Ahead of the release of the animated adaptation of the acclaimed miniseries on Blu-ray, I had the chance to chat with Berzins about how she landed the role, how she developed the voice for Sofia, and much more.
Taimur Dar: Really excited to chat with you Laila, especially since we’re both mutual friends of voice actress Cristina Milizia. I actually remember seeing your name on her social media posts with your old profile picture of Lion-S, the character you voiced in ThunderCats Roar.
Like ThunderCats, you get to voice yet another badass woman in The Long Halloween but you also get to work with voice director Wes Gleason again. Did that prior working relationship with him on ThunderCats Roar lead him casting you as Sofia Falcone?
Laila Berzins: I definitely think that played a role. I’ve known Wes for several years and he’s sent me a lot of opportunities. I have built a reputation with some of my clients. When they’re looking for a badass woman that’s usually my bread and butter like the Vikings or the villains, which I’m honored to be a part of. I think that experience I had on ThunderCats with Wes probably informed him that this would be a good role for me. It was really wonderful [that] I got to work with him before because he’s a fantastic director and I was so excited to be thought of for the role of Sofia. It’s a dream villain for me!
Dar: I know some actors choose to read the original comic source material while others go in blind relying solely on the script. I’m curious if you indeed read The Long Halloween comic to prepare for the role but also the sequel comic Dark Victory to gain additional insights into the character?
Berzins: I actually just focused on The Long Halloween. I don’t know if I knew at the time about Dark Victory. I got the audition and I had a pretty short time frame to get it done. I did the abridged version of as much research as I could. But also I didn’t want to go too far into the research because I didn’t want it to inform my character too much. I wanted it to come out more organically. I was not familiar with the comic ahead of time. So I did a lot of online research to learn about who she was. Some of it was more vague than others. I found it did leave a lot of open interpretation so that was actually good for me as an actor.
Dar: Duality is a major theme in the film and we definitely see it with Sofia. On the surface she’s this tough mafia daughter but underneath there’s clearly this deep humanity within her, whether it’s the love she has for her father Carmine Falcone or her romantic relationship with Sal Maroni. Was bringing Sofia’s humanity to the surface important for you in your performance?
Berzins: Very, very much so. When I read over the audition script, I could sense that she truly wanted to be seen as an equal and she knew what she was capable of and she was proving that behind the scenes. But her relationship with her father was hot and cold and strained because of the position he was in. I think she was really longing for the same level of respect that the boys of the group get.
I think that it was very important to tap into her humanity and that longing for connection with her father that was so clearly there in that scene where she’s trying to ask about being in the room. It’s in essence asking for validation, asking for warmth and emotional connection from her father who just is not capable given his position and everything he’s been through. It’s a very painful scene that I was reading. I really had to think about that and how I would feel if I’m trying to express my deepest desires and I also need to be careful because this is a family relationship that I’m so close to. And I have to be careful how I choose my words and how do I approach this. There was definitely this kind of power struggle in their conversation and internally with her. She’s very powerful but when she’s around her father she becomes a different person a little bit. There’s a much more vulnerable side of her. And that’s what I like about her as a villain, or any villain, is that vulnerability.
Dar: I love the dialect in your performance, which can certainly be tricky for actors. So I’m really curious how you developed the dialect and if it entailed any challenges.
Berzins: I believe the direction was a very light New York or Brooklyn accent. I’ve taken dialects and accents training. One of the accents that I gravitate towards and find myself more comfortable in is the Brooklyn accent. I had taken a class with Eliza Jane Schneider who’s most known as half of the women on South Park including Mrs. Cartman. She would have us do these springboards where you would listen to a native speaker and then use that as a jumping off point to say things in your own words. There was a woman talking about bus drivers and she said, [Brooklyn accent] “Never marry a bus driver! The girls throw themselves at you and you can’t say no! Well, I’m not married!” I took the accent and pulled it back and made it more relaxed because I’m obviously not at that level of energy. I think that’s how I came up with Sofia. She’s tough and part of a mob family but it has to be very, very subtle because if it’s too much it’s going to pull everybody out of that scene and it’s not going to fit with the character.
Berzins: Oh my gosh, in a heartbeat! I would absolutely love to reprise the role and continue along Sofia’s journey. I love her story. I love this underdog story where she just keeps moving up the totem pole and proving herself. No question, I would be there in a minute!
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 is available now on Digital and Blu-ray.