Wondercon Exclusive Interview: Troy Baker and Cas Anvar on ‘Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

Image Courtesy Warner Brothers

The crossover event uniting Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Gotham City premiered at WonderCon in Anaheim to positive reviews.  This full length animated movie was inspired by the success of the comic miniseries that debuted in 2016.  It features Troy Baker playing both Batman and the Joker, which is a first for a single production.

Nerds and Beyond attended the press round table at Wondercon with Troy Baker (Batman, Joker) and Cas Anvar (Ra’s al Ghul). Baker is a prolific and acclaimed voice actor of video games and animated television and movies. Anvar is an actor, voice actor, and writer, currently appearing as Alex Kamal on the beloved Amazon Prime scifi series The Expanse.

Baker and Anvar took questions and interviewed each other in a friendly session where they talked about how Batman blends with TMNT.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full video, including Baker’s impromptu De Niro and Pacino impressions and the debate over the pronunciation of R’as al Ghul, watch it on the Nerds and Beyond Youtube channel. 

Q. How trippy is it to voice both Batman and Joker in the same movie?

Baker: Come on, that sentence right there is trippy enough…I always feel like they’re going to recast me. Like this is glorified scratch track and they’re going to be like ‘Ah we tried it with Troy. And then you start realizing, oh I’m being an arrogant pompous ass thinking that my performance can bring down something as awesome as Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s a good concept, you know?

And the first time I watched that Shredder fight, I was like that is exactly what I want to see with comic books…we can’t really talk about this but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the first hero movie where I was like ‘that’s a comic book come to life’, and that Shredder fight in the beginning, I could see it as the panels just like popping out into life.

(Baker turns to Anvar)

And you’re one of my favorite characters dude.

Anvar: I’ve been loving this character for decades. Ever since Batman Begins, ever since Liam Neeson kicks this guy’s ass I was in love with this character. I’ve been collecting comics since I was a kid and just the idea of a character that is centuries old, that has all this experience, all this knowledge from the masses of humanity, like a vampire. He’s been living year after year after year watching empires rise and fall, that’s an incredible character to be able to portray–someone who is so methodical and so focused on one mission and he’s not necessarily wrong-

Baker: No.

Anvar: Batman and him are not necessarily going for different things. It’s just Ra’s is willing to do whatever it takes. The other comic book company has a similar dichotomy between Professor X and Magneto.

Baker: The other comic book company (laughs). That which shall not be named at this particular table. I’ve always looked at Batman and Ra’s al Ghul as Holmes and Moriarty. We just happen to be on opposite sides of this but it’s like that scene in heat where Pacino and De Niro sit down across from each other–

Anvar: I love that scene. We could do this because we’re really on the same side, you just happen to have a badge and I don’t.

Baker: That’s a great scene.

Anvar: Great scene.

Q. When you were doing Batman and the Joker, did you do them separately or did you talk to yourself?

Baker: I mean you’re gonna see in the movie how that plays out, but…a writer sits down and they’re like, this is how I see this whole thing playing out. I believe my job is to meet them where they’re at, as opposed to them having to adjust themselves to what I feel comfortable with. Look, I can control the tea and I can control the temperature of the room, but ultimately, that script is bigger than all of us. So I like to do it as they’ve laid it out. Even if a lot of times it’s like ‘so we’ve got this big fight at the very beginning’, let’s go, let’s do it, let’s get into it. And there are two fights in the beginning (of Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) so I kinda bit off a little bit more than I could chew. But to me that feels more true to the performance. If Batman is exhausted after a fight, then let’s not fake being exhausted… I sweat. I’ve watched Mark (Hamill) do Joker before and it’s just effortless, it’s not fair. He’s too good at it. And whenever I do Joker I literally (wheezes). I left that session like, I don’t know if I can talk for a while. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. And you leave and you’re sweating and ..

Anvar: I know what you’re talking about. Ra’s doesn’t exert a lot effort in his fights because he’s just a bad ass ninja but I’ve done plenty of voice sessions where at the end you’re sweating, and you’re actually sore from the imaginary blows you’ve received. In real life do you talk to yourself?

Baker: Dude. This is what’s so funny. Gary and Mariana are the ones that dreamt up this stupid idea that put me as two character in one movie and they did it because they know that I do this when cameras aren’t rolling and no mics are in play. This is what we do as actors. We are crazy people, walking around with these crazy characters in our heads. We’re just waiting for someone to give us an opportunity just to get them out just to give us the proper catharsis so we can have this shared experience.

Q. Does Ra’s al Ghul see Shredder as a worthy enemy that he can maybe pass the mantle to?

Anvar: Shredder??! You’re talking about a man that has been alive for centuries. This man does not suffer fools. And Shredder can get things done in his own way, but Ra’s likes be in charge and he likes the people to be at least mentally stable.  I don’t know if Ra’s would view Shredder as particularly competent. Once he can handle amphibians, then maybe.

Q. What is Ras’s relationship with his grandson in this movie?

Anvar: That’s a good question. I don’t think that’s actually broached in this movie. He’s got big things to do, Ra’s has a lot on his plate. This movie is really an homage to the fans. The creators, the writer, the director, the producers, are all huge fans and geeks and nerds themselves, and what they’ve tried to do with this project, in addition to just telling an amazing and fun story, is to give the fans of both franchises something to really sink their teeth into, also to bring some nudges and nods to the histories of both DC and the TMNT fandom. Also, Batman and Ra’s is a very dark part of a comic book franchise, and the Turtles, I mean it’s a completely different tone. So we’re blending these two tones and they manage to do it really brilliantly. So you’re going to get to see a lot of tongue in cheek, dark humor …that you might not have normally seen. Because we have to deal with these turtles.

Baker: What surprised me is how you could have this super super dark moment, and then it feels completely endemic to the franchise for Michelangelo to just say something stupid and off the cuff.  We’re blending tones and we’re crossing lines…It’s in the title, it’s Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It feels kinda like a fever dream, so you buy into the craziness from the very beginning. But it does manage to have that ‘I believe this as a Batman story, and I also believe it as a turtle story.’

See Baker and Anvar battle it out in Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on digital May 14 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack on June 4.

 

Rebekah

Rebekah Rodriguez-Lynn is a Chicana writer, activist, and geek. Her lesbian fiction short story Holding Out for a Hero was included in the anthology Fandom to Fantasy. Her work has also appeared in The Establishment, The Huffington Post, and The Geeky Girls' Guide to Life. When not at work, Rebekah can be found at nerd conventions or on her couch rewatching Buffy. Rebekah lives in Southern California with her son and her rescue pups Cordelia Chase and Sammy Winchester. Find her work at rebekahrodriguezlynn.com, and on twitter @rmaxlynn.

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