SPOILER ALERT: The following interview contains spoilers about the DC Universe Original Animated Movie, “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.”
The latest of the DC Universe Original Animated Movies, “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” arrived in stores yesterday (Tuesday, February 23) and CBR News spoke with Josh Keaton, the voice of the Flash about the release that features the Fastest Man Alive teaming up with Superman (Mark Harmon), Batman (William Baldwin) and the rest of the world’s greatest heroes to face off against Owlman (James Woods) and the other super friends’ evil mirror images from an alternate DC Universe.
The story kicks off with a “good” Lex Luthor (Chris Noth) arriving from an alternate universe in order to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League.
Produced by Bruce Timm, written by Dwayne McDuffie and co-directed by Lauren Montgomery (“Wonder Woman,” “Green Lantern” First Flight”) and Sam Liu (“Superman/Batman: Public Enemies”), “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” was originally conceived as a bridge story to explain the expansion of the JLA between its two iterations in “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited.”
Keaton shared his thoughts on what he believes makes the Flash tick, what traits the Fastest Man Alive shares with his other voiceover alter ego, Spider-Man, and debunks a rumor about his next work featuring him as a hero in a half-shell.
CBR News: What was your familiarity with The Flash before landing the role for “Crisis on Two Earths?”
Josh Keaton: I can’t say that Flash was definitely one of my favorites growing up, and it’s not necessarily that there was something that I didn’t like, but I was really more obsessed with Spider-Man and Wolverine. The reasoning behind that is because I’m not a tall guy. I’m 5’9″ when I’m standing tall, you know, and I like to see short guys kicking ass. So yeah, Spider-Man and Wolverine were always my favorites. But I always did like Flash because there is that irreverence that’s really kind of similar to Spider-Man’s glibness.
The only difference to the way, at least, that I approached them is that Spider-Man kind of revels in it. He loves the fact that he can do all of this stuff, whereas for Flash, that’s just how he is. I like to say that he has the best timing and the worst timing. Comedically, his timing is impeccable. He says whatever he is thinking, but from an appropriateness standpoint, it’s not always that great. But I love that about him. He’s ultimately somebody that can be depended on. He knows what he’s capable of. He’s a loose cannon, he needs to be reined in from time to time. So yeah, I definitely had a familiarity with the character.
With Justice League in general, my earlier experiences with it were with some of the more mainstream characters like Superman and Batman, but it was definitely something that I did my best to keep up with and have become a fan of, even more so.
Let’s face it, I’m huge geek. And I was a huge geek growing up. The only difference is, now it’s actually cool to be a geek, which is kind of neat.
I’ve always been a sucker for merchandise and toys and comics and video games and pretty much all of that. I went to the premier for “Crisis on Two Earths” and I must have looked like the biggest dork there, because I was wearing my Flash t-shirt – and I was also representing Marvel with the Marvel briefs [laughs]. But like I said, I’m a sucker for merchandise. I’m that guy that always has to buy the toys. If I see it, I’ve got to have it.
When voicing Flash, or any character for the first time, how do you prepare for the role? Do you go back and watch previous iterations?
What I like to do is be aware of what’s around. I’ve also played Spider-Man, and there’s lot of other previous iterations of Spider-Man, a lot of previous of actors have done that. [It’s the] same thing with Flash. I don’t necessarily try to imitate that or tailor my performance to somebody else’s existing work.
I approach any voiceover the same way I approach an on-camera piece of material. I still try to find the core tendency of the character and what about that characters’ personality is defining for him. What is his background, what kind of events have led him to where he’s at now and how does affect him and that, pretty much, makes it very easy for me to make a lot of the choices that are appropriate for the character.
In terms of the timing and stuff like that, Andrea Romano is a great, great director. She’s a great actor’s director. She lets the actors have a lot of freedom, but we also have a lot of trust in her in that she’s going to have an overall sense of what everybody is looking for from that particular project. And when I say everybody, I mean producers, writers, directors, other actors, network people, studio heads, what they’re all going to want to see and tying it together.
So if somebody makes a choice that might be a great choice but might not fit in with what’s already been recorded or with the direction of how this is going to go, or somebody might be playing emotion that might be third act stuff but it’s still only first act, that’s pretty much where she’ll rein us in.
You mentioned the comedic side to the Flash, but he’s also, arguably, the second most powerful JLAer outside of Superman. Does that play into the performance?
Somewhat, because that really kind of plays into his confidence and his bravado. But it also leads to him being a loose cannon, which stems from his over-confidence and his want to really show what he can do. And that ultimately is, in my opinion, his weakness. His downfall is that he just wants to show too much and he has to know when to tone it down because he is so powerful.
There are certainly some poignant scenes between Flash and Batman in “Crisis on Two Earths” that really show the strong bond between the two characters. Can you talk a bit about that relationship?
Well, Batman has a ton of issues, and a ton of stuff that forces him to keep things close to his chest. He doesn’t really trust anybody. When it comes down to it, Batman has to be the guy to do it himself because he doesn’t trust anybody to do the job right. And I think Flash misreads that at times and takes it more as a personal offense, but you get to see the relationship develop. And like I said, Batman keeps a lot, especially what’s going in his head, to himself. And Flash is kind of the opposite. Whatever he’s thinking, he says, whether it’s appropriate or not. So you have that kind of tension but at the same time, Batman also sees that Flash is there to do the right thing. I’m not going to give away what happens in the film, but it’s reciprocated.
Do you think any viewers will hear Spidey when you’re doing Flash for “Crisis on Two Earths?”
Maybe, because Flash and Spider-Man are both characters that are very close to my own personality, so from a tonal standpoint, there is really not a whole lot of change that I do to my voice. For Spider-Man, I definitely pitch up because he’s supposed to still be in high school and younger than I am, so I pitch up to keep him young. Flash sounds closer to the way I speak – just a little quippier, a little snarkier.
I like getting to be Flash because I’m usually the guy that, when I have the opportunity to come out with that line that just really floors the room, I think about it five minutes too late. And so, I like that I get to be Flash because he’s never late.
Did the producers seek you out for Flash because of your work as Spider-Man?
There actually wasn’t a connection at all. Aside from the fact that it’s DC and Marvel and things, the production companies for all of these things are completely different. “Spectacular Spider-Man” was a Greg Weisman thing, and this is a Bruce Timm thing. The voice directors are completely different, different studio heads, and everyone else along the way are completely different. So, no, there really wasn’t anything that was connected between the two.
Do you have any updates on whether or not there will be any more episodes of “Spectacular Spider-Man?”
I wish I did, because they really haven’t said anything to us. The only thing that I can think of is the fact that it started out as a Marvel/Sony thing, and now Marvel is owned by Disney but Sony still has the movie rights. The funny thing is, it now looks like they’re going to do “Spectacular Spider-Man” continuity, essentially, for the reboot. They’re talking about bringing him back to high school, so I don’t know if now they’re deciding to do that, maybe they want to second guess giving their rights to Disney. It’s all legal stuff and I’m just an actor, so I have no idea.
But you’d be game for doing more episodes?
Oh, of course. The fact that he was my favorite comic book character growing up, I mean, it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had working on anything. So, yeah, I’m down to that for as long as they’ll let us.
According to your Wikipedia page, next up, you’ll be voicing Donatello for the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series. Can you share any details on that project?
That would be news to me. I would love it. I grew up watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” but so far, to my knowledge, I haven’t been booked on any “Ninja Turtles” stuff, at all.
We’ll debunk that rumor then. But you would take the call, if one came?
Oh, yeah, it’s the Turtles – Turtle Power! I played the video game. I don’t even want to think about how many quarters I lost in that machine.
Anything else we should be watching out for in the future?â€¨
I do, but I’m actually not at liberty to talk about it yet. There is going to be an announcement made about it at the Con. It’s going to be a pretty big deal but I’m really not allowed to talk about it yet. The only thing that I can say is that the Eighties are going to be coming back in a pretty massive way. That’s all I can say.