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Backstage - Andrea Romano Interview

Were there any particular challenges with casting the role of Wonder Woman for this?

I was so excited to do a project that had a major female character in it because so often the action shows are all kind of male casts, so it was a pleasure first of all, that had many females in it which made me really happy. And this was a slightly different Wonder Woman than I had worked with before in that itís really kind of her origin story. It's when she comes into the world of humans and off of Paradise Island so I needed somebody with a voice that had strength because clearly she has physical strength but also an innocence, you know a naivety that she had to have. As often happens on things I've been casting where you can tell what I've been watching on TV or what films I've been watching because those tend to be the actors I bring into projects because I'm aware of them and I had just seen "Waitress." So I saw Nathan Fillion and Keri Russell just giving those beautifully sensitive performances and then it became a no-brainer. Unfortunately they could not actually perform together. I had to record them in separate sessions in separate cities on different months I think even, but that is a common thing in what I do that the actors are not always available at the same time so I have to just make sure I get continuity in their performances. Then we have that failsafe at the end which is ADR when the picture is done; so we've recorded the track and animated the movie and then it comes back married and we look at it and say "You know what, we need to fix that. He's shouting and she's quiet and they're standing next to each other." So we have to kind of balance that out and re-record that and so that's the failsafe that makes sure I get continuity. But yes, it was an interesting challenge to cast Wonder Woman because I needed the strength and the innocence. She's kind of ignorant about the ways of mankind, but she can't sound stupid, so there's the difference between ignorance and stupidity. She can't sound dumb. She needs to be innocent and ignorant and then there's this guy Trevor who hopefully doesn't take advantage of her.

Listen to sound clip about a drunk story.

As cool as it is to get people like Keri Russell and other celebrities being these voices, how important do you feel it is to use these people when it used to mainly be the full time voiceover actors?

I don't feel that it has to be a celebrity at all. I of the mind that it should be the best actor for the role, regardless of who they are if they are well known or never have been heard of before. I don't think that people going into a video store to buy a property like Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman are going to say "Oh I'm not going to buy that because there are no celebrities in it." I really don't. I think they're going to say "It's Wonder Woman and I want my daughter to watch Wonder Woman," or whatever. I'm of the mind that it should be the best actor. The thing about celebrities is when I have to get approval from a group of people and say I want to hire James Arnold Taylor, a brilliant, wonderful voiceover actor who's really good, they'll go "I don't know who that is." When I say I want to hire Nathan Fillian they'll go "I know who that is!" so it's easier because they all know who it is so they can say "Yes, let's go there." I don't like to cast celebrities strictly for celebrity sake, I like to cast the best actor for the role. I'm willing to fight for the rank-and-file actor to get them in there to do it. I do fill up the rest of the cast with the rank-and-file actors. I'm sure you guys are aware of it where there's gratuitous celebrity casting where you get somebody like Jackie Chan in Kung Fu Panda who has 3 lines and that's a waste of a wonderful talent. I don't believe in that at all. I believe let's get the right guy for the role. The Screen Actors Guild allows me to hire 1 actor for 3 voices and not every celebrity can do 3 voices. Not every celebrity can do 3 voices. You'll find some guys who are really versatile who are really good, but you go to the rank-and-file animation voiceover actors, the Rob Paulsens, the Maurice LaMarches, the Jeff Bennett and they all can give you 3 voices that sound completely different, speaking right next to each other and I need those guys to fill in my cast so I've got all the roles filled with versatile people and when I can I love to put those guys in the room with the celebrities and watch the celebrities jaws just drop as these voiceover actors do what they do.

Since Wonder Woman has such a strong voice, who do you cast as a villain for her to face?

The voice of Ares is Alfred Molina, who couldn't be a more wonderful man. A brilliant actor we all know we've watched him do remarkable work. He told me a great story. It was Christmas time and we were recording him and someone had sent me an enormous basket of chocolates and so I brought it into the recording studio and told everyone to please help me eat this chocolate or I'll take it home and eat it myself. I was reminded he did the movie Chocolat. He said they shot a scene where he just gorges himself with chocolate and he told me he ate 2 pounds of chocolate because he had to shoot that scene several times.

But he is just strong, wonderful deep voice and he's so versatile. He can do Shakespeare and he can do just whatever contemporary modern thing you want him to do. He has the British accent of course, but his American accent is excellent. We had some great fun working with him. He was such a joy.

Andrea lets us know some of the other cast members at this point. They include Virginia Madsen as Hippolyta. Rosario Dawson plays Artemis, one of the Amazon warriors. Oliver Platt plays Hades. David McCallum plays Zeus and had just recently played Alfred in Batman: Gotham Knight.

Listen to Andrea talk about Oliver Platt.

As a fan of Wonder Woman, what are you looking forward to about the movie?

I always love to see how it all sticks together. I think of it almost like a puzzle. I've got this actor's performance and then down the line that actor's performance so I love to see how it all comes together so that aspect of it is to me is really significant. Wow that really worked! It sounds like they're talking together and they really weren't. I never know what the action sequences will look like. Because although it may be described in the script I work off of, it often changes considerably from the description to what they ultimately animate.

When you were casting for Wonder Woman did you have to do a lot of research?

I always have to do research. Girls didn't back in my day read comic books like Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman. We read like Betty and Veronica and the occasional romance comic if we read them at all. Now girls do much more. I see girls in the hotel reading comic book and that was the de rigor(sp?) of the day when I was a kid. So I always have to do research and I always have to ask a lot of questions. Then what makes it good is I become an audience member who needs to have things explained to and when I say the script doesn't make that clear then the writers know they should add something that will help anyone else like me who doesn't know that history that you can't go too deep into it but at least so that reference to that point makes sense to someone who doesn't know Wonder Woman. Who may not know any of those things.

Do you see any character designs beforehand?

Yes, but I'm also told that sometimes the designs will change. Then I ask if it will change considerably and that's the kind of thing I have to do with. It doesn't matter to me if they make her waist a little smaller or her bosom a little bit larger (laughs). That doesn't matter, but what does matter is with a character like Ares. Will he have big, massive shoulders or be slight? That's a voice type you have to be concerned with. What is the physicality of the character and does the voice match? We all have friends who may not have voices that match their bodies, but in animation that doesn't really work. You have to have them sound like what they look like unless you're playing the comedy beat and you have a big, beefy guy who sounds like Mike Tyson.

Is there an evolution in Wonder Woman's voice as she progresses through the movie?

Not in her voice, in her knowledge and maturity, yet she still retains this kind of innocence that's endearing in her. I wanted to keep the femininity most importantly, and there's a growth and learning process for Wonder Woman, but not vocally.

Have you found any challenges in re-casting characters you've visited before?

It's hard. It's really hard. Someone told me the other day I cast Batman 7 times. Sometimes I think I don't have any other thoughts. I've asked every actor who I've think is appropriate to do it already or sometimes there's people who wanted to do it but weren't available during my production period so I have to go back and check all my notes from my previous gigs and see if they want to come play now.

I like the continuity of going back. I love that in Gotham Knight it's Kevin Conroy.

Listen to Andrea explaining the recording process.

Is it hard to tell the actors from previous performances that they will not be doing this project?

It's always hard. I'm a very actor-friendly director having been an actress myself 1000 years ago. I always want to be sure to protect the actors feelings as much as possible and actors are really sensitive people, that's why they're actors. They have a really strong emotional response to things, so I always try to be very straightforward with them and let them know I'm working on another project and I've been told I have to re-cast it and it's not because you did anything wrong and when we do something that has to do with what we've done in the past. It's just been what I've been asked to do.

It doesn't happen too often, but every once in a while I'll hire an actor and it doesn't work. They don't get the energy; they don't understand it; especially if they're strictly film actors. They do very small facial reactions, vocal reactions. Some actors whisper almost entirely. I've had a couple of actors like that and they just didn't understand the energy. I'd push and push and push and it doesn't work. Stage actors do really well. They make the segue really easily. A lot of the TV actors or film actors who also do stage seem to make a nice easy path into it. But I don't ever like to replace an actor. When it happens I'll call the agent right away; because you don't want the piece to come out and the actor to not know they were replacing and they're screaming at home watching the DVD (laughs). So I explain to them what the problem was and why it happened and try to handle it as delicately as possible.

The World's Finest would like to thank Andrea Romano for her participation in this interview.
Interview conducted by Matt Hazuda @ SDCC '08.

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