Jason O’Mara is best known for, well, tons of different television series: “The Good Wife,” “Vegas,” “Terra Nova,” just to name a few. But after a few more of the DC Animated Movies like “Son Of Batman,” where he plays none other than Batman, he may find himself venturing into a whole new realm of fame and recognition. The story of Bruce Wayne’s biological child, who happens to have been taught by the League of Assassins, the film offers an interesting and different perspective on the caped crusader, examining how he fares in the role of parent rather than mentor, while exploring the emotional ramifications what happens when a man with no family is suddenly given one.
O’Mara spoke with Comic Book Resources, sitting alongside his own son as he fielded questions about the process of getting behind the hero’s cowl. In addition to talking about his own experiences and hesitation at taking the role, the actor discussed exploring the character, and offered some insights into emotional territory for a hero who often prefers his feelings remain uncharted.
CBR News: In this story, we see Batman interacting with a character that’s actually his son. How did you like getting to explore that aspect of Bruce Wayne, that he has an actual son who could be going down the wrong path?
Jason O’Mara: Obviously, it’s a bit of a shock at first. For at least the beginning of this movie, he’s the kind of Batman who likes to work alone. And Dick Grayson’s already kind of flown the coop, as it were. So it’s a bit of a shock, and he’s got to get his head around how Damian Wayne came about in the first place. And then, trying to figure out how to become a father and be a super hero at the same time. Trying to guide him, but also protect him, which any parent will tell you is easier said than done. Especially this guy. Not only is he wild, but he has like ninja skills. He’s an extremely dangerous kid who, like Batman, has been trained by League of Assassins. So he’s actually a worthy adversary as well as being his own flesh and blood. It’s a really interesting story. I think it’s refreshing to have a character-driven Batman story that isn’t just about action and getting out of scrapes. But this actually kind of compromises Batman’s character, and we have to see how he’s going to react to this kind of situation. And it’s kind of funny, too!
What was your first exposure to Batman?
My first exposure was when I had measles. I was probably younger than my son, probably about eight years old, and I had the measles in my grandparents’ house in Manchester, England. I got up in-between fevers, and I’d watch a little TV. They were playing the original Adam West movie. I just thought it was cool. I thought it was like the funniest, coolest thing ever, and it really stayed with me. This must have been ’78, ’79, something like that. It kind of was like one of those things — “Why didn’t I know that this existed before now? Why did no one tell me about this? This is amazing!” That was where my love affair first began.
With 75 years of Batman tradition, what did you want to do with your performance to make it your own?
I just didn’t want to mess it up, to be honest with you. I did not want to mess it up. It’s like, celebrating 75 years of Batman — we’ve had so many great actors play it so well over the years, both on film, television, and through his voice, that I just didn’t want to completely humiliate myself. [Laughs] So when I talked to Andrea Romano about how to find this Batman voice, it was really about finding something that was authentic but also was unique to me. I didn’t want to cover ground that had already been covered. It took a while, you know. You do one version — it’s like writing a song. You do one version, you go, “Oh, that sounds like someone else or something else.” You do this other version, you go, “No, no, I’m forcing that. I’m pushing that.” And so you try to come across something where you go, “Yeah, that could work.” And it also has to be a voice that you’re able to produce and reproduce fairly easily with your voice in a healthy way, that you’re not going to push. It’s kind of been a really interesting process. But I’ll tell you what, from “Justice League: War” to “[Son of] Batman,” to be able to sort of — I feel like I’m starting to enjoy myself. Almost like I’m in danger of having a good time. I felt under such a — I felt such responsibility of such an iconic character, and now I feel like, “Okay. I am he. And now it’s time to have a little fun with it.”
When you signed on for “Justice League: War,” was there an expectation to continue with movies like this?
There was no like Marvel-style ‘sign up for seven years of your life’ kind of stuff. It was like, “Yeah, okay. We’re going to do ‘Justice League: War.'” I expected to be replaced or something, honestly. Then they were like, “Oh, we’ve got this other one. ‘Son of Batman,’ we’ll send you the script.” I was like, “Oh, my God. This is better than ‘Justice League: War.'” From Batman’s point of view, really, really juicy character stuff. So yeah, they’ve hinted that there might be some more coming down the pipe.
Do you have more lined up after this?
I can’t really talk about it. I’ll try to be nice and say they hinted.
Did you watch any of the previous animated Batman incarnations to get a sense of how you wanted to do it?
Yeah, I have. I mean, we watched, was it “Batman Begins?” We watched several different versions. I think Kevin Conroy played him most. But we liked the movies as well, even the so-called bad ones. We’re just Batman fans. This is my real life son. Real life son of Batman, just for the night! We watched quite a few, and they’re all excellent, but I was trying to find something that I could call my own.
As an actor, what’s it like getting to see audiences and fan bases at conventions and screenings, and getting to meet them? Is it really intense?
Oh, I love it. I mean, it’s not intense. It’s really exhilarating and exciting to be able to meet your fan base and see them here in person and see the lengths they’re willing to go. I mean, it’s not easy to get in these screenings. You have to get in line for a long time, so you really have to mean it. You really have to want to see it, and you really have to want to hang around for the panel afterwards. I’m just filled with gratitude. I feel blessed that these people are actually there for us, and I find myself in this position. It’s terrific.
Other than the comfort level, was there a difference in how you approached Batman as opposed to on “War,” because there, you were part of a team, and here you’re exploring Batman’s personal life and different aspects of it.
Yeah, but those same leadership qualities emerge as a father. You’re trying to help people make the right decision and encourage them to do the next right thing. I think his leadership qualities in the Justice League come into play just by trying to be a father to Damian. It’s always most interesting when Batman starts out as that lone Dark Knight and has that compromise, or he’s forced to have to interact with someone else. Whether it’s Dick Grayson or whether it’s Damian Wayne or anybody else, and he’s got to actually deal with other people and their pesky personalities.
Did you view Nightwing as a son character as well? Is he similar to Damian?
You can’t play that, because he’s gone. Dick Grayson, Dick’s gone. He’s flown the coop. So you have to assume that whatever happened there, Batman’s okay with. You can still see a bit of tension there though with that. It’s not all happy days are here again when Nightwing comes back. So I thought that was quite well played in the movie. He’s helpful to Damian, but there’s a little bit of kind of, “Hey, what are you going to be the next Robin, here? What’s going on here?” But I couldn’t really play that relationship as such. There wasn’t really an opportunity for me.
When you have a character like Batman, who’s forged out of tragedy, how does this character change when he’s introduced to the fact that he has an actual son that he has to be responsible for?
Well, see the movie! I mean, I think it’s more about having an opportunity to maybe make better decisions for this kid. In many ways, if you think about it, his being Batman is what has led to Damian being in existence, so he has to kind of face the part he’s had to play with it as well. He’s put himself in harm’s way, into a situation, however manipulated by Talia, that he needed to own the fact that he is responsible, regardless of whether he was manipulated or not. And regardless of the situation, has to show up for this kid. I just think that’s a cool story.
And it also makes sense that someone who lost their family would prize family so much.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think that’s what I mean, is that he sees another opportunity here, an opportunity he didn’t have to supply Damian with some parental guidance.
“Son of Batman” is available now, digitally and on Blu-ray/DVD.