Chris Noth Discusses Playing Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor has benefited from many strong performances over the years from Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey in the features to Clancy Brown in the animated universe. Now, Chris Noth takes a turn at voicing the nefarious arch foe of Superman in February’s Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the all-new DC Universe Animated Original coming from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.
The twist, of course, is that this is the Lex from Earth-3 (or whatever number they assign it) and he arrives to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and, through a diabolical plan launched by Owlman, puts the balance of all existence in peril.
Noth has had a lengthy television presence as both Mr. Big in Sex and the City and as Mike Logan in Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He can currently be seen starring opposite Julianna Margulies in the CBS drama The Good Wife. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths represents Noth’s inaugural dip into the animated pool.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earthsis an original story from award-winning animation/comics writer Dwayne McDuffie,. Bruce Timm is executive producer, and Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight) and Sam Liu (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) are co-directors. The full-length animated film will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def, as well as single disc DVD, and On Demand and Download.
In Los Angeles to record his 100-plus lines as Lex Luthor, Noth took time during the marathon session to discuss his first animated role.
QUESTION: You’ve had an extensive career in a number of acting mediums – is this really your first animation voiceover experience?
CHRIS NOTH: I think I did about three lines of Mike Logan on Family Guy. That was a quick little gig. The character (Stewie) on the show carries a picture of Mike Logan in his wallet, so I was very flattered by that. But that was just a few lines – so Lex is pretty much my first real animated role.
QUESTION: In that case, can you describe what your first “actual” animation voiceover experience was like?
CHRIS NOTH: I felt I had an instinct for it, and it was a lot
of fun. It’s an interesting technique and, like any medium, whether
you’re doing radio or certain kinds of narrative voiceovers for stage
or movies, it has its own sort of rules and performance values. I think
the choices had to be bold and succinct and clear. To me, it appears
that super heroes have to be powerful, but it also has to be real. You
have to make bold choices and go all the way through with them. That’s
true with a lot of acting anyway. But with animation, it seems to me
there’s nothing coy about it. The acting has its own subtleties. So you
have to find that balance. And as long as you go with that instinct,
it’s a blast.
QUESTION: Did you take a different approach to this Lex Luthor – a good guy Lex – than you would’ve taken with a typically villainous Lex?
CHRIS NOTH: I was extremely excited to be playing the ultimate
villain from my youth. I remember how Gene Hackman portrayed Lex Luthor
with such great delight in the films, and I thought I’d be getting that
Lex. So I was surprised to see that in this script, Lex is actually on
the right side of the law. It required a whole new thinking on my part
on how to approach him. I mean, he’s a super hero who’s in this very
complex, parallel universe. He’s actually trying to save all of
reality from being destroyed. So I just took that adjustment and said,
“Wow, I need to get up to date on my super heroes.” I’m guess I’m a
little bit retro. (he laughs)
QUESTION: Do you feel any special significance to be joining the
canon of actors – Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, Michael Rosenbaum, Clancy
Brown – to have brought Lex Luthor to life?
CHRIS NOTH: Initially when I heard about the role, I thought
about that great tradition of actors associated with Lex. And I really
feel honored to be a part of that group. But this is a complete
departure from those performances. This time, Lex is on the right side
of the law. He’s worlds away from the old Lex.
QUESTION: You’ve done your share of Shakespeare. Can you
characterize Lex within the context of some of the great literary or
CHRIS NOTH: Not this Lex. I find super heroes to be more
archetypes of values of courage and fortitude and things like that.
It’s interesting to me that the new world of animation, compared to
when I was growing up, is so much more diverse in its characters. There
are so many more of them, and it’s a much more complicated world. The
old comic books that I grew up on had these characters that were in
many ways Shakespearean. They were very big with their evilness in the
same vein as Richard III in Shakespeare. Those characters relished
being bad, and that’s always fun to play.
QUESTION: How did you find working alone in a sound booth versus playing off other actors?
CHRIS NOTH: It presented a different challenge in the same way
that a radio play is different from being on stage, and being on stage
is different than being in the movies, and the movies are different
than being on a TV series. They all have different values that are fun
to explore and to take a crack at. So I found it challenging and
interesting to jump into that world.
QUESTION: Did it get easier when Bruce Davison joined you at the microphone?
CHRIS NOTH:That was even more fun because I know Bruce and it’s
always more fun to work off another person. Sandy Meisner, the great
acting teacher, used to say that what you do doesn’t depend on you. It
depends on the other fellow. In other words, they make you respond. So
when Bruce came in, there was a new kind of energy that I sort of
relished. I didn’t have that many scenes with him, but he was a lot of
fun and I think he made a great President.
QUESTION: As you are new to animation voiceovers, you’re also new to the direction involved. How did you find Andrea Romano’s direction?
CHRIS NOTH: (Animation) is very quick, it’s to the point, and
very on message, and you have to just go with it. Andrea was extremely
helpful to me to get some of the tone and in knowing what you have to
keep in mind with what’s happening to the character in the scene.
Whether it’s an intimate scene or there’s a lot of action, she keeps
you on point. So she’s a very good field marshal.