Kevin Conroy Discusses his Return to the Batcave
That loud sound you hear in the distance is the echo of fanboys cheering the return of Kevin Conroy to his benchmark role as the voice of the Dark Knight for the highly-anticipated Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, the ninth entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies coming September 28, 2010 from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video.
Conroy, the voice behind the title character of the landmark Batman: The Animated Series, set a standard that has yet to be contested over the past 20 years. Conroy had already been seen on soap operas and television series like Dynasty and Tour of Duty when he aced his first audition for an animated voiceover role in 1991 – earning the title character role for Batman: The Animated Series. It was a casting decision that sounds as good today as it did back then.
Conroy will share that voice in person as the featured guest when Warner Home Video, UGO.com and The Paley Center for Media proudly present the East Coast premiere of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse in New York on September 23. The West Coast premiere will be hosted in Los Angeles on September 21.
The bi-coastal premieres are just part of the ongoing festivities in conjunction with the release of the film. Included in the activities is “Destination Apocalypse,” an interactive online promotion that allows fans to get even deeper into the mythology of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Fans can access “Destination Apocalypse” at http://DestinationApocalypse.com and explore the many sections including games, quizzes and information about film. Fans can even send Kryptonian messages to their Facebook friends. In each section, participants virtually “check in” and earn badges to unlock an exclusive video clip from the movie. In addition, earning badges for participating in the various activities in each section help to unlock exclusive movie poster downloads.
Conway helps lead a Superman/Batman: Apocalypse cast that includes fan favorite Tim Daly (Private Practice) as Superman, as well as Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) as the daunting Darkseid, sci-fi heroine Summer Glau (Serenity/Firefly; Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and multi-Emmy Award winner Ed Asner (Up) as Granny Goodness.
Based on the DC Comics series/graphic novel Superman/Batman: Supergirl by Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is produced by animation legend Bruce Timm and directed by Lauren Montgomery (Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths) from a script by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Tab Murphy (Gorillas in the Mist).
Conroy will speak quite a bit during pre-premiere interviews and a post-premiere panel discussion on September 23. But for those fans who can’t attend the sold-out event, here’s some thoughts the actor offered after a recent recording session.
QUESTION: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse features a foe
powerful enough to require more than just one super hero to step to the
plate. Can you speak to the importance of a great villain?
KEVIN CONROY: Well, the major villain is Darkseid, and he is very
apocalyptic. You know, it’s in the title (he laughs). The bigger the
villain, the greater the conflict – so as Darkseid is this epic-sized
villain, it gives a lot of dynamic for Batman and Superman to work off,
and creates that much more drama. Which means lots of action. And, of
course, Batman saves the world … as usual. What would you expect? (he
QUESTION: Do you have a preference for the type of story that goes with Batman?
KEVIN CONROY: What makes Batman interesting to audiences isn’t
just the fact of the personal drama, or the darkness of his having a
secret identity, or his avenging his parents’ death. All of that
personal drama makes him appealing to people. But I think of all the
super heroes, what sets him apart is that he’s the only one that doesn’t
have any superpowers. He is the great detective. So in every story, it
always comes down to his using his wits. I think everyone relates to
that and loves that about him. I really admire that aspect of his
character – I wish I was wittier. That’s why I think audiences get into
him so much, and that character trait is very important to this story.
QUESTION: Batman is a basically a loner. What are your thoughts
about his lone wolf approach, and how that works in a “buddy” adventure
like the Superman/Batman films?
KEVIN CONROY: Batman’s isolation and his singularity, his
inability to really let other people into his personal world, is really
essential to the character. It’s part of what audiences expect. Even in a
series like Justice League, where he was one of seven super
heroes, Batman was always the odd man out. The others would go off as a
group to do something – you know, they might go have pizza – and Batman
was always the guy left back in the cave.
So in these Superman stories, I think it’s the closest Batman gets to
having a brother, a kindred spirit. Superman understands Batman. He
understands his need to be alone and his isolation. He’s probably the
only one of all the super heroes who can balance Batman in terms of wit
and power, so they’re a very good balance for each other.
QUESTION: How does Batman see Superman?
KEVIN CONROY: I think Batman thinks of Superman as the Dudley
Do-Right of super heroes. He admires his strength and his character,
but he also he thinks he’s incredibly naïve and very unsophisticated
about the world. Remember, Batman is also Bruce Wayne, so he’s very
urbane. He’s very versed in the way of the world. And Superman is
Clark Kent, and he’s such a goof (he laughs). So it’s almost all about
the alter-ego – the darkness of Batman’s Bruce Wayne is balanced out by
the sunny demeanor of Superman’s Clark Kent. That’s where I think the
distinction is. Batman just thinks that Superman is kind of a very,
very naïve guy who always sees the goodness in everybody. And Batman
tends to see the darkness.
QUESTION: You attended Comic-Con International in San Diego last year for the first time in six years. How did that experience impact you?
KEVIN CONROY: The experience with the fans always re-energizes me
for Batman. I’ve always been really into meeting and interacting with
the fans. I understand why a lot of actors don’t like to do that
because it can be very invasive of your private life. But I’m just so
appreciative because I figure I wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for
them. Also, my background is the theatre, and the fun of doing theatre
is the interaction with the audience, the feedback you get every night.
You just don’t get that in Hollywood. You don’t get that with
television or film, and you certainly don’t get it working in animation.
So the only place you get it is to go to places like the Cons.
Plus, you get funny perks. I went to a Starbucks in downtown San Diego,
and they said, “Oh, Mr. Conroy, you don’t pay for coffee today.” (he
laughs) I thought, well, that hasn’t happened in a long time.
QUESTION: Away from the Cons, how often are you recognized?
KEVIN CONROY: It happens in some unusual places. A number of
years ago, I was in the Hollywood Post Office parking lot. I left
everything in the car, because I was just going straight to the mail
drop with the envelope. This guy, who was sitting on the curb, obviously
homeless, says to me “Hey, buddy, have you got a quarter?” And I said,
“I’m so sorry. I literally don’t. I have nothing.” He said, “You’re
Kevin Conroy!” I got really nervous – you just assume that your job is
anonymous working on animation, so I asked him how he knew that and he
said, “Oh, everybody knows who’s Batman.” I said, “No, believe me,
everyone doesn’t know who’s Batman.” He said, “Oh,
please–please–please–please do the voice.” He said, “Just say it … I
am vengeance.” He knew the lines. I said, “I am vengeance.” He said,
“Oh, my God. Batman’s here! Batman’s here!” He said, “Say it: I am
the night.” I said, “I am the night.” He said, “Go! Go! Finish!
Finish!” And I said “I am Batman!” So the two of us are there screaming
“I am Batman!” in the parking lot, and he started clapping and clapping,
yelling “I can’t believe I have Batman in the parking lot.”
He went on to explain to me that all television monitors at the Circuit
City on Hollywood Blvd. showed Batman every day, and he would stand
outside and watch the show. So I said, “Wait, just a second,” and I went
running back to the car for some cash. He said, “Oh, I can’t take
Batman’s money.” I told him he was going to take Batman’s money so he
wouldn’t tell anyone that Batman is cheap (he laughs). That whole scene
was wild, though – the last place you’d expect for someone to
recognize a voice actor is in the parking lot of the post office.
QUESTION: You’re a classically trained actor and a graduate of
Juilliard. Did you receive any instruction at Julliard that prepared you
for voiceover work?
KEVIN CONROY: At that time, Juilliard was the new hot place to
go if you wanted to be an actor, My classmates were people like Robin
Williams, Kelsey Grammer, Frannie Conroy. We were all kids. Robin and I
were roommates for two years, stealing food from each other when the
other wasn’t looking. We were starving students.
Robin was brilliant at the one thing that is perhaps what best prepared
me for what I do now, voicework. There was a famous teacher named
Pierre LeFevre who ran the mask program at Juilliard. French masks
conceal just the upper part of the face. This is classical French
theatre, and it’s all part of a very classical education. You put on
these masks and they completely neutralize who you are. You become a
different person. You can’t use the expressions on your face – you can
only use your body and your voice. Robin lived in those mask classes –
he would put on these masks and just become these unbelievable
characters. Pierre practically adopted Robin. There was some really
inspired stuff going on. The point is that in that class, all you could
use was your voice. It really made you focus on that – especially on
characterization in your voice.
QUESTION: Did you have any clue that would lead you somewhere?
KEVIN CONROY: It’s like that old expression – life is what
happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. I made all these
plans to be a classical actor, and you can’t make a living in the
theatre anymore. There are no more classical actors. Everyone who
survives in the theatre does it by doing TV and film … or voice work.
I had no idea that this is what I would end up doing, but it certainly
prepared me for it. I get that question a lot from people. How do you
get into this business? How do I get into voice work? And I always
say, “Well, you go to Juilliard for four years …” (he laughs) That’s
the thing – everyone’s route is unique.
QUESTION: Did you have much voiceover success before Batman?
KEVIN CONROY: Actually, I started doing voice work in the
early ’80s, and the very first voice job I did was the first commercial I
auditioned for. Remember Paco Rabanne cologne? The hook line was “What
is remembered is up to you.” That was me. And over the next couple
years, it paid me $25,000 for those few words. It paid for a lot of