It’s no exaggeration to say that the career of voice actress Zehra Fazal has skyrocketed in the last few years. If you’re a fan of DC Comics animation fan, you most likely know Fazal for her work in the acclaimed Young Justice animated series as Halo and more than a dozen of other characters, which unsurprisingly earned her SOVAS Award for “Outstanding Body of Work, Best Voice Actor” in 2019. With the release of the latest season of Young Justice, Zehra Fazal continues to add even more iconic DC characters including on-again off-again Batman love interest and enemy, Talia al Ghul. It’s a character whom Fazal first played in the Batman: Death in the Family interactive film from last year, and incidentally she gets to play in a different context in the new Catwoman: Hunted anime style film.

The Beat had the pleasure of interviewing Fazal about not only voicing Talia al Ghul in Catwoman: Hunted but her additional role as the vampire bat assassin, Nosferata. The accomplished voice actress discussed what separates this portrayal of Talia from her previous performances, tapping into Eastern European vampire traditions, and even her favorite anime!

Taimur Dar: The first time I interviewed you it was for the Batman: Death in the Family interactive animated film where you voiced Talia al Ghul. I had a strong suspicion you were going to reprise Talia for Young Justice: Phantoms even though  writer/director Brandon Viettii remained silent on the subject when I inquired with him. Lo and behold, not only did you voice Talia in the new season of Young Justice but in this Catwoman: Hunted animated film. Do you recall the timeline of the projects?

Zehra Fazal: Death in the Family was the first time. And I believe Catwoman: Hunted was the second time and then Young Justice. This all happened 700 years ago of course before the pandemic. [Laughs].

Dar: I know some actors like Elizabeth Gillies said that they recorded their voices partially in the studio and the rest at home during the pandemic in 2020. Was that the same situation for you?

Fazal: Yeah! I had two sessions for this film. The first was late summer 2019, and then a pickup ADR session during the pandemic about a year ago. That was interesting [having] the fun of going into the studio to do something with people. And then to work on the same project and have a very contrasting experience where you’re screaming in your vocal booth at home and hoping the neighbors don’t call the police on you. [Laughs].

Dar: It’s always a treat whenever voice actors get to reprise the same character in a different continuity and see their new take. Some great examples right now can be seen in Young Justice like Greg Cipes as Beast Boy or Kari Walgren in the current season as Saturn Girl.

Viewers will immediately note that the accent for Talia is different from how you played her in the aforementioned projects. Was the change in dialect your idea or were you given that direction?

Fazal: Great question! The first time I played Talia in Batman: Death in the Family she definitely had more of a British informed accent. That was in huge part to the actor who played Ra’s al Ghul. We wanted to match his vocal tones [and] what his daughter would sound like. From a story point of view, imagine that she was taught in a variety of schools around the world but most likely in the British education system. She would naturally lean more towards that imperial sound.

Whereas in this particular story Catwoman: Hunted, initially my instincts were to keep that similar vocal quality. But Jamie Thomason, our vocal director, and I worked together to figure out for this project she would have a more Middle Eastern lean. Because Catwoman: Hunted is such a global story [and] takes place in so many different parts of the world and has a huge international cast of characters, to put Talia in that part of the world was the decision for this film.

Dar: In addition to Talia you’re also voicing yet another villain Nosferata. I’m gonna guess like me and even other comics readers you didn’t have any familiarity with such an obscure DC Comics character. I think she only appeared in a handful of Superboy comics from the ‘90s. Nosferata is definitely one of those deep cut villains who would fit right in with James Gunn’s Suicide Squad film!

Fazal: Oh totally!

Dar: It also reminds me of the Gunn film in that a few of the actors who played the villains didn’t have much from the comic source material to work with in order to figure out their characters and so relied on the script. What informed your performance for Nosferata?

Fazal: Nosferata was really fun because I too was not familiar with her at all until I had been cast. What Jamie Thomason and I put together and steered me in the direction of invoking this classic Eastern European vampire sound. But at the same time she’s an incredible fighter and has incredible physicality. That fight scene with Catwoman is so cool and so brutal! So really leaning into the camp of the character and honoring the vampirism but also the strength. Those were the main things. And then to do her fight efforts, that was such a fun challenge! She deals out a lot of damage and she takes a fare bit of damage. Finding the fun in that fight was important too.

CATWOMAN: HUNTED © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. CATWOMAN and all related characters and elements TM & © DC.

Dar: What kind of work went into developing Nosferata’s Eastern European accent you just mentioned?

Fazal: Honestly, there’s not a lot of time to prepare for these sessions. So you show up to the session and you’re like, “I’m playing who? Great! What does she sound like?” So it’s something that gets cooked as you’re finding the lines. So you might up doing several lines a certain way before you dial into the voice. And then you’ll go back and pick up those first few lines so it’s all consistent. I believe we found her together in that first session that we had and then fine-tuned her physicality in a subsequent record.

Dar: I know you spent time in Japan as a student studying Japanese theater and you’re fluent in the language. So since Catwoman: Hunted is an anime co-production, what are your go-to anime or anime works that define you?

Zehra FazalFazal: Oh my gosh! I love this question! I would have to say, this is a deep cut, I really love The Rose of Versailles, Berusaiyu no Bara, which was arguably the first anime in the shōjo style or considered “girls” anime. It came out in the ‘70s before I was born! [Laughs]. I watched it in college because I had become familiar with the story through other adaptations. I really loved that original anime which also inspired Revolutionary Girl Utena, Shōjo Kakumei Utena, which remains one of my favorite anime. And of course Cowboy Bebop! I’m a huge fan and I love how the opening sequence of Catwoman: Hunted invokes that feel of Cowboy Bebop with the cool jazz and visuals. It feels like a cool homage to action anime of the ‘90s and early 2000’s.

Dar: In the projects where you’ve played Talia, including Catwoman: Hunted, she’s had to perform a specific story function and so you haven’t had a chance to showcase Talia’s “badass” nature. Is that something you’re hoping or waiting to delve into if given the opportunity, like say Young Justice or another DC animated project?  

Fazal: Absolutely! I can’t speak to where or how it might happen. I think it’s beyond time for a Talia al Ghul solo project and really dive into her motivation and machination and what makes her human. I’m curious, having now played her a few times, about the world through her lens. I’m hopeful there might be an opportunity in the future to more fully explore that character. And of course, I would love to play.

Catwoman: Hunted arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital on February 8, 2022.