TEEN TITANS GO! & DC SUPER HERO GIRLS Interview With Aquaman & Lex Luthor Voice Actor Will Friedle (Exclusive)
The legendary Will Friedle (Batman Beyond) talks about playing Aquaman and Lex Luthor in Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, explaining his approach to the hero and villain.
In Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, Lex Luthor wields an ancient Kryptonian power and unites the world's supervillains to capture the DC Universe's heroes. With only the fan-favourite DC Super Hero Girls left to stop the Legion of Doom, the team must cross dimensions to rescue their fellow superheroes from the Phantom Zone, but a fortuitous wrong turn leads them to Titans Tower...where they find much-needed allies in the iconic Teen Titans!
That's the premise of this awesome blockbuster event, and we can promise you'll have an absolute riot with this hilarious, action-packed crossover. Ahead of its Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD release on May 24, Will Friedle was kind enough to spend some time talking to us about his roles in the movie.
Playing both Aquaman and the lead villain, Lex Luthor, the Batman Beyond lead (Will was responsible for bringing Terry McGinnis to life over the course of that beloved series) delivers two vastly different performances. Here, he tells us about being inspired by Matthew McConaughey for his unique and hilarious take on Arthur Curry while also explaining how he approached a big bad like Lex.
Will also reveals whether he hopes to reprise these DC Super Hero Girls roles down the line and shares plenty of fascinating insights into how he approached playing two bona fide DC Comics icons.
It must be a blast playing two of the most iconic DC Comics characters of all time?
It is! I try not to think about or my nerd takes over and I’ll explode [Laughs]. I’m very, very happy and it has been a phenomenal experience.
I know you’ve voiced multiple characters in projects before, but what’s it been like for you to hop between Aquaman and Lex Luthor in this DC Super Hero Girls world?
It was a tonne of fun. It was one of those things where I was just so honoured. I had done Lex Luthor on the show before, but when they then said, ‘Hey, we’d love you to do Aquaman as well,’ I was blown away to be able to play one of my favourite characters who I had never played before. I’ve been in the DC world for a long time and had the honour of playing a lot of great DC characters, but never Aquaman. It was really, really cool. John DiMaggio’s Aquaman in Batman: the Brave and the Bold left me with big shoes to fill, but it really was a blast.
I loved the Matthew McConaughey vibe I was getting from Aquaman in this film; can you talk about how you came to find his voice and what led you down that route?
He did inspire me. One of the things that is so interesting about that whole DC Super Hero Girls world and Teen Titans Go! is that they stay true to the characters while not taking themselves too seriously. It’s a wonderful combination and makes for a great product. When the Justice League shows up in the film and Batman mumbles and you can’t really understand what he says and they’re these caricatures of themselves, it’s the bad Matthew McConaughey impression for Aquaman that felt like the right way to go for him and it was. When the animators and I saw him, we all said, ‘Oh man, it actually worked!’ [Laughs] It was fun. You think of a surfer dude, and that’s the way they wanted to play him, so for some reason behind the microphone, bad Matthew McConaughey came out and I was happy to do it.
Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen Aquaman treated a little more seriously in the comic books, movies, and TV shows, so it must have been great to do something a little sillier with the character after what we’ve seen from Jason Momoa, for example?
Yeah, it definitely was. I’m such a big fan of animation and Bruce Timm, Glen Murakami, Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, and the whole team really took Aquaman and made him cool again in the Justice League Unlimited series. He was just awesome. They went from there to Batman: the Brave and the Bold where John DiMaggio did something completely different with the character that was hysterically funny. To have my opportunity to put my stamp on a version of Aquaman who is not as serious as Momoa was a lot of fun. Throne of Atlantis, for example, was such a great animated film that told the story of Aquaman and Orm and the grittiness of it.
To take it another way and lighten it up is great. Bruce Timm always used to tell me when it came to Batman that there always needed to be a Batman for everybody. So, when the films were very dark, the animated series was very light. When that was very dark, the films were very light. That meant there was always a Batman for everybody. I think you can say the same thing about most superheroes. There should always be a version of them for everybody. In Teen Titans Go!, you get the younger, fun version, and at the same time, you have the dark and gritty Titans. There’s room for a Momoa Aquaman and a bad Matthew McConaughey Aquaman [Laughs].
There’s a great scene in the film where Aquaman lists all the members of the Justice League with these ridiculous names he’s given them; how much fun was it for you, as an actor, to delve into that?
It’s a lot of fun when you have writers, producers, and directors who all have the same goal to make the best, funniest product that they possibly can. They let you play with it and tweak it, so we worked on exactly where the voice should settle and how outlandish we should make it. I think what we came up with was pretty fun all round.
On the other hand, you have Lex Luthor, one of the greatest comic book villains of all time. What can you say about your approach to playing him and how you go about stepping into those villainous shoes?
I almost never get to play bad guys. Almost never. I can count on one hand over the 25 years I’ve been doing animation the times I’ve gotten the chance to play a bad guy. It was a tonne of fun, and coming off Michael Rosenbaum, Clancy Brown, and all the incredible actors who have played Lex…it’s big shoes to fill. I’m lucky that with the tone of the film and the fact this character is younger than we’ve seen meant I got to play. Rosenbaum’s was high school age, but he took it down a darker, more nuanced route. Lex being as young as he is means you get to see flashes of the evil genius he will become in the future. It’s cool whenever I get the chance to step out of my comfort zone and play the bad guy. I would argue that Lex Luthor is not just one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, but one of the greatest villains of all time. Period. He’s up there with The Joker and Darth Vader. He has to be in that conversation.
This is a Lex who seems very good at what he does in forming this Legion of Doom and vanquishing all those heroes; was it satisfying to play a bad guy who is such a force to be reckoned with and who, for me, is one of the best animated takes on the character we’ve seen?
Wow. I really appreciate that. It was so cool and so different for me to actually play a villain, I was just hoping how giddy I was to be playing him wouldn’t come through in the performance. ‘Why are you smiling all the time? You’re supposed to be evil!’ We just had so much fun with it and the directors and producers were so helpful in building the character. We first met him in the series, but getting to put my own twist on it and make him a little younger was really great.
Moving forward, are you optimistic you might get to continue playing Lex and Aquaman? I feel like the latter, in particular, would kill it in a spinoff.
You know, I think that would be a tonne of fun. I really do. People say this and it sounds so corny, but until you’re in the industry as an actor, you don’t really realise it’s true every time you say it: I am just so happy and honoured every time someone wants to work with me that, if I had the opportunity to do it, of course, I would jump at the chance. You take the jobs as they come and do the best you can and hope you get to do more. That’s pretty much all you can do.
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Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD on May 24. The movie event also premieres on Cartoon Network on May 28 and starts streaming on HBO Max beginning June 28!