For the past ten-plus years, the DC Animated Universe has had one main go-to talent for Wonder Woman: Susan Eisenberg.
This month, the next entry in the animated collection hits the streets, as Justice League: Doom brings us Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” storyline, with a script by the late Dwayne McDuffie
Vandal Savage has gathered up a new Legion of Doom, and he’s somehow managed to get his hands on Batman’s super-secret files. You know: the “how to” guide on taking down members of the superpowered Justice League if any of them ever go rogue or crazy or just plain tired of playing by the rules.
Because Batman’s paranoid that way.
Eisenberg has played Wonder Woman in most of the DC projects since the original “Justice League” cartoon. She reunites with fellow “Justice League” cast members Kevin Conroy (Batman), Michael Rosenbaum (Flash) and Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter) Phil Morris (Vandal Savage), Olivia d’Abo (Star Sapphire), and Alexis Denisof (Mirror Master), along with Tim Daly as Superman and Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern.
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What follows in a Q&A made available by Warner Home Video in advance of the movie’s February 28 release. If you’d like to listen to the audio, World’s Finest Online has it here [big files, so be patient].
What do you recall of earning the role of Wonder Woman some 13 years ago?
SUSAN EISENBERG: I can remember it vividly – because it was a big deal. It felt like a real life-changer, so it’s a huge memory for me. It was 1999, and I remember going to the call back and being with Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm). Even the dialogue is still clear in my memory. And when I got the call that I got the role, it really had an impact on me.
Most jobs in voiceover don’t make you feel like they’re going to change your life, but this one did. And in many ways, it really did. I got to work for six years on a series, and I’d never done something that long term. And I was chosen to voice this wonderful, iconic character … and through these movies, I get to continue that role. It’s been fun and kind of surprising – people obviously know Wonder Woman, but it’s wonderful when they care that much that they actually recognize and acknowledge your work as the character. I walk into other jobs and people still say, “You’re Wonder Woman, right?” That’s really a kick.
What’s special to you about playing Wonder Woman?
SUSAN EISENBERG: Wonder Woman is truly iconic. Everyone knows her. There’s something wonderful about playing a character who is recognized throughout the world. And I love her strength. I love that she stands for something and that she believes in what she believes. She’s very, very loyal and faithful and, in the beginning, I got to play her more vulnerable, and now I get to play her more adult and stronger. She’s a wonderful character.
You don’t have the benefit of weekly recording sessions to keep the voice fresh in your mind. How do you jump back into this role without a hitch?
SUSAN EISENBERG: Working with Andrea and Bruce is a great because they were there at the start – Andrea has always directed me in this role, so she knows what she’s looking for. Listening to her direction is the first trick. Reading the script a few times also helps, especially to find the attitude and the voice. And as a refresher, I like to go online, check out YouTube, and play some old clips, or watch some of my DVDs. That helps to get me back in that space – and then Wonder Woman is right there in my head. But honestly, it’s not a huge leap for me – she’s pretty much in there all the time, anyway.
How much of what you do with Wonder Woman is through a change in your voice, and how much is really acting and attitude?
SUSAN EISENBERG: A lot of it’s attitude. That’s why, if I’m speaking just normally, it’s not as if somebody next to me would ask, “Do you play Wonder Woman?” But then when I do the attitude and lower the register slightly, you will see this smile of recognition on the face of a little kid … or a true fan. And that’s always fun.
Who recognizes you more – kids who watch cartoon, or the adult devotees of the genre?
SUSAN EISENBERG: Kind of both, and the reactions are different, but similar. It’s really nice to have people who are so passionate about these characters. So you get the 6-year-old child who has watched the cartoon and their eyes get big when they recognize that you’re this person behind the voice. But then you get the 40-something-year-old who has been watching, and loves this world, and loves this universe, and reads the comic books, and cares deeply about the genre. That’s fabulous, too. Just to have fans is a very cool thing. No one can complain about that. It’s good.
Wonder Woman has some very long battles in Justice League: Doom with a lot of physicality required in the vocal performance. How’d you handle that?
SUSAN EISENBERG: The initial recording session is pretty straight-forward – we save most of the impacts and grunts and physical action for the ADR session. But as I was reading the script, I just kept thinking of Dwayne (McDuffie) and thinking, “You really layered it on me, didn’t you!” I’m going to have to be electrocuted and hit over the head and punched over and over and punch back over and over. You often have to be physical to sound physical. So – that’s a truly exhausting day.
What’s it like to have the gang back together again?
SUSAN EISENBERG: You know, it’s thrilling because it’s a grand reunion. I get to be reunited with Michael Rosenbaum and Kevin Conroy and Carl Lumbly and that’s like having the League back together, if you will. I didn’t that expect that to happen, and I could not be more thrilled. Driving to the recording session, I was just so excited that we’d be in a room together. It is just so comfortable coming back into this. It’s the best gig in town. And anyone who does voiceovers would say that.
What are the scenes that appeal most to you in this film?
SUSAN EISENBERG: I always like the quieter moments. So I like my scenes with J’onn, because those two characters really can relate to each other in so many ways, and I also liked my scenes with Batman. In both cases, those were some of the quieter moments with some emotional content. I enjoy the scenes where I have to kick some butt, too. But I truly enjoy the interplay with the other characters and the actors that play them.
I’ve never been shy about my feelings with Batman and Wonder Woman because, first of all, I love Kevin and I love working with Kevin. I think he’s amazing as Batman. And I love Batman and Wonder Woman together, and I think the fans do, too. You can go on YouTube and find all these wonderful videos of the two of them – showing their romance, put to music – so you know the fans love them together.
Playing Diana gives you a lot of different angles and emotions to play. Diana is very serious – she’s not like Flash where she’s funny and throwing out the one-liners. When she’s funny, it’s not necessarily intentional that she’s funny. And so I love the other aspects of her, when she gets to be flirty with Batman or when she gets to be funny with Flash or more earnest with J’onn. I especially like to play the flirty and hint at that romance between the characters. That’s a lot of fun.
How much equity to you take in this character?
SUSAN EISENBERG: I’m enormously proud that I get to play her – it truly is a privilege and an honor. People have definite, strong opinions of Wonder Woman, and she’s known everywhere. She is this embodiment of female empowerment, and that’s a thrill, too, because there are little girls and little boys and they’re watching this and seeing that she’s so strong and so tough and righteous. It’s great to be able to provide that example of heroics through this character. I’m a guardian of that, and I don’t take it lightly. And every time I get asked to voice the role, I feel grateful – each and every time. I hope I keep getting to do it.
Has playing Wonder Woman changed you?
SUSAN EISENBERG: In several ways. I think I’ve grown up with this part. I got this role 10 years ago, and just working alongside my fellow “Justice League” actors and with Andrea and Bruce has changed the way I work. And learning about this universe has changed me. You can’t have a part like this and not feel changed by it, because it’s enviable to have this job and play this character. There’s humility attached to that. You know you’re lucky. And that changes you, also.
What’s your attraction to voiceover work?
SUSAN EISENBERG: I grew up doing radio commercials for my father’s business in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and I loved it. My father and my sister worked together – they would write the copy for me, and I would do the commercials for them. There’s something just so freeing about being behind a microphone as opposed to in front of a camera. There’s no worry about your hair or lipstick – on camera you get so self-conscious. Sure, there’s a self-consciousness in a room recording with other actors, because you want to be good. That’s just performance anxiety. I’ll take that any day over that camera and all those people staring at me. Some people are so natural with the camera – the can just pretend it’s not there. I am so aware it’s there.
What Wonder Woman memorabilia do you have at home?
SUSAN EISENBERG: I have a lot of pictures and some beautiful cels – all gifts from the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”. And some small things that people have sent me – mugs and little toys and notebooks with her on the cover. When we first started, we all ran out and bought our own action figures, so that’s right at the forefront of my bookshelf.
Best of all, I have all the scripts from the series. I keep them in a big bookshelf in my closet. I’m nostalgic about that stuff. It’s very sentimental to me to. It was a big deal this job – it really does mean the world to me. So I kept all the scripts.
Wonder Woman can fly. Why does she need an invisible plane?
SUSAN EISENBERG: Because she likes to go in style. And why should she always be flying when there is a plane that can do it for her? I mean, why not have the private jet if you can have the private jet? Right? You’re going to begrudge her a private jet? I don’t think so.