Andrea Romano Talks Voice Casting ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood’
Few individuals understand the intricacies of the voice of Batman better than Andrea Romano.
Arguably the top animation voiceover director in the business today, Romano has been instrumental in orchestrating the vocal tones behind the character’s non-live appearances for more than two decades. From Kevin Conroy and Rino Romano to Jeremy Sisto and William Baldwin, Romano knows precisely what voice will best fit the tones of a particular story or series.
Enter Batman: Under the Red Hood and all of its deep, emotional undertones. Romano has outdone herself once again, balancing the veteran acting chops of Bruce Greenwood as Batman with the youthful, pained intonations of Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, and tossing in Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing for humorous resonance.
All in a days work for Romano, who recruits the best in the business – winners of Oscars, Emmys and Tonys alike – to provide the voices behind some of the world’s best known super heroes for the DC Universe Animated Original Movies.
Romano’s voiceover casting/direction resume spans more than a quarter century, covering the genre gamut from action (Batman: The Animated Series) to humor (Animaniacs) and contemporary (The Boondocks) to timeless (Smurfs). The eight-time Emmy Award winner (along with more than 30 nominations) is a star in her own right, earning the respect of her peers and the adoration of legions of animation fans. One need only witness the reaction to her introduction at a Con to understand that voiceover work is no longer an anonymous profession.
Batman: Under the Red Hood will be distributed by Warner Home Video on July 27, 2010 as a Special Edition version on Blu-Ray™ and 2-disc DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.
QUESTION: Let’s take the cast one member at a time. What made
Bruce Greenwood right for the role of Batman in this particular film?
ROMANO: One of the coolest finds of this past year for me was
Bruce. I’ve seen so much of his work over the years, and he can do so
many things so convincingly. I knew I’d have to offer him a big role.
Something with meat. And I knew he would really sink his teeth into the
material and make it his own. I don’t need to tell you what a wonderful
actor he is – but for this film, he gives a terrific, sensitive
performance. This is the most tortured we’ve ever seen of Batman and,
without overplaying it, Bruce really showed us a lot of the guilt and
issues Batman has in his luggage. It’s an exhaustive, emotional piece,
and he carried it perfectly.
QUESTION: How did Jensen
Ackles perform in his maiden voyage in animation?
ROMANO: When you get a first-timer in the booth, there are often
risks involved, particularly in understanding the techniques involved in
working with the microphone. Jensen picked it up so quickly and was so
effective in this very difficult role. Red Hood is written as such an
embittered, angry, verging-on-insane character, and it can so easily be
overplayed. But Jensen found just the right level of energy and flair. I
loved his acting. His quality was dead-on, and he really offers a
perfect balance with Bruce (Greenwood).
As a director, you live
the emotions with the actor. There’s one scene where Jensen has to let
his emotions completely bubble to the surface. I had to work really hard
to see my script through the tears that I was crying with him as he let
his emotions come through.
QUESTION: Who better than
Neil Patrick Harris to break up all the emotional drama of this film?
ROMANO: Who doesn’t love Neil Patrick Harris? He’s charming,
talented, friendly, and remembers everyone he works with. He can sing
and dance, not that I need that talent for Red Hood (she laughs). And in
this instance, he did the unthinkable – he came to record for us on his
way to the airport as he was going to New York to host the Tony Awards.
Nightwing really does give a comic balance to this intense story, and
Neil brought that spunky, funny instinct to the character with his usual
effortless performance. He’s completely believable whether he’s doing
drama or comedy, and he really added to this film. If I could, I would
use Neil on every single project I do.
Isaacs is such a nice guy. Why’d you have to make him play a villain
ANDREA ROMANO: Jason Isaacs is a delight. And
you’re right (she laughs) – nice guys sometimes make the best villains.
I’ve worked with Jason several times, and he’s absolutely fantastic. For
Ra’s, I needed something slightly exotic. He’s a great, unusual
character, but we had to fight against him getting too cartoony – and I
knew Jason had the chops. He’s also a wonderfully intelligent actor –
during the recording session, he had so many ideas, and would so
respectfully suggest them to Bruce (Timm) and I – and I honestly don’t
know that there was one we didn’t use. He helped edit the copy, he added
beats where we didn’t even see them, and really nuanced the
QUESTION: The Joker has had some very memorable live-action
and animated performances from some notable performers. How did John
DiMaggio fit into that legacy?
ANDREA ROMANO: If I weren’t in love with my husband, it would be
John. He’s such a versatile, talented voiceover actor. The Joker is
such an intense character, and I knew I needed somebody with great range
– and John was delighted to come in and play, and he gave it some
beautiful new twists. Because he has such a deep gravely voice, and he’s
good at comedy, and he’s a good actor, I knew John already had covered
most of the points of the Joker. But I didn’t want a light, thin reedy
voice, I wanted a voice with some mass to it. That’s John.
You’ve placed Vincent and Alex Martella as the Young and Younger
Robin voices. Had you ever cast brothers in the same film?
ROMANO: This is the first time I’ve ever cast brothers in the same
film. I was familiar with Vincent’s work and had been looking for
something for him, and this was a great, interesting opportunity because
I needed to cast the younger version of this character at two different
ages. Vincent has a younger brother named Alex, who has only just begun
in the industry, but because siblings tend to have very similar
qualities to their voices, it was kind of a no-brainer to cast his
younger brother as his younger self. And they were terrific – Vincent
was pure dynamite in his performance, and I actually think Alex learned
from watching his older brother record before him.
surprised me was in their attention to detail. They had to set up this
character’s life for another actor that they weren’t even going to act
in the same room with, and I thought the transitions were seamless.
What set this cast apart from the first seven DC Universe films?
ROMANO: Each one of these actors had something to bring to the
party above and beyond what was required of them. They had questions,
they had input, they had ideas and, because the piece is so adult,
complex, intense and dark, they knew they weren’t coming in to play The
Smurfs. In order to make sure they were in the right head space and had
the right tone, they asked a lot of questions. And that’s always a good
sign. When the actors are that involved with their characters and the
story, that challenges Bruce (Timm) and I to truly think through
everything even more thoroughly, and then it becomes a much more
collaborative effort. I’m not above telling an actor how to read a line.
But I’d prefer that the actor comes up with the idea himself and I’m
able to just tweak things here and there. We all need a challenge,
something that keeps us on our toes, and recording this film was one of
those experiences. A very, very positive experience.