Hanna Lafferty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Emertainment Monthly had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Eisenberg last month. Eisenberg is known as the voice of Wonder Woman in the 2001-2006 run of the cartoons Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, the DC animated films Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) and Justice League: Doom (2012), and most recently the Wonder Woman (2013) DC shorts.
Emertainment was able to get her thoughts on Wonder Woman as an icon, what she hopes to see in the Batman vs. Superman movie, and her future plans.
Emertainment Monthly: Wonder Woman is such an iconic character among superhero fans. How did it feel when you first landed the role for Justice League?
Susan Eisenberg: Elated. Truly, elated. I had the sense of how big it was, you felt it. You felt that it was the role that people were coveting and you wanted it. It was an audition, then a call back and you knew that the people behind the show: Bruce Timm, Andrea (Romano), I knew that it was going to be important and it was—it was a game-changer for me.
How does it feel now that you are considered the “voice” of Wonder Woman?
You know, that took me a while to get [to] that. JL was on the air a long time ago, and there were a couple of other projects that I’ve done—I don’t know that I understood the impact Justice League had for viewers and how defining it was in terms of people’s impressions of Wonder Woman. So when I would meet people, young people in their twenties, and they would say “Well, I grew up with Justice League,” it does not get better than that; it does not get better than young people saying “You’re my Linda Carter because I didn’t grow up in the 70s, I grew up in the 90s, and when I watched the show from 2001 to 2006, you were the person I associated with the character,” that was exceedingly wonderful to hear.
What is your inspiration for Wonder Woman? What particular sources did you draw upon to create her voice?
Obviously the character is written for me, and then of course there’s Andrea Romano, who directed me, and then there’s Bruce’s vision of the character and how she was drawn—all of that made her real for me. Not to say that in the first year it was crystal clear. And if you go back and hear the first year you can see that I’m just trying to find the voice, um, she sounds much younger that first year in the series—but certainly by the second season, I had my sense of her. I always kept in mind that she was regal, and that she was also a warrior, and I tried to play on both of the elements of her and always keep those elements in mind and not tilt too far to either one of those things.
How was reprising your role in the Wonder Woman (2013) DC shorts?
It was incredible. It was thrilling to do that, it was really fun and I’m actually going to be recording more of that in the next few weeks. Going to that session and saying the lines, and being able to say “Great Hera,” and doing all of that again—it was just so fun. I just loved that, and I’ve said in other interviews before, this job was just a gift and that it continues to be a gift, that I am continually asked to voice her, it’s just incredible to me.
It has been thirteen years since you first voiced Wonder Woman on Justice League. Since that time, she has undergone a lot of scrutiny about whether or not she is a true feminist icon. What is your opinion on Diana’s strength as a role model for gender equality?
I think she is all of that, I think she is an icon. I think she is created as an offshoot—not as an offshoot, but as an alternative to the men that were out there. How she was created, her origins—I don’t think you can ignore the fact that she’s this female character who is equivalent to these men, you know, she is equal to these men. I believe she is iconic, I truly believe that. I think that people are so invested in her, and people have very strong opinions of her. I’m on Twitter, and hearing the response and seeing the response, it’s so visceral to people, and I absolutely appreciate that. When casting choices are made—it’s like when you’re reading a book and you have this image of somebody. Like, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice, and I remember when Keira Knightley was cast in that movie, people had such strong opinions of it, both positive and negative. I think it’s the same thing in so many films. She’s this character in fiction and then she’s brought to life on the screen or in television, and you know, people want that to comport with what they in their minds, and I get that, absolutely. I think it’s very hard to cast any of these roles and make everybody happy. And it wasn’t just Gal Gadot, it was also Ben Affleck—it was a lot of trouble. People were enraged by that casting, and just thought it was a joke! Again, people put so much weight on this project does well, then Wonder Woman can go on to another project and survive another project. But, the male characters have had many different actors play them, and ultimately, it’s the character of Wonder Woman that will carry on, whether it’s with Gal Gadot—and if she does an amazing job, then of course it will be with her—Wonder Woman endures regardless of who voices her or who plays her on film, in television she will endure, just like Superman, just like Batman, as will all these characters, because they’re timeless.
Lately there has been a lot of controversy in the media over the latest live-action representation of Wonder Woman in the new movie Superman vs Batman. How would you like to see her represented in the film?
Well, I think, what I spoke to earlier, her strength has to be out there and it will be, because you know that’s undeniable for her, how strong she is. And I always like that, as beautiful as she is, there’s not a sense from her, of her beauty. There’s not a sense of arrogance about, in least in my feeling of her. So of course she’ll be this beautiful female character whose strong, who is regal—I know that she is haughty, but fair enough she is a princess after all—and I would love for her to have a little bit of humor. Every time I got a script that had a little bit of humor, and a little bit of flirty, that was always fun for me.
Do you think Wonder Woman is ready for her own live-action film?
I think the fans would love it. Again, it’s like this notion of it all—you know, when they did the animated movie with Keri Russell—there’s this sense in this movie, it’s all about WW—you know, there’s so much pressure on It to do well, and if it doesn’t do well, then okay, we’re not going to do it again. Well, I think that’s absurd. You try different ingredients, you try different casting, you try different writers, you try different directors. Obviously, you have to have a great script, you have to have a wonderful director, and then you put that iconic, magnificent character into the mix, and I think it’s a win-win for everybody, for the franchise, for the actors, the fans, everybody. I absolutely think we’re ready for that. Whether the studios agree with that or not, that’s a whole different conversation.
How important do you think it is to introduce more diverse female superheroes, and even female super villains into the comic universe for young girls to read?
I just think diversity is important, period. Children need to see themselves up on screen and on pages in books. I think that’s incredibly important. The fact that this has an influence on children, the fact that they’re now in their twenties—that when they were younger when watching these shows, that [the shows] had an impact on them, I don’t think you can oversee the importance of that of a child being able to see themselves in the pages of a book or a comic book; to turn on the television and see a cartoon with someone who is African-American or Hispanic any of that, who speaks to them. Who is a woman who is strong, who is fantastic, and smart, and nerdy, and bright, and sexy, and all of it—I could not be more supportive of those efforts. Anything that can teach kids, or show kids how things can be and be an example to children, whether it’s been basic kindness or that you can be whatever you want to be, that you can grow up and be president, that you can grow up and be a nuclear physicist—that’s magnificent as an opportunity, for anybody who is involved in this business whether it’s voicing a character, or writing a character, or drawing a character—that’s powerful stuff. I have really strong opinions of this. I’ve been trying to do an anti-bullying campaign, and I’ve been trying to get that off the ground. I think that for the Justice League to come out and do a PSA against bullying, and just, how to be kind to each other…that would be amazing. Talk about honored, if I could lend my voice to that, it would really, truly be a gift to be able to do that. So, look for that!