Will Friedle is no stranger to voicing bad guys, but more often than not he’s cast to play heroes. In the new Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse crossover animated film, he gets to have it both ways playing not only Lex Luthor but also the King of Atlantis himself, Aquaman. While Luthor is still recognizably the vainglorious and power hungry genius in the world of DC Super Hero Girls like he’s always been, Aquaman has been reinterpreted as a laid-back beach bum with a voice that’s clearly inspired by Matthew McConaughey‘s distinct drawl.
We had the fortune to chat with Will Friedle about not only his dual roles as Lex Luthor and Aquaman but also his new I Hear Voices podcast with his former Kim Possible co-star Christy Carlson Romano.
Taimur Dar: As many fans are well aware, Lex Luthor started out in the comics as a mad scientist but he was reinvented in the ’80s as a corporate businessman in the vein of Gordon Gecko. What’s been really interesting is in the last 10-15 years, Lex Luthor has moved away from that Wall Street image and more towards someone out of Silicon Valley like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. I’m curious if that idea of the Silicon Valley tech bro informed your performance for Luthor?
Will Friedle: No, not really. I think he’s a cool combination of Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville because he’s younger and Gene Hackman. We’re doing a much lighter version of Lex and while you can certainly see flashes of the evil genius. He’s still navigating being a teenager or a little older with his family’s company. It was more that kind of vibe than the tech mogul. I love how they always revamp Lex Luthor to be the villain de jour when it comes to what it is that’s taking over the globe exactly like you said from Gordon Gecko to a Silicon Valley kind of sociopath who is now Lex Luthor.
Dar: You’ve played your share of villains but I think it’s safe to say most people associate you with playing heroes like Batman Beyond/Terry McGinnis, Lion-O, Nightwing, or Bumblebee from Transformers. Do you find yourself sought primarily for heroic characters and is it refreshing to play villains?
Friedle: It’s so different for me. As you were saying, I’m always the good guy or young hero. It’s a completely different vibe for me and one that I love. Any time I can step out of my comfort zone is great. People always ask me, “If you could play one character who would it be?” And my answer is always Cobra Commander from GI Joe. So to be able to play a villain is just the coolest thing in the world!
Dar: It only recently dawned on me that DC Super Hero Girls is a mini Kim Possible reunion for you and Nicole Sullivan except your roles are reversed this time with you as the bad guy and now she’s the good guy.
Dar: Obviously Mayhem in the Multiverse was recorded remotely but I’m curious if you and Sullivan ever had any sessions together when you worked on Kim Possible and then later for the first season of DC Super Hero Girls?
Friedle: DC Super Hero Girls we would run into each other at the booth. Usually she would be leaving as I was coming in. [There would be] hugging and saying hello. We never actually recorded together. Kim Possible we recorded together all the time. Christy Carlson Romano who played Kim, I see her all the time and we do a podcast together called I Hear Voices. She was in New York at the time in school. I was out here in Los Angeles and I would always record with John DiMaggio who played Drakken and Nicole who was Shego. Usually once a week the three of us would be together. I got to know Nicole well and she’s one of my favorite people in the world. She’s phenomenally talented. Any time I get to see Nicole is definitely a good day.
Dar: On the flipside, you also voice Aquaman who debuted in the second season. I really love this beach bum take that is clearly a Matthew McConaughey impression. Was McConaughey in the description for the character or was that entirely your idea?
Friedle: They were talking about surf bum and when I started recording it, it just came out as a bad Matthew McConaughey impression. And it just kind of worked. In the film when the actual Justice League show up, they’re all kind of caricatures of themselves. You’ve got Superman who is very much the boy scout. Batman is just mumbling the entire time and you can’t understand him. And you’ve got the beach bum that is Aquaman. It was a fun natural progression to go from there to [Matthew McConaughey voice], “I talk to squids man” vibe. And it seemed to work!
Dar: You mentioned John DiMaggio earlier and it reminds me how much I loved his take and performance as Aquaman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. I know people tend to think of Aquaman as a joke but he really managed to capture the humor for the character without making him a buffoon. Since you also were in Brave and the Bold It’s pretty safe to assume you’re familiar with DiMaggio’s Aquaman so I’m curious if that influenced this version in any way?
Friedle: It didn’t really have any influence other than I saw that you could go as big as you wanted. Johnny is in a league of his own and you honestly just described John perfectly. Big and funny and not a buffoon is how he did Aquaman and that’s John. John is big and funny and not a buffoon. Very smart guy and uber talented. And outrageous, not to quote Aquaman but he is. And he just perfectly encapsulates that character. I didn’t want to lean too much into that because he does his own thing. And man, he does it well. Those are shoes I could never fill. That’s why I took it a whole different route with the McConaughey impression.
Dar: It’s pretty easy to tell when voice directors like working with certain actors and vice versa. Sam Riegel is incredibly busy right now and so with his blessing handed the voice directing over to Gene Vassilaros who came from Nickelodeon casting. Had you worked with Vasilaros before?
Friedle: I had. Gene and I worked for a couple of projects in the past and I read for him a couple of times. Obviously I’ve known Sam for a number of years through Critical Role and working with him. Going from Sam casting to me to Gene being the director was a very easy transition.
Dar: Finally, as you mentioned earlier you’ve recently teamed up with your former Kim Possible co-star Christy Carlson Romano to launch your own podcast I Hear Voices. How did that come about and what’s been the experience thus far?
Friedle: It’s been great. It really has. Christy and I talked about doing something together and we were coming up on the 20th anniversary of Kim Possible this year. Her thing was, “I really don’t know enough about the voiceover industry. I need to know more.” I was talking to her and her husband Brendan [Rooney] and I Hear Voices was born. Her husband is a businessman and ex-Marine and when he decides to do something it gets done. He’s just that guy. So when we decided to do this from the time we had the phone call, it was three weeks later and we were sitting in a studio filming and talking to people. It came about very quickly. It’s been a wonderful experience. I get to talk to all my friends and we get delve into the voiceover side of the industry. I think the pandemic had a lot to do with it, but we’re at a point where voiceover actors are rightfully getting their place in the entertainment industry. Some of these voiceover actors are becoming legitimate rock stars in their own right. To be able to interview them and help them even more come into the world and let people know who and how talented they are has been great.
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital.
Fans can also catch the movie event on Cartoon Network premiering Saturday, May 28 and then on HBO Max beginning June 28.