tried to do with Flashpoint. In this one I asked, “If Darkseid showed up in the Man of Steel series, how would Darkseid be?” and that’s kind of what I would do.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox FlashQUESTION: Do you ever have moments when you want to go back and redo something in an earlier movie?

JAY OLIVA: Oh, all the time! People say that, “Oh I wish that you guys had more time to do these.” I wish the same thing, because…like Kung Fu Panda, the fight choreography was awesome, but they had 5 years to do it. You know how much time I have to do my fight choreography? I get two weeks. I get a week or two weeks, I have to work it out, I have to make the decisions right away, “This is what I want,” and I have to stick by it. Sometimes, I’ll look at it and go, “I wish we could tweak that just a little bit.” But for the most part, I’m very proud of all of my films. I approach all my films like they’re my children. I send them off to college and I hope they don’t come back as an ass$&!# (laughter), and if they come back an ass$&!#, I’m going to have another kid. That’s how every film is. With Justice League: War, I’m very proud of how it turned out. Hopefully, when you see what’s on my plate, you’ll say, “Oh, wow, that looks pretty cool.” Where I’m going. Again, for you guys, look at all the Easter Eggs. In Flashpoint, there’s all these Back to the Future homages in there. There’s another film coming up that has a lot of Die Hard homages. I’m not going to tell you what Justice League: War is, but keep an eye out, because there’s always little things that I put in there.


JAMES TUCKER

NYCC 2013: Justice League War Roundtables - James TuckerTOONZONE NEWS: Kevin Tsujihara just said that to the press that he wants to get Wonder Woman on screen. I know you’re a big Wonder Woman fan. But from your reaction just now, I’m guessing this hasn’t trickled down to you guys yet.

JAMES TUCKER: Well, you know, Kevin and I didn’t talk about that the last time we hung out…I’m joking. I’m very much joking. Never met the man, don’t know him. Seen pictures, that’s it. I know he doesn’t know me.

QUESTION: You mean like a Wonder Woman animated movie?

JAMES TUCKER: No, live action.

TOONZONE NEWS: He just said he wants to get Wonder Woman on screen, either as a movie or on television or something. Just wondering if that had percolated down.

JAMES TUCKER: They’d have to have a movie out and it’d have to do really, really, really, really REALLY well for them to go back to that. You just never know. It hasn’t happened yet. But I would be all for it. As far as what we’re doing, we’ll probably do a Wonder Woman-centered Justice League movie. We’ll use the Justice League as an umbrella to focus on characters who might not be able to support DVDs of their own. That’s not my judgment, that’s based on sales. But yeah, we’ll handle Wonder Woman in our own way, regardless of whether they’ll do a movie or not. I like her as a character and want to feature her as much as we can. But it will probably be in the context of a Justice League movie.

QUESTION: Historically, the animated movies have covered older material, but now you’re moving into the New 52 era. Are you now going to focus more on the newer material going forward?

JAMES TUCKER: We’re going to focus on the newer material, and basically setting up our own version of the New 52. We’re films, so the New 52 doesn’t really make sense for us, because we’re not doing 52 movies a year, or a month (laughs). Basically, we connected with the New 52 to do more contemporary stories, because the earlier line of DVD movies were classics. Some things adapt well, some things don’t. We had to do something to give ourselves more creative freedom. We’re using the New 52 world as a launching point where we can kind of tell our own stories, kind of like we did on Justice League Unlimited. Not necessarily what the comics were doing at that specific time, but it allowed us to do our own version of specific characters. So that’s what we’re doing with the New 52 world. We’re using it as a jumping off point, and an excuse to do a new take on the characters, and then we’ll kind of diverge into their own world and create their own universe off of that. That’s the idea. There will be adaptations of stories, but they’ll be more recent stories.

QUESTION: More Flash, please (laughs).

JAMES TUCKER: Sure! The great thing about the Justice League franchise, when it’s handled properly, is you can focus on characters as a group. In a way, it’s actually better than a solo Flash movie, because you get to see him operate against other characters a little better. In a solo Flash movie, it’s the Rogues, Flash, and whoever he’s married to or dating. Not that you can’t do it, and we did it in Flashpoint, but Flashpoint covered a lot of ground. I think I enjoyed Flash more as part of a group. Anyway, definitely more Flash.

QUESTION: There’s been some debate since the movies started about Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (James Tucker laughs) Where do you fall on that fence? Would that be something you’d consider visiting or contemporizing?

JAMES TUCKER: There’s no Judas Contract on the books yet for us. If we did do something like that, it would be re-imagined. It wouldn’t be literally the George Perez/Marv Wolfman story arc. It would be something else. The thing is that the Teen Titans TV series covered that ground in their own way. They pretty much did the Terra/Slade storyline. But if we were to do it, it would be re-imagined.

QUESTION: Is there a story where you’ll do anything it takes to get it on screen?

JAMES TUCKER: No, one of the things about taking over the gig is it was decided as a group to kind of do our own thing. They did all the big high-points of DC history. Once you do The Dark Knight Returns, how many more other stories are there to tell that you can tell in a 75-minute movie? You can’t do Crisis on Infinite Earths, that’s just too huge. There’s a lot of things you can’t do, so it’s about what story works? And will sell?

QUESTION: Well, like a Red Son Superman, for instance, would be really interesting and pretty cool.

JAMES TUCKER: Well…yes (laughs). There has been discussion of that. That’s not something ruled out, but again, that’s a one-off and it’s an Elseworlds story. It’s not necessarily fitting in with what we’re doing in continuity. I’m not saying we wouldn’t do it. I’d love to do Red Son, and I’d love to do Gotham by Gaslight. But as far as other adaptations, there are not that many that I’m dying to do that wouldn’t require a lot of rethinking. They would be strictly adaptations, not literal translations from comic to movie. I’d much rather come up with original stuff or base a movie on a comic and then open it up and do something a little different, so that you’re not just watching a movie version of a comic book. Movies can’t replicate what comics do well, just like comics don’t replicate what movies do well. That’s how I look at it.


ANDREA ROMANO

QUESTION: What does Batman sound like to you?

ANDREA ROMANO: Because he was my first, Batman sounds like Kevin Conroy to me. That’s always the basis that I start from. Whenever I read a new script, when I’m reading Batman dialogue, it’s always Kevin’s voice I hear. The trick is always to change my view based on what my directive is from my employers — whether they want a new Batman or they want a different voice or a younger voice, they want this, they want that. But it’s always Kevin’s voice, that’s what Batman sounds like to me.

NYCC 2013: Justice League War roundtable - Andrea RomanoQUESTION: When you were looking for the new cast for the “New 52″ movies, what was one of the things you really wanted to find? Was it youth? Was it that type of energy?

ANDREA ROMANO: Both. Because they had not been superheroes for very long, nor worked together, there had to be a kind of innocence. So that energy is different. (Click to listen) You can play Superman very, “I’ve been around and I know what I’m doing, I’m tough and I’m strong, I can knock you out.” Or you can play him, “Who are you? What are you doing?” That kind of innocence. So there was a different energy and a different tone that we wanted for this, visually as well as vocally.

Do you guys know who the cast is? I think I’ve told you guys before that I always keep a list, when I watch TV or watch films, of actors that I want to work with. An actor I’ve always wanted to work with since I first saw his work is Justin Kirk from Weeds. He’s Green Lantern. I couldn’t use Nathan Fillion because I couldn’t use anyone who’s done this before, so I went to Justin Kirk. A lot of the actors who did this piece had not done voiceover before, and that’s where the innocence comes from. They’re not experienced voiceover actors, and that kind of comes through in the performance, which is great for this piece. Jason O’Mara is Batman. Shemar Moore, from Criminal Minds is Cyborg, and he’s so good and he’s just as dreamy as you think he is (laughs). And so game to play and learn how to do this stuff. That character almost gets almost killed as Victor, and has intense screams of pain that he has to do, and he dove in and did them so stunningly. Michelle Monighan is Wonder Woman for us. All the fighting stuff we do in the ADR, and we did her ADR when she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. I was thinking “Oh, Lord!” Christopher Gorham is the Flash, who’s terrific. Rocky Carroll plays Silas, Victor’s father. Wonderful, and again, had not done much of this work. Alan Tudyk is Superman. Sean Astin is Shazam.

QUESTION: Sean Astin is in there?

ANDREA ROMANO: Because we had to make him like a smart-ass, and is there a better smart-ass than Sean Astin? I’ve been working with him on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, too. Sometimes, I’ll literally pull aside an actor from another session and say, “You know what? I’m working on this other project, would you even consider…” “Oh, yes, I love those things!” So that’s how I got Sean. Steve Blum is Darkseid, because his voice is in the basement, without forcing it in any way, because (click to listen) we all can force our voice down and get down there, but it sounds like a put-on voice. He just gets it there without doing anything that sounds manipulative. It’s fantastic. Ioan Gruffudd, from Fantastic Four and the Horatio Hornblower series, he shows up as a character, and I’m not going to spoil it. You guys can listen and find him in there. It’s one of those little things you can find for yourself. And a number of other really good voice actors as well. George Newbern shows up in here, oddly enough not as Superman — as Steve Trevor. They said I can’t hire the actor as the same characters, but they didn’t say I couldn’t hire them as different characters, so I brought George in as a different one. And of course, I show up in there, too.

QUESTION: Did they record together?

ANDREA ROMANO: I was able to get some of them. If you look at that list, they all have television series. They all have huge on-camera careers. To get them in the room at all was a trick. Sometimes I could get a couple, and that’s wonderful, because instead of doing 10 takes of a line because I don’t know what the actor before is going to do or what the actor after them is going to do, I can have two actors talking to each other, and that works. “I say this, you say that,” we’re done. I don’t have to do 10 takes. I can do 3 takes and walk away. When I could get them together, it was brilliant. We have to piecemeal it together. Every once in a while, you have those situations where we play a scene like this, and I record it one week and I’m doing the same thing to you, and then 2 weeks later, you’re brought in to work and you record your dialogue like this, a bit louder, and you put those two in the same scene together and you’re like, (click to listen) “Wow. He’s yelling at you for no apparent reason.” (laughter) You have to go back in ADR and bring him in to bring his energy level down and his volume down to make it sound like we’re having that conversation in the same room. But we always have that failsafe with the ADR.

NYCC 2013 Justice League War Roundtable - Andrea RomanoQUESTION: Did that help with some of the newer actors, getting to have some of them together?

ANDREA ROMANO: It did. They feed off each other, and it was something that Alan Tudyk, who I’ve used before and has experience, he can kind of bring the other actors along a little bit, tell them a bit about the experience so they’re not quite… You know, you find these remarkable actors who have tremendous resumes and lots of confidence, they come in and do something they’ve never done before and they get very shy and they get very nervous. And somebody else helps bring them the confidence. Basically, what I hope they tell them is, “Trust Andrea, she’s not going to let your voice go out there sounding bad.” Because I make a commitment to any actor who works for me that I will not let their performance go out there sounding bad. I will recast them before I will let them be embarrassed by a bad performance for whatever reason. Maybe I miscast them, maybe it’s not the right role for them, maybe they don’t understand animation voice acting. Whatever, it rarely happens, but no matter what, I always promise them I won’t let your voice go out there sounding bad.

When it comes down to line reading, I say, “We don’t have a half-hour for you to organically to work through this and find out what that the line is, but if you do it this way, it’ll work.” I’ve been doing this 30 years now, and two times in my career, people have said to me, “Please don’t line read me.” Everybody else goes, “Tell me how to say it! Go ahead, and we’ll get out of here and drink wine!” (laughter) So I try to gently line-read people without making them feel like they’re not contributing. They’re getting there, but they need to hit this word because they’re going to throw a punch in that word, or it’s going to be a callback and they have to set it up now and that’s why they have to hit the word “the” there.

QUESTION: Shemar Moore is a dreamy, dreamy man, but what made you think his voice would be perfect for this?

ANDREA ROMANO: I’ll tell you exactly: you can always tell what television show I’m watching by who I’m casting. Joe Mantegna has been my friend for 30 years, I’ve known Joe for a long time and I’ve used Joe before. I’ve been using Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds for a long time as my Jimmy Olsen on a few projects, and a couple of other characters like on Scooby-Doo shows. I kind of go through the cast and ask, “OK, who haven’t I used yet? Shemar.” And I listen to his voice, and they’ll tell me, “OK, we’re going to do Cyborg. We’re going to need a black actor,” because I always try to cast the ethnic background of the character as depicted. If they’re Asian, I want an Asian actor. If they’re Hispanic, I want a Hispanic actor, unless I just can’t find it. So I keep a list of who I want to work with, and as I get the cast breakdown, I ask, “OK, who fits into that. Shemar!” And then I see if the schedule works.

QUESTION: In original story there’s a lot of mistrust. Does that come across?

ANDREA ROMANO: Yes, it does I think. Also, in this superhero world, they can’t all be dark, they can’t all be glib, they can’t all be silly. But we have a good combination of the silly…or the guys that banter. Like Green Lantern and Flash. Then there’s much more serious Batman, who doesn’t act glib with anybody. And then you have Superman, who is really quite new at this game…he’s not experienced Superman.

From the "Superman 75th" Short, Superman vs. Darkseid from the "Justice League" comic books that "Justice League: War" is based on.

From the “Superman 75th” Short, Superman vs. Darkseid from the “Justice League” comic books that “Justice League: War” is based on.

QUESTION: Yeah, he’s more, at least in the books, a more violent, more willing to take a life kind of Superman.

ANDREA ROMANO: It’s a different world that we’re trying to create here. Then you’ve got this need for them to work together and put their personalities aside in order to do that. That’s an interesting dynamic, I think. I wish I could tell you how accurately we matched the source material — James or Jay would be able to tell you more than I — but when you read a comic and when you animate something, you have to deal with different kinds of energies. What will work well on a page doesn’t necessarily work well in a theatrical situation. Sometimes, we’ll record some scenes that were clearly written for the theatrical piece, that don’t work. So we have to cut them and find some way to link those lines together or scenes together without that scene because it’s just not interesting. It’s interesting on paper, but it’s not because the actors didn’t do a good job, it’s just that when you put all those pieces together, that three minute scene doesn’t move us forward in any way, doesn’t give us anything entertaining to watch, doesn’t set up anything later…let’s just get rid of it.

QUESTION: Was there anything that was kind of different where you went, “Wow, this is a little bit off from what I’m used to.”

ANDREA ROMANO: It was for me, because I’ve worked with these characters for so long, on so many different projects. I mean, the first Batman series I worked on started in 1990, so for a long time I’ve been working with these characters. Because this is an origin story meant I had to reset my mind, and go, “OK, this is not the same Batman we know who has had all these experiences. This is not he same Green Lantern who has been around for so many years.” So yes, I had to reset. I actually screwed up a little bit on the initial record and played some of the characters a little too experienced, and had to go back in ADR and make them a little less…I don’t want to say less “confident” because that’s not right. A little bit less experienced, a little bit more naive. This is not a well-oiled team. They’re screwing up. They get in each other’s way. They stumble over each other. I was taking care of that kind of stuff. It’s interesting, but I did have to rethink.

QUESTION: You mentioned that many of the actors had experience in the voiceover field, and how that translated to the characters. Jay and James had mentioned that the future of the films would keep with the New 52? Would you keep the same actors for the characters?

ANDREA ROMANO: That is the intention. That’s the hope, but you know, these are such strong, working on-camera actors that if someone’s going to get a movie that’s going to shoot in somewhere that doesn’t have any kind of recording facilities, I may have to find somebody else. But the intention is to use them. It also depends on what stories we’re doing. The next one could be a Batman story that doesn’t involve most of these characters, or a Superman story, or a GL story or a Flash story. But for the first time, the intention is to have a real continuity with a group of actors in the movies, which is kind of nice. It makes my job a little bit easier, because they get more experienced, they know the characters better, they grow with the characters. They take on the roles easier. That makes my job a little easier.

Chris Gorham as the Flash in "Justice League: War", courtesy of Gary Miereanu

Chris Gorham as the Flash in “Justice League: War”, courtesy of Gary Miereanu

QUESTION: What’s it like to go from a lighter show like Scooby-Doo or Ninja Turtles and then move to something pretty dark and pretty violent like The Dark Knight Returns?

ANDREA ROMANO: You know, I have done it for so long so often that it doesn’t — I will literally go from a Ninja Turtles session to a Batman session. It’s like driving on a freeway as opposed to a little tiny side street. You do it so often so much that you don’t really have to think about it. It’s like playing the piano. You don’t really have to think about it, you’ve just learned to do it. But it is different. I do find that sometimes that when you direct fight scenes, like in SpongeBob, as opposed to a Justice League…it’s different. (click to listen) The impacts in SpongeBob are more like “duuh-hoo!” as opposed to “uuhh!!” They’re much more intense so I do have to make that adjustment.

TOONZONE NEWS: Nowadays, voice actors often have to audition on their own, record wherever they are and send it in. What’s your advice to actors on how to direct themselves effectively?

ANDREA ROMANO: The best auditions are done by people who do as much research as they can. I’m a very accessible director. If an agent calls me saying, “My actor wants to read for this role, but he can’t figure out what this line means,” I am delighted to tell them. There’s no reason to hold out information. I want the actor to get the job. I want the first actor I listen to to be exactly the right guy. Then my job is done! It makes it easier for me. So I try to supply the actor with everything that they need. So the first thing they should do is ask as many questions as they can and do the best audition. They should record on very good equipment, because I’ll get auditions from an agency, and then one or two auditions that were done from somebody’s home, and everybody’s else’s audition is about here…AND THEN SUDDENLY THE AUDITION COMES UP at a level that’s not equalized, because they’re using less sophisticated equipment. They should get good equpiment. They should do 3 or 4 takes and pick the best one. They shouldn’t just do 1 take and send it in. They should do 3 or 4 takes, listen back, and send the best one.


Toonzone would like to thank Jay Oliva, James Tucker, and Andrea Romano for taking the time to talk with us at New York Comic Con, and Gary Miereanu for setting it up for us. Don’t forget to check out our coverage of the Justice League: War panel. Keep reading Toonzone News for more information on Justice League: War, and check out the rest of our New York Comic Con 2013 coverage.

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