This week, Warner Bros. Animation releases its former hit animated series “Batman Beyond” on DVD for the first time in its entirety. “Batman Beyond: The Complete Series” includes all 52 original episodes on nine disks, as well as three all-new bonus featurettes and a 24-page, 8″x 12″ collectible booklet.
“Batman Beyond” originally ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001 and featured Will Friedle (“Boy Meets World”) as Terry McGinnis – the future successor to the Batman mantle – and Kevin Conroy, reprising his seminal role from “Batman: The Animated Series,” as Bruce Wayne.
The series is set 50 years in the chronological future of the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) helmed by Bruce Timm, although it was released before “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited” and “Static Shock.”
“Batman Beyond” centers on Terry McGinnis, who is just another ordinary teenager until his father is mysteriously murdered. Suspecting foul play at his father’s company, Wayne/Powers Corporation, Terry meets Bruce Wayne and learns of the billionaire’s secret identity, which has been hidden for decades. Now too old to don the cape and cowl as Batman, Bruce refuses to help but after Terry steals the Bat-suit and vows to avenge his father’s death, he becomes the new Dark Knight’s mentor; his Obi-Wan Kenobi to his Luke Skywalker.
CBR News spoke with Friedle about the popular animated series and he shared his thoughts on playing opposite voice acting masters Conroy and Mark Hamill, who returned to DCAU, as well, to once again take on The Joker. Friedle also discussed his latest role on “Batman: The Brave and The Bold,” in which he plays Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle.
CBR News: Take us back to when you were actually voicing Terry for “Batman Beyond” and tell us what you loved about it and why you think the series resonated so well with fans?
Will Friedle: Doing the show was a huge honor. It was the first animated series that I’d ever done, and to not only be invited into that world but to then be able to play Batman was huge. And being able to sit next to Kevin Conroy, who played Bruce Wayne and Mark Hamill who played The Joker, two of the greatest voice actors ever in my opinion, week in and week out – not to mention having, I think, the best director in Hollywood in Andrea Romano and the best production staff in Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and Alan Burnett and everyone involved, you couldn’t have asked for a better way to be brought into the animation world.
As for being able to play Terry, I was hugely flattered and I think the show and the character resonated with people because of the new style of Batman but still keeping to its roots. There was still Bruce Wayne and it was still a world that everybody knew, even though the world was now 50 years in the future.
Coming off of “Batman: The Animated Series,” it’s pretty easy to get fans for a pilot or maybe an episode or two after that for a new series because they want to see what the great team that did “Batman: The Animated Series” was doing next and then I think the episodes were so strong that the audience stuck with us, which is wonderful.
Nearly a decade later, why do you think fans still love the series?
Looking back at the series, I think the show grew in such a way and the storyline grew in such a way that especially when it came to “Justice League,” when they wrapped it up with “Epilogue,” which really wrapped up the entire series in such a beautiful way, it showed it still resonated with the audience. And it still does. You go back and watch those episodes and you’re still engrossed. The same way that I go back and watch episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series” and I still love what I’m seeing because, not only is the animation still beautiful and the acting wonderful on the show, but the stories are so crisp and they’re written so well that I think, like a great book or a great film or a great television show, as long as the writing is solid and the story is solid, you’re going to have fans. So, I’m very excited that we were able to jump that gap from “Batman: The Animated Series” to “Batman Beyond” and bring the original fans with us. And then, with the kind of younger skewed version of “Batman Beyond,” I think we picked up a whole new group of younger viewers, as well. I think it still resonates with people. I really do. It was a great show and just a ton of fun to work on.
What was the most rewarding part of playing Terry, not so much in terms of process, but character-wise?
Well, the thing that I really loved, that you get occasionally in flashbacks from the older series, when we really meet Bruce Wayne in “The Animated Series,” he was established as Bruce Wayne. He’s a playboy billionaire. You really get to see who Bruce Wayne is. The thing that was so great about playing Terry is that, I think he is 16 when we meet him and he’s really still finding himself. It’s a tough age and he’s still growing up. He just lost his father. He’s got a big chip on his shoulder. I think playing that is very interesting because it’s difficult enough being a teenager and it’s difficult enough trying to grow up and find your way in the world, but then, when you also have the added weight of being the new Dark Knight, it adds layers to the character that were just a ton of fun to play.
We talked before the series started about just making sure that he was never whiny. We didn’t want somebody walking around who was defeated and constantly whining about what’s going on. We needed somebody who was strong and was learning as he grows, taking what he can and really learning from his mentor in Bruce Wayne. It was definitely a lot of fun to play him. I had come off of doing just comedies, so to go from doing just comedies to somebody with a grudge and, really, somebody who was kind of bitter when you first meet him – from an acting standpoint, was just a lot of fun to play.
And you could see him grow, which is always fun to play. To see a character develop over the years and try to become a better man, from an acting standpoint, is real challenge.
There’s a new “Batman Beyond” comic series coming from DC Comics, and Terry is now being written into DCU continuity. Is that extra special because you know that your playing Terry was a big part of what fans responded to?
It really is. It’s one of those things where any time I get the written word in front of me, I’m always excited, because I love reading. I have a passion for reading, so taking it from the animated series and knowing, like you said, people still love the character and they want to know more about him to the point where they are going to be launching the comic book series is very cool. I can’t wait.
You’re still getting your fill of do-gooding playing Blue Beetle on “Batman: The Brave and The Bold.” Do you see any similarities between Jaime Reyes and Terry, because there are certainly lots of differences.
No, there aren’t really. It’s completely different. Blue Beetle, while he’s still a young superhero trying to find his way, he’s far more gung-ho about it and is the first one to offer a joke. He is still very light-hearted. Jaime Reyes is still trying to keep himself a teenager whereas Terry was not. Terry wanted to avenge his father and had a very dark side to him – Jaime doesn’t seem to have a dark side. He wants to laugh and have fun and see what the scarab can really do. So they are very, very different characters that are both a whole lot of fun to play. It’s also interesting to get to sit down in the recording session with someone like Diedrich Bader, who you then say, “OK. This is his take on Batman” and you get to see what he’s going to do with it as opposed to Kevin Conroy. I love, frankly, the opposites of how there’s a Batman for everyone. I think the big thing with Jaime Reyes is, you can’t go big enough. You can’t go loud enough. You can’t laugh enough. It’s just a big, wacky character and he’s pretty cool to play.
Would you take the opportunity to play Terry again, maybe in an episode of “Batman: The Brave and The Bold?”
You know, I really would. Like I said, he was a ton of fun to play, and when the “Justice League” episode came out, where they brought Terry back, there was a little light going off inside of me saying, “Oh, wow – I get to play this character one more time!” It was very, very exciting. And I loved all the people working on the show so it made it all the more special.
Now, we get to sit there, and a lot of the people who do “The Brave and The Bold”‘ were on “Batman Beyond,” so as I’m doing Jaime Reyes, people are talking about what it was like to do “Batman Beyond” and what Terry was like. Going back to play him again would be a whole lot of fun.
Do you have any other voiceacting projects coming up?
I do actually have two or three things that are very, very exciting that I’m not exactly allowed to talk about just yet. Some stuff where, frankly, I put them right up there with “Batman Beyond,” at least in terms of how excited I am about it and the quality of the shows. So, some stuff that is very, very cool is on the horizon in the very near future.
Will the words “Thundercats, ho” be in that future?
[Laughs] Who knows? You can never tell.
“Batman Beyond: The Complete Series” is set for release by Warner Home Video on November 23, 2010.