The Voice Behind the Bat
Few iconic characters have as distinct a voice as Batman, and the list of greats who have played the part of course includes Adam West, Christian Bale and, in The Lego Movie, Will Arnett. But none have done it as long as Kevin Conroy, who has been the voice of Batman’s animated adventures for more than two decades.
As part of the "Batman: An Animated Celebration" event, DC Comics' Tim Beedle sat down with Conroy to learn what it's been like voicing such a legendary character, whether his opinion of Batman has changed over the years and much, much more.
TB: Kevin, you first started voicing Batman over 20 years ago, which means that as far as I know, you’ve now been associated with the character longer than any other actor. Did you expect that you’d have such a long association with Batman when you first got the job?
KC: No, I had absolutely no expectation that this job would turn into what it became. I started recording it in 1991, and it went on the air on Fox in 1992 as a prime time series. Then over 23 years, it just evolved from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin to Justice League and then Batman Beyond. Since then, there’s been the direct-to-video movies and now the Arkham games.
He’s such an iconic character. He’s such a part of the American cultural landscape. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of and to have contributed to.
Like all actors, you never know where your career is going to go. You plan for things and you train for things, but you never really know the direction you’re going to go. So I had no idea that I was going to end up doing voice acting for animation and that I’d be voicing Batman. But it wound up working really well. The show is just a really good marriage of what I brought to the character and what Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano and all the people putting the series together were looking for.
Conroy (center) promoting 2009's Superman/Batman: Public Enemies with Clancy Brown and Andrea Romano. (Photo by Gary Miereanu)
TB: I heard that you originally wanted to read for the Joker. Is that true?
KC: Well, that’s the problem with actors! Actors always want to do the thing that’s most out of their realm. So of course when I went in, I wanted to read for the Joker, for Bullock, for Commissioner Gordon… I wanted to read for all the character parts. Finally, Andrea Romano pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you get it? It’s called Batman. You would be in every episode! This is the role you should want!”
So I asked if I could try a different voice for Batman to make him really disappear in the mask. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that he’s the most powerful, wealthiest, most eligible bachelor in Gotham City, yet he puts on a cape and cowl and no one knows it’s him. So I suggested an alternate voice to really play up the mystery behind it which brought a little character into it for me, and made it a lot more fun.
I might not have originally wanted to play the square-jawed hero, but Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, they’re such incredible writers. They really got into the psychology of Batman. The show became a real psychodrama. There are some episodes like “Perchance to Dream” where you really get into the mind of Bruce Wayne, and it’s wonderful for an actor to get that kind of challenge in a role.
TB: Has your approach for getting into the character changed? I’d imagine it must be second nature to you now.
Keep reading the rest of the Q&A over at DCComics.com.