BATMAN AND SUPERMAN: BATTLE OF THE SUPER SONS Interview With Superman Actor Travis Willingham (Exclusive)

BATMAN AND SUPERMAN: BATTLE OF THE SUPER SONS Interview With Superman Actor Travis Willingham (Exclusive)

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons star Travis Willingham talks to us about playing the Man of Steel in the latest DC Animated movie, explaining his approach to bringing this icon to life...

By JoshWilding - Oct 21, 2022 12:10 PM EST
Filed Under: Superman (Animated)

Legacies must rise to unearthly challenges as the children of Batman and Superman are charged with saving their famous fathers - and the world - in Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons.

Warner Bros. Animation's first-ever all-CG animated, feature-length film begins as 11-year-old Jonathan Kent discovers he has superpowers, thrusting the half-Kryptonian into the complicated world of Super Heroes and Super-Villains - who are now under attack by a malevolent alien force known as Starro!

It’s a race against time as Jonathan must join forces with assassin-turned-Boy-Wonder Damian Wayne to rescue their fathers and save the planet by becoming the Super Sons they were destined to be.

Travis Willingham (Spider-Man, Superman: Red Son) is the movie's Man of Steel, and he delivers a classic portrayal of this character we're sure comic book fans are going to appreciate. Speaking to us about his role as Superman earlier this week, the actor opened up about his approach to Kal-El, getting to explore the iconic hero as a father, and the pressures a role like this brings. 

We also hear about what it was like having his real-life wife, acclaimed voice actor Laura Bailey, play Lois Lane and where he'd like to take the Man of Tomorrow next should a sequel follow. 

Check out our full interview with Travis below, and find the rest of our Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons interviews right here.


You’ve played your fair share of big name comic book characters, like Thor, but how is Superman different to those given that he is perhaps the most iconic of them all? 

Boy, to me, Superman is the top. He was the character I loved most as a kid and I just have a special place in my heart for him. One of the things that makes Superman so appealing is that he is a character who has so much at his fingertips. He can do so many things, but he doesn’t use them for his own personal gain. He chooses to use it for good which I think is so important. Even in current-day events, you see people rise to power or fame and there always seems to be a note of corruption that comes along with it. I love the notion that there are characters who they are incorruptible and who are stalwart in their views and morals, no matter what comes. 

One similarity between Thor and Superman is that they split their time between different worlds. They don’t quite belong one or the other and are pulled between two realms or planets. It’s a real pleasure to be able to play that character as I've known him, but also as a parently trying to figure out how to split his attention, not just between his role as the world’s protector, but as a father trying to make himself available to his son. It’s a new note to play for a character who has been pretty well-established for over 80 years.

Clark’s relationship with his son is key to this story, so did you find yourself giving a lot of thought to how he must be feeling discovering his son shares these powers and is about to face a lot of danger, as a result? 

100%. My wife, Laura Bailey, who plays Lois Lane, we share a son. He’s four. We brought that sort of experience to the recording booth and it’s very easy to identify with that feeling of, ‘Gosh, I hope things turn out well for my son. I hope he’s safe. I hope he prospers.’ In the case of Lois and Clark, they may also be saying, ‘I hope these abilities that are such a burden in some cases, but also a blessing in others, will skip a generation.’ [Laughs] He’ll just have an average Smallville upbringing and they won’t have to worry about Jonathan going through what Clark did. Of course, it doesn’t skip him, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s about how you approach that situation. For parents, you don’t get to choose who your kids grow up to be. You just have to be there and support them as they go through life. To bring that to the performance of these characters was something unique and special for us. 

Many people may not realise that your wife, Laura Bailey, plays Lois Lane - she mentioned to me on Friday that you both dressed up for Halloween as these characters once, so it must have been surreal to share the screen in this way here?

[Laughs] That’s right, we absolutely did! We did it in the half version where I think I was wearing a suit with the shirt pulled open and the iconic ‘S’ underneath it and her dressed up as Lois. It was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment for us to be able to play these characters. 

I know you’ve played him before in some LEGO projects, but did your approach to playing Superman differ at all given the tone of this specific story?

Yes, they’re two totally different performances. The LEGO properties always have a very tongue-in-cheek, heavy humour in the material which is what we love about them. This was the first chance I’ve had to play a more serious or dramatic version of the character, so some of the hands on hips, barrel chested, projected delivery…that kind of stuff goes away and takes a backseat to a sound where, when he comes back home, Clark leaves Superman at bay and tries to be a husband to Lois and a father to Jonathan. He needs to make himself as available as he can to a kid figuring out who he is and what these new abilities are going to mean for him, along with what his place in the world is going to be. It was a very disarmed sound, but also hopefully a very warm one as he tries to make himself a shelter for Jon and becomes someone he can confide in as he takes on this new adventure. 

This CG animated style is new for these DC Animated Universe titles, so what’s impressed you most about seeing your Superman in action? 

I’ve loved what the DC films have done with their looks over the years, whether it was Justice League: Doom or coming up through Superman: Red Son. Just the way the look and character designs have changed over the years, and seeing this natural evolution into a 2D/3D/CG fusion. I thought it was incredible. They did a really, really great job with the flying and action sequences. For me, the most important part was having the expressive delivery of the characters not be interrupted by what you see on screen. You had such dynamic performances from Jack and Jack as Damian and Jon. They’re such lively performances with their personalities shining through, so it was really incredible to see the level of animation match their delivery in every way. I tip my hats to DC for doing just an absolutely incredible job. 

Superman is a role that brings a lot of expectations with it, so as an actor, how did it feel to be stepping into the shoes of some many greats who have preceded you? 

I mean, it’s an incredible honour. For me, Christopher Reeve will always be my Superman. I loved what Tom Welling did and there have certainly been a myriad of voices who have portrayed the Man of Steel over the years. I consider it an honour to lend my voice to the great fraternity of actors throughout the years that have lent their voice to who Superman is and what he stands for. It’s a real privilege for me. 

Were there any previous versions of Superman, like Christopher Reeve, that inspired you or were you keen to put your own spin on the Man of Steel here?

I don’t think there’s usually anyone in our heads in terms of a voice print of sound. It’s really more a feeling that comes from the portrayal of different characters. For me, Christopher Reeve was always very warm. I loved what he did with Clark Kent because it always was such a drastic shift from when he was Clark to Superman. That’s just a credit to his acting in that film, but when he was either one of them, and he was one-on-one with a character he cared about, there was an enormous warmth and a sense of empathy. You could tell he was really listening and made himself available. That genuine sound was something that was really important to me that comes from Superman. It can be an intimidating thing to stand before someone who can do almost anything and save the world with just a few simple movements or actions, so having a warm sound and something that makes him inviting and not intimidating to be around was one of the most important things when thinking about the sound of what Superman sounds like.

If this series continues, what would you like to do next with this version of Superman?

Oh, that’s a fantastic question. I would definitely come back for a sequel or series. They’re just starting to scratch the surface of what this dynamic could be, but you’re always concerned about your children and it makes another point of vulnerability in that Superman has to track both Lois and Jon at all times, especially as threats loom on the horizon. As he grows in power and learns what his place in the world is going to be, I think it will be a multiplier of the forces and threats out there that Superman has to clock. Certainly, there are a number of ways those stories can go or be told, but I think it’s only just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to seeing where Damian and Jon will take the Super Sons. 

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons lands on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital on October 18, 2022.

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