JUSTICE SOCIETY: WORLD WAR II Interview: Matthew Mercer On Helping Hourman Shine In A Group Of God-Like Heroes

We recently caught up with Matthew Mercer to discuss his role as Rex Tyler/Hourman in Justice Society: World War II, and he talks in detail about helping the hero hold his own in a team of powerhouses...

Justice Society: World War II arrives on streaming platforms on April 27th, 2021, and hits 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray on May 11th, 2021. This next entry in the DC Animated Universe sees The Flash thrust into the midst of an epic battle between Golden Age DC Super Heroes the Justice Society and Nazis for an adventure that definitely doesn't play out the way you might be expecting. 

Picking up with Barry Allen in the present day, prior to the formation of the Justice League, the Scarlet Speedster discovers he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. Arriving in WWII, he finds himself joining forces with a Golden Age team made up of Wonder Woman, Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor, and Jay Garrick.

Matthew Mercer plays Hourman in the action-packed adventure, adding another iconic hero to a list of previous roles which include characters like Leon S. Kennedy, Iron Man, Spyro the Dragon, and Luke Skywalker (you can read his thoughts on his Star Wars Battlefront II role by clicking here). 

In this interview, Matthew talks in detail about bringing Rex Tyler to life in the animated ensemble, explaining what it was like to play a normal man among larger than life superheroes. He also addresses the character's possible future if - and hopefully when - a sequel is released by Warner Bros. Animation.
 

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For anyone who isn’t a die-hard comic book fan, Hourman might not be a hero they’re familiar with; do you think that gave you some freedom with how you portrayed the character?

In a way, yeah. As a character who hasn’t been so heavily established in a lot of media outside of comics, and even then that was in the Golden Age rather than a modern representation like the other characters around him, it is a little bit of a blank slate. I didn’t have to find a way to fit into a pantheon of other voice actors that have established him in this era, so there was definitely a little bit of freedom there. There was also something of an intense hope in wanting to establish him well, and wanting to make sure I came at that with the layers necessary to make him stand against all of these well-established characters, feel unique, and like he belongs among them. That was a fun challenge too. 

In terms of research, as we haven’t really seen Hourman in many movies or TV shows, were the comic books a big help to you? 

It’s tough to go too heavily into the comics because the interpretation for the animated version may or may not be borrowing from some of those traits or that verbal/character language. I don’t try to pull too much from the comics by reading through them, but more read the character’s history and what’s he’s been through and what made him special in the DC Universe in the time he existed. I read a little bit but didn’t want to base it too strongly on older media that was designed during the 40s and 50s [Laughs] when this story is designed for a modern audience. It was a case of taking aspects from that part of history, learning what made him special, and then applying that knowledge and that character’s history to the script that was presented to me. In the middle of that mixture is where my Hourman came through. 

When you’re playing a character like Hourman whose powers are limited, do you feel that adds a sense of urgency to your performance?

I like to think so. That was part of the layering behind the character. The idea that you have this individual who is standing among giants if you will, and he only has an hour to make it count. In that time, he has to really, really make it count, and in between, there’s a vulnerability to him, and a very human ‘child in the room with the adults’ sensation that he’s trying not to let on. There are a lot of subtle layers to him throughout this that I tried to keep in mind and bring through. There are facets of him trying to push beyond his limits to feel like he’s pulling his own weight and the repercussions...there are a lot of fun aspects that not a lot of characters get to explore. It was a fun exercise as a performer and a facet of this character that makes him unique among the others in this story. 

What, in your personal opinion, do you think Hourman brings to a team despite any limitations his powers might have? 

I think he brings a very human element of trying to do your best regardless of the danger. It’s kind of the definition of a hero. Courage is to be afraid and to do regardless; to push past that fear and do what you think is right or important. I think, more than any of the other characters, he is the one who in those times between that hour, has to say, ‘Do I keep myself safe or do I put myself on the line when I know I cannot be as effective as my teammates?’ That was a fun facet to bring to it and to keep it in mind through all those parts of the story. I think there’s a very human part of him that makes him unique in this mix of heroic characters. 
 

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The Justice Society is definitely an underrated team, so what do you hope fans take away from this movie after seeing them in action here? 

I hope fans get the chance to really lose themselves in what the Golden Age of comics was about without having to go back to the actual comics which maybe won’t translate well to a modern audience. There’s a very specific flavour and flair to the Golden Age of comics that maybe won’t work nowadays. So, taking the really strong and unique facets of that era and to translate them into a modern medium like this is a cool way to involve people. I think all people will get the opportunity to embrace and enjoy elements of where it all started as well as being able to delve into some of the facets that make these characters more complicated than you might assume they were coming out of that Golden Age. People think of that time, and they think they were just these God-like characters who were out there saving the world, and that was part of it, but this movie gives them the opportunity to explore the subtleties and layers and nuance. That mixture will be really cool for fans.

Were you familiar with the JSA of the comic books before signing up, or was it all quite new to you as an actor?

I’m a huge DC fan. I knew of the JSA but wasn’t a deep, deep comic nerd about them. I read a lot of the more modern stuff growing up, so for me, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that!’ before doing the research and reading up on it and getting myself up to speed with what it was and what this new presentation was going to be. It was a really cool excuse for me to pull away from my busy schedule and read about a bunch of comic book stuff. I love doing it, and it’s good to give myself an excuse to do so and consider it work! 

You’ve voiced a lot of Marvel and DC characters over the years, but do you still have some names on your bucket list for who you’d like to take a crack at? 

I’m open to anything, but there are many characters I’d love to do between all comic book universes. It’s tough to pick any, and there are so many great people doing great versions of characters now that I don’t want to be like, ‘I’m muscling in on your territory!’ There’s such a great rogues gallery of DC villains, especially Gotham City ones, that I’d love to take a crack at some time. I just love to play in this space, so I’m down for anything a director or producer feels I’m a good fit for among the rest of the cast [Laughs].

Justice Society: World War II definitely leaves the door open to more stories, so if a follow up does happen, where would you like to take Hourman next?

I think it would be cool to explore more of that nuance about him being a more human character amongst a bunch of larger than life figures, and honestly, some of the facets of addiction with the Miraclo that gives him his power and how that has both an emotional and physical effect on him. Balancing that with the stress of trying to do the best he can with the time he’s given among these powerhouses would be a really fun space to explore. 

Also Read: JSA: WWII Director Jeff Wamester Explains His Fresh Take On The Golden Age Team
Also Read: Matt Bomer On Playing The Flash, How It Compares To Superman, & More
Also Read: Elysia Rotaru On Her Badass Black Canary And Why She Loves She-Hulk
Also Read: Liam McIntyre On Getting To Play A Badass, Very Different Aquaman
Also Read: Armen Taylor On His Personal Connection To Jay Garrick And The JSA
Also Read: Omid Abtahi On Bringing Diversity And More Than Muscle To Hawkman
Also Read: Co-Writer Jeremy Adams On Adding The Flash To The World Of The JSA
 

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