JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 4: Casting of the Animated Series
The fourth part of a continuing in depth exploration of the animated Justice League series turns its attention to casting, in this case the focus being on Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman).
If over the years you’ve found yourself impressed with the vocal casting and performances of various animated television series from Warner Bros. — including Animaniacs, Batman The Animated Series and Justice League — the person you should be forwarding your kudos to is Andrea Romano.
“One thing I like to say about casting, which some people are confused about, is what a casting director’s job really is,” says Romano, who spends the majority of her time at the Brothers Warner. “It is to supply the producers, directors, animation directors and writers with choices for who might be appropriate for the role they’ve written. A lot of people assume that casting directors just cast, making all the decisions. But it’s really a situation where you present various options to the crew as to who they can possibly have voice a character for them.”
As she explains it, for every series that she is involved with, she attempts to come up with a specific vocal styling. “For instance,” says Romano, “Animaniacs couldn’t be more different than Batman, but they both have very specific individual styles and requirements for the voice actors. Animaniacs was a very, if you will, cartoony show that needed very versatile actors who could do multiple voices per session and also sing. Very few episodes of Justice League or Batman have moments where the actors have to break into song. Now for an action series, like Superman, Batman Beyond or Justice League Unlimited, the casting and vocal requirements are slightly different. We look for more voices with character as opposed to actors doing character voices. You look for a certain quality in the voice. Now that approach may prevent us from hiring them for multiple voices, but for the most part we are looking for acting style and vocal style. That’s why we’re able to bring so many celebrity voices, which there are a plethora of these days, onto them.”
What follows is the start of a breakdown of the different actors cast for Justice League.
BATMAN (KEVIN CONROY)
When we first did the auditions for Batman The Animated Series back in 1991, we sent out a general call throughout the town and I listened to as many as 500 auditions that were submitted. Then I did call backs where I may have heard something that I liked voice quality-wise, but I didn’t like the way they were directed, so we probably did an additional 120 auditions ourselves that we directed. Then it was one of those dream castings when, all of a sudden, this actor named Kevin Conroy came in. Now Batman doesn’t need a great deal of background story, everybody kind of knows the persona of Batman – but Kevin came in and gave a reading that was so awesome that we all looked at each other, after months of auditions, and just said, “We’re done.” When you speak with Kevin about it, he says, “If a guy’s avenging his parents’ death; he’s got a deep-seeded anger he’s trying to deal with, he’s got authority questions that he always has to deal with. It’s Hamlet.” That’s how he approached the role and so he brought to it all of his classical training. Besides having a magnificent voice that he can manipulate very well, he just had the acting chops that we really needed. Thank God, because here we are 13 years later and Batman is still appearing in different incarnations of our series, whether it be Batman Beyond, where he played the old Bruce Wayne, or Justice League or Justice League Unlimited where he still plays Batman. He’s just brilliant.
I’ve always been of the mind that Batman is the real character and Bruce Wayne the assumed identity. All of us have a different alter ego inside, a private person that we don’t necessarily show the world, and I think that’s really our core self. And we’ve learned to behave in society in certain ways and we know how to function. Well, that’s Bruce Wayne. He’s just a master of behavior and functioning. When he’s alone in his lair, it’s when he’s really Batman.
It’s interesting in the Justice League, because he’s really kind of odd man out and has been all along. They’ve written him that way, because he’s the only one that doesn’t have super powers and he’s very aware of that. He’s always the guy who has very few words to say, basically, and the one who kind of comes in at the end to save everybody’s ass, which makes him incredibly cool (laughs). It’s been an interesting show to be a part of for that reason. The others can fly, see through walls while Batman’s got to turn the doorknob.
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