Battle of The Super Sons: Travis Willingham on Playing Superman
ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with voice actor Travis Willingham, who voices Clark Kent/Superman batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. Willingham discussed his long-standing love of Superman and his work on One Piece. The film is now available on4K, Blu-ray, and digital.
Ahhhh, to be young and charged with saving the world from impending doom! That s the burden that 11-year-old Jonathan Kent and reluctant young sidekick Damian Wayne face in this all-new DC Animated Movie reads the film s official synopsis.
On his birthday, Jonathan Kent learns his dad is Superman and that he has latent superpowers of his own! He also meets the legendary Dark Knight and current Boy Wonder, Damian. But when the two boys are forced to team up to protect their loved ones from a hostile alien force, will they become the Super Sons they’re destined to be?
Spencer Legacy: This is such an interesting version of Superman, as his role as a father and being absent at times really weighs on him and that’s all at the forefront. What drew you to this script?
I mean, you nailed it. Exactly. I’ve been a Superman fan for decades now, but when Wes Gleason, the voice director, told us about the project; first, he said, “Hey, you and your buddy Troy Baker” — a great friend of mine, he’s a huge Batman fan, and I’m a huge Superman fan — he said, “You guys are going to play Batman and Superman.”
And we thought that was the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. But they also said, “But it’s you guys and your sons. So Batman and Damian and Superman and Lois with Jon Kent, as their kids save them and the world. That’s what the focus of the story is going to be.” That was really special to us.
Not just because we were able to play these characters that we’ve loved for decades, but as new parents ourselves, both with sons that are about four years old now, and they play together on the weekends. So It was really special for us to be able to tap into that and draw from that as parents and fans. So it was pretty special in that regard.
It has to be cool acting alongside your wife, but here you’re even married in the film since she’s Lois Lane. What did that mean for you?
It was just great. I mean, nobody is a bigger fan of Laura Bailey than I am, right? I frequently come home and geek out over her work, and I’m sure that’s a little bit weird, but whether it’s her work as Lois, or in The Last of User any of the other things that she does, I come home and fanboy on her sometimes and she just rolls her eyes.
It was really great, in this film, to be able to play opposite of her, but also to dip into a little bit of what we go through as parents. There’s that concern there, but there’s also the playful ribbing back and forth of maybe one parent being more concerned about something than the other one is and the other having to catch up. That chemistry is certainly evident there in the film, and it was just a lot of fun for us to play.
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You played Superman in some Lego games, but this is a much more vocal role. How was it finding your Superman’s voice?
It was an interesting moment. I’ve had the chance, after the Lego projects, to be able to play Superior Man in Superman: Red Son, who’s a genetic copy of Superman. That’s the closest I had been to before, but it’s also a very stilted performance, as it’s Superior Man before he turns into a version of Bizarro, almost.
So as we started this one … Wes Gleason, our voice director, is so great at just cutting right to it, and he knows the high regard I hold Superman in. He said, “Hey, buddy, whatever you do, just give us your normal voice. Let us hear you. You don’t need to be Superman, just let me hear you talking to your wife, and let me hear you talking to your son, and I think that’ll get us there.”
And he was right. It was the thing that worked the best. I think when you first start recording a character like Superman, it’s natural for any actor to want to immediately put their hands on their hips and puff their chest out and start talking in a larger-than-life voice. That lasts for about two minutes. Then you settle down and just get to who really is on the inside of those characters, and Wes is fantastic about getting it there.
Starro’s a fun villain in the film, and it allows you to show off a possessed and more sinister version of Superman. How fun was that dynamic to implement into your performance?
It was a lot of fun. We call it light Superman and dark Superman. It’s nice being very gentle with Jon Kent and those really touching scenes in the barn and at the farm.
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Then there’s a different side of Superman as he’s going back and forth with Lois, as they’re married now, which certainly has a different tone to it as well. But when he’s been taken over by Starro and is being more forceful and flat and cold with Damian and Jon, that’s also fun to play as well.
You can only imagine having your father, the most powerful superhero in the world, all of a sudden being taken over by a malevolent entity and how daunting that could be. So it was fun playing all those different levels of a character.
You got your start working on anime and you did an amazing job voicing Ace in One Piece. With the series continuing to grow and hit milestones, what has that role meant to you, looking back on it?
It’s an incredible thing to be able to play some of these characters for as long as I have an Ace certainly has spanned a number of years now.
One Pieces is such an incredible series with an incredible international following. I feel lucky just to be able to lend a voice to a version of that character and to be able to play such an incredible storyline. I think Ace and Luffy’s relationship is so cool. I’m excited to come back every time there’s a new version of it.
You also worked on Shin-chan. We don’t see that kind of localization as much now, where there are a ton of new jokes added in, but it seems like the atmosphere was really fun for the show. Was everyone having a blast while recording?
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Oh, Shin-chan was just an absolute nuthouse. They had such an amazing time adapting those scripts. Zach Bolton [ADR Director] and Laura Bailey were obviously immensely involved in that process.
It was just a riot from start to finish. Every time we went in for an episode, you never knew what was going to be said, which was such a fun thing to record. I wish they would do that with more shows, but I frequently tell Laura that Shin is probably one of my top three favorite performances from her.
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