BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN Interview: Troy Baker On His Big Joker Return & Possibly Playing Batman Who Laughs
Batman: The Long Halloween star Troy Baker talks to us about returning as The Joker for this iconic storyline, whether he'd like to tackle playing the Batman Who Laughs, The Last of Us, and much more...
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two chronicles the second half of the yearlong crime saga that began in Part One. As the mysterious Holiday Killer continues their deadly crime spree, District Attorney Harvey Dent is pushed to the brink in his quest to bring justice to Gotham City.
Making matters worse, Bruce Wayne has been captured by Poison Ivy, leaving Gotham undefended during its darkest hour. Even mob boss Carmine Falcone is becoming increasingly desperate, striking a Faustian bargain with Gotham's new generation of super-criminals. You'll get to see how it all ends soon, as the movie is now available on Digital platforms and arrives in stores on Blu-ray today!
Last week, we were fortunate enough to catch up with the legendary Troy Baker to discuss his role as The Joker. In this conversation, the prolific actor talks about what it meant to him to return as the Clown Prince of Crime, his thoughts on Jensen Ackles' Batman, and how he now approaches this iconic character given his love of Mark Hamill as the Dark Knight's greatest villain.
Troy also reveals whether he would be interested in lending his voice to the Batman Who Laughs and shares his thoughts on a possible cameo appearance in The Last of Us TV show after playing Joel in the hit video games. There's a lot to delve into here, and we're sure you guys will love hearing the actor's thoughts, as The Joker is clearly a role he had an extremely deep affinity for.
You’ve played so many iconic characters, I could probably spend this whole interview listing them, but what did it mean to you to return to The Joker for a storyline as iconic as The Long Halloween?
I’ve got to say, every time I get the call to ‘suit up’ as it were into this character, it’s never lost on me. It never feels old, pedestrian, or banal. It’s always a thrill because I go back to being a thirteen year old and remember the first time I saw the t-shirt with just the black on yellow on black design in 1989 that suddenly became so ubiquitous. Even before the movie had come out, there was this marketing campaign that Tim Burton was doing a Batman movie. That whole franchise, the notion of him had been reduced to the slumber of the graphic novels, but as far as a performance and actor embodying and performing that role on a stage, it had been on hiatus for almost thirty years. I remember saying, ‘Is this going to be a thing?’ Then, the first time I walked into the theater and the first time I saw Michael Keaton, of all people, as Batman and Jack Nicholson as The Joker...back then, we didn’t have the ability to watch movies as we do now. Whether it’s on a streaming service, DVD, or Blu-ray like this movie is going to be, we didn’t have that. It was in the movie theater and you then had to go and mow enough lawns until you’d go back to watch it again before it left. Other than that, it just existed in your mind.
Right after that in 1990, I would rush home every day to make sure I watched Batman: The Animated Series. Now, the character transitioned from being played by Michael Keaton or Adam West to some guy I’d never heard of before named Kevin Conroy and another guy called Mark Hamill that happened to share the same name as the guy who played Luke Skywalker. I didn’t know who these people were, but these were the people who became the blueprint for these characters to this day. I’ll be honest with you, people say to me, ‘I compare you to Mark Hamill,’ and I reply, ‘Brother, don’t worry, I do the same thing!’ The second I get in that booth and realise we’ve got amazing creators, writers, producers, directors, and other actors that are making sure we focus on the fact that the characters inside of this story aren’t aware of the thirteen-year-old kid who rushed home to watch Batman: The Animated Series. They’re not aware of the infinity he has for a particular actor in a particular role. This is a unique story with unique actors and characters that we’re telling right now.
It really helps me focus and one of the things that really helped me in that respect was Jensen [Ackles]. He knocked it out of the park. I want to give this guy props every time I get a chance. It’s a challenge to put on the cowl, but man, it’s doubly hard to also pull off the Bruce and he does both. The thing I love most in this two-parter is how much the creators allow these actors to shine in their specific roles. From Nia to Josh to Jack to Titus and Jensen. Even for me, they let me have fun and Joker is having a lot of fun here. This is an opportunity for Joker to kick back and watch the chaos unfold as his hands are cleanest! He just gets to have fun, but he’s never going to miss out on the opportunity to have fun.
...I threw a lot at you from the very first question, but as you can tell, I’m really excited about this one, man!
As you should be. It’s a phenomenal film and you are so good as The Joker. However, as you’re one of the few actors to have voiced Batman and Joker, I’d love to know whether you’d be interested in one day playing The Batman Who Laughs given what you could do with a character who is part-Bruce, part-Joker?
Listen, I am always the most interested in...there are two roles I’m always most interested in. The next one and making sure the next one challenges me and offers me something that makes me tremble. I love that phrase, ‘Do what makes you tremble.’ Every time, even in this one, I struggle with that imposter syndrome and whether I’m going to be seen as good enough. That’s all a distraction from The Long Halloween as the story doesn’t care whether I’m good enough and The Joker I’m playing isn’t worried about the next or previous role or the iterations that have come before or after. I literally have to live in this moment but, of course, anytime someone wants to give me an opportunity and go, ‘Alright kid, how about this? You think you can do this one?’ I’m going to jump at that opportunity.
On another note, we recently learned that Jeffrey Pierce has landed a role in The Last of Us TV show, but should we expect to see you in the series as well?
I appreciate that. The thing I’m most excited about with that show specifically, and this is what I told Neil [Druckmann] from the very beginning when we were talking about it, ‘No matter who you get, I just hope you find someone that is able to teach me something about the character I’ve never learned about. Surprise me.’ If there’s an opportunity for me to be a part of that show, I will work for Neil and specifically inside of that franchise because I want to be in that world, I’ll do it any day of the week and twice on Sundays! That’s the challenge we have as actors. I want Pedro Pascal to surprise me and teach me something about a character I am so intimately familiar with. It’s the same thing I want to do. When they called me up and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing The Long Halloween,’ I’m like, ‘I know it [Laughs]. If you’re telling me I’m playing Calendar Man, cool.’ But when they said it was Joker, I’m just like, ‘Awesome.’ I get to play second fiddle, but it’s a fantastic position to be in. All I want to do is have someone who is watching this...it would be great if this were in theaters, but whoever watches this, I want them to say, ‘I never knew that about The Joker. I didn’t realise that about Batman. I never considered that with Falcone. I never understood that when I read The Long Halloween.’ If we can do that for this that, hopefully, The Last of Us will do with the HBO series, that’s the whole point, man. We’re here to tell stories. If it’s a story that’s already been told, then the challenge becomes, ‘How do we tell this story in a unique way?’
Fingers crossed. Going back to this film, your Joker is so well regarded and I know you’ve talked about paying respect to Mark Hamill’s work, but does that remain an important part of your approach to this character? You’ve made Joker your own, but that’s something fans love, so how do you approach him at this stage?
[Laughs] The fact you can say that sentence as a fact...man, it’s not lost on me. It really means a lot. We come in and bend the knee to the character as it exists outside our performance, and it’s not intentional, it’s inherent. The reason Mark became my Joker is because in 1990, when I heard him, that was the voice even above Jack Nicholson. He was a great choice for The Joker, but it was still Jack Nicholson. When I heard Mark and saw that mashed with the animation, that was the same voice that was in my head, so when I step into the booth, that is inherent to me. It’s not like I’m doing a Mark Hamill impression; that to me is what The Joker sounds like and the way he comes out. If I can be that for someone, then I will have done my job.
I know as a fan I appreciate the way you pay homage to him, and I’m sure you step into that booth, you must feel a lot of pressure playing this guy?
Hey man, pressure makes diamonds.