CATWOMAN: HUNTED Star Zehra Fazal On Her Talia Al Ghul Return And Transforming Into Nosferata (Exclusive)
Catwoman: Hunted star Zehra Fazal talks about returning as Talia al Ghul for the movie and her monstrous transformation into another character in this feature: Nosferata. Read the full interview here!
In the all-new original Catwoman: Hunted, Selina Kyle's attempt to steal a priceless jewel puts her squarely in the crosshairs of both a powerful consortium of villains and the ever-resourceful Interpol, not to mention Batwoman. It might just be enough to contain her. Or not. The latest movie from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is an absolute riot, and a great start to 2022 for DC Animation.
Zehra Fazal has lent her voice to countless projects, but has become something of a recurring presence in the DC Animated Universe lately. As well as playing several characters in Young Justice, the actress has brought Talia al Ghul to life in that show and Batman: Death in the Family. She returns as Talia for Catwoman: Hunted, but also plays the monstrous and terrifying villain known as Nosferata.
We spoke to Zehra last week about her two roles in Catwoman's first animated solo feature, and she breaks down her performances, getting those fight scenes right, and jumping between two very different characters. The actress also shares her love of the DC Animated Universe and its characters.
Catwoman: Hunted is a movie that puts the spotlight on strong female characters, and it's awesome to hear from Zehra on this, especially as she does such a great job breathing life into two of them!
Catwoman: Hunted is set for release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and Digital on February 8, 2022.
You’ve got to play Talia al Ghul across a few different projects since 2020, but did your approach change at all for this specific project?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the challenges of playing a legacy character - a character a lot of people will play over the course of several years - is finding what I can bring to it that’s true to me. How can I find the truth in this character? It’s so interesting. In each version I’ve played, there’s a slightly different motivation going on for her each time and there are little differences. In this movie, Catwoman: Hunted, I think the role Talia has in this film is she’s a figure shrouded in mystery. We’re not really privy to a lot of her thoughts and motivations throughout. Her relationship with Catwoman and opinion of Selina Kyle seems to be driving the tension in this film. It’s also interesting too to think about how something Jamie Thomason and I talked about was the accent we would use for Talia. In previous iterations, she’s leaned more British, in this iteration, she leans a little more Middle Eastern. It’s always interesting to figure out, ‘Who is Talia in this world and this story?’
Of course, that’s not the only character you play here and Nosferata couldn’t be any more different to Talia - what did you enjoy most about that character and finding the right voice for what is quite a monstrous villain?
Oh, thank you for saying that. That was a concern of mine and is in anything I do where I play more than one character is really making them different. Nosferata is so fun because she’s so brutal and physical and impulsive. She’s more hot-tempered than Talia is, so playing a character who, for lack of a better word, is more unhinged, is just so much fun. Her fight scene with Catwoman and Batwoman is so savage [Laughs]. It really leans into the physical efforts and that was a cool vocal challenge and also really satisfying.
We see Cheshire fighting Catwoman and Nosferata battling Batwoman, so you’ve got that cat vs. cat and bat vs. bat thing going on. That must have been fun to delve into?
Totally! Cats versus bats. I love in this movie the idea of the cats being so present. It makes sense for a Catwoman movie, but I just love all the little things our writer Greg Weisman put to push that cat dynamic. I have to say, though, Isis steals the show for me. The little kitty [Laughs]. I was so invested in that character!
You get some awesome one-liners and dialogue as both characters, but what about Greg Weisman’s screenplay most jumped out to you as an actor?
Yeah, Greg is so good at world-building. In all of his work in his career, you see these incredible worlds he’s filled out with lots of characters. To see him do that with Batman is really cool. We get a sense of that in Young Justice, of course, but in Catwoman: Hunted, you really get a sense of the network and underpinnings of both Gotham’s villains and the global interconnectedness of the DC villains. That’s a really cool world to live in and one not often explored in animation. It’s really, really cool to get a movie like this that puts the villains at the forefront in this really well-told, Weisman-constructed world.
There is a lot of action in this film, but what sort of challenges did that present while you were in the recording booth?
A little bit on the process, I had two recording sessions for this project. The first was in studio before the pandemic where we grabbed mostly dialogue and then the second was at home from my home studio where we grabbed mostly fight efforts. I feel really bad for my neighbours who had to hear me screaming multiple times [Laughs] and it’s a wonder no one has called to check in on me or called the cops on me yet! It’s a challenge, anyway, to do that kind of work. You can’t be shy about it. If you have any hesitation or shyness approaching an effort, it’s not going to come out strong, so you really have to go for it and that means being very loud in a private residence [Laughs].
No spoilers, but you get to let out a really almighty scream at one point as Nosferata; what sort of pressure does something like that put on your voice? Is that a one-and-done or do you have to keep trying to get it pitch-perfect?
[Laughs] So, God bless Jamie Thomason our voice director. He’s really good at saving your voice so that the big screams and things will be held for the end of the session. They are one-and-done, especially after you’ve had an hour or two of medium efforts before then, your voice is beaten up already. If I recall correctly, I think I did one scream and then I did another, but my voice cracked like a twelve-year-old boy [Laughs] and that’s my indicator that, ‘Okay, I’m done. I need to rest 24 hours before I can attempt anything like this again.’ Hopefully, we got it in the one!
It sounds terrific, but I am curious: as you mentioned, this is a great villain film, but it’s also a great female film because the majority of characters are powerful women. What does it mean to you be part of this cast of actors and characters?
Oh my gosh, this cast is incredible. Our leads are incredible and I loved Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Barbara Minerva. It’s incredible performances by incredible women. I went to a women’s college and a similar phenomenon happened there that I think happens when I see a movie that’s almost all female. You start to forget it’s women. It doesn’t matter that it’s women or men. These are just incredibly compelling characters who are strong in their own right and telling this interesting story with awesome action sequences. It’s this feeling of an eve playing field that I think is so important for women to see. And men. All genders. It’s pretty cool and a breath of fresh air.
From Blade Runner to Lost in Space and Big Hero 6, you’ve been part of some huge franchises, but what is about the DC Universe that you enjoy as a performer?
There are so many disparate personality types in the DC Universe I feel. I love Marvel. I’m never going to knock Marvel, but I feel like everybody quips in Marvel and is snarky and sassy and fun. In DC, I feel like there’s a lot of specificity for why each hero and villain does what they do. For lack of a better word, it’s a gritter, muddier, murkier world. For me, that’s really interesting to play in. These great human stories told in this operatic world. I really appreciate that about the DC Universe. You can get very real. There’s a lot of truth. Batman essentially is doing what he does because his parents were murdered and there’s this child that needs to be healed over and over and over again. And there are lessons that need to be learned over and over and over again. There’s obviously more him to that, but you can distil it down to that very human story. I love the DC Universe, especially the DC Animated feature and TV universe. I’m so grateful to get to play in them.
This is a very unique film in terms of animation, but what surprised you most when you got to watch the finished product?
Yes! Oh, I geeked out. I watched a lot of anime growing up, so to see something in that style…you know, the opening sequence is so cool and totally evokes something like Cowboy Bepop with the cool jazz. Our score by the amazing Yutaka Yamada is so good. I love seeing how cultural artistry fuses like that to create something truly unique.
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