Best known for his roles on "Friday Night Lights," "Caprica," "Speed Racer" and "Hart of Dixie," Porter is an avid gamer, comic book reader and self-professed genre geek. Understandably, he jumped at the opportunity to voice Bruce Wayne's former protege Nightwing in Rocksteady Studios' final installment in the "Arkham" trilogy.
With "Batman: Arkham Knight" now in stores, Porter spoke to CBR News about his take on DC Comics' original Robin, his love of video games, geeking out over longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy and his superhero bucket list.
CBR News: You just attended E3 and are obviously a big gamer. Was there a single video game that ignited your passion for the medium?
Scott Porter: "The Legend of Zelda," with the gold cartridge, was the first one I really got my hands on and felt like it was my game and my experience. I bombed every wall, I torched every bush and I looked for every secret. This was back in the day when "Nintendo Power" was the only way you could get inside tips. On the path to take through the Lost Forest, if you didn't figure it out yourself, there was no internet. There were kids at school or there was "Nintendo Power." It forced you to play the game and play all the mechanics that were meant to be in place. Nowadays, it's all about waiting for the YouTube video and seeing if you can glitch the game. There was none of that with "Zelda."
Of course, there were games before that I remember playing. My dad was a very avid video game fan. He had the Atari 2600 and there was this game called "Bouncing Babies," which was the only one I played on Atari a lot. It was this burning building, with people inside, and they would throw babies out the window. You were two firefighters with a trampoline and you would try to bounce the baby to safety. Now having a baby, I know it's completely not the way it works, but, at the same time, it was very fun and captivating for me. Those were the first two games I remember playing and then my love for games just grew from there.
"Batman: Arkham Knight" combines two things that you love: video games and superheroes. How did you become involved in the project?
A lot of my voiceover work has come from me attending E3. It's interesting because as a huge fan, you would think I would just go and geek out and get my hands on everything I can. But, I actually use it as a place to hustle a little bit. I go down, I meet people who design games, who need voices for games, and who have some cool projects going on. I tell them, "I don't have a voiceover agent, but I'm interested in what you guys do. I'm a big fan." I test the waters and if any of them are a fan of mine, I say, "We should work together." That's kind of what happened with Arkham.
WB Games put out "Injustice" and they asked me if I would come and be a part of the "Injustice" online voting round, where if all the superheroes in "Injustice" fought each other, who would come out victorious. I came in and discussed, or debated, a couple of rounds of who would win in a fight between Aquaman and Cyborg, or a fight between Green Lantern and Batman. The WB Games people were really impressed with my knowledge of comic books. I've been friends with them for years. I worked on "Hart of Dixie," which was on the Warner Bros. lot, which is just across the street from the WB Games headquarters. We got to talking and I said, "Look, if you guys have any openings, I'd love to get involved in some of your games." I was able to voice Aquaman and Superman in their "LEGO Batman 3" game and that led me to having a shot at Nightwing. Luckily, everything worked out.
Once they started discussing the details, what struck you about the scope, scale and story for this game?
Oh my gosh. First of all, I only see snippets of it. They didn't release anything to anyone. In this day and age, everything is so easily spoiled. I only got to see the script pages that had Nightwing on them. What I know is a very narrow slice of it, a very straight-line story of why Nightwing is involved and what Nightwing is helping Batman do. He's specifically tied to a certain villain. I only know a small bit of it. I don't even know what happens in the rest of the game. I'm sure it's massive from playing the other Arkham games and knowing each of them has upped the ante from the prior installment.
"Arkham City" compared to "Arkham Asylum" is four times the size. And Rocksteady kept on saying "Arkham Knight" was going to be at least four times the size of "Arkham City." The scope of the game, just visually, is gigantic. I know from the locations Nightwing ends up in that they have extended the city. I don't know how the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are going to handle the awesomeness of this game, but I can't wait to play through the rest of the portions of the story myself.
What was the secret to finding Nightwing's voice? How much did you have to play around with it?
It's interesting because with a different character, and in a cartoonier universe like "LEGO Batman 3," Aquaman and Superboy were almost easier to find than Nightwing. Nightwing is only a slight variation of my voice. For me, I try and drop some of the nasal notes that I have, but it's more about capturing the right attitude. Sometimes it's difficult not to be tied into another character's territory a little bit. Robin, in this game, is probably a little more hopeful than Nightwing. He's a little less seasoned than Nightwing and yet, in certain scenes, I tend to lean in that direction. I kind of have to go, "Wait. Wait. Wait. That's more of a Robin outlook on this. Nightwing, being the seasoned vet that he is -- and having been around Batman and Bruce Wayne as long as he has -- would probably approach it with more real-world attitude as opposed to the endless hopefulness that somebody like Tim Drake's Robin would have." It's not so much about finding the voice. It's more about finding the attitude and experience Nightwing has.
Voiceover gigs consist of plenty of alone time in a booth with no one to bounce off of. What helps you get into character?
For this particular game, I never recorded with anyone else in the booth. Sometimes you do big group sessions and it helps a lot just to hear how the other person is delivering lines and being able to react to their lines. In this instance, though, they had a lot of Kevin Conroy's lines already recorded as Batman. A lot of my dialogue works in conjunction with him. All my scene work is with Batman. So, they would play a couple of lines and it would help just a ton for me to hear his delivery -- how Bruce Wayne can sometimes be and then when he gets that anger in his voice or that need for something to be done quickly -- when you hear that as the actor playing Nightwing, you can definitely bounce off of that.
The first day it didn't help a ton because I was so in awe that Kevin Conroy was in my headphones. As somebody who watched the animated series and played all the other games, to hear the first line, "Nightwing, I need you to check this warehouse immediately," I was like, "I need a moment. Just give me a second." It's nerve-racking. I was very nervous at the beginning of this project, but the directors are fantastic. The writers at Rocksteady are incredible. They help a ton. It was nerve-racking at first and then we really settled into a groove.
How animated do you get while delivering your lines, especially during some of the action-packed scenes?
I get animated a little bit. I feel like you have to. The time I get most animated is during "efforts." At the end of every session, they will have you do a couple of pages of, "Now, you're jumping to reach a ledge. Now, you're jumping to reach a ledge even further away. Now, you're taking a light punch. Now, a heavy punch. Now, you're hitting someone in the gut. Now, you are kicking them in the face." I feel like I have to get my body to move a little bit to find the variance in sound and the level of effort. There's a scene where Nightwing has been interrogated a little bit and he's been tortured a little bit. It's hard to stand in place, not breathing heavily, not be bending over or not having the body language, and have the lines still come out the way you want them to. I definitely get a little physical in the booth.
In your eyes, what makes Nightwing such a badass? What impressed you about his signature moves and weapons in this game?
Nightwing has always been incredible. You're talking about Batman's first Robin. You're talking about someone who before that was a physical marvel as part of the Flying Graysons. You're talking about somebody who was able to put up with Bruce Wayne's learning curve as Batman and still stay by his side. He founded the Teen Titans. He's a leader. He can play the sidekick role. He can play the leader role at the same time.
As far as this game, he's somebody who can hold his own with Batman in a room. He sets up Batman for some amazing combos. The whole time, he's like, "Oh, do you want to keep score old man? Oh, you want to make this into a game?" To be able to have that rapport with Batman and still come out with all his teeth in his mouth, that's badass. His batons are awesome. The way he fights is different than Batman. He's definitely a lot more acrobatic than Batman's fighting style.
Your video game credits include 2011's "X-Men: Destiny" and 2013's "The Walking Dead: The Game." What are your thoughts on today's technology and how it enhances the gaming experience?
Graphics are getting to a point that the human eye is not going to see all the subtle differences at some point. All games are going to be incredibly visual; it's just going to be like watching television or a film. What's fun for me is story is really going to start making the difference here. It's no longer what game looks better; it's what game has a better story. As an actor, that's exciting because you are no longer going in and saying bland lines to try to prompt a player to do something. The player is becoming more a part of this really cool world and then it's all about narrative and how good your story is. How good are your actors and how emotionally invested can you get the player? That's the most exciting thing.
Besides Nightwing, you have come close to nabbing some superhero roles in movies. However, "Hart of Dixie's" former home, The CW, airs "Arrow," "Flash," and the upcoming "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." Are there any heroes or villains from those TV series that your inner geek would be thrilled to tackle?
Man, there are so many heroes and villains I'd like to take a crack at. It's just that so many of them are in play. On the Marvel side of things, I loved Richard Rider's Nova. I loved that character through the entire "Annihilation" series. Of course, I would have loved to have a stab at my favorite hero of all time, which is Iceman from the X-Men universe, but I think that ship has passed. You keep on looking for heroes and villains that really interest you and that you love.
On the DC side of things, I would love to take a crack at Hal Jordan in the TV side. I don't know if it could legally ever happen or if I even would have a shot. But, that's a character I understand and love. I wasn't a huge Hal Jordan fan until Geoff Johns did the whole "Rebirth" storyline. When I came to DC Comics, it was the late '90s. Kyle Rayner was my [Green] Lantern for a long time. Tim Drake was my Robin. But I've come to really love the older characters. What better shepherd than [DC Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns for both the comics and TV shows? He's just a master of all DC lore. Hal Jordan would be another character I'd like to take a stab at.
If you guest-starred on "Arrow," could you take Stephen Amell down in a fight?
You know, I'm scrappy. I'm very scrappy and I'm very street-wise. I don't know if he's gym-strong or not. Gym-strong means he's got those really impressive abs and biceps, but can they work out on the street? My nickname is Max Effort. I think I would give it my all. It would be a lot closer than a lot of people think.
At the very least, you could challenge him to "Halo 5" or "Star Wars: Battlefront."
Oh, I could definitely take him in video games. I play a lot of games online with his cousin Robbie [Amell]. We play a lot of "Destiny" together. I'd get some inside tips from Robbie. "How do you take Stephen down?" I'm sure he'd be willing to dish.
"Batman: Arkham Knight" is available now.