Kevin Conroy has been breathing life into the animated version of our favorite caped crusader for over twenty five years. Beginning with Batman: The Animated Series back in 1992, Conroy’s distinguished voice and take on the character of Batman has become recognizable to many. To some, he’s the definitive Batman and no matter how many other actors have voiced one of DC Comics’ most popular characters (including Bruce Greenwood), it’s safe to say that Conroy’s take is perhaps the most well-known in the animated world, if not the most memorable.
Kevin Conroy attended this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to promote his latest foray as Batman in DC and Warner Bros.’ latest animated film, Batman and Harley Quinn. Following The Killing Joke last year, Conroy promised that Batman and Harley Quinn is not only a much lighter film, but that the dynamics between the characters would make things “go off the walls” in a way that would pose some fun moments in the movie.
Kevin Conroy not only discussed his latest film, but also talked about playing Batman for over twenty years, coming back to the character, working with Loren Lester, who plays Nightwing, again, the reason Joker and Batman need each other and more.
*Please note that the interview took place prior to the screening of the film.
What did you think of Batman and Harley Quinn?
Kevin Conroy: I’m happy with it. It’s fun because it’s sort of a lighter take on the story, but it still has the weight, this darkness of drama, of Batman. Because of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, it just starts to go off the walls. It’s fun that way. It’s balanced.
There’s a lot of humor. How was that to play?
KC: There’s a lot of humor. Batman, you know, you can’t play the humor. You play the humor and you kill it. You always play the reality of the situation and you let the reality revolve around you, so Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy get to do most of the humor. But I get to do takes on it, sort of a cold take. Especially after doing The Killing Joke, which was such a dark, dark film. It was fun to do one that was light.
Do you think the Joker killed him at the end of it [The Killing Joke]?
KC: I can’t tell you that [laughs]. I mean we do know it’s only Batman laughing.
This is your first time working with Loren [Lester] again after 14 years. How was that?
KC: You know it’s funny, Andrea [Romano] set up the cast twenty five years ago and she has such a talent for hiring… mostly people who’ve done a lot of stage work and people who like to work together. People who are generous. Actors are people. There are generous ones and there are selfish ones. There are ones you want to work with and ones you want to avoid, do you know what I mean? There are givers and there are takers, just like in the world. And she always hires givers. [On working with Loren] It’s been ten years, but it was like it was yesterday. We really just fit right in. It was wild. [Writer] Bruce Timm said, “It’s like the show never stopped. You all sound the same.” No one sounds fourteen years older.
If tomorrow they said they were going to start the series again, would you be lined up?
KC: Oh, absolutely! People always ask me: “What other superheroes would you want to play?” And I say, “What other superhero is there?” I mean, he [Batman] is the coolest. So I’m just so lucky, I kind of got the brass ring. I sort of started at the top with this character. And I touched something with the audience and I know there’s been that connection for twenty years. It was a kismet kind of thing. It all just kind of came together and it made sense. And so it’s lasted all this time and I’m so grateful for having had this experience. But I know that it would be so hard to top it with any other superhero. So if they asked me to do more, I would be right there.
Do you prefer the darker toned films or the lighter tones? Or do you like to find a balance in the middle?
KC: I like them both. Especially people who’ve worked on the stage like to be challenged. They like to play both. It’s challenging and honestly, there aren’t a lot of actors who can do both, who can go to different extremes. So if you can, you like to show it off. And Warner Bros. likes to hire those actors. Anyone in this cast could go into different styles of acting and it’s just fun to do.
So this comes around full circle with Harley Quinn, who was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series. And she’s a part of [Batman and Harley Quinn] as well. How does it feel seeing how she’s grown?
KC: Well, what’s amazing is how she’s evolved with the audience. I mean, you walk around Comic-Con, you see as many Harley Quinns as you see Batmans. It used to be only Batman and Superman. She’s one of the top three or four popular sci-fi characters. And that’s just over the last twenty years, so that’s pretty wild. I think it was because she was written so beautifully, but it’s also because they cast her really well. Arleen Sorkin, that first incarnation of that voice and her take on the character, she so nailed it. And that gave Tara Strong the chance to come in and build on that. And now you have Melissa Rauch. You have different actors, but it was all, I think, informed by that original version that Arleen did.
Batman is all for justice and Harley Quinn is on the completely different side of justice. What was it like to play Batman teaming up with such a character?
KC: Well, what’s interesting about Batman is that he’s all for justice. But, I’ve often felt that Batman and Joker are like Yin and Yang. If they had been a little bit different, Batman could’ve been Joker. One doesn’t exist without the other and Batman just made the choice to go to the light and Joker made the choice to go to the dark. So with those characters like Harley Quinn, I think the reason that Batman understands them well is because he’s got a big piece of it in him. He understands that madness because he’s got a piece of it in him. He’s really complicated. I always say he’s a guy with issues.
Can you talk a little bit about playing different versions of Batman? What are the little intricacies you try to bring to each?
KC: I think it’s just fine-tuning how dark you get, how light you get. The secret has always been to be consistent with the character. It’s really the story more that dictates it. The Killing Joke is so dark. Such a dark world that no light even comes in, whereas this one [Batman and Harley Quinn] is the other end of the spectrum. There’s a lot of colors, a lot of light. But the trick is to be consistent.
Do you think it’s the consistency of the writing or that they’re writing it around you? Your portrayal of Batman has been such that when you think about him in Justice League or Justice League Unlimited, they’re all pretty consistent around your performance. Do you think you’ve influenced them at all?
Kevin Conroy: Have you ever met a writer? Do you know the egos writers have? [laughs] They say actors have egos. Writers have egos. You say what they write. No, I’m just kidding. No, they’re not writing around me. They’re writing to their own imagination of the character and I just try to bring it to life. But thank you for thinking that they do that, it’s very flattering.
In Batman and Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (a.k.a. The Floronic Man) embark on an ecological quest to save the planet – and, unfortunately, eliminate most of humankind along the way. To save humanity, Batman and Nightwing are forced to enlist Harley Quinn to catch Poison Ivy, Harley’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime. But Batman’s patience is put to the test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley during the twists and turns the reluctant companions face during their bumpy road trip. The result is a thrill ride of action, adventure and comedy no Batman fan has seen before.
Batman and Harley Quinn is directed by Sam Liu and includes the voice cast of Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, John DiMaggio, Eric Bauza, Rob Paulsen, Robin Atkin Downes, Mindy Sterling and Trevor Devall.
The animated film will be available on Digital HD on August 15 and on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 29.