Justice League Action has the word action in the title for a reason, according to Jason J. Lewis, the voice actor who plays Superman and describes the new animated series as "fast-paced fun."
The show, which premieres tonight at 6pm Eastern with a one-hour special on Cartoon Network, features Lewis along with fan-favorite actor Kevin Conroy as Batman and Rachel Kimsey as Wonder Woman. But the show will feature over 100 other DC characters during its first season, which (after tonight premiere) will air on Saturday mornings beginning Christmas Eve.
Lewis, who also voices dozens of other characters during the course of the series, said he tried to bring some unique aspects to Clark Kent, not only pointing out the script's more humorous moments, but also mentioning that he too is adopted and wanted to bring that experience to the role.
The series is the latest Cartoon Network attempt to bring the DCU to an ongoing show, with previous efforts including Young Justice, Beware the Batman and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. This new approach has been described as a more kid-friendly approach, which makes sense for its Saturday morning timeslot, but also features well-known DC voice actors.
Besides the beloved Conroy as Batman, the show also returns fan-favorites and familiar names like Mark Hamill as The Joker, James Woods as Lex Luthor and Diedrich Bader as Booster Gold.
Newsarama talked to Lewis about playing Superman, why he ended up providing the voices for so many other DC characters in the show, and what readers can expect overall from Justice League Action.
Newsarama: Jason, you're providing the voice of Superman. That's got to be exciting, and yet a little bit daunting, when you consider all the people who have played this role. What was it like for you approaching this role?
Jason J. Lewis: Well, first of all, I totally agree. It's the most humbling experience ever to take on the… mantle of this character, that's really what it is.
But yeah, for me, I guess my approach to the character was, how am I going to bring something new to this character that is so well-established and loved and played by so many great people.
I think what I was trying to draw on, really, was my own experience being adopted myself. Even though I'm not from an alien planet obviously, I feel like there's a certain amount of kinship that I feel with Clark and his experience. You see it a lot in the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, where he feels a little more like an outcast in high school. And his greatness, as powerful as he is, he still had to take on that role to hide who he was.
So I wanted to bring a little more of that vulnerability to him, and also the sense of fun that he got from being a Kansas farm boy. I think there's a lot of things he got from Jonathan and Martha Kent that were instilled in him. He even talks about it in one of the episodes. You know, "Dad taught me these great things" and now he's able to fight Steppenwolf.
So it's really exciting to take on that aspect of the character.
But the show itself — the scripts are so fun and so fast-paced that what you get in this impression of Superman is the sense that he takes what he does seriously, and he takes saving the Earth seriously, but he doesn't take himself that seriously and he's able to kind of have a wink and smile with what he does. And I really enjoyed that. It was fun to see that aspect of him.
Nrama: You mention humor and the fast pace. Is that what makes Justice League Action unique among all the superhero stories that have been done over the years, particularly those including Clark?
Lewis: The show itself is going to have so many different characters from the DC Universe. I think it was said there's 152 different characters. I didn't even know there were that many.
All the episodes we were doing, there was always someone different involved with the Justice League. And whether Superman was at the forefront of that story or not, it was always he was kind of there as a presence.
We also see him kind of mentoring some of the younger members they're bringing into the Justice League. There are some great episodes focused on him and his powers, but there there's also this sense that he's Superman as mentor for some of the younger members because the younger members are what keep this show silly and filled with fast-paced fun. The older members keep a little of the gravitas there, so we have a nice balance between all the characters involved in the storylines.
But I see Superman taking on that role quite a bit in this show. And I think that's fun for people, because he is the guy that you want to look up to. He's a little different from other heroes in the sense that, while he's relatable, I think he's the character you want to believe in, not just relate to. And so I think that we see that come about quite a bit in what happens in the episodes with him.
Nrama: How much did you get to work directly with the other voice actors?
Lewis: Most of our sessions were together, as together as they could be. All the actors have different schedules going on, but most of the time we'd have 80 percent of the cast there — particularly Kevin as Batman and Rachel Kimsey as Wonder Woman, who's fantastic. You guys are going to love her as well.
I'll tell you, the first time I was in the booth with Kevin, I'd been watching Batman: The Animated Series since I was 15 years old, and it was hard not to fanboy and focus on my job because he's such a legend. And he's such a gentleman too. He's so kind and wonderful and welcoming to the new people like me and Rachel to the show.
Nrama: You voice other characters in the show, right?
Lewis: Yeah, when I first came on board, the director had heard several of my auditions for the different characters and saw that I had a lot of range. And he said, "I think it would be fun to give you some opportunities." And I said, "Please give me opportunities to have fun and play with different characters!"
Boy, I'll tell you, he sure did. I would come in almost every week, and he's like, "We're going to have you do this character." And every time, it was something wildly different. And that was so much fun.
You know, Superman's more of the straight character, more of the heroic character. But I'm used to playing sillier characters, and in a lot of my credits, you'll see that I'm all over the place.
But it was a lot of fun for me to stretch that part of my talent as well.
Nrama: You mentioned that there are over a hundred characters from the DC Universe. What do you think is unique about the DC Universe?
Lewis: I think what's really great, and what fans and people are going to see when they watch this show, is that, although the cinematic universe has its own take on these characters and I think it's well and good and has its place, what you'll see in this show is a lot more fun from these characters.
They're at their best. They're in their element in this show. This show is called Justice League Action, so we come into these stories right when they're going to be called upon to bring out their strongest parts of themselves.
What's going to be fun for people is that — where in the cinematic universe, you get a lot of great character-building and storytelling and things like that — in this show, we already know who these characters are. So we'll have fun seeing them do what they do best, which is work together to defend the Earth. And it's a lot of fun.