In the AMC hit series Mad Men, actress Christina Hendricks’ character may be just a secretary to some but it’s the leadership she displays in the office that helped her land the role of Lois Lane in the latest DC animated feature All-Star Superman.
“She is a perfect Lois Lane,” said Voice Director for the film, Andrea Romano. “She’s got power and yet she’s very feminine and that’s why I cast her in the first place because watching her work on Mad Men, she’s very feminine, my goodness, very feminine and yet she’s the head of that office, she runs that office.”
“She’s a little more rough around the edges, this Lois Lane than of course the character I play on Mad Men,” said Hendricks, “but they’re both very strong women and very independent and I don’t think they’re so different necessarily. But [this is] definitely more of an adventurous Lois.”
Newsarama recently interviewed Hendricks, Romano and writer of the film, Dwayne McDuffie at the world premier at New York City’s Paley Center last week to find out more about their work on this Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely adapted piece.
“I’d like to see [Hendricks] play lots of other characters,” said Romano. “And I hope she walked away with a good feeling from this and that she will come back and play again.”
Odds are good on that front. Hendricks said she didn’t need any convincing when the producers initially approached her for the role.
“I had never worked in voiceover before so that was already exciting to me and then it was Lois Lane, the crème de la crème of a way to start. As soon as they asked I said absolutely, thank you.”
McDuffie, after seeing the film for the first time, said he was very happy with the performances of his work.
“You know, it’s astonishing. The best thing about working in something like this, my favorite part of the job is writing for actors. I love to see what actors do to the material, I constantly challenge myself to try and create material that they’ll want to perform, that they’ll enjoy performing, that they can bring their enormous talents to.”
Although Hendricks was very happy to take on the role, that didn’t mean it would be easy for her.
“I don’t think you really can prepare,” she said, “I mean, you grow up knowing Lois Lane [your] entire life so there’s something very intimidating about it. So I just tried to do my own take on it, not try to copy anyone else and just you know, be true to the material that was on the page. Hopefully I’m a good Lois Lane.”
Besides the fiery redhead, All-Star Superman also stars James Denton as Superman and Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor. Sam Liu, the director, has worked on several DC animated features like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths as well as The Batman television series.
“The comic is what it is. It’s there and all we can do...you didn’t want to just do something that was just there’s the comic and now it’s moving because it’s a comic about comics,” said McDuffie. “I wanted this to be a movie about Superman and the talents of the actors takes it to another level, they bring another level of verisimilitude and warmth and humor and their ability to deliver lines that are absolutely ridiculous.”
But that was half the fun for Hendricks. “[You’re] making all these noises that this animated character is doing and you’re just standing in this room and you feel sort of foolish at first and then you get really into it,” she said.
“When you read it in a comic book it’s fine but when you say this stuff out loud your brain just goes, ‘Really?’ said McDuffie. “But their ability to just go there and be that person in the moment and just believe it, makes us believe it, brings something that a script can’t do, it’s something that the amazingly talented producers and directors that worked on this, we can’t do that, only an actor can do that and that’s my favorite part.”
Even though Romano has been in this business for years, she says getting the casting right is still difficult.
“I probably approached fifty different people to play Superman over the years. Sometimes they weren’t available, they weren’t interested, they were too busy or in Europe shooting something, they wanted to and we couldn’t work out the money, whatever,” she said. “And then there’s also people who you approach who go, ‘I always wanted to play Superman.’ And they may not ever get the chance to do it on camera, but voiceover-wise, it works. “
But even when you think you’ve found the perfect actor or actress, the challenge is still there.
“In this particular project we may have gone through three or four people before we got to [James] Denton or to Christina Hendricks simply because there’s a wish-list,” she said. “And it gets to be, if they’re available, if they’re interested, if it’s a good match, because our first choice for Lois Lane may not be the best mix with the Superman that we get so you have to sort of balance the whole thing and say who’s going to play well together, who’s going to sound like they live in that same world together? If it’s a romantic episode, we want to make sure they sound like they could be in love, you know, those kinds of things.”
Adapting one of the most critically acclaimed mini-series in recent memory proved to be a happy challenge for McDuffie who said All-Star Superman being a very different type of Superman tale was one of the things that attracted him to the project.
“[I liked] that it wasn’t in continuity, that Grant and Frank could take the story where it was going to go, I thought that was really refreshing,” he said. “I think the thing I liked about it as an old comics fan, the way that it was sort of survey of every era of Superman from 60s Lois gets superpowers stories, to 70s Mr. Action, Jimmy Olsen, those Jimmy Olsen stories where he’d turn into a giant redheaded turtle or...and to take all that weirdness and make it contemporary and make it speak to us now, I liked all of that and really was trying very hard to bring those kinds of feelings.”
Romano also enjoyed that it was an off-the-beaten-track Superman story and that Lois gets a chance to really shine.
“It’s not a typical story and it’s certainly not a slugfest. Not that I didn’t like doing some of the ones I would consider more of a slugfest like Doomsday [but] this has a lot of emotional content I think is accessible more to women because there’s a love story, a real love story,” she said. “There’s this whole experience that Lois gets to walk in his shoes. How cool is that? What woman hasn’t wanted to fly? I mean, that’s my super power, if I could have a super power that’s what I’d want, the ability of flight. And she gets to experience that. So I like that arc of the story, I thought that was really interesting and he speaks very honestly to her about what’s going on. And that’s really nice to see him divulge information to her that he’s been withholding for years and years.
For McDuffie, the source material actually reminded him of why he liked Superman so much growing up.
“I read Superman a lot when I was a kid and had written him a lot in the Justice League series and it had been a while and I had sorta been like, ‘Ah you know, Superman, we’ve seen it, we’ve seen it,’ and that book came out and it was like, ‘No, Superman is still relevant.’ It still has something to say, there’s still a dialogue I guess between American pop-culture, the American culture and this icon and our ideals about our self,” he said. “There’s still more to say and Grant and Frank brought that back and I kind of wanted to pass it along you know, to a larger audience that isn’t steeped in the nuances and complexities of comic books like most of us are.
Although Hendricks herself is not a comic book reader, her husband, actor Geoffrey Arend who was also in attendance, is. Hendricks disclosed that she had not read the graphic novel before reading the script to All-Star Superman.
“This was completely new to me and it was really exciting because I’d never seen these characters...I didn’t know that you could do that in comic books,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t the Superman that I know.’”
“Arend then chimed in, “I told her how important it was though.”
“I get some education at home,” she continued, “but it was completely new to me so it was even more exciting in some ways because it was just such an adventure that I’d never seen these two characters in.”
Speaking of comics, McDuffie said he has no comic work planned for the near future but isn’t ruling it out.
“I would do some in a minute,” he said. “I love comics and whenever I have the opportunity I’ll do them.”
Hendricks is currently in New York shooting a film with Sarah Jessica Parker called I Don’t Know How She Does It but is ready to get back to Mad Men.
“We’ll be starting Season 5 hopefully in the late Spring if all goes, as it usually does, and I can’t wait. And we don’t know what’s going to happen so we’re waiting with baited breath. Don’t know what year it’s gonna be, don’t know what’s gonna happen,” she said.
Any chance we’ll ever see an AMC Mad Men/The Walking Dead crossover?
“What would that be like? Like zombies with cigarettes and martinis? [laughs] That would be amazing,” she said. “We love that show, we love Walking Dead. It’s kind of fun to get to meet some of those actors and we’ve already started campaigning to go on and be zombies for a day.”
Up next for Warner Bros. Animation is Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. It’s being done in the fashion of Batman: Gotham Knight, meaning it will be broken down into a series of separate stories and stars Hendricks’ Mad Men co-star Elisabeth Moss as Arisia and her Firefly cohort Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan. Did Romano realize the cult connection as she was casting both actors?
“I am a huge Firefly fan,” she said. “And as a matter of fact, if you’ll notice, I have, throughout the last ten years, hired almost everybody from that series. I just loved all the acting in it, I loved the show. Joss Whedon has very similar tastes to myself and Bruce Timm and so a lot of his casts from his various different series I’ve used on my shows too.”
And following Emerald Knights comes another adaptation of a hugely popular graphic novel.
“There is Batman: Year One,” said Warner Animation representative Gary Miereanu. “We cannot announce the cast at this time, come to WonderCon and we’ll tell you about the cast but I can say that Christina is in two upcoming movies with one of them.”
Hendricks and several of her actor friends have been involved with superheroes in one way or another as of late, what is it about the genre that makes working in it so appealing?
“Well first of all there’s so many of these projects right now,” she said, “and I mean, it’s like we were saying, these are iconic characters that we’ve all grown up on and I think especially as actors you know, we probably all grew up acting like these characters already. So what an opportunity, it’s so exciting to be able to play an iconic role like that.”