“Batman: Bad Blood” Red Carpet Interviews
Review by Ray Schillaci
The Movie Guys
To celebrate the highly-anticipated “Batman: Bad Blood”,The Paley Center for Media held bi-coastal premieres in New York on January 19th and in Los Angeles on February 2nd. While fans braved the cold anxiously waiting (for over an hour) for the screening (this reporter was fortunate enough to attend the L.A. location), entertainment journalists kept warm in the confines of The Paley Center, patiently waiting for talent to arrive.
Returning voice actors Jason O’Mara (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Sean Maher (Nightwing/Dick Grayson), and Stuart Allan (Robin/Damian Wayne) bring their particularly memorable performances to the characters, providing depth and humor while exciting new characters light up the screen in the form of Batwoman/Katherine Kane (Yvonne Strahovski – “Chuck”, “Mass Effect”), Batwing/Luke Fox (Gaius Charles – “Friday Night Lights”, “The Stanford Prison Experiment”), and The Heretic (Travis Willingham – “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, 2013’s “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”, and “Shelf Life”). Their personas on screen work so well together, it’s hard to believe that most did not even see each other until after the film was put together.
RELATED: Read the Movie Review for DC Universe Original Movie BATMAN: BAD BLOOD
Jason O’Mara has a prestigious theatrical background, emanating from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and eventually working for the BBC and ITV. When he moved to the States, he went onto play several roles in network TV series. Now, about to play the caped crusader for a fourth time (upcoming “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”), I could not help but ask the question; what makes you DC’s favorite Batman?
Jason: Am I, though? I think it’s more to do with the success of the series than my individual contribution. To me, Kevin Conroy is the man. But I think, in terms of Batman’s movie series, this has become very successful, and I consider myself just grateful that a.) I’m a part of it, and b.) they keep asking me back (laughs).
Jason felt that he was still developing his Batman/Bruce Wayne, and continues to find new ways to relate to the character. He didn’t mind taking a backseat (due to Batman’s mysterious disappearance in this film) to Sean Maher (Nightwing), Stuart Allan (Robin), and the three new characters introduced to the series. At the same time, we don’t completely lose track of the Batman, since his character, and his disappearance, is central to the story. There is also a very suggestive dream sequence involving Bruce Wayne that will leave many people talking.
Producer James Tucker, along with his director, have a deep love for the Batman family, but as much as he loves the character of Batwoman, he cannot see doing individual films for her or any of the others. Since they only do two movies a year, it feels like it could be a “waste”. He strongly felt that for every movie they do, it’s got to be like a “super team,” even to the point of bringing in a super hero just to talk on the phone to another hero. It’s a call out to the characters that the fans love. When asked what prompted him to do this particular storyline, his response was that of a dedicated fanboy.
James Tucker: I’m a Batman fan, and I’m a huge Batman family fan. But I also realize through the years, throughout all the shows, that the “classic” Batman family got a lot of exposure: Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin, various Robins. And so I wanted that feel of a Batman family, but I also wanted to use some of the more recent additions to that. So Batwoman, I always loved her, and wanted to bring her in, in her own movie, but we always like to bring in the character in another franchise and give them a shot first and then see what happens. Between Batwoman and Batwing, they are very visually different characters. Batwing is kind of like Terry McGinnis (“Batman Beyond”) in the future. I kind of think of him like as the prototype for wearing the Batman Beyond suit. And, Batwoman is just cool. She has a real unique backstory, and her personality is intense and snarky. She’s just not a female Batman.
RS: Interesting, because she reminds me of the Huntress from “Arrow”.
JT: That’s true. She has some similarities, but I think there was a part of Huntress that was a little bit bloodthirsty. Huntress definitely wants to kill somebody. Hence, her name. Where as, Batwoman wants to hurt people. She doesn’t want to just kill them. She wants to make them feel the pain she felt, just as helpless as she felt. So, it’s a different dynamic.
RS: I think I got that from the five minute preview I saw, and she had the gun, and I related it right away. Especially when Batman came onto the scene and told her there was no reason to use guns. That the criminals use guns.
JT: Eventually in the comics she evolved away from that. But I kind of thought, she has military training, there’s a challenge, she needs a journey to start from one place, and by the end go somewhere else. Besides, guns are a good visual. Batwoman will definitely be back, and have more focus.
And, we can all be happy that the lovely Yvonne Strahovski returns as Batwoman/Katherine Kane. Yvonne is originally from Australia, and she received her first “big break” in the 2006 Australian horror thriller “Gone”. She later went onto television fame with the popular TV series “Chuck,” and as the infamous Hannah McKay on “Dexter”. She has also worked as a voice actor in various animated projects including “Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers” and “Mass Effect 2”.
Although, having worked as a voice actor before and loved the fun and excitement that went with the project, Yvonne admitted that she had underestimated the amount of pressure that came with this feature. But at the same time, she appreciated the layers that her character provided. She liked seeing not only the fun and feisty side, but what molded the character to be a certain way, and her romantic side as well. When approached regarding how she differentiated between her role in the newest Batman installment and “Mass Effect 2,” she had this to say…
RS: So, for you as an actress, it sounds like the Batwoman/Katherine Kane character is far more rewarding?
Yvonne: It’s easier because there is not only a lot more layers (to the character), but also because it’s a linear storyline. With “Mass Effect” it’s a game with many different options. You have to consider the different choices the player is going to make, and you have to account for that. It’s not like what I do in my daily life as an actress working with a regular storyline. It’s (“Mass Effect”) much harder.
Yvonne might have felt more pressure in her first outing in a Batman project, but Sean Maher (Nightwing/Dick Grayson) after having done “Son of Batman” and “Batman vs. Robin,” found he could finally relax in the role. That was not always the case. Maher, who looked more like a young Clark Kent, and is best known as Dr. Simon Tam from the cult favorite film “Serenity”, let it be known that he’s never been comfortable the first time taking on a role. In fact, the man is very humble about his skills, and when asked about what he does to go from Dick Grayson to Nightwing, he approached the question with humor and a bit of humility…
Sean: I don’t really know what I do (laughs). To be honest, I get in there, and do as much work as I can. I’m so focused on the elements of the story, and the unique characters. When I get into the booth, I’m Nightwing, and when the time comes, I’m Dick Grayson. I don’t think much about it.
RS: For you, the process almost sounds organic.
Sean: It sort of surprises me how it happens. I’m not even aware of it while in the booth. But the whole thing is exciting. This movie, “Bad Blood” was so much fun. It was the first time I showed up when I didn’t think I was going to be fired. Well, with the first two, I felt very fortunate to be offered such a gift of a role. I just showed up, and didn’t know what I was doing, and it all seemed so crazy, I thought they’re just going to fire me. Then when they hired me to do the third movie, I said, oh, they must like what I’m doing. I had a sense of ease with this film, that I hadn’t had before, and the script was so good.
RS: Have you felt that way (the insecurity) before as an actor?
Sean: Every time I go before the cameras. You know what my favorite thing is? Henry Fonda said that on his first day of working on every job he would vomit in his trailer. He was so nervous. That gives me such comfort to understand that it’s just a thing that some actors go through. I’m just so tired of hearing how we are just so calm and confident. We’re not calm. We’re not confident. At least, I’m not. If you can’t learn how to work in your state of anxiety…I try to give it a different word. Don’t call it anxiety or nerves. Don’t call it anything negative. This is just what’s happening to my body right now, and all I could do is step forward right now and work from where I am.
RS: Basically, you’re using the energy to infuse your performance.
Sean: Yes, because the only time you notice someone is nervous is when they are trying not to be nervous. That’s my motto.
And, it definitely works for Sean Maher. Much of that energy also appears to be in the young Stuart Allan (Robin/Damian Wayne), who demonstrates an enormous sense of confidence. Stuart has found some of the characteristics of his role rubbing off on him in his personal life. He’s advanced in the martial arts (Black Belt candidate, Elite Team, Weapons), and he is a deep thinker in regards to the dysfunctional Batman family, and how Damian Wayne resents his father’s methods in the beginning, only to slowly turn around, and realize the big picture. Stuart is constantly out to improve upon his role and credits Andrea Romano (voice director for previous two Batman installments), Wes Gleason (voice director for “Batman: Bad Blood”), and the members of the cast for helping to get him to where he felt he needed to be.
Gaius Charles as Batwing/Luke Fox dove right into his character by researching the very first Batwing comic book with David Zavimbe, a Congolese police officer. He then went on to to reading the newer Batwing, the Luke Fox version. He delved deep into who the character was and how the mantle was passed, and was motivated to key into the whole father/son storyline. Gaius also admitted to working very close with Jay Oliva (the director) in order to bring forth the new Batwing persona.
Gaius also discovered that working on such a feature was very different from working as a regular actor. With voice acting you are collaborating with a lot of other talent on your performance, in the sense that you do the voice, but then that voice is tied to a character you may not have seen yet. Then they have to put that together, adjust for speaking, and so on. Gaius looked forward to future collaborations as Batwing.
The cast does seem to sing the praises of their director, Jay Oliva. And, it appears that Tucker (Producer) and Oliva are not only interested in bringing the “Bat family” together, but also the talent as well. There’s a synergy at work when Tucker and Oliva are together. Their interaction with the cast and Phil Bourassa, character designer, during the Q&A came off natural and energetic. Bourassa appears to be game with anything the director has to suggest, and the producer seems to go right along with it.
One of the more interesting anecdotes during the Q&A was brought up by Travis Willingham (The Heretic) and Bourassa. They knew going in that the original character design for The Heretic would not translate well on screen. Anyone familiar with this would probably agree. An imposing dark, muscular, metal-clad figure with a baby head, The Heretic just could not be portrayed that way, and how would that voice coming out ever be taken seriously? Oliva and Tucker agreed, and opted with a more conventional design while concentrating on the uniqueness of the character.
Jay Oliva is not only an accomplished and well-known storyboard artist, he has become one of the go-to people for both DC and Marvel. Having just finished “Deadpool” and “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” he’s now hard at work on the “Wonder Woman” feature and “Thor: Ragnarok”. He’s also been director in both animated camps as well. What Oliva brings to the screen is not just memorable action sequences, but humor and captivating stories. Being a favorite in both camps, I could not help but ask how he separates the two as a storyboard artist.
Jay: It’s funny, my first animation was a Marvel gig. I worked on the ’90’s Spider-Man for Fox. I’ve worked on the Marvel animated films and I do Marvel and DC live-action as well. I’m a comic book fan. Love them. I always try to bring my own kind of flair to what I haven’t seen before. It’s fun to play in both ponds. Art work is about the same. But what I do in terms of staging is a little different. Like “Batman vs. Superman” is going to be a lot different tone than “Ant-Man”. The sequences are different. Plus the characters have different powers. It’s kind of interesting to do different characters with different powers. I think if I did a Quicksilver sequence, which I never did, it would be hard to differentiate between him and the Flash. But I always find ways to make it a little different.
RS: And, with “Batman: Bad Blood”, did you go into it with a certain mind set?
Jay: I was trying to top, at least action-wise. I wanted big action set pieces. So, I wanted to raise the bar of what I had done previously, which was on “Batman vs. Robin”. Batwoman was a great character, and I wanted to do something new with her that I had not done before. One of my goals was Thomas Wayne from “Flashpoint” (reality) was a really great secondary character
that the fans grew to love from the movie, and I wanted to do that with Batwoman. She’s a good character for the film, but I wanted to give her a solid foothold into the DC Animated Universe.
Throughout all of this, the man that seemed to corner the market among the voice actors was Travis Willingham (The Heretic) with his impressive credits of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Marvel Avengers Assemble” (2013), “Shelf Life”, and “Ultimate Spiderman” as Thor/Skurge/Wodin, to name just a few. Then there is his list of voice overs for a number of popular video games as well; Halo, Saints Row and Starcraft. So, with this impressive credit list I was compelled to ask what drew him to this role…
Travis: The opportunity to play a villain is always a coveted thing among actors. Everyone says villains are more fun to play. And, if you can’t be Batman, at least you can fight him. He’s (The Heretic) an imposing character. He wears the cowl, very dangerous, he doesn’t give much away which kind of leaves you wondering who or what you’re fighting for. It was just appealing to do very little with a character in the beginning that has such a complex backstory.
RS: Do you want to get into that backstory?
Travis: There’s a little Oedipus Rex in there, which I think is really fascinating. I think it’s an open-ended story for him because it’s not really centered to any one thing. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say he’s a character whose ambitions will not be satisfied until certain aspects of the story are sacrificed, which will cost quite a bit.
The Q&A after the screening proved quite amusing. Sean Maher relayed that when he was suppose to start imitating Jason O’Mara’s Batman (when he goes missing), he basically goofed on it, expecting his try to end up on a “B” role for a blooper segment. But to his surprise, Jay and the others approved on the first take. The cast also joked about the sounds they had to make while fighting, some sounding almost like a bad beat box. But the answer to the question that brought down the house was who would be their dream role to voice. Willingham immediately announced he would jump at the chance to play Martha Wayne…with pearls! And to really get the full impact of the joke, you’ll have to see that tawdry scene that left audiences questioning Bruce Wayne morals.