Andrea Romano Talks Justice League: War

justice league war box art

Justice League: War is the next release in Warner Bros Home Video’s line of direct-to-DVD animated movies featuring DC superheroes. The official release date is February 4, 2014. I expect that Best Buy will once again have an exclusive version of the DVD that comes packaged with a mini-action figure. There has been no word yet as to what that figure will be. My guess is on Cyborg, since his origin story makes up a large portion of Justice League: War. If not him, then Darkseid, the main villain of Justice League: War.

At New York Comic Con this year, I had the chance to sit down with casting director Andrea Romano about Justice League: War. Andrea and DC animated projects go back. She’s the woman who originally cast Kevin Conroy as Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. Since then, she’s cast Batman enough times to lose count as to what the actual number is. “I’m looking for someone to tell me how many times I cast Batman. I think it’s somewhere around 17.” said Romano.

Justice League: War is the first of DC’s animated movies set in the New 52 universe. For those unfamiliar with the New 52, in 2011, DC rebooted their entire line of comic books, calling the new universe and continuity the New 52, which was the number of titles DC put out that month. Origins and costumes have been modified and modernized. When asked if she approached casting for Justice League: War differently than how she cast prior movies, Andrea said “(It was) pretty much the same process. We all looked for the best possible voices.”

I asked Andrea if there was a mandate from on high this time about not repeating voices. Andrea said there was, but that it changes every film. Andrea elaborated, “My first question on every job is can I use people I’ve used before? May I use Kevin Conroy? May I use Mark Hamil?” Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes they want her to have an all-new cast. According to Andrea, sometimes a change in visual style or the use of a different color palette from a previous project will lead to the decision to work with a new cast of actors.

Bruce Timm handed the reins of the DC animated movies to James Tucker in order for Bruce to focus on other projects. When asked how working with James Tucker compared to working with Bruce Timm, Andrea said, “I love working with both of them. I worked with James on Brave and the Bold and many other projects in the past, so I knew him. Bruce and James have very much the same mindset on the way they think things need to be depicted, and the way they want it to look and sound. It’s kind of a seamless transition. James is great. I love both of them.”

Andrea walked me through the production time line for a project. She explained, “There’s lots of time limits. The script is written. Then I do casting and voice directing. Everything then takes its cue from there, so if I’m late, everyone else is late, and that’s not good. We have to deliver by a certain date. Even though we might deliver this now to Warner Home Video, it may not release for another six months, but we still have to deliver it. And if we don’t deliver it, we’re fined, because they have plans for it. They have to promote it. They have to get footage out there. ┬áIf I’m late, the next step gets late, then the next step. I’m at the end doing the ADR, so I’m impacting my own schedule, because I have less time. And when I use celebrities, trying to get them in to their ADR, I’m working on Saturdays, I’m working on Sundays, I’m working on holidays just trying to get it done so that I can get it in to the mix, so I that I can deliver on time. Production takes about a year and a half to make, start to finish, and then it may sit another six months before it’s actually released.”

In regards to specific casting, Andrea was very high on casting Shemar Moore, from Criminal Minds, to play the part of Cyborg. “There are always actors I watch on television shows or films that I keep a list of, that I want to find a role for.” said Andrea. Shemar was one of them. Andrea went on to say “It’s his first time ever doing voice animation. You would never know it how good he was. Really good.” She shared a funny anecdote about Shemar’s recording session. “It took a lot of screaming in that particular role, because he’s almost killed. If you watched the Emmys…he was doing a couple of interviews; he had worked for me that day. I was like, “Shemar, I hope I haven’t destroyed your voice for the night.” Because he just did all the ADR for him. I was like, “Oh lord, I hope I didn’t wreck you for the night.” But he was good.”

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Andrea also shared a story of voice direction gone bad. “We do so many of these projects simultaneously where we are doing post production on something, casting the next one and recording for one. When I directed this piece, I had forgotten that it’s really the Justice League origin story. When I was directing Alan Tudyk as Superman, I was directing him incorrectly.” How? “I was directing him as playing it kind of the hands on the hips, arms akimbo, secure. But he wasn’t that yet. The character hadn’t grown to that yet. After we animated it and I got the track back, I went, “Oh, I screwed up.” I had to go back in and ADR his first lines of the piece, making him sound more innocent…It was very interesting to make that change because to me, they’ve always existed forever. But it was the origin story. I forgot.”

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When asked if she wonders why Warner won’t release DC animated movies on the big screen, Andrea replied, “I wonder that often.” She said she was happy with the way Batman: Mask of the Phantasm turned out. Andrea elaborated, “When you make something intended for the small screen, if there are flaws, no one is ever going to see it. Of course, when we made that (Phantasm), people didn’t have 56″ flat screen TVs to watch. But you put that on a big, huge feature film screen and (you) see all those flaws. That film did really well in that there were no many flaws that showed up.”

Possibly the greatest thing about talking to Andrea is that you get a real sense of her high energy and enthusiasm for every project. I expect her to be casting Batman, and the other heroes of the DC Universe, long into the future.

Justice League: War will be released on February 14, 2014.