Actor Matt Lanter and acclaimed voice director Andrea Romano sat down with CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland in the world famous CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con to talk about collaborating on the upcoming DC animated feature “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis,” and how the film is really an origin story for Aquaman. Romano also discusses her experiences working in the animation industry and offers some advice to young voice actors, all while complimenting and praising Lanter in his role as the king of Atlantis in the upcoming film.
On how familiar Lanter was with the character and the tall task of making Aquaman cool:
Matt Lanter: To be quite honest, not much. I think it’s pretty known he’s not as known as a lot of the other [Justice League members] — Batman, Superman — and like you mentioned he kind of gets a bad rap for whatever reason. But I think that’s what we are doing is trying to make him cool again. I think people are going to love it. I’ve seen the film. It’s really fun.
On starting from an angry place with the character and how Lanter settled on the right voice:
Lanter: I think it’s a relatable person that I think probably every one of us at some point can be in our darker moments. I think, obviously I trust Andrea here, so to have her there to kind of direct and pull it out is great. That’s kind of how I approach it. Not as a super hero, but as a guy who’s down and out right now. I don’t know how much of the story I can actually say, but he’s had some bad moments recently. So that’s where we start, and I think that makes things real. I think it makes things relatable and human, and that’s — personally I think that’s a great way to approach the birth of a super hero is from a real person.
On Romano’s influence on voice acting:
Andrea Romano: You know, events like this, like New York Comic Con, bring that to the floor for me, because fans come up to me, of all ages — and I’m saying little kids, twenty year-olds, thirty year-olds, forty year-olds — and the adults say, “Andrea, I’ve been watching your shows since I was a toddler and my kids now are watching your shows,” and clearly I’ve had an influence, which to me is lovely. I’d like to think it’s a positive influence. Their comments are always positive — I think it’s just evidence of being old — but I’m very pleased people have responded so positively to the work that I’ve done. I was very lucky that I started in the industry at Hannah Barbara in 1989, so back in the days — no, earlier, 1985, ’84, somewhere around there — so the days when “The Smurfs” were being done, and “The Snorks” and all those shows, and then have worked with Warner Brothers Animation on DC and all those properties for what, we’ve done twenty-five films now, and countless series, and so I actually have grown into this world. And because I do the silly cartoons — the “Spongebob Squarepants,” all those kinds of cartoons, as well as the action cartoons — I work with a lot of different actors, and I appeal to a lot of different audiences. And that makes me very happy. I like not being stuck in one niche. Just as Matt, as an actor, doesn’t get stuck doing one thing. He does many different things.
I wanted to respond to something you asked him a second ago about how he dealt with playing this character, Matt did such a beautiful job, and I think we can divulge this, in that Aquaman is a man first. He doesn’t even know. He knows something is different about his world, that he’s not just the average everyday guy. Something is — he has certain skills that aren’t what every kid, [or] man, has. And he is extremely human, with extremely human foibles, and so he gets drunk, he likes to get into a bar fight, he likes to get rid of his energy, his angst, by beating up on people. And then come to find out that can be channeled into good when he finds out he is Aquaman.
On Aquaman embracing his status as royalty and whether the movie explores that dynamic of the character:
Lanter: Well yeah, it’s an origin story, so we kind of get into how he approaches that in the first place, and when someone tells him, “You’re going to rule a people and be a super hero,” basically. He struggles with that. And I think that’s what I really love about it, it’s a very common thing to feel for us normal people. If someone came up to you and said you were a super hero, you’d be like, “What are you talking about? No I’m not, and no I’m not gonna wear that.” And we kind of see that in this film, and that’s one of the things I love about it.
On the idea that Aquaman is struggling to find meaning in his life, then suddenly being put in a position of power:
Romano: On that same note, he kind of has royalty thrust upon him. He acts in a certain way, there is conflict going on and he has to resolve it, he cannot live with it as it is, he must go to his roots and deal with these issues that are going on. Then Justice League says, “You want to be a part of our…” And he says “Okay.” And that’s kind of a cool thing, to not just go, “Well you have to do it so you’re stuck. You’re the son of royalty, so you have to be royalty.” He has a choice. He really could walk away from it, but then he’d have to walk away from Mera. That would not be good, because Mera’s really good.
On the best advice Romano can offer new voice talent to get the best performance out of them:
Romano: That they cannot just relay on the fact that they can do good voices. They must be a good actor first.
Lanter: I was just thinking that. Voice actors — a lot of people say, “Do you like being an actor, or doing voice over?” And I’m like…
Romano: Right. It’s the same thing. It’s just we’re not doing the visual. The visual is being drawn. But it’s absolutely crucial that the acting be good. There’s lots of wonderful classes for them to take, acting. When I direct, there’s certain terminology I use, and actors have to learn what subtext is, what pre-life is, so when I use those terms they’re not going “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” As opposed to just saying, “Louder, faster,” right? But first they have to learn acting. Then we can deal with how can we manipulate your voice, what are you good at, and what doesn’t hurt your voice, and what is a comfort zone for you. Sometimes it’s fun to push people out of their comfort zone and have them play against type. So it might be fun to have Matt come play a truly evil, villainous character, after playing a super hero. That is kind of a fun thing to play with, but the key thing really to tell actors is, take acting classes. Be a good actor first.
Then the voice lessons, because there is technique there that you have to learn too, microphone technique, how not to pop on a microphone, how not to get wind on a microphone. Basically microphone technique is treating the microphone as if it were a human ear. You wouldn’t get close to an ear and shout! But if you are going to get close to an ear and whisper, that makes sense, and then if you are going to shout, you’re going to back off that microphone. That kind of technique can easily be taught. But acting can’t be taught in a four-hour session. That’s what we do is four hour sessions. And may I say, as you know from many of these films, they are very sort of, celebrity-driven, and we were determined that we absolutely go for the best actor for this. It does not have to be a celebrity. We want the best actor for this role. And Matt, as talented and wonderful, and as known as he is, isn’t a celebrity on the likes of some of the other people I’ve worked with, but he was absolutely the best actor for the role, and that is why we cast him.
Lanter: Coming from her, it means a lot.
Romano: He does a wonderful job in the film.
“Justice League: Throne of Atlantis” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD January 27.
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