Interview: Troy Baker on Playing Joker in Batman: The Long Halloween

Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 is now available digitally and on Blu-ray, which wraps up DC’s animated adaptation of the iconic Batman story. Written by Tim Sheridan and directed by Chris Palmer, the films feature a star-studded voice cast that includes Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, the late Naya Rivera, Troy Baker, Billy Burke, Fred Tatasciore, and more.

RELATED: David Dastmalchian on Voicing Calendar Man in Batman: The Long Halloween

“Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 continues as the Holiday Killer is still at large and, with Bruce Wayne under the spell of the venomous Poison Ivy, Batman is nowhere to be found,” says the official synopsis. “Liberated by an unlikely ally, Bruce quickly uncovers the real culprit: Poison Ivy’s employer Carmine Falcone. The Roman, his ranks decimated by Holiday and his business spinning out of control, has been forced to bring on less desirable partners – Gotham City’s rogues’ gallery … Ultimately, the Dark Knight must put together the tragic pieces that converged to create Two-Face, the Holiday Killer, Batman, and Gotham City itself.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Troy Baker, who voices the Joker about what the role meant to him, his past in voicing anime, and what the future holds for his career.

Tyler Treese: The Long Halloween is such an iconic Batman story. Just as a Batman fan yourself, how excited were you to be part of this film and in such a key role?

Troy Baker: Man, I was just saying to a colleague right before this. I’m sitting here looking and I’ve got the Stacked Deck right here, Killing Joke, I’m looking at all my different graphic novels that I have. Batman, specifically, to me is a very unique character. And this is by no means a disparagement upon any other superhero either in the cinematic realm or in the graphic novel realm or in the video game realm. But Batman, to me, is this something that clearly after almost a century, there’s always something that I can learn about him. When somebody goes, “We’re going to do an origin story,” we’re like yeah, yeah, yeah, Crime Alley. You can never get tired of hearing that story, but in Long Halloween it’s really, as we learned, year one. Let’s find out what happens when Bruce decides to become Batman; not when he’s made to be Batman, but when he becomes Batman. And what I love about Long Halloween is it advances that story and says, now he’s Batman, then what?

You think you’ve got a handle on it. And one of my favorite lines in this was not one of mine, honestly. And it was one that I really struggled with at first. And it’s a real credit to Jensen and his performance because he made me wrestle with it. And then he made me realize it’s true. And it’s not a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen this, which you absolutely should. But when he says, “I never knew that I would have to become a detective.” And I’m like, I was like, “Wait a minute!” Like I literally pressed pause and was like, “Hold on a second. It’s Batman, world’s greatest detective. Like he’s Sherlock Holmes in black. This is what he’s supposed to be.” And I realized in this is that he had to become that. And that, to me, makes it even more of a compelling story.

So being able to watch the evolution, not the origin, but the evolution of this character and how that then dispenses to all the other characters that he meets in here. And we cover a lot of ground. It’s one of the reasons why we had to do two parts. It’s because there’s so much story to tell because there’s so much character packed into that story. You’ve got Harvey Dent, you’ve got Calendar Man. You’ve got how the Joker plays into this. And the Joker fits into this story specifically in a very unique way, because normally it’s always the ticking time bomb going down to Joker, right? And this way he’s on the sidelines parallel with Batman going, “Isn’t this weird? Isn’t this funny? This is different.” That to me is a really, really fun position from which to play.

RELATED: Writer Tim Sheridan Explains How He Adapted Batman: The Long Halloween Into Two Films

Joker’s such a versatile character, too. You’ve been able to play many incarnations of him. How would you compare this Joker to the one you played in Arkham Origins or Batman Unlimited?

Hopefully, if I’m doing my job right, every iteration — which is a great word — of this character should in some ways feel new, fresh, original, insightful, unique, but never feel as if it isn’t the same character, right? Like even looking at Geoff Johns in Earth One.

So that was where they went, “Let’s completely flip the script on canonical characters and truths. How far can we bend this before it breaks?” And I feel like if we’re not doing that on every one of these, what’s the point of adapting it? Like Long Halloween is a graphic novel and does not need our help in being a great story. It doesn’t need our help to be a beautiful, artistic depiction of these characters in the story. So we have to inherently do something different. So I think that whenever you’re adapting something from one medium to another, it should go through a process of iteration, but it should still always pull you back into source material. I think that we all did a really, really good job like Titus Welliver when you hear him, it’s like, “Of course, he’s going to play Falcone. Of course, that’s who you get.” But then you look at Billy Burke and you go, “That’s the last person I would think to play Gordon.” And he knocks it out of the park. Jensen Ackles is same way. I would not think to hire Jensen Ackles to play Batman. But the second that you hear him, especially where we find the character in this story, it makes perfect sense.

The Joker Troy Baker interview

Jensen is fantastic in this role. How was it like playing the foil to him and working with him? He’s such a big name coming up in Hollywood and you’re right there with him here in this film.

First of all, you use the exact word that I used earlier. The Joker always plays an antagonist to Batman. But for him to play the foil is a flip. So speaking to your earlier point, as far as there being a different iteration, that’s a perfect example of that. Here’s what I love about Jensen: He proved himself as an actor in the booth and it’s not like he can do just one thing. This is someone who is clearly versatile. You used that word earlier for Joker. And I would apply that same word to Jensen; that he is a versatile actor. Secondly, you get him outside of the booth and he’s just a dude. And he’s a great hang. Like he’s just a guy.

It’s so apparent that he has an affinity for this character. And that he approached his character, not as a job, but as an opportunity. And he really threw every bit of experience which he has, talent which he has, and passion, which he has an abundance of as well, towards this role. Jack Quaid was the same way. Jack was flipping out that he got to be in something like this. So everybody that was approaching this top, down, left to right was doing this as a passion project.

RELATED: Interview: Josh Duhamel on Playing Two-Face in Batman: The Long Halloween

Watching your career has been so incredible because I came in hearing you do a bunch of anime. You voiced Gin in the Case Closed dub and Detective Conan is my favorite show. I would love to hear if you have any memories from that.

Oh man. Absolutely. So Chris Sabat brings me in, he goes like, “Hey man, I’m going to have you play the main bad guy in this new show, Detective Conan. This guy gets shrunk down to a kid, and you’re the guy that does it.” I was like, “Oh, that’s awesome. I get to play the main bad guy.” Right here you see the progenitor of me, as an actor going, “I love playing bad guys. Like maybe at some point, this will point to me playing the Joker. Who knows, right?” Because that’s always been a goal of mine, and he goes, I have three lines in that episode. I say, “Sweet dreams, detective,” and you never see me again. So that thing did a number on me. I was like, “Wait a minute. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.” And then I remembered Dr. Claw. I’m like, “Oh, of course. The bad guy gets the least amount of screen time ever.”

So you always want to be the good guy, but the most fun for me is still playing bad guys. And again, we’re all heroes of our own story and I firmly believe that Joker feels like he, even in this story, that what he’s doing is genuinely trying to help. He loves chaos, of course, but only because he believes that that is the path to freedom. It’s not like he’s twirling his mustache and intentionally being evil. He’s wanting to help Batman understand even early on by saying, “You don’t know how this is going to go. You already see the chaos. Let me help you out.”

Troy Baker Interview

You’re such a talented actor, but in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, you were also the performance capture director. Is doing more behind the scenes work something that appeals you?

Absolutely, I am, at my core, a storyteller. It’s all I want to do. I believe that we are genetically predisposed to be storytellers. It’s why we drew on cave walls and it’s why we created language. It’s why we created art. It’s because we’re trying to tell our story. It’s the reason why Bob Kane sat down and even created this character. It’s because he wanted to show a new version of a hero that was fragile and vulnerable and broken and how he could rise from tragedy to triumph. It’s the same reason why we created the gods to tell the same stories. I am a storyteller. Whenever someone gives me an opportunity to tell a story, I want to see how best can I tell that specific story. Is it me as an actor? Or is it maybe me as a director and saying that I feel like I have a unique perspective on this and what I want to do is help other people inside that to tell their story? So yeah, directing is 100% something that I have a proclivity for. I have an enjoyment for it. I’ve been given the opportunity to do it several times now and I’m looking for more opportunities to do in the future.

It was so exciting for anime fans to see you voice Baki and there’s another Baki anime coming to Netflix soon. Are you involved in that?

Baki’s story, as I understand, could continue. I can tell you that. It’s always great to revisit my roots. Again, this all started as a 13-year-old kid who rushed home every day to watch Batman: The Animated Series and fell in love with Kevin Conroy’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s Joker. And from there, I said, “Maybe I can do that.” So whenever I get to return to my roots and anime is definitely how I cut my teeth in this business, whenever I get the opportunity to return to that, it’s just like slipping into that familiarity, just like it was being Joker in this movie.

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