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Voice Director Andrea Romano On Casting Your Favorite Superheroes

Interview

Earlier this week we brought you an interview with Justice League: Doom voice actor Phil Morris. I have to say, he was a great interview (definitely in my top 10) but casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano is always one of my favorite people to speak with. Her credits include the animated series Smurfs, Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Avatar: the Last Airbender and good lord, so many other things we watch and love. Hear what she has to say about her latest release, Justice League: Doom, as well as what it’s like to work with voice actors, and what we can expect down the road from Warner Home Video. 

Romano is a freelance casting and dialogue director but she often finds herself working in the DC Universe for their Warner Bros. Animation projects. Justice League: Doom, written by Dwayne McDuffie, is based on Mark Waid’s Justice League arc from the comics. ‘Tower of Babel.” The characters include a full Justice League roster as well as their foes, the Legion of Doom. Quite a hefty casting job to be sure.

“They said yes, you can use the original Justice League cast which we all suggested, Bruce Timm and I said let’s use the original cast if we can. There’s a lazy factor to that which is, I don’t have to say to Susan Eisenberg, ‘Ok, here’s this character Wonder Woman, she comes from Themyscira.’ Susan Eisenberg knows who Wonder Woman is, she played her for years and years and years and years,” she said. “But we did make some choices like having Nathan Fillion come in and play Green Lantern.”

Romano said, although she’s the casting director, it’s a large group decision on who will eventually play the roles. “There are I think 24, 25, 26 actors in this piece, some of them doing three voices so it’s really filled with remarkable talent. But to bring in people who have played these characters before, takes a little bit of work off my shoulders and so I can sort of sit back and get off the button and let them do what they do and they have lots of great ideas,” she said. “It’s also a way of saying to the producers, ‘You may have had an idea in your head of what you think this is going to sound like, but let the actors do what they do and if their idea is better, can’t we adjust to what they do?’ Because it’s organic and real, and they’ve been working with those characters for so much longer, exclusively you know?”

Voice actors tend to go unrecognized and unpraised by the industry at large even though, as Romano points out, they’ve been doing fantastic work for years. So The Mary Sue asked her, what are her thoughts on award recognition for voice acting?

“There is an award ceremony for voice actors, it’s called the Annies, the animation awards,” she said, “[but] I would like to see more voice actors, and I mean the rank and file voice actors, the every day voice actors who do this every single day, get acknowledged say in the Oscars or anything like that because what tends to happen is it gets to be a celebrityfest. And so somebody who comes in and does one wonderful role as a celebrity, they get the acknowledgment when people like Kevin Conroy, who’s so stunning and has done this work for so long isn’t acknowledged and he deserves the attention.” She also added that she hopes Lord of the Rings/Planet of the Apes actor Andy Serkis gets some well-deserved attention soon.

Romano is actually an actor herself, having voiced several roles in her career. She even does some of Eisenberg’s Wonder Woman impact sounds for DC animation projects to save time. Does that experience help her relate to those she’s directing?

“I respect actors so much because I know what they go through every day just to get the job, to get to the audition, to get to the session. I have the terminology so I can speak to them in terms they understand and I have tremendous sympathy,” she said. “When I have to ask someone to experience the death of a loved one in a piece or putting themselves at risk, they’re really feeling those emotions and I know what that’s like as an actress and so I think that helps me be sympathetic to what they’re going through to bring it…When they have moved me to tears because they’ve gotten to that position, then I know that it works.”

So what really goes into choosing actors for these iconic roles? Although it may sound obvious, Romano says acting ability is key but the script is essential. “That harkens back to Dwayne McDuffie who wrote the script for this. One of Dwayne’s remarkable talents was his ability to make a script actable and so, you put that in front of an actor and he goes, ‘I can play that. I can act that.’ And that makes my job a lot easier,” she said. “First of all, key, number one is not how does this voice sound? Number one is, can he act? So whenever anyone says, ‘How do I get into voiceover? I can do all these wonderful voices,’ but if you can’t act, you’re probably great fun at a party but it’s not really good for what I need.”

She continued, “We can manipulate the voice, I can teach people how to manipulate their voice in a four hour recording sessing, and I can teach them microphone technique. I can’t teach them acting in a four hour session. So I look for an actor first, a voice next, and then, somebody I want to spend hours and hours and hours in a room with because I’m going to have to do that. And someone who will listen to me. I like that they have their own ideas but I need them to trust that I have enough experience that I can tell you this is going to work.”

Romano pointed out that a lot of the time, casting comes down to who is available when they need to record but that money is also a factor. “These people command a tremendous amount of money for their oncamera work, you know, if they’re a big celebrity. There’s been many celebrities I’ve gone out to because I am given the director who wanted another Batman for this particular project. ‘I expect $100,000,’ our budgets don’t allow for $100,000 so sometimes it’s that. Sometimes it’s just plain, ‘I can’t do it, please keep me in mind for the next one’ and you keep a list and maybe five years down the line I call up the actor that I wanted and, ‘Do you want to come play Batman now?’ ‘Yes! I can! I’m available!’ So we try and give everybody a chance.”

The reason they stopped using Tim Daley as the voice of Superman years ago was that the actor moved to the other side of the country. “So that’s why we had to go to George Newburne because we couldn’t get to Tim often enough because we were doing a series and that’s a weekly recording. There was never any kind of problem with Tim except for just plain logistics,” she said, but for Justice League: Doom, “Tim expressed he really wanted to come and play again and I think Tim and Kevin make a really nice duo as do George and Kevin. I can’t say I prefer one over the other.”

[Editors note: We wonder if she's seen Daly, Fillion, and Michael Rosenbaum (Flash in the film), dressed up and pretending to be their alter-egos yet.]

Warner Home Video was said to be slowing their release process soon but Romano assured us fans won’t notice. “There’s so many pieces in production right now, you guys. There’s two Dark Knight pieces, a two-parter Dark Knight coming up, and there’s at least three or four other pieces in preproduction or other things so even if they said they’re slowing down, you’ll never notice it.”

Of course we asked if any of those would feature our favorite women characters. “You know I always like to have as much female stuff, I think there’s not nearly enough and so I always suggest but the truth is I have no decision making power in that. They bring me a part and say ‘ok, this is what we want you to make next’ and I say, ‘Yes, I’d like to.’ And I do always encourage, ‘Isn’t there another female?’ but it depends on what books have been written and what pieces have been written,” she told us but that like us, she’s always hoping for more. “I always encourage that, I want that to happen. As a female viewer, I want to see that, and so as a person who works in production, I want to see that.”

If you missed it, check out our interview with Phil Morris (voice of Vandal Savage, Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld) from earlier this week and make sure you’re back here tomorrow for our interview with Batman himself, Kevin Conroy!

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