Hawkeye and Black Widow have a lot in common — they've both got checkered pasts, they both are non-powered superheroes standing with gods and monsters, and they were both featured in last year's Avengers live-action film.
They're also both making the jump to the animated Avengers Assemble TV series, which sees its season start this Sunday on Disney XD, following a Memorial Day weekend sneak preview. The show is meant to echo much of the dynamic that made the movie a billion-dollar success, and with that comes the a strong bond between Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff.
In our final interview from a recent press day in Burbank, Calif, Newsarama talked with veteran voice actors Troy Baker and Laura Bailey about playing Hawkeye and Black Widow, respectively, and how the source material has influenced their portrayals.
Newsarama: Laura, Troy, obviously Hawkeye and Black Widow have an important history together in the comics as well as the movies, and it looks like that's continuing out into Avengers Assemble. How would you describe their dynamic at the start of the series?
Troy Baker: Obviously the banter back and forth is one thing, but also this kind of jousting match that Black Widow and Hawkeye can get into, as far as trying to one-up each other all the time, and who actually is more skilled. Because they're amongst all these superheroes, and they're just…
Laura Bailey: And they're just people. That are just really, really talented, and really smart.
Barker: They're badasses.
Nrama: Part of the point of Avengers Assemble is capturing some of what was successful in the live-action movie, but it's not going to replicate it exactly, and that same balance must extend to your vocal performances. What's the approach there?
Baker: A lot of that starts with the writers. What [executive producer team Man of Action] have been doing is bridging the gap between the movie. "Remember this in the movie?"
Bailey: "Touch on that, and keep growing."
Baker: What I think Jeremy did in the movies was pulling more from the mythos of Clint Barton as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And what the show is allowing me to do is show a different side of him, which is more Hawkeye as an Avenger.
Bailey: Scarlett Johansson really had a humanity about her in the role of Black Widow. You got to see that she was really tough and she could handle her own, but there was also a fragility to her that made her seem approachable. We want to have that in the show, but also play up the fact that she can really stand with these guys, and hold her own. Put them in their place. Sometimes save their butts, because they might need it.
Nrama: Black Widow and Hawkeye are among the more down to Earth on the show, especially compared to ones like Thor and Hulk. Does that make it maybe a little more natural to slip into these characters?
Baker: From a performance standpoint, everybody involved really doesn't want this to be too broad. The action plays so much of the part of making this more fantastical, that really we just have to simply show up. And it's written very well. These are natural conversations. We kind of have a shorthand with each other too, so we know how to play to each other's strengths.
Bailey: So much of the show is based on character interactions and development that, honestly, that's the main part of the show and the action that happens around that is based on — OK, this is an episode that we're really going to delve into Black Widow and Hawkeye's storyline, or Thor and Hulk together — and what comes from that, what action is caused by that, and what kind of villains would they take on together, and really grow as characters
Nrama: Let's talk about the individual parts that you're playing. Laura, as the only female full-time Avenger on the show, which must be something of a responsibility. What's that aspect like for you?
Bailey: Well, it's awesome, number one. It's a hard line because so often in animated series, because so many comic book shows are geared towards boys — I always watched them growing up; I was always a huge fan of G.I. Joe, and Thundercats, the X-Men series and everything — that I appreciate having a strong female character in there that can hold her own, without necessarily being the designated "mom" character. That she can jump in and be one of the guys, and being a woman is not part of it. I'm also an awesome agent of S.H.I.E.LD.
Baker: It's kind of fighting that whole "women in the fridge" trope. I think specifically the way that Laura's doing it, there's nothing that's oversexualized, there's nothing that overvictimized about Black Widow. Gender aside, it's the character of who she is that really shines through. And that's something that really speaks to her ability of play the role.
Nrama: As far as Hawkeye, though it's not something that was seen in the film too much, traditionally in the comics, he can be kind of a jokester at times, a bit of comedic relief. How much have you been working with that element? And how much have you enjoyed it?
Baker: It became pretty evident. We went back to that first episode and really kind of retooled it. Once we got into the second, third and forth episodes we kind of saw, "OK, this is how it's going to play out." Why don't we shift a lot of this cocky, snarky stuff over to Hawkeye? It really, really works.
Bailey: It does. You play that so well.
Baker: It's just fun to do.
Nrama: Have you been reading the current Hawkeye comic book series?
Baker: I actually have it on my iPad, and I love it. Absolutely love it.
I was a huge fan of the Ultimates, and especially what they did with Hawkeye in that.
Nrama: Like ripping off his fingernails and using them as weapons.
Bailey: Yeah, that's what we were talking about!
Baker: It's so great! And that's when I fell in love with Hawkeye. Because before, I just saw him as the archer in purple. This is really showing there's a man behind that mask, and who Clint Barton is.
Bailey: [Sarcastically.] Really, his snarkiniess is a defense mechanism.
Baker: That's exactly what I was going to say! Not too close, Natasha.