If you’ve watched any popular animation programs in the last ten years chances are you’ve heard Tara Strong’s work. The talented actress is best known to children everywhere as the voice of Ben Tennysen on “Ben 10” and as Bubbles on “The Powerpuff Girls.” But Strong has also lent her voice to many popular DC characters as well, including Barbara Gordon/Batgirl on “Batman the Animated Series,” Raven on “Teen Titans” and most recently as the Amazon warrior Alexa in the direct-to-DVD film “Wonder Woman.”
Now, Strong can add fan-favorite character the Huntress to her impressive resume as she voices the heroine in this weeks episode of “Batman: The Brave & the Bold.” Entitled “Night of the Huntress” and airing Friday night on Cartoon Network, the episode features a reluctant Huntress teaming up with Blue Beetle and the Dark Knight to stop the gangster Baby-Face and his wife, Mrs. Manface.
CBR News had a chance to speak to Strong about playing Huntress, her episode of “Brave & The Bold,” her voice-acting career and her love for DC’s female characters.
CBR News: To begin with, were you aware of the history of Huntress before you were cast in the episode, and did you have to do any kind of research for the part?
Tara Strong: I wasn’t aware of her. I’m trying to think where I’d seen her? I don’t know what run she originated from. When I was little I collected (comics) but I don’t really remember her. I didn’t do much research on her, but I do know that, particularly for the “Batman the Animated Series,” as opposed to other animated series, the characters are very real and generally dark, although this run of Batman is a little bit lighter than the previous one.
How do you see the character of Huntress and her relationship to Batman?
Well, she is strong, sexy, and smart and does not take crap from anybody. It’s always fun to have a strong female character ,and thankfully the Batman run does really have several very good strong female characters. I liked her in her drawing too. That she’s not like completely this perfect little nothing; she’s got a strong, strong body. She’s a kick-ass girl.
Can you tell us anything about the episode? She teams up with Batman and the Blue Beetle, correct?
I know that initially she ‘s not so gung-ho having help from Batman, of course, but they end up working together. I remember there’s a lot of really great action sequences and she does not stand down for anyone.
How was it working with Diedrich Bader (Batman on “The Brave & The Bold”)?
Well, I’ve worked with Diedrich before, and generally he’s always very comical and silly, on camera or off. So I was actually pretty skeptical to see him do Batman, because I was Batgirl in the original “Batman: The Animated Series.” We had the very dark Kevin Conroy doing Batman, and I wasn’t sure what (Bader) was going to do. He actually surprised me in terms of how playful he was, but still keeping the sense of the dark. He had good comedic presence, but not whacky-silly. He still kept that kind of true to character Batman sense without being too comical. He brought in just the right amount of comedy for this particular Batman run.
When you’re working with James Tucker, does he give you any insight or direction to the DC characters, since he knows them inside and out?
Not really, unless the actor is not a big comic book fan, which to be honest with you, there are only a handful of us. Most of us came in to voice acting from doing on-camera, theatre or other kinds of acting, so we come from an actor’s standpoint. We read the script and we work on the character, so whenever we get some back-story it’s always incredibly helpful. But for me, I’m really focusing on the scenes and what’s going on in the moment. I need to know what’s happening right before she says, “Ahh!” If she’s falling off a cliff or going, “Ahh,” for me it’s very time specific on what we’re doing in that moment, as opposed to a huge back-story. For instance, Phil Lamar (“Justice League”), when I’m doing a game with him or a show that has anything to do with comic books, he knows every history of every character. It’s pretty interesting to watch him. It’s fun.
You’ve been Batgirl, Raven on “Teen Titans” and even an Amazon in the “Wonder Woman” direct-to-DVD film. What do you think it is about the female characters from the DC catalog that makes them so strong and interesting to see come to life?
Well I feel really lucky to even be part of that family, and even when I first booked Batgirl, that was probably ten years ago and I remember being so excited about it. My agent called and said, “You’re her. You’re the girl. You’re the bat. You’re the Batgirl.” I was so excited. So I feel like it’s an honor to be a part of that trilogy.
Then on top of that, with DC, their female characters are traditionally stronger than any other show. I mean, you look at different heroines in different shows and, obviously the “Powerpuff Girls” are really fun, and “Kim Possible” has a light teeny-bopper sense, but these are real dark characters that I’m really drawn to and love to play as a voice actress. Because we’re not going so over the top, it’s more like TV and film acting, with maybe a slight twist on bringing some of the action forward with your voice. But for the most part, we’re getting to be very real in real moments. I know for me, people say, “Do Batgirl.” I say, she’s me, only cool. I’m not really doing a voice – I’m just being me. So the DC characters, as opposed to anything else, just for me, is about getting to actually put yourself in their shoes and being real with these characters.
Is that basically how you approach all of your voice work?
Well, I approach the work based on what the creators and the writers are asking for. A lot of times for an audition, they’ll give you a drawing of the character, a script and the synopsis of the episode or whatever may be going on in the series bible. Then I try to think of what, perhaps, they’re seeing or what they’d want for that particular show. And sometimes it hits me before the audition, and sometimes it hits me in the room, like on “Teen Titans.”
I thought actually that I was going to book Starfire, because they said that she was an older Bubbles and that’s my character on “Powerpuff Girls.” So I was like, I guess that’s going to be me. They asked me to read Raven, and I was a little bit nervous about that, because I was already Batgirl who has a similar dark, real tone. I did the audition, and when I left the room I said, “You know what guys? I got one more thing I want to try.” It just hit me in the studio to give her that real guttural roll whenever she says anything, and they were like, “Oh my God, that’s it.” Sometimes it hits you last minute, if you’re really open and organic to creating these characters. A lot of people think, “Oh I can do voices, I can read.” It’s not just reading, it’s acting and becoming these characters. So it’s not just about having an interesting voice, it’s about bringing these visions to life.
Do you prefer recording with other voice actors or recording by yourself when you’re doing a show?
Andrea Romano, who is the voice director of all the Batman series, tends to prefer having a full cast to record. I think it’s beneficial to getting the actors to play off each other and getting a sense of where you all come from. You know, it makes a huge difference, particularly in action stuff. If someone said something with a really heightened sense of energy and you’re a little bit lower than them, there’s no way of knowing exactly what they did unless you guys are together. So in general, she’s really good at keeping us all together, which tends to be a difficult concept with how busy everyone is. So it’s definitely fun to work that way. We get to play off each other, and everyone in the booth is so much fun. If you’ve ever gotten to sit in on an animation session, all the actors are really easy and wonderful to work with.
You have young children, are they fans of the cartoon work that you do?
Yeah, I’d say my little one in particular. My older one always thought what I did was dumb until he started school and they were like, “Dude, your Mom’s Ben Ten!” So then he started to think that was cool. They really watch a lot of my stuff, and my older one is definitely more drawn to the darker more serious stuff. He really loved “Titans.” He’ll definitely be watching “Brave & The Bold.”
Are they able to get into the shows and not be distracted by hearing their Mom’s voice?
I think they get into it because they watch it. My kids are still quite little. They seem to be drawn into it watching it. They know it’s me, but that doesn’t seem to take away from the show.
You played the pivotal role of Alexa in the “Wonder Woman” animated film, what was that experience like for you?
I was such a big fan when I was a kid. I was like, “It’s so cool that they’re doing that.” When I was little, it’s so funny – I use to twirl the doll around thinking she’d do like the Linda Carter explosion. My big sister was the one that collected them, so I was used to playing the sister roll. She was always Wonder Woman and I was always the sister role. I loved the on-camera series. I remember the sister, and I remember that camaraderie of the girls on the island. That was so much fun for me. So I was very drawn to the sister roles, because my sister had, and still has, a huge Wonder Woman collection at our home in Canada. She has all these like classic first issues of everything. So I was always very drawn to that sister part. It’s just so intriguing to have all of these women on the island, so I was totally excited to do that.
Finally, of all the work in animation that you’ve done what are you most proud of, or was the most fun for you to do?
Well, I really loved doing the sequel to “The Little Mermaid,” because I got to sing in the studio with Jodi Benson. It was such a huge thrill. I don’t know what little girl didn’t want to be the Little Mermaid! When that came out, I was singing around and pretending to be her. When I was in the booth singing with her, it was really surreal, so that was extraordinary for me.
In terms of work I loved, I really loved doing “Teen Titans.” I wish they would bring that back. That was such an amazing ensemble cast, and we had so much fun doing that show. I get so many fan letters for that. People are like, what happened next? It was a great story. We all got an opportunity to get into those characters. So I loved that show. You know, “Powerpuff Girls” was fun. Everything has a real good place in my heart. I really love and am proud of most of the stuff I’ve done.
The “Night of The Huntress” episode of “Batman: The Brave & The Bold” airs Friday May 8th on Cartoon Network.