“Wonder Woman has been just this massive gift for me in my life.”
Voicing a character for most animated series lasts a few seasons, if the actors are lucky. However, in the case of Susan Eisenberg, she has been playing Wonder Woman on and off (mostly on) since 2001. During that time, she has played Diana in five seasons of Justice League and it’s spin-off Justice League Unlimited, as well as in several of the DC Animated features and video games. Eisenberg discussed at length the gift that the role has been for her, how she became a fan of the character, what it was like working with her cast mates and incredible guest stars, what the fans have come to mean to her, and finally, why the upcoming, long-awaited Justice League reunion is a dream come true.
WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU HEAR WONDER WOMAN?
The first thing that popped in was strong; strength. That was such a big word at the audition. Others would follow that.
WHY DO YOU THINK WONDER WOMAN HAS ENDURED?
Because she’s Fabulous. That’s with a capital F, by the way. She endured because she filled a void. There was this massive void there, and when she was created there was a collected sigh, I think unconsciously, of relief, that a woman was finally there and she speaks to so many women, and men. I think the character herself, I am fan of hers at this point, she’s a glorious character. There’s complexity to her and she never wavers in terms of strength; her moral strength of character, her physical strength. I think she resonated with the fans right away and it has just grown and grown and grown.
WHAT DOES WONDER WOMAN MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
Well she means everything to me personally because she changed my life. Getting this job, in 2000, was the ultimate game changer in that I got to voice this extraordinary character. Personally, it was incredibly gratifying, and then the other piece of it, career-wise, people knew me as her; I got to record the video games, some of the movies. You can’t be in this business and not be grateful to have a job that continues through so many incarnations. That doesn’t happen very often. They’re usually one-offs, you get a job, you record and are never heard from again. But this is a recurring gig, and for an actor there really is nothing better, especially for a character, not only beloved by an audience, but by me. I am utterly mad about her at this point, crazy for her.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH WONDER WOMAN?
I don’t really know anybody, Lynda Carter included, that wouldn’t embrace her. She’s not someone who I’ve tried to distance myself from; who would want to? I feel, and I’ve said this many times, I feel privileged to have played her. I would never distance myself and I am protective of her at this point. I want her to be done right, to be portrayed right, written well and smart. Costumes matter, but what comes out of her mouth is more important.
Other people will voice her, of course, and other people will portray her, but she’ll always have that special place for me because I did Justice League for so long and the movies. There are a lot of people out there who do associate me with her, and I didn’t really understand that fully until Twitter, and visiting and hearing from the fans at conventions. I don’t think I really realized the role of the shows in so many people’s lives, and the role of her specifically. That has been just this massive gift for me in my life.
YOU MENTIONED CONNECTING WITH THE FANS ONLINE?
When you’re meeting fans from across the country, across the world, her fans, Wonder Woman’s fans, that’s an amazing opportunity and that’s one of the gifts she’s given me. I’ve been able to travel and meet meet her fans.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THE AUDITION?
In fear. I was just as nervous as can be, and my agent sent me on my way. I was lucky enough to get a callback. I was in the room with Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano, they were directing me and telling me about the character. I saw a picture of her. I was really scared. It was very frightening and intimidating. My agent, when I left to go to the callback, he said, ‘go get it’. I did my best. At the end of the audition, I didn’t know I was going to get it, but I knew that I had done it the way I wanted to. I knew that I had listened to the direction. I knew that I did as well as I could do, so when I drove home I didn’t have any of that angst that I should have done this/could have/why didn’t I? I gave them my best and the rest was out of my hands.
DID THEY TELL YOU WHY YOU EARNED THE ROLE OF WONDER WOMAN?
Bruce in an interview, I don’t know when he gave the interview, maybe five/six years ago, he mentioned that he heard a vulnerability in my voice and that resonated for him; that the strength was there but the vulnerability was there as well. He appreciated that I could do both. I tried to do that every time I went into the room to record her.
WHEN YOU RECORDED THE EPISODES, DID YOU DO IT BY YOURSELF OR WITH OTHER ACTORS?
We were all together. It’s energy, and that’s always going to serve you when you have that energy in that room. Especially Michael Rosenbaum’s energy, because he’s just such a big presence. He is Flash, he just is. The jokes and teasing with Wonder Woman, that’s who he is in real life. That was fantastic.
The only person that wasn’t there was Kevin Conroy, because Kevin was living in New York at the time. Most of the time when we would do the read throughs, Bruce Timm would record with me, rehearse with me. All the guest starts, we were all there together. It was pretty glorious. I’m sure you know the list of people who did the show. It was a who’s who, and everybody came. I don’t think there was anyone Andrea asked to be on the show, I’m sure there are people who said no, but most people said yes; even people who had never done animation before.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT RECORDING WONDER WOMAN?
That’s such a hard question and I’ll tell you why, in six years of recording there were so many moments. So many thrills in the job whether it was a really funny moment, or it was more poignant and you had a moment you got to shine a little bit, or a kick-ass fight scene and give it your all. There were so many of them.
Then there was the kick of meeting some of the celebrities. One of the actors I got to work with was Ed Asner. I loved Ed growing up because he was on Mary Tyler Moore as Lou Grant. That’s my childhood right there, and there I am doing a scene with him and he’s calling me Diana and I’m calling him Granny. It was just fabulous. That was so exceedingly thrilling to play a scene with him.
It was everybody, it really was. I wasn’t just pinching myself for working with them, although there were some remarkable actors, I was just pinching myself because I was in that room at Warner Brothers, in this ensemble, voicing this character. That sense of awe never left, from the day I started to the day I finished. It never left me. The nausea, and the fear, and the fright of it left me, but the awe never did.
TALK ABOUT DEVELOPING THE CHARACTER OVER THE FIVE SEASONS OF THE SHOW.
That was all written for us, that was the genius of the writers. People like Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote those incredible scripts with those incredible scenes. Paul Dini, who wrote one of the funniest episodes I did, This Little Piggy. All that stuff, all the banter with Batman, the flirtation; all those moments with Flash. That wasn’t Michael and I whooping it up, that was written on the page, and we were just incredibly lucky to get to play it.
Dwayne would love to, when I had this really rigorous scene in the show, I would just look up at him as I was doing my ADR (my Additional Dialogue Recording) and just look at him like, I can’t believe you’re making me go through this, because it was so rigorous and torturous for me. He would always just have a huge smile on his face. He was just a glorious, sweet man.
We were just blessed with those writers, directors, the entire crew who had this vision for these characters. The characters weren’t only about the business at hand, and saving the world, they were also about having these fun moments amongst each other and between each other.
WHAT STORY WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED SEEN TOLD?
The fun answer to that is the love story between Batman and Wonder Woman (smiles). That got hinted at enough that the fans felt it and loved it, or didn’t depending on your sense of Superman or if you don’t want Wonder Woman with anybody; everyone has their feeling about that. I would have just loved for their story to have continued, but we had a great run, especially for an animated series. It was longer than most animated series go. So having that show from 2001-2006, that’s five years, that’s a long time for a show. It went from Justice League to Justice League Unlimited.
HOW DID IT FEEL COMING BACK FOR SOME OF THE ANIMATED FEATURES?
There was a huge gap of time in between the ending of the show and the movie, I think it was four or five years. As I said earlier, getting that job was the big break of my career. I thought when the show was over, ‘okay, I’m grateful that I had this and now it’s time to put it away.’ So to get the phone call, and to be asked to play her again, it was a massive gift, I couldn’t have been more appreciative. I felt incredibly lucky because the saga continues and I get to voice her and there is some continuity with her. Selfishly, I loved it because it meant I could stay with the character. But also, and I may be wrong on this, I believe it was good for the fans as well If they were Justice League fans, then hearing my voice would be familiar, and thus, help with the continuity.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE VOICING THE CHARACTER FOR A SHOW OR A VIDEO GAME?
The first video game I did was Injustice. That was so action-oriented. There weren’t a lot of intimate moments so to speak. It was really strenuous because it’s a fighting game; it’s really about that and that was the recording. I got to do the DCUO game, Amazon Fury, which I am still doing. I have one story left to tell in the trilogy. That has been very different because it’s a full-blown story and you have Hippolyta in the story, you have her in Themyscira, you have her in different places and different locations. There’s the fighting scenes, but also the intimate stuff, the stuff with her mother, the stuff with her nemesis, so you’ve got all of it. It kind of covers all the bases in that way. I’m still doing that, so that just feels very fresh.
The movies are a completely separate enterprise, and you’re lucky enough to be playing with actors like Tim Daly, Nathan Fillion. How spectacular is that?
With the video games you are by yourself, you are not recording with other people. For the movies and the TV show, you are with the cast, which is like I said, that’s where the energy is.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WONDER WOMAN COLLECTIBLE YOU OWN?
There are two. One is the statue that we got when we first started working on the show. It’s a Wonder Woman statue and it looks just like her from the show. It’s big. I love that. The other one was a gift from my friend, @Clarito, on Twitter. She’s a huge Wonder Woman fan and we’re good friends. When I got my puppy, she sent me a commissioned drawing of Wonder Woman with my puppy. It’s really special. It’s Themyscira and Los Angeles, it’s both places Wonder Woman, and obviously I, live. The thought and the detail that went into it is just really special.
I also have all the scripts from all the shows. I’ve kept them all. That’s where I’m nerdy. I just couldn’t get over that I was doing this, and getting paid, and this was my job.