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Backstage - Interviews - Wil Wheaton

Hello! First off, to those who may not be familiar with your work, care to give us a quick rundown of your resume, perhaps highlighting some of your most well-known work?

Iíve been acting since I was a kid, but Iím probably best-known for playing Gordie in Stand By Me, and Wesley on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Recently, I played a seriously evil serial killer/rapist on Criminal Minds, and a pretty douchey comic book publisher on NUMB3RS. Animation fans may recognize me from Teen Titans, Ben 10: Alien Force, or Legion of Superheroes. When Iím not acting, Iím a writer. Iíve published three different books, written two manga, and have regular columns at the LA Weekly, and Suicide Girls. I write in my blog way too much, and I founded and run the Geek community at Propeller.com.

Now, weíre here to discuss your turn as the Silver Age Blue Beetle in the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode ďThe Fall of the Blue Beetle!Ē So Ė tell us about your role!

I play Ted Kord - yes, the Ted Kord! - in a bunch of flashback sequences.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold takes a more light-hearted approach to Batman. Do you take that into consideration when playing the role of Blue Beetle? Do you have any preference over a darker Batman, like in Batman: The Animated Series, or the lighter one we see here?

Yeah, I absolutely did. My introduction to Blue Beetle was during the late 80s in Justice League, when he was a wisecracking, light-hearted guy who didnít take much of anything seriously. My job as an actor is to interpret the writerís intention in the script as faithfully as I can, so I was lucky when I noticed that they were looking for Ted to be similar to the Blue Beetle I already knew.

Iím probably one of the biggest Batman fans in the world. I love everything from Dark Knight Returns to the Adam West series to Bob Kaneís really early work to Gotham Knight. The only Batman that I dislike are the sequels from the 90s. And Alfred walking Vicki Vale into the Batcave in Tim Burtonís Batman. I mean, itís like Alfred decided on his own to just bring her in. ďHey, Master Bruce, I know youíre really secretive about this whole Batman thing, but I think itís time you took your relationship with the effing reporter to the next level, so I took it upon myself to just bring her right into your secret lair. Thatís cool, right?Ē

Now, hopefully you wonít mind if we swing off-topic for a second. Now, this isnít your first foray into the world of animation. What attracts you to voice-acting?

Itís really hard to do it right, so I feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment when I get to work alongside people like Yuri Lowenthal, Lex Lang, Kari Wahlgren, and Diedrich Bader. While some people can be stunt cast for their looks or whatever in on-camera roles, that just doesnít happen in animated television, because there are so many truly talented people available to do the work. I feel like Iíve really earned a spot in the room with those guys, and thatís just awesome.

Itís also a different type of acting from on-camera, so it presents a unique set of challenges. I didnít realize how much we rely on subtle facial movements and body language to convey intention and emotion when we perform, and Iíve really enjoyed learning and attempting to perfect doing all of that with just my voice. Also, voice acting isnít nearly as repetitive as on-camera acting; we donít have to do things for forty-seven different angles on Batman, so it never gets boring or dull.

Youíve also appeared in Teen Titans and Legion of Super Heroes, two comic book-based series. Is it safe to assume you grew up on comics? If so, what did you read? Do you have a favorite character?

I actually wasnít into comics as a kid, other than the occasional EC comic or Donald Duck thing that I grabbed off a rack in the drug store. Everything changed in the late eighties, when I came across what was then called the Prestige format books from DC. This was stuff like Sandman and Hellblazer, stuff that eventually became Vertigo. I read X-Men and Justice League, and of course I read Batman - In fact, Batman is one of the very few books I make time to read in single-issue format these days - but it was Sandman, Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen that turned me into one of those Canít Wait for Wednesday guys.

I donít have a favorite character, really, but there are a few writers who Iíll read no matter what: Warren Ellis, Grant Morrisson, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman.

As a semi-follow-up to the previous question, is there any comic book character you want to take a crack at voicing? Why?

I donít think any of these would ever be animated, but Iíd love to voice any of the Endless, or any of the male characters in Criminal. I think I could have a lot of fun with Casanova, and Iíd actually love to see Baís work brought to life via animation.

Not only do you have a substantial voice-over resume, but youíve done a host of live-action appearances too, ranging from Stand by Me (when you were younger) to the lines of CSI and Numb3rs today. Do you find working on a live-action television program or movie more difficult than voice-acting, or vice-versa? Any preference?

I love performing, and Iím very lucky to be able to support my family doing what I love, so I donít really prefer one over the other; Iím grateful to have the work when I can get it. I wouldnít say that one is more difficult than the other, but each certainly presents a different set of challenges. On-camera work involves a lot more than just knowing the lines and understanding the character, his relationships, and what the scene is about: I have to keep the same timing on take after take, so things match when they edit the show. I have to know where the light is so I donít end up in a shadow or casting a shadow on another actor. I have to stay focused when there are dozens of people standing around watching us. I have to do it like itís the first time, every time, even when weíre into the third different set up, and weíve been shooting the two page scene for hours, and weíre all sick to death of doing it. I have to get to work around 90 minutes before we start shooting, just to get dressed and made up, and then there are all the challenges associated with filming at different locations all the time.

Voice acting presents the same set of dramatic challenges, and makes the same set of dramatic demands, but all the repetition and visual considerations donít apply. We usually show up 15 minutes before we record, read through the script once, make some notes, and then start rolling. Iíd say the average amount of time spent recording any of the shows Iíve worked on is about 4 or 5 hours per episode, compared to 7 or 8 days for an on-camera show.

Now, in my previous question, I mentioned the movie Stand By Me, which also happened to feature Keifer Sutherland. Any chance we could see you reunited with Sutherland on 24 sometime down the road? And since Zachary Quinto started off in 24 and graduated to Heroes, any chance we could see you in Heroes in the near future? There have been rumors of you appearing on both shows circling the net for some time nowÖ

Iíve had two auditions for Heroes, and I totally tanked both of them. I was so excited to be there, and so nervous about doing well, I was like Lenny with the rabbit behind the barn, petting the poor thing to death because I loved it so much. I seriously doubt that anyone at Heroes is interested in giving me a part on the show, even though I know that, once the anxiety about getting the job was removed, Iím sure I could do something memorable with whatever part I played.

So, as we begin to wrap this up, do you have any upcoming projects youíd like to let us know about? Let us know!

I just released the audio version of my latest book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and thereís a special edition of the book coming from Subterranean Press in a few months. I also have some really awesome projects in various stages of development, but I canít talk about any of them right now.

Finally, as we bring this Q & A back to the topic at hand, any final thoughts on your upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold appearance? Any last words?

It was as much fun working on the show as I thought it would be, and I want to publicly thank James Tucker for giving me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and work on something in the Batman universe. James gave me one of the greatest jobs Iíve ever had, working with some of the best people in the industry, when I was Cosmic Boy on Legion. Iím delighted that weíre working together again.

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