NYCC ’20: Batman gets interactive with the DEATH IN THE FAMILY panel

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The much-anticipated Batman: Death in the Family interactive film arrives on Blu-ray and Digital this Tuesday (be sure to keep an eye out here on The Beat next week for our interview coverage with the cast and crew!). Before that, fans got to watch the a Batman: Death in the Family panel during the virtual NYCC weekend. Moderated by DC Daily’s Tiffany Smith, the Death in the Family panel included producer/writer/director Brandon Vietti and actors Bruce Greenwood (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Vincent Martella (Jason Todd) and Zehra Fazal (Talia al Ghul).

Death in the Family panelIt’s been over a decade since both Greenwood and Martella played their respective characters in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Although Greenwood has played Batman in different iterations including the Young Justice animated series, he did concede the sensibilities of Death in the Family were considerably different than his first outing as the Dark Knight. For Martella who only voiced Jason Todd for only a short part of Under the Red Hood, he relished the opportunity to delve further into the character. The nature of the project allowed Martella to play different version of the character in a “fun but challenging way.”

Likewise, Vietti enjoyed that he could play with audience’s expectations thanks to the divergent paths created by the interactive format. For modern fans who didn’t experience the original “Death in the Family” comics storyline, Vietti and his team crafted the interactive menu page to invoke similar sensibilities as the infamous 1-900 phone number comics page.

Having worked with Vietti on the third season of Young Justice, Fazal was excited to once again work with Vietti on Death in the Family. Reiterating the nature of the interactive storytelling format, Fazal’s performance as Talia varied depending on the emotional state or motivation in a particular the story branch. Greenwood compared it to shooting for live-action where an actor provides different performances for a scene and the final version is picked by the editor.

At the time that the panel was recorded, Martella hadn’t seen the final version and so was eager to experience it and discover for himself what made the final cut as well as the reactions from fans.

Fazal believes that Talia may be diametrically opposed to Batman in the way they go about achieving their goals, she has many similarities with the Dark Knight, specifically how they both value legacy and family building.

A clip from the film was then shown featuring Jason Todd (sporting the Red Robin costume) at the mercy of Two-Face, voiced by Gary Cole.

As a counterpoint to the horrific tragedy in the story, Vietti desired to explore themes of family that were already embedded in the original Under the Red Hood storyline. Greenwood echoed Vietti sentiments, adding further that they discussed Batman’s longing for family to overcome his broken self.

Fazal reiterated what family means to your legacy is a prevalent theme. She wasn’t ashamed to admit she was moved by the scenes with Bruce and Jason. One line in the screenplay penned by, “The impossible is just the unthinkable lying in wait,” has been stuck in Fazal’s head since she watched the film.

Although the voice of the Joker, John DiMaggio wasn’t able to be on the panel, Smith took the time to praise his performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. Greenwood also shared the same feelings, calling DiMaggio’s performance as “evocative” and that “every moment with him is a luxury.” Vietti revealed that DiMaggio was relentless at trying multiple takes well beyond the minimum. Each time DiMaggio found new ways to “cut you” with the dialogue.

DiMaggio’s unique take is accentuated by the character design, described by Vietti as much “weightier” than typical slimmer Joker designs. It’s a much more thuggish and monstrous with a physical strength that Vietti felt made him a scarier Joker.

DiMaggio clearly picked up on that and channeled it in his performance. Martella also finds seeing the artwork and design for any character incredibly useful for voiceover job. Despite portraying one of the most terrifying villains, DiMaggio is one of the nicest people. Fazal recounted the time she first met DiMaggio and told him she was a fan of his work since playing Dr. Draken in Kim Possible. She quickly fangirled when DiMaggio regaled her by doing the Dr. Draken voice.

Whether you feel good or bad, Martella hopes viewers enjoy the ride of this unique DC animated movie experience. While the interactive film allows the viewers to go back and redo their choices, Greenwood hopes that viewers will reflect on their initial choices and what it says about them. Fazal closed out the Death in the Family panel with a very Talia al Ghul-esque observation, “Sometimes you make the optimal choice and you have the best of intentions but life doesn’t operate that way.”

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