After the incredible success of Batman: The Animated Series, the obvious logical step for the creators of that acclaimed series would be to reinvent DC Comics’ other flagship character, Superman. In much the same vein as B:TAS for many who grew up in the ’90s, Superman: The Animated Series is considered the quintessential depiction of the character as is the voice behind the Man of Steel, Tim Daly.
For the past two decades, Daly has been praised for his work on hit drama shows like Madam Secretary, Private Practice, and his Emmy-nominated role as J.T. Dolan on The Sopranos. Around the time of the production of Superman: TAS however, Daly was best known for his starring in the sitcom Wings.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the show, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released Superman: The Complete Animated Series on a remastered Blu-ray, which is now available. The Beat had the fortune to chat with Tim Daly as he reflected on the anniversary. Daly divulged how one of the writers on Wings played an indirect role in steering him towards auditioning for the voice of Superman, why Superman is more meaningful to him now more than ever, and much more!
Taimur Dar: Superman: The Animated series was your first starring role in an animated series much like Batman: The Animated series was for Kevin Conroy. But in contrast to Kevin, you were a recognizable name from your role as Joe Hackett in the sitcom Wings. What was the audition process like and did you feel any added pressure that Wings would affect the casting decision?
Tim Daly: The truth is I was sort of clueless about the whole thing. What happened was I was doing Wings and the wife of one our writers, I think she had been working with Andrea Romano, said, “Hey, they’re having some trouble finding someone to do the voice of Superman. Do you want to go over to Warner Bros. and give it a shot?” I said, “Sure.”
I had no idea that I was stepping into something that was so important to so many people. I didn’t have any pressure at all. Maybe that’s why I got the part. I just thought it was fun and Andrea was just so sweet and talented. Bruce Timm was so great. It happened very easily.
Dar: Your son Sam is an accomplished actor in his own right and actually followed in your footsteps when he voiced Superman in the Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox animated feature. But back when he was a kid when you were making the Superman series, I’m curious if he was a fan of the show or enamored with you voicing Superman? Did he ever got to visit voice recording sessions?
Daly: You know, I don’t think he did. Honestly, Sam had such a busy life. He was a big athlete. The good news is that he wasn’t just hanging around and watching TV all the time. The bad news is he didn’t really give a shit about his old man doing Superman until much later. [Laughs]. It’s funny, my dad was an actor and I was sort of interested in what my dad was doing but I wasn’t really impressed by it because he was just my dad. I think Sam felt the same way.
Dar: The duality of Superman/Clark Kent is a major aspect of the Superman mythos but this version of Clark isn’t like the distinct bumbling persona we see in something like the Christopher Reeve films. Did you approach or voice Clark Kent differently than you did for Superman?
Daly: The truth is with Andrea’s direction, I didn’t change my voice so much as I just tried to act that attitude. He is the “mild mannered reporter.” I tied my performance to what was happening in the scripts. If he was flirting with Lois or being socially awkward or having that wry sense of humor I just let that come through. It worked better than doing an entirely different voice. I let the scripts speak for themselves.
Dar: When I first watched Superman as a kid, I assumed Bizarro was voiced by another actor so it blew my mind when I learned it was you. What was it like playing such a broad and exaggerated character like Bizarro?
Daly: It was really fun because Superman is very straightforward. Then you get to do Bizarro which is this shadowy part and was really fun to let it rip. I realized that I had compassion for Bizarro because I don’t think he was inherently evil. I think he was just kind of misguided. It was certainly fun to have a little bit of relief from being that straightforward Superman guy and let it rip with Bizarro.
Dar: Now retired voice director Andrea Romano always preferred ensemble records whenever possible so did you record with the other actors like Dana Delany and did you find that helpful to you as a newcomer to voiceover?
Daly: Oh yeah! The most fun was when we could all be there together. I learned a lot from watching other people like Clancy Brown and Kevin Conroy. Dana was so good. Sometimes we would have a big group and other times a smaller group. A lot of times it was done alone. The good news/bad news for me was I was very busy working on other projects so it became more and more difficult for me to show up when the whole group was doing it because I was shooting a TV series here and there. This was after Wings had finished. That’s sort of why I drifted away. I was doing a remake of The Fugitive and I was traveling all over the country and in different time zones. It just became impossible. But Andrea in her usual manner was really kind and generous to me and asked me back to do a few movies and stuff like that.
Dar: I know that’s the reason why George Newbern took over the role of Superman for Justice League. He’s praised your performance as Superman in the past so I’m curious what do you think about his portrayal of the Man of Steel?
Daly: I know George and George is great! I think he does a really good job. I’m jealous of him because I would like to be doing it too.
Dar: There’s a misconception that “kind” or “boy scout” characters like Superman are boring or bland. I was also somewhat guilty of believing that myself until the series Ted Lasso showed how compassionate characters can actually be really compelling and aren’t one-dimensional. As an actor how did you bring depth to Superman?
Daly: I think I share exactly your feeling. When I was doing Superman, entertainment was turning towards darkness. Listen, I think it’s my responsibility as an actor to poke around every corner of humanity—dark or light. That’s what actors do. We reflect humanity back to our fellow humans. I am now at a point where I’m a little bit sick of the dystopia stories that are out there. I had the same thing about Ted Lasso. I started watching and I was like, “Ugh, this is terrible.” But I watched a little more and it won me over. I have a real hope that Superman comes back and I get to do him because I think the world needs a real hero. Not the dark tortured vengeful hero like Batman but someone who doesn’t have any ulterior motive other than to help human beings be better and help humanity survive. Who fits the bill better than Superman!