» Blog Archive Andrea Romano discusses "All-Star Superman" -

To vocally craft the characters within the DC Universe Animated
Original Movies, the production brain trust of DC Entertainment,
Warner Premiere, Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Animation is smart
enough to employ the best in the business – on both sides of the
microphone.

While winners of Oscars, Emmys and Tonys alike provide the voices
behind some of the world’s best known comic book characters, it is the
super hero of voice directors that guides these unique talents –
Andrea Romano.

Arguably the top animation voiceover director in the business today,
Romano has been instrumental in orchestrating the vocal tones behind
the first 10 DCU animated films, including the highly anticipated
February 22 release of All-Star Superman.

The eight-time Emmy® Award winner (not to mention 30+ Emmy
nominations) has a voiceover casting/direction resume that spans more
than a quarter century, covering the genre gamut from action (Batman:
The Animated Series) and humor (Animaniacs) to contemporary (The
Boondocks) and timeless (Smurfs). She will appear at both the New York
and Los Angeles premieres of All-Star Superman next week, and will
undoubtedly be greeted with a wild, lengthy cheer – an ovation she
regularly receives at Cons around the globe.

For All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison’s beloved, Eisner Award-winning
vision of Superman’s heroic final days on Earth, Romano has rounded up
an intriguing lineup of stars to fill the comic book character roles.
James Denton (Desperate Housewives) has donned the cape as Superman,
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) is Lois Lane, and Anthony LaPaglia
(Without A Trace) voices Lex Luthor to form the core cast. They are
joined by seven-time Emmy® Award winner Ed Asner (Up) as Perry White,
Golden Globe® winner Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as Ma Kent,
Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Jimmy Olsen and Linda
Cardellini (ER) as Nasty. Also amongst the voice cast is Arnold
Vosloo (The Mummy), Catherine Cavadini (The Powerpuff Girls), Finola
Hughes (General Hospital), Alexis Denisof (Angel), Obba Babatunde
(That Thing You Do!), Michael Gough (Batman) and John DiMaggio
(Futurama).

Romano paused between her many current projects – including a few
upcoming DC Universe Animated Original Movies – to discuss the cast
and recording of All-Star Superman. Listen up …

QUESTION:
Are there certain writers’ scripts you find easier to direct or get an
instant feel?

ANDREA ROMANO:
There are several writers I’ve worked with over the years whose words
I can recognize without even seeing a title page, like Stan Berkowitz,
Alan Burnett, Bob Goodman and especially Dwayne McDuffie. And because
I’ve worked with them for so long over so many different projects, and
once they know I’m on a project, it’s almost as though they write for
me – because they know exactly what information I need to know to give
to the actors. So I love working with all those guys. Dwayne works so
hard on being true to the source material, and yet translating it into
something that can be acted. He’s really good at making that
transition of honoring the material, but bringing the words off the
page to make it actable and dramatically interesting.

QUESTION:
You’ve directed your share of voices for Superman. How did James
Denton rank in his first foray in animation?

ANDREA ROMANO:
Jamie was a voiceover virgin, or he hadn’t done much, but he was
outstanding to work with. Once an actor trusts that I will not let
their voice go out sounding bad, and that their performance will be
nothing less than the best, it becomes a very pleasant experience for
all involved. Jamie was like that. He reminded me of Jensen Ackles –
both are good actors, I’d seen their on-camera work, but because this
form is different than what they’re used to working with, there is
some insecurity with the territory. But once they don’t feel
threatened, they relax into the role. Jamie was a really interesting
choice – it can be difficult to cast some of these Superman films –
and he brought some unique interpretations and sensitivities to the
role. And that’s interesting for a director – to hear somebody else’s
thoughts on what a man like Superman would sound like.

QUESTION:
What are you seeking in a Superman voice that differentiates from all
other voices?

ANDREA ROMANO:
Superman is such an interesting character because, while he isn’t
human, he has so many human qualities. He’s interesting because
without the effects of certain kryptonites, his instincts are always
going to be to do the right thing. But you don’t want that to come off
as being a Boy Scout or one note. And so you need kind of the white
knight, but to still keep him interesting. It’s like when we girls
first start dating, it’s never the clean-cut nice guy that attracts us
– it’s always the bad boy with the extra dimensions. That’s why I like
Batman so much. But when we can give Superman some layers, that makes
him interesting. And every actor I’ve used for Superman has brought
some amazing layers.

QUESTION:
How did you choose Christina Hendricks to play Lois Lane?

ANDREA ROMANO:
I am such an admirer of her work, and I love what she does on Mad Men.
It was cute because she was quite nervous coming in with no prior
voiceover experience, but her acting instincts are so good, she has
the ability to adjust to acting to a microphone as opposed to camera
very quickly. I always give people positive feedback, but I was
telling her “terrific job” and you’ll see the evidence when you see
the piece. This is a very unusual, different story between Lois and
Superman, and she captured everything we were looking for and then
some. She was so enthusiastic about the role that she found a way to
squeeze the recording into her schedule – right after getting married
– and she gave us a terrific Lois Lane. I would use her again in a
minute.

QUESTION:
I’m guessing you’ve been angling to get Anthony LaPaglia behind the
microphone for a while?

ANDREA ROMANO:
The actors I tend to bring in are people I’ve admired from afar and
have been looking for a specific character for them – as with Anthony
LaPaglia for Lex Luthor. He is such a versatile actor, and his dialect
work is so good. Moreover, he was so directable. If something confused
him, he asked just the right questions – he wouldn’t blindly do it 10
times to make it be right. He’d ask a very specific question, and that
makes it easy to direct, because you can answer those direct
questions.

QUESTION:
Do you hold actors in any higher esteem when they are able to
perfectly portray an accent foreign to their own?

ANDREA ROMANO:
I admire anyone who is a dialectician in addition to acting. Doing
dialects is very technical, while the acting is more organic, so when
they can marry those two things convincingly, it’s golden. What I find
more often is that British actors can do a spot-on American accent – I
think that’s often because they come to America to find work and
there’s lots of casting to be done for American characters, so they’re
just smart to do it. And it’s not that easy to do an American accent
because there are so many regional versions – the deep south, the
northeastern variations, even Southern California. They each have
their own twists. Greg Ellis can do just about any accent you throw at
him. Robin Atkin Downes is just amazing. Jason Isaacs does some
stunning accent work – he perfected a Rhode Island accent for
Brotherhood. Miriam Margolyes is another brilliant dialectician – I
adore her accents.

QUESTION:
At one point in the LaPaglia session, he wasn’t understanding your
direction no matter how many different ways you worded it – and Brcue
Timm was able to communicate your direction with a simple drawing of
Lex’s face. Has Bruce done that previously/often over your 20-plus
years working together?

ANDREA ROMANO:
When Bruce did that for Anthony, I thought that was one of those great
moments where a picture is actually worth ten thousand words. One of
the things Bruce has done a million times before is, when someone
comes in to play a role, he’ll draw the character right there on the
spot. That almost always helps an actor establish a voice.

QUESTION:
What’s the most unconventional casting of a villain you’ve ever done?

ANDREA ROMANO:
Bill Macy as a villain in Batman Beyond. I thought I’d do it just to
let him be the bad guy, because at the time he was getting all the
hapless, milquetoast, endearing good guy roles. So I thought it would
be fun to switch it around and, of course, he was brilliant.

QUESTION:
This film has a lot of smaller that make an impact, and you spared no
expense in bringing in some lofty talent like Matthew Gray Gubler as
Jimmy Olsen, Frances Conroy as Ma Kent, Ed Asner as Perry White and
even cult favorite Alexis Denisof as Dr. Quintum. What was your
thinking behind some of those casting choices?

ANDREA ROMANO:
I think Matthew is such a talent. He just did an episode of Criminal
Minds where his character was suffering a migraine throughout the
entire episode, and he was so good that you actually felt his
headache. What I love about Matthew’s voice is that it’s got a
naturally youthful quality, and there’s something interesting he does
naturally where he almost ends every sentence with a question mark.
It’s a very specific speech pattern. His sentences tend to go up at
the end. He’s a perfect Jimmy Olsen – sweet, endearing, slightly
nerdy. If I had a role for him in every project, I would always hire
him.

Frances Conroy – first, let me say that she is not related to Kevin
Conroy, which is kind of funny because they know each other very well,
and they even went to Juilliard together. I’ve admired her work on
everything from Six Feet Under to Maid in Manhattan, and when I heard
she was doing voiceovers, I was so jealous somebody else got her
before I did. While there weren’t many lines for Ma Kent, it’s always
a pivotal role – it’s the woman who helped shape Superman’s sense of
right and wrong. And Frances just has that quality about her voice
that is mothering and warm and thoughtful, and what she did with such
few lines of dialogue was wonderful and exactly what I was hoping to
get.

Alexis has such an interesting quality to his voice. I loved Dr.
Quintum, he’s such an odd character, and the voice matches perfectly.
I’m never 100 percent sure when doing the casting if I made the right
decision. It’s not until it comes back in animation that we really
know that it actually did work. Alexis as Dr. Quintum is definitely
one of those circumstances that worked well.

QUESTION:
Beyond the on-camera actors, you tend to appear to have the best times
directing when you have a room full of full-time voiceover actors –
like on this project with John DiMaggio, Kevin Michael Richardson,
Robin Atkin Downes, Steve Blum, Fred Tatasciore, Michael Gough and so
on. What’s that group session like?

ANDREA ROMANO:
Often when I cast my ensemble players for some of the secondary
characters, and that is to say secondary characters by the number of
lines they must perform, I treat it almost like a casting party. I
want to put together people who enjoy being in a room together, that
are going to bring something to the party, and that they’re somebody
with whom I want to spend a few hours locked in a room together. Okay,
sometimes it should be a padded room. I find that I get a core group
of actors and I almost want to carry them with me to every different
project I’m working on – the end credits of my films and series
probably back that up. When I get the chance, I also like to cast
those guys in major featured roles, like John DiMaggio as the Joker in
Batman: Under the Red Hood. The thing about these actors is that
they’re so versatile that I could assign three roles to each before
they walked into the room, and I could change it when we walked into
the room and they’d have no problem playing the other characters
instead. It’s always fun to work with that group, but sometimes it is
like being a kindergarten teacher with an over-crowded class.

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