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Brave, Bold and Bader
A chat with the new animated Batman, Diedrich Bader

Diedrich and mustache.
After years of making Batman safe for adults to love, Warner had a problem. The Dark Knight was just too darned frightening for children. Enter Cartoon Network, which has solved the problem by creating a series for kids based on one of DC's most thrilling - and often silliest - titles: The Brave and the Bold.

Debuting this weekend, the series aims to capture the slightly loony feel of classic Batman artist Dick Sprang, while exposing us all to the wider DC Universe. It's a place where anything can happen, Batman can go anywhere, and all the while we can still feel relatively safe. At last, you can sit on the couch with your kids and enjoy Batman together.

But of course, to do this, you need an anchor. An actor that can run the gamut from icy gruff to paternal to exasperated while still remaining recognizably Batman. Maybe you'd be surprised to find that Voice Director Andrea Romano turned to comic actor Diedrich Bader, who just finished a run at the Mark Taper Forum in the stage play, "The House of Blue Leaves."

Then again, you wouldn't be surprised if you'd heard him do the voice. We got that chance at Comic-Con this past summer, and sat down with Diedrich, perhaps best known for his role on The Drew Carey Show. He was as friendly and open as he seems to be in his TV role, and quickly proved that he's doing Batman for all the right reasons.

Derek McCaw: This is not the first time you've voiced in the animated DC Universe. You did The Zeta Project, didn't you?

Diedrich Bader: I was the voice on The Zeta Project, and I also did a couple of bad guys - geez, I can't even remember now - on The Batman. So this was not the first time that I've gotten around the Batman universe, which is very cool.

But you know when I watched it, when Andrea Romano sent me the DVD of The Batmans that I did, I realized that I couldn't show them to my kids.

Derek McCaw: So what was supposed to be for kids originally evolved into something too intense…

Diedrich Bader: Yeah, it was just a little too much, a little too intense. We always pre-screen everything for our kids, and I think it was just too much for them. So I really wanted for a show, not necessarily for me to be in it, where it was Batman, because he's such a great character and so iconic in the American lore, that my son could watch. My kids could watch. We could all watch together.

When Andrea called me about this, I was really truly pumped. It's kind of a throwback to the original sort of feel of Batman.

Derek McCaw: I have a son about your son's age, too, and when I heard about this show, I thought, "oh, good…one we'd feel safe watching it."

Diedrich Bader: Oh, believe me, in all the scripts I've read for it, he could totally watch it. It's really kind of a fun thing.

Derek McCaw: Message to my wife: Diedrich Bader says so.

Diedrich Bader: Yes, don't blame him. Blame me.

Derek McCaw: What was it about you that made Andrea call you?

Diedrich Bader: I think it was a combination of the fact that I do a lot of comedy, and I have the pipes to do Batman. Really, it's those two things.

What's interesting about it is that there's a voice that people expect from Batman. You can't change the voice of Batman, really, but you can change the approach. She knew that my approach would be that I'm going to find where it's going to be funny.
A kinder, gentler Batman.

Derek McCaw: Can you give me an example?

Diedrich speaks as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Click here for the audio file.

Diedrich Bader: (assumes a low-tone) Batman always talks like this. Every other Batman speaks like this. I couldn't disappoint everyone.

Derek McCaw: How about your Bruce Wayne?

Diedrich Bader: Bruce Wayne is actually closer to me. In my approach, and this is through James Tucker the creator, we had the idea that in the voice-over he sounds like Bruce Wayne. It's essentially that he's playing the character of Batman. When he dons the cowl, he assumes the mantle of Batman. He actually plays the character. So the voices of Bruce Wayne and Batman have to be separate.

Derek McCaw: It is kind of an odd time for this, as Batman is on everyone's mind because of The Dark Knight.

Diedrich Bader: No, no, I think it's actually really great for us. It's perfect timing. It's the Year of the Bat!

Also, a lot of people can't take their kids to The Dark Knight. Nah. But they see the Batman things everywhere. They see the motorcycle. They're built up to do it, and this is a show that they can genuinely watch. They can be a part of it.

Derek McCaw: And you've probably now got an action figure coming of yourself. Have you ever had an action figure before?

Diedrich Bader: No, and I'm really, really excited about it. Because my son loves action figures. They're strewn all over the house.

Derek McCaw: Have they given you a prototype? Have you seen you?

Diedrich Bader: No, I haven't seen anything. In fact, the first time I'd even seen a frame of the show was today with everyone else. I was really pumped, because the animation looks great. It looks really good.

It's very Technicolor. It's very fluid rather than angular. It's really cool. I think people are going to love it.

Derek McCaw: It sounds like you're such a fan…

Diedrich Bader: Oh, totally. Oh my god.

Derek McCaw: So which character crossover has got you the most geeked out?

Diedrich Bader: (laughs) Well, I like that Gorilla Grodd is going to be in it. And Red Tornado. But I love the…um…probably Huntress. I love that Huntress is in the show. She's hot.
Diedrich Bader with Andrea Romano at Comic-Con 2008
Derek McCaw: What about your on-camera work? You've had some pretty funny stuff…

Diedrich Bader: Thank you. I'm just not that interested in being on-camera right now. I audition here and there, but not very much.

Derek McCaw: What's made the difference for you?

Diedrich Bader: My kids are so little. Particularly my daughter - she's two. You know, this will sound weird, but because of The Drew Carey Show, I'm able to not work. I have the great luxury of being around my kids at a time when everybody says, "this is the greatest time…" Every parent said enjoy these years.

The problem is that if you do a movie, most shoot out of town. So what if I've got to shoot in Australia for five months? I don't want to do that. I'm going to miss five months - that's a quarter of her life!

I'm waiting for sitcoms to come back around. Eventually they'll come back around.

Derek McCaw: So you'd do a sitcom again?

Diedrich Bader: I'd totally do a sitcom. Oh, god, yes. The hours are fantastic, and it's fun to get in front of an audience. I miss getting in front of an audience. The only reason I'm growing this stupid mustache is that I'm doing a play next at the Taper - "The House of Blue Leaves."

Anyway, then I can be around during the day and go do the show at night. Because I like playing in front of a crowd. I like doing what I do. That's what I do like.

Derek McCaw: You did a lot of improv with Drew Carey. Do you work out with any improv groups in L.A.?

Diedrich Bader: Not at all. Not at all. I'm basically a homebody. As you know, if you're around a kid all day, you're wiped out at the end of the day.

Indeed. We thank Diedrich for his time, and look forward to the Cartoon Network debut of Batman: Brave and the Bold!

Derek McCaw

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