DCN Visits NYCC: Exclusive Interview With Burt Ward, William Shatner, And Creators Of ‘Batman Vs Two-Face”

by Sharna Jahangir

DC Comics News and Dark Knight News had the amazing privilege to interview the cast and creators of the newly released Batman vs Two-Face animated film.

Adam West’s final film is a fantastic piece, carrying some of Hollywood’s greatest icons! Kevin Gunn, editor of Dark Knight News and myself interviewed Star Trek legend, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, and Adam West’s boy wonder, Burt Ward, alongside the talented writer of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, James Tucker, with Michael Jelenic and director Rick Morale.

William Shatner, who voices Two-Face in ‘Batman vs. Two-Face’

William Shatner

How can people learn about the dynamics between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, Batman vs Two-Face?

William Shatner: How can they learn the act of forgiveness when somebody kills your family and the people that you’re fond of? You’d have to be a Quaker!

I don’t know. If I take your question seriously there’s a lot of philosophy that says the act of forgiveness is for you. It’s much more beneficial for the person forgiving than to carry revenge or hate in your heart. For me, I carry revenge. It’s very difficult to forgive a really bad hurt that someone’s done deliberately to you. It’s very difficult to do that. It’s the essence of goodness and perhaps I’m not totally good.

You, West, and Ward are icons in your own rights, what was it like working with them?

WS: Icons against another icon? You know how you move the mouse? I just kept moving him [Burt] around. Little Burt, go over there. Little icon over there! Smile because.

I don’t even know what icon means, what does it mean?

We hold all of you in high esteem, especially in this realm of science-fiction.

WS: Only while you’re here on this white table-cloth. So you hold me in high esteem, does that mean I’m an icon? I don’t know the definition, but I can tell you from my point of view, I don’t know how an icon walks and talks.

How do you define an iconic person?

WS: An icon is like the Greek Oracles, an icon must have come out of there. They had pronouncements to make, and people would take that as the word. Oh, there is going to be rain, and they would leave because there would be rain. That is what I think is an icon. A pronouncement of some individual “You’re going to have a war.” “The world is coming to an end.”

What was it like working with Adam West and Burt Ward on this video?

WS: I never saw them. The nature of doing these kinds of movies is that you’re locked in a booth the size of this table, you got a microphone and a script, and the only person who knows what’s going on is the guy who is writing, drawing, and directing the stuff. So the word you have to read is “hello.”

But is it “hello” to somebody over there,

or is it “hello to you,”

or is it “do I like this guy or do I not like this guy?”

How am I going to say this “hello?” So the producer-director-writer says “Ok. You don’t like this guy [the character] and you’re some distance away. You’re running into THAT direciton. Do this 7 times. Seven different ways because I’m not sure.”

And that’s the way it works in these animted films. No one is quite sure on how these animated pictures will come out.

Burt Ward, the voice of Dick Grayson, aka Robin, in ‘Batman vs. Two-Face’

Burt Ward

What is the best value children and adults can learn from your version of Batman and Robin?

Burt Ward: Purity. Honesty, integrity. Sharing, caring. Respect. All of the traits! I can’t tell you how many people [I’ve met]. Because I go out and I make these appearances, I sign autographs at these big Comic-Cons, like New York Comic-Con (although I didn’t come out this year to sign autographs). Last weekend I was in Canada. You know, LA is at the end of the month, Milwaukee, and then Kansas City. When I go to these, I can’t tell you how many people come up to me, and some of these people are in law enforcement and say “I was going to go the wrong way but then I watched Batman, and thought how great it would be! Now I’m in law enforcement, my life changed.”

You know, so people have gotten a lot of benefits from our show.

We were all sad at the passing of Adam West, we were wondering would you be able to continue the role of Robin? 

BW: Yes. Yes, there is a lot of stuff.

How did the character of Robin evolve over the years in the live-action series? 

BW: I don’t think there has been a change, more like an update, you know what I mean? All of us learn from things that we do and so the changes would be in the script not in my characterization. It is what it is.

They said:

“The reason we hired you, Burt, out of 1,100 people interviewed was because if there was a Robin, you would be it! We don’t want you to take on the character, no we don’t want that. We want you to be Burt Ward and be enthusiastic.”

Which obviously I don’t have to work much to do. I don’t have to train, I don’t have to do anything! Easiest job in the world! I know it so well. It’s me.

Now you’ve lived a full-life compared to the man who played Robin,

BW: Not a full life yet, I tell everyone the first 100 years are the hardest.

Do you feel like jumping off that is a testament to your characterization of Robin? That we’ve seen Batman portrayed so many different times in so many different ways but Robin seems to have a consistent thread.

BW: It’s really good. I love fight scenes with Batman, great fight scenes with Batman. You’re going to love it. They did a very good film last year, great reviews. [This movie] the writing is the best of the best, they took it up a notch. It’s great, and with Shatner, Oh! I don’t think there’s anybody on Earth that could do this. If you think about it, the two most iconic shows in television history, Batman and Star Trek?! Actors working together, genius that they came up with that! Wait till you see it. You will recognize the voice, but the character, he’s a really good actor.

Rick Morales, director of ‘Batman vs. Two-Face’

Rick Morales

What was your favorite thing working with such an amazing cast?

Rick Morales: I think it was just what they brought to it, especially in the case of William Shatner. I think his performance as Two-Face is just incredible. It was fun to record these things and do the storyboards to them. Their [good] performances are really helpful in dictating to us how they will be acting visually, the shots that we’re choosing. But I think when you guys see it, Two-Face is AWESOME.

Do you think you’ll carry on more ’66 series, such as Wonder Woman?

RM: It’s not a decision that I make. But I don’t know, I feel like its doubtful. But I love this era, I love this take on Batman, so if they wanted to, I’d be up for it.

How did you settle on Two-Face as the villain?

RM: I think it’s one of those things where it’s a villain that never appeared in this era before. It seems William Shatner would have been, at that time, a good fit for that role, in reality. So it made a lot of sense.

What was your entry point into Batman growing up?

RM: It was probably the Adam West show. I do remember watching that when I was a very young kid, reruns of course. On the weekends, whenever. It is actually the reason why I love the character of Robin so much because I love Burt Ward. So it was such a nice pleasure to work with him.

If you were to continue the franchise of Batman ’66, where would you like to take the next story?

RM: That’s a good question. I think this one [movie] is totally different than Return of the Caped Crusaders, the last movie we did. That one was a lot more campy; this one is humorous but it is also darker.

James Tucker, writer of ‘Batman vs. Two-Face’

James Tucker

What was it like working with a second film with Adam West and Burt Ward, and to bring in William Shatner? 

James Tucker: It was a lot of work. It was really great because wanted someone who could have been on the series [Batman ’66] when it was in production, somebody who was an iconic figure from the ’60s television. Someone who was Adam’s peer and really Shatner was a guy that checked off all those boxes, so he was the guy!

What is your favorite aspect of the relationship between Batman and Two-Face? 

JT: Well in this one we definitely used Batman: The Animated Series. [It was what] brought up Harvey and Bruce Wayne being friends and we wanted to use that aspect of the relationship. This is something we really see in the show, so we gave the story a little more weight than the average ’66 [episode] would have. We didn’t [in the past] really explore the interior emotional life, and this is the first time we see someone who is a friend, Batman’s peer, not counting Robin. In fact, there is a rivalry between Harvey Dent and Dick Grayson because of this, so it was a little deeper story that the actual series tackled.

The consensus seems to be that with Adam’s passing, this is going to be the last of the ’66 movies. Is that true and where would you like to go from here? 

JT: Well, I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if I want to be involved in something that was ’66 related, because I did Brave and the Bold, and that was, for me at the time the closest I could get to ’66 characters. So this [film] is just a great deal, I don’t want to push it! I would be more than happy to do more or a lighter version of Batman that took influence from the series, but I don’t want to do a straight ’66 continuation because…well you just can’t. I don’t see it, someone can think they can do it, but they’d be wrong.

Michael Jelenic, co-writer of ‘Batman vs. Two-Face’

Michael Jelenic

How did you come to the decision to make it darker? 

Michael Jelenic: So I co-wrote both of these with James Tucker, and I think James, which is ironic because he’s just the biggest fan of the ’66 stuff, he’s probably the one who pushed it into the darker territory. I think he wanted to see what that tone, like the one in the first [movie], would be if the 60s went on, if all the terrible things in the 60s went on, what would that show sort of turn into? It’s sort of an extension as a film noir thing too. I think that too also combines something, film noir, as James’ big influences. Campy Batman and film noir, it’s definitely very different from the first one.

What was it like adding a new character to this family of characters? 

MJ: I think we know Shatner was going to be playing that part. I think that’s what sort of excited us all. We know he was going to probably end up shaping the character more than we did, his performance would be pretty interesting. We were just looking at “how do we make Two-Face interesting?” The challenge of Batman is we’ve seen so many versions, Nolan, Timm, how do we make Two-Face interesting to someone who’s seen his origin story so many times? We did some different things on this film, it’s definitely a weird take on Two-Face, something we’ve never done before.

I noticed on the poster, is Julie Newmar back?

MJ: Julie Newmar is back. Not only is Julie Newmar back, Lee Meriwether is in it. And, you know what’s funny? I was at a San Diego Comic-Con a couple years back, 2-3 years ago, I don’t remember. But she was at the same party, and we’re working on all these things, I just HAD to talk to her. Tell her how much we appreciated her and then we’re like “We’re GOING to find a part for you. We’re going to put you in this!” And sure enough, we were able to get her in. And I think she dons the Catsuit in this. Julie is in this, and she’s great.

And thus concludes our interview with the cast and crew of Batman vs Two-Face! Kevin “The Machine” Gunn, and I had a boss time at NYCC. Thank you to the wonderful and welcoming Comic-Con staff, and all the hard work by RedPop for arranging this once in a lifetime chance! And of course, we can’t thank the creators and actors enough for giving us entertainment and joy in days we need it. For more, follow Dark Knight News for our videos.

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