From stage to television to voice acting, it is safe to say Kevin Conroy has traveled an interesting path to get where he is today. Recently, we had a chance to talk to him during a media round table while he was at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, where we talked about his career, the fans and life as the voice of Batman.
Media: So out of all of the episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, what would you say is your favorite one?
Kevin: I would have to say Perchance to Dream and Dreamscape. Any episode that gets into the workings of Bruce Wayne and how his mind works, I love those episodes, they’re so much fun and more challenging for me as an actor. But out of all of the Batman projects, Mask of the Phantasm was probably the best Batman movie and the best of all the different versions that have been done. It told the whole backstory of so many characters and I love how they presented the dilemma that Bruce Wayne has with the vow he has made to his parents and how he wants to lead a normal life. I love that movie, I think it’s brilliant.
The GCE: Did your experience working on stage help you when it came to voice acting or are those two totally different mediums?
Kevin: No actually and especially with this show, Warner Brothers uniquely likes to get all the actors together in a sound studio and record like a radio playing. So really, the better you interact with the other actors the better the experience is, the better the performance you get. Andrea Romano, who was the original casting director for Batman: The Animated Series, she tends to like stage actors because we work well together, we interact. Mark Hamill and I, when we get in a studio together we’re like two kids, we have so much fun, I love working with him and I know he feels the same way about me. It’s like playing ball with someone and the better they throw the ball to you the better you can catch it and throw it back. You get a good volley going and stage actors tend to have that down more than movie and TV actors so definitely yeah, my stage background helped. You wouldn’t think it would relate to my voice over work but it definitely does because of that interaction you have with other actors in the studio.
Media: On that same note, was there any cool interaction stories that you can remember that popped up as the result of those relationships?
Kevin: Yeah, there are a lot of wild stories! It gets to the point where, I’m in a unique position in all of these shows because I’m the constant, in the last twenty five years, I’ve been the constant through them all and I sensed that responsibility the first year when we were doing Batman: The Animated Series, because all these young actors had come on who hadn’t necessarily done voice work before so they didn’t know what they were getting into. I felt a sort of responsibility to set the tone for the room and I know the more playful everyone is the better the performances are going to be so you want to break the ice right away, you want to relax everybody. So Andrea knew what I was doing, she knew I was being a goofball to get people to loosen up. There was one instance for example, with Batman there’s a lot of grunting and groaning, a lot of fight scenes, so one day they wanted a really long groan and the director’s name again is Andrea Romano, and at the end of the this long groan I said ‘oh, Andrea’, and the actors who had never done this before were falling off their chairs laughing. After that, people were more relaxed, so it’s like giving people license to have fun and they become more creative. I’ve always encouraged that because if you do something goofy all of a sudden you’ll have that moment of inspiration and do something really wonderful, because you’re not limiting yourself, you don’t have blinders on.
Media: I take it voice acting was never a goal of yours when you started out. How did that all fall into place for you?
Kevin: Oh no, I went to Julliard. I was going to be the great, classical stage actor. Of course, I didn’t realize you couldn’t make a living doing that, I hadn’t thought of that when I was seventeen, all I knew was I liked doing it. The big thing was the industry changed so dramatically. The theater just doesn’t pay enough, even if you’re working all the time, it just doesn’t. There is an assumption that you are either doing television of film and you are subsidizing with theater because you love it. Eventually, because of those economics, television and film people starting taking over the theater, because those are the ones who could survive, and they would draw the audiences in so theater directors starting skipping over the theater actors and began hiring people from sitcoms. It’s all economics so really, you have to be able to do everything and I started out doing voice overs commercially in New York when I was doing Broadway, just as a way to make more money. The first voice over I did was the Papa Reban tag line, ‘What is remembered is up to you’. It was the first one I went in on, I booked it, and those seven words made me twenty five thousand dollars over the course of a year. That was what I made working in theater for the whole year! I thought wow, this is so cool. Of course I didn’t get another voice over gig for a year but then that led me to doing animated voices.
I want to thank Kevin for taking the time to talk with us