Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest animated movie from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment and in case the title didn’t make it clear, it pairs up the Dark Knight with the Maid of Mischief for an adventure which also throws Nightwing into the mix.
In the movie, a looming global catastrophe forces the two heroes mentioned above to partner with Harley in an adventure full of unexpected twists and turns and stellar action.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Loren Lester, an actor who will be instantly familiar to fans of the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series. It was in that he voiced Nightwing and he’s since lent his voice to everything from The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Batman: Arkham Knight.
However, his most famous role remains Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing and fans were delighted when it was revealed he would finally be reprising the role for this movie. In the interview below, you’ll find Loren’s thoughts on voicing Nightwing again, what to expect from Batman and Harley Quinn, and the future of the hero on the big and small screen.
Batman and Harley Quinn is in cinemas for one night only August 14th, on Digital Download August 15th and on Blu-ray and DVD August 28th. Here’s the trailer:
It was like no time had passed. That’s what so wonderful about working with Bruce [Timm] and Kevin [Conroy]; we picked up right where we left off all those years ago. Whenever I see Kevin – we do a lot of Comic-Cons together, especially over the past year gearing up for this film – it’s like no time has passed.
What was it that specifically appealed to you about the project?
My dream was to return to the role of Nightwing and I was so happy that dream was fulfilled. When they called me, and it was really out of the blue, it was a real surprise. They said, ‘We’re doing a film and we’re re-teaming Batman and Nightwing.’ I was just delighted to read the script and the script was very funny and I looked forward to returning to the role because that was something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
What do you think it is about this movie that will appeal to old and new fans alike?
What’s exciting about the Comic-Con fans is that the people who come up to the table are probably in their twenties or early thirties and they have kids. They both watch [Batman: The Animated Series] together so there’s a tremendous appeal to two generation of people and I think what’s great is that this movie is giving them what they’ve wanted which is to see the show again. It captures the spirit, the look, the feel, the music, the performances, the writing; it completely recaptures what they love about the show which now has two generations of fans.
What is it do you think that makes Batman: The Animated Series so beloved by fans even all these years later?
At the time, I had done what we would call “cartoons.” This was not a cartoon, it was really like doing a mini feature film each week because the writing would explore the psychology of the characters. It wasn’t simply that they were superheroes on adventures fighting bad guys. That was a big part of the plot, sure, but they also took the time to explore the backstory and psychology and people really appreciated that. They really saw the characters as flesh and blood people they could believe in the way they would believe in a film character or one from a good on camera TV show.
Nightwing has a very interesting relationship with Harley Quinn in the movie including a fight scene and even a little romance. Can you take us through what it was like to work on those?
I think Nightwing finally having a romance is great. That was something that never got to happen in the original series so that makes him much more of a real person. Being a young guy, he would be having a romance – even with a bad girl! [Laughs] He’s a good guy with a bad girl! We actually do recreate the movements to a certain extent with the fight scenes. You can’t do it too much as you’ll go off mic and then it won’t be recorded properly but if it’s a punch, I am throwing a punch and if it’s a kick, I am throwing a kick. If it’s a shot to the gut, I’ll try to collapse into it the way you would be if you were actually punched. We are acting that out; it doesn’t sound right if you just stand there making the noises. It doesn’t sound real. That’s the really taxing part about doing interactive games. When you get to the point where you’re in a fight, there are so many outcomes and variations of a fight that you’ll find yourself doing it for a long time and it’s pretty exhausting.
In terms of the work that goes into voicing an animated character like Nightwing, has the process changed in any way since you were first cast as Robin?
Technology wise, nothing had changed on my side of the microphone. What they’re doing on the other side I’m not really familiar with. That’s not my area of expertise but being in a recording studio is really no different to what it was twenty, thirty years ago. That’s the technology part of your question but as far as falling into the character again, it was immediate. We did a sound check and I did the voice on the microphone and they said, ‘That’s great, Nightwing’s back!” and we rolled.
You’ve made the transition from Robin to Nightwing but what do you think would be fun about voicing Dick if he were to suit up as Batman as he does in the comic books?
That’s one of my dreams you’ve hit on there. I think if they turned Knightfall into an animated series and explored that whole transition, that would be fantastic. I think he becomes Batman in a parallel storyline. To have him evolving into Batman while there’s still The Batman, the Bruce Wayne Batman, I think that would create a lot of dramatic tension. That’s what was so good about the last few episodes of the original series as there was a lot of dramatic tension between Batman and Nightwing. In the new movie, they’re partners, although [Laughs] there’s a certain point where he’s chastised by Batman and he does feel kind of like a kid again. For the most part, they’re partners but it would be great to have a Nightwing as Batman alongside a Bruce Wayne as Batman to see what would happen. That would be fun.
Have you heard anything about potentially reprising the role in the near future?
No, actors are the last to know about these things so if there’s anything going on behind the scenes…well, I’m hoping there is because if this movie is a big success and I think it’s going to be, that always breed more episodes or films. The thing is, and I hope Warner Bros. and DC know this (and I’m sure they do because they probably follow social media), the fans of the show have been yearning for this for decades. They want to see the show again and I’m sure they don’t want to just see it in one film. Hopefully, the powers that be are listening to the fans because they’ve been coming up to me for years and saying ‘When are you and Kevin going to be Batman and Nightwing again?’ My answer has always been, ‘I don’t know!’ [Laughs]
What do you think about fan-favourite characters like Nightwing and Harley Quinn getting the spotlight here just as much as Batman?
With the cosplay people at the conventions, every few people you see there are Nightwings and Harley Quinn. So, as characters, they’re immensely popular. Huge! I’m really glad that they have included them in this film because they are really popular.
A live-action Nightwing movie is in the works from The LEGO Batman Movie director Chris McKay; what do you hope to see from that film?
I don’t really like to comment on other people’s work. I hope it’s in the spirit of the comics. I think the TV show and this film have really been true to the character that was created in the comics and that’s the character everybody loves so I’m hoping they will do that in the live-action film. With the live-action Nightwing movie, I suppose they are eventually going to put it together and figure out how to make it, so when they do, it will perhaps spawn an interest again in an animated series as far as Warner Bros. or DC are concerned as I think it would be wonderful to see a Nightwing series. They originally talked about that when they were talking about a spinoff years ago but it didn’t happen. They were talking about a Catwoman spinoff and a Nightwing spinoff and those never happened so now is the time for that, especially if a Nightwing movie is going to come out and be successful.
Were you disappointed when that Nightwing series didn’t happen?
Absolutely. Or even just to have more episodes. I always felt that the original show ended too soon. I would love to do a Nightwing solo show and when you’re doing a series as opposed to doing a one off movie, you can really explore things like the psychology and humanity of each person more as you have so many more opportunities and bites of the apple to do that when you’re in a series.
Are there any other Nightwing storylines you would like to explore as an actor at some point in the future?
You hit upon this, but I think seeing Nightwing have a romance would be a wonderful thing and a great opportunity for tension and heartbreak. It’s great when James Bond has a romance and they allow him to explore that instead of just being a ladykiller. I love those moments in the James Bond movies so hopefully, they will do that with Nightwing.
How does it feel to be looked at as the definitive Nightwing by fans?
It’s such an honour when people say that and I do hear that a lot. I’ve become friends with people like Kyle Higgins, who wrote the Nightwing comic books and he said when he was writing it, he heard my voice in his head. People come up to me at conventions and say, ‘Even when I see other Nightwing actors, I’m still hearing your voice.’ That’s really an honour and I know they tell Kevin the same thing; that he’s the only Batman for them and I’m the only Dick Grayson for them. This is really giving them something they’ve been asking for for a long, long time. It’s been decades now and not only are the parents asking for this but the kids are too. That shows they can watch and enjoy it together. Hopefully, this is the beginning of more.
What would you say to those fans about why they should watch Batman and Harley Quinn and getting to see you as Nightwing again?
I would say, if you enjoyed the original show you will be so happy to see that the spirit, look, and voices are all back together as if no time has passed. I think they will really enjoy seeing a brand new, original story because they’ve all seen the episodes how many countless times and they tell me they’ve watched them over, over, and over again. Now, here’s an original story after all this time! I have a feeling it’s going to be really well received. I can’t wait to hear an audience’s reaction to it at Comic-Con.