EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to Warner Bros. announcement of its live-action "Aquaman" film and casting.
For millions of cartoon fans, Matt Lanter's voice should be a familiar one. The hunky actor has flexed his vocal cords on such animated projects as "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated." In addition, he can be heard -- and seen -- in numerous TV series and movies, from "Heroes," "Vampires Suck" and "Sorority Row" to "The Roommate," "90210" and "Star-Crossed." Next, Lanter is voicing Aquaman in Warner Bros.' next DC Universe animated film, "Justice League: Throne of Atlantis."
Based loosely on Geoff Johns, Paul Pellettier and Ivan Reis' "Throne of Atlantis" comic book arc, the movie finds Arthur Curry/Aquaman living among humans, totally unaware of his Atlantean heritage. That all changes when the villainous Ocean Master (Sam Witwer), otherwise known as Arthur's brother Orm, declares war on mankind. In order to save the worlds above and below the sea, Arthur must embrace his birthright and accept the hero he was destined to become.
In a one-on-one discussion with CBR News, Lanter spoke about his own journey in discovering Aquaman, which began with the character's use as a plot point on "Entourage," why this is the movie that may change some peoples' opinions on the king of Atlantis and the difficulty he had saying goodbye to Anakin Skywalker.
CBR News: What was your relationship with superheroes growing up?
Matt Lanter: I remember watching "X-Men" after school. I also loved "Batman: The Animated Series" back then. I specifically remember it came on at 5 PM where I was at. I've always been into the superhero stuff. It's so easy to be. They make these fun worlds. We all know why they are so intriguing. It's an escape from reality and something we all want to be. From an early age, every kid jumps around like Spider-Man.
Did you have to audition for the role of Aquaman in "Justice League: Throne of Atlantis?" How did that come about?
It wasn't an audition -- they called up my agent. They knew of me and they knew of my work from "Star Wars," and possibly from my on-camera projects. They said, "We are doing this movie. It's going to be an Aquaman origin story. We'd love you to play Aquaman." Here I am.
How familiar were you with Aquaman and his legacy?
I really wasn't, to be truthful. I didn't know a lot about Aquaman -- I haven't even seen the film yet. The only exposure I've had to Aquaman is through the "Entourage" TV show. On the show, they were more or less poking fun at the character. I know that Aquaman is taken a little bit like that. He's a superhero that is sometimes forgotten and made fun of in a way. I know it's because of his powers, people try to dumb it down and say, "Oh, he talks to fish." There's so much more to him than that, which is exciting about this film coming out. I hope it sets Aquaman fans ablaze again, and maybe those who aren't Aquaman fans can gain a new appreciation of the character.
As you said, Aquaman often gets a bum rap for being useless out of water or only being able to communicate with aquatic life. How does this project turn those misconceptions upside down?
I wouldn't say he's useless outside of water. He's a leader of his people. That puts him in a powerful position. He's super-strong. He's a superhero in his own right, out of the water. I haven't read Aquaman comics, but I'm excited to see where DC takes these animated films in the future with Aquaman part of the team now.
The movie serves as Aquaman's origin story. What's interesting about exploring that period in his life as opposed to later on when he's more of a hero?
Origin stories are kind of the current trend. It's just as intriguing, or even more so, to go back and figure out where these people came from. It's always fun to watch a superhero be a superhero, but to boil it down in a more realistic way of, "How did this ever happen? How did this guy get like this?" If this was to happen one day to us, where you wake up and have these powers, you'd be like, "Wait. Go back and tell me the chain of events that led me to this." It's extremely entertaining for an audience to watch.
It's proved itself with all these current movies with origin stories. It gives more depth to the character. You are able to relate more to that character. Who was Peter Parker before he got bit? Who was Aquaman before he knew what his powers were? What was he doing on a Tuesday?
How does Aquaman get along with the other Justice Leaguers?
It being an origin story, you don't get to see a lot of the Justice League yet. There is some interaction. I don't think it's any big secret that it's more toward the end of the film. That story is hopefully something that is going to be told more in future films.
Arthur Curry is reluctant because he's a blue-collar tough guy. He's reluctant to be called Aquaman and be a part of a superhero team. It's all very weird and foreign to him. It's going to take some getting used to on his part. He does step up and become a hero, but it's weird for him.
Where does this rivalry between Aquaman and his brother Ocean Master/Orm stem from?
It really stems from sometimes you have a bad seed in the family. There's a lot of hatred and rage built up with his brother. It stems from Orm's hatred of the human race. Since Arthur wasn't necessarily raised in that underwater environment, there's a whole different take from his perspective. When Arthur sees what his brother is doing, there is a natural clash there. Once that happens, it's this betrayal of family.
How did you go about capturing Aquaman's voice and making it your own?
That was something we also discussed in the room. In some of the more emotional scenes, it was like, "Where is this guy coming from? Is he gruffer in these moments?" It speaks to the voice quality overall. Do I mask my voice? [Voice director] Andrea [Romano] really wanted to use my voice. I'm assuming that's one of the reasons they chose me. I guess they just liked the quality of my natural voice. And Arthur Curry is a bit of a smart-ass, especially off the get-go. I like to think I was able to bring some kind of witty characteristic to him. It was about finding his emotions and attitude in order to deliver these lines.
Aquaman has a strong presence and is quite physical. How animated do you get while in the studio?
It depends. You can try and be a little animated to give yourself that extra energy. Often times, you'll find yourself backing off the mic and the quality is not a good recording. You have to stay on mic, but I like to get into it a little bit. If there's a fight scene going on, or you're being hit or snapping your neck around, I like to do a little bit of that in the room. It just gives me the energy and that physical feel to make it more real for me.
Some voice actors sit and do the whole thing. I like to stand and get into it. Back when I was doing "Clone Wars," we always used to laugh that we would hold a pencil in our hand for lightsaber duels to help put us there. Any little thing you can do, while maintaining the quality of the recording, just go for it.
If you were a method actor, would a wet suit, pool or tank of goldfish have helped you get into Aquaman's headspace?
That's so funny. Not a pool because you'd be swallowing buckets of water. Goldfish, maybe. They are so docile and calm, but that's not Arthur Curry's life. A wet suit would just be noisy. I don't think you could get away with that.
Did you have the chance to interact with the other actors and feed off their energy?
Unfortunately, I didn't. They have a lot of really quality actors in this and I'm sure they are very busy as well. It's hard to get people in the booth at the same time. One thing I do think helped me is a good many of my scenes are with Sam Witwer. I know Sam very well and, of course, I've acted with Sam in "Star Wars," even in that same rivalry way. He was Darth Maul. Sam and I already had that relationship. I was really able to picture that and what he would do.
Since this is far from your first voiceover gig, what is it enjoy about doing these types of projects?
I love doing voiceover in general. It's just fun. I would go from filming all day and then I would shoot up to Universal City and do "Star Wars" afterward. It always felt like a fun time, like a relief to me in a way. It makes you feel like a kid in a sandbox again. With voiceover, you sit in a booth and you don't have anything to work with physically. It's about creativity and imagination and pretending.
Did guest-starring on "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated" bring you back to your childhood?
Oh my gosh. That was so fun for me. I did three episodes and Scooby-Doo was probably one of my favorite cartoons when I was young. When I was really young, my sister and I would record episodes of Scooby-Doo on a tape. We would record 10 episodes of "Scooby- Doo" on an audio tape. We would take that and go on family trips. Me and my sister would listen to these episodes over and over and over on our headphones.
It was great. It was like listening to a radio play. Of course it had sound effects because it was the actual show. I'd already seen it 20 times, so I already knew every single image. I distinctly remember that. I'm so fond of those memories. I was so honored to be a part of "Scooby-Doo" and play Baylor Hotner, which was a take on Taylor Lautner. That was pretty fun.
With so many comic book properties on television and in the movies, is there a character that your inner geek would be thrilled to play?
Well, really all of them. There are so many. I love Wolverine, but I'm pretty sure Hugh Jackman has that secured. I always loved Cyclops. I thought his uniform was cool. I felt he was not this crazy, rogue character. I liked that he had his head on straight. Also, his superpowers were among the coolest. Perhaps Cyclops then.
There was a great disturbance in the Force when "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" came to an end. What have you missed about voicing Anakin and exploring that galaxy?
"Clone Wars" is so dear to my heart. I loved being in that "Star Wars" world. The fans are incredible. People have such an appreciation for "The Clone Wars." It's such a cool feeling to be a part of something where people appreciate your work. We were all big fans of "Star Wars," too. We got to tell these stories straight from George Lucas. I'm definitely going to miss voicing Anakin. All I can really bank on is maybe I did my part and helped in creating a legacy with Anakin.
We really showed Anakin in a different light than I think he's been portrayed before. George wanted to do that and give him a more swashbuckling feel. We wanted to show him as a hero because it makes his fall more tragic. I feel like I've made a contribution to the Star Wars saga, not just "Clone Wars." I feel it really enriches the saga. You now feel for this Anakin guy. I'm so proud to have been a part of that.
"Justice League: Throne of Atlantis" is scheduled for release on Blu-ray Jan. 27 from Warner Bros.