For most comic book superhero fans, Adam West is an actor who needs no introduction. The native of Walla Walla, WA, moved to Hollywood in 1959, appearing on stage and screens large and small, with a number of roles in Westerns and police procedurals and a guest spot on The Outer Limits. His career changed forever when producer William Dozier cast him as Bruce Wayne/Batman for the famed 1966 TV show, partially after seeing West perform as a suave James Bond-like spy in a Nestle Quik commercial. His portrayal of the Caped Crusader defined Batman for generations, and has been a recurring touchstone throughout his career. He has been elevated to a genuine brand-name actor, playing a slightly deranged version of himself as Mayor Adam West in Family Guy, and guest starring as himself in the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, and in TV series such as NewsRadio, Murphy Brown, and The Drew Carey Show. His rich and distinctive voice has also appeared in numerous voiceover roles on cartoons ranging from the Filmation New Adventures of Batman to Batman the Animated Series, Futurama, Kim Possible, The Fairly OddParents, and more.
Toonzone News was able to chat briefly with Adam West via telephone the day after the classic Batman ’66 TV series was finally released on home video. On a personal note, for all my pretensions of journalistic neutrality, I don’t think I’ve ever been more star-struck in an interview than I was in this one, since the Batman TV series was a seminal influence in its syndicated re-runs and I was glad to have a chance to thank him for that before the interview started. Mr. West was an incredibly gracious and wonderful interview subject despite my fanboy babbling, which is another thing I have to be thankful to him for.
TOONZONE NEWS: The parts I wanted to ask you about were the voiceover roles you’ve done in different Batman cartoons. The first one was Simon Trent in the “Beware the Gray Ghost” episode of Batman the Animated Series.
ADAM WEST: (laughs) Yes!
TOONZONE NEWS: You had to play an actor whose heroic role on a TV show had straitjacketed his career. I guess you had some experience with that.
ADAM WEST: Well, there were similarities, yes.
TOONZONE NEWS: How did they approach you for the role, and did you have any qualms about taking it?
ADAM WEST: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve been approached at so many levels over the years with different roles. If you look at my rap sheet, with the stuff I’ve done, I very seldom turn something down. It’s just good to be working and be able to pay the bills, and every role is a challenge.
TOONZONE NEWS: There’s a scene when the character has a meltdown after he gets turned down for a role and trashes his room, and another is when he tells Batman that he realizes that the show wasn’t all for nothing.
ADAM WEST: Yes.
TOONZONE NEWS: I always thought that those scenes, and the role in general, was asking for a lot more emotional honesty than you get asked for normally.
ADAM WEST: I think you described it very well. For example, the new movie, Birdman. There are touchstones in that about my career, as there were in the Gray Ghost episode and in other things. But I think if you look at it and analyze it, it ain’t a bad deal. If you’re willing to make fun of yourself, kind of dig deep into areas of your own life or personality or whatever, and make it work, these are challenges that I welcome. And every time I do a Q&A, they ask about a Gray Ghost series.
TOONZONE NEWS: I’d watch it. I think that would be terrific.
ADAM WEST: Listen, send a card to Warner Bros (laugh).
TOONZONE NEWS: You also had two roles in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. One was when you played Thomas Wayne with Julie Newmar as Martha Wayne in “Chill of the Night,” and then as Proto-Bot in “Plague of the Prototypes.” Both of those hit in season two, but did they offer both of those roles to you at the same time? Or did they cast you in “Chill” first and ask you to do Proto after?
ADAM WEST: I think it was the latter.
TOONZONE NEWS: Proto was always interesting to me because it was a role that didn’t have to be you. I didn’t even realize it was you in the role until the end credits.
ADAM WEST: (chuckles) Mmm-hmmm.
TOONZONE NEWS: I feel like a lot of your roles are just asking you to be Adam West. For Proto, did you pick up on that, and did that color what you did in the role?
ADAM WEST: Well, I think it did. The fact that I knew it wasn’t Adam West, or making fun of Adam West, but it wasn’t Batman, either.
TOONZONE NEWS: There’s the line Simon Trent has about, “I’m an actor, I can do other roles.”
ADAM WEST: (laughing) Right! But let me tell you, Ed, I’ve been the luckiest actor in the world to have latched onto a character who became iconic.
ADAM WEST: In animated voiceover, I just did Rob Lowe’s father for an animated show. He plays Dazzle, and I play Razzle. I have a show on Travel Channel called What You Get for the Money with Adam West. There are a number of other things. I keep working. It’s either that I have no taste, or I have to pay the bills, you know? (laughter)
Toonzone News would like to thank Adam West for taking the time to speak with us, and Warner Bros. SuperPRGuy Gary Miereanu for arranging the interview. Batman ’66 is available in a complete series Blu-ray limited edition boxed set, as well as in DVD season and series sets. Keep up with Adam West via his official website.