Diedrich Bader has the distinction of working on four different Batman cartoons as both heroes and villains. He now is doing Batman: The Brave and the Bold voicing the Dark Knight himself.
The voiceover actor has also done roles in such animated features as Ice Age, The Simpson’s, Surf’s Up and on several TV shows, including King of the Hill, The Simpson’s and Hercules.
He’s appeared onscreen as well in popular TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Frasier, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Quantum Leap.
I spoke with Diedrich when the TV Critics Association visit to Warner Brother Studios last week.
Batman is clearly an iconic character, how hard is it to play him knowing that there was that history?
Yeah, how much revenge are we talking about? It’s like he is revenging his parents for his whole life. I knew that it had to be a different idea (on Batman) because they were bringing me into it. I mostly do comedy. I think maybe one show wasn’t a comedy.
So the fact that they were seeing me, to me, was a total shock and obviously something where they were kind of changing the whole perspective on Batman. It’s interesting because it has evolved over the years. I would do basically Kevin Conroy, who is really in my opinion, the touchstone of Batman. He was Batman:The Animated Series.
For the voiceover, I did Bruce Wayne as if he was playing a different character when he put on the cowl, and then we decided that didn’t work.
Why didn’t it work?
It was just too complicated. So we stuck to a pretty straightforward (presentation). When you are doing Batman, you have to ground the show, and then it flies off in all of these kinds of wild directions. There’s part of me that is a total ham that wants to go off and do funny voices like everybody else.
You have to go forward with the narrative. You have to ultimately want the airplane to land. You can’t just completely fly out of control where you don’t really care if the airplane lands or not. So you have to ground it and make sure that the jokes all sell, and that Batman is there for irony and comment but moving the narrative forward and believing the action.
Is it hard to be a straight man in tights?
It’s tough, but I have a long history of wearing tights. So it was just putting on the cowl.
You have two small children, how did they react to their dad being Batman?
It was like a dream for my son, who is a real comic geek, to have his dad be Batman. It took my daughter a long time to accept the fact that not every dad did voices and was on television.
Then, finally, she was just so proud of it. She’d walk into her preschool and just basically announce her dad was Batman. It’s been a really big deal for my family. My son got his SAG card by being Robin on the show. He’s got one line, which he still remembers. Because he can’t read yet. He’s 12!
You work both on screen and do voices, which do you prefer?
It’s fun for me to work on camera and off camera. The community is entirely different. That’s the thing that’s always shocking to me, just how pleasant everybody is to work with when you are working in voiceover. There’s no attitude. I’ve never experienced that anyway. And they can play multiple characters.
It’s truly remarkable. Where a lot of times I’ll do a movie, certainly in a lot of television shows, where I’m across from the actor going, ‘I wonder why you (got the part).’
But when you are working with voiceover artists, you go, ‘Wow. Okay, I get it now. You are good.’ It’s truly fun to work on. I really love going to work in the voiceover world. If it paid as much (as being on camera) that’s all I would do.