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Phil Morris: King For A Day Or Faraday
The Spy Master of The New Frontier

One of us, and damn glad to have him...
Thanks to Gary Miereanu for not just sending us lots of profile pieces over the last few weeks, but for allowing Fanboy Planet a chance to sit down with many of the talents behind Justice League: The New Frontier.

Among the voice talent appearing at WonderCon was Phil Morris, an actor currently dear to fans' hearts for playing J'onn J'onnz, the Martian Manhunter on Smallville. He's potentially playing a dead character on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but appears in The New Frontier as government agent King Faraday. If you're wracking your brain to identify him, it's because his comic book appearances haven't quite vaulted him to the big leagues, though he's pivotal in Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel and its animated adaptation. You might try finding his Showcase appearances under the title I Spy.

Where you'll find Morris, however, just might be the comics shop. Not only has he landed a few great roles in fandom, it turns out he has longed for this chance since he was a kid. We take him out of the closet of fanboyishness and into the realm of those able to give something back to that strange love that dare not speak its name without a slightly nasal tone.

Morris, by the way, doesn't have a nasal tone at all -- he's quite cool. He knows his stuff, and talking with him was one of the high points of the convention.

Derek McCaw: Is it weird to be playing King Faraday while someone else voices Martian Manhunter, when, through Smallville, you’ve become the Martian Manhunter to a lot of people?

Phil Morris: That is a great question. I was hoping somebody would get to that, build that bridge. I actually did New Frontier just prior to getting the role of J’onn J’onnz on Smallville. But just barely. I voiced it one week and then I auditioned for the Manhunter the next week.

Ultimately, that was a very long process. It took maybe six weeks for me to get that job. Went back again, the producers came down from Canada, saw all their hopefuls in person and gave us very little notes. We did our thing and I thought I did great, heard “thank you very much,” and another two or three weeks, I got J’onn J’onnz. It was a very interesting process.

And here I had just voiced a character who was having scenes opposite J’onn J’onnz. So it was a little surreal, a little bit weird, but great.

How many copies on your shelf?
Derek McCaw: Were you a reader of comics before this? Were you a fan?

Phil Morris: I’m a huge fan of comics, and I know almost everything about this universe. Not as much as some of these guys, and probably not as much as you, but I have about 50,000 books at home. I’ve been collecting since I was 7, 8 years old. I’m rank and file all the way down to my boots. It took everything in me not to wear the official Justice League: New Frontier t-shirt here.

Derek McCaw: Why didn’t you?

Phil Morris: I know. I should have. Really shown my colors.

So every time I do one of these jobs, whether it’s Vandal Savage for Justice League or King Faraday here, J’onn J’onnz, Miles Dyson I’m playing on Sarah Connor, I’m doing a new superhero cartoon for Cartoon Network – it is right up my alley. These people don’t even know what a geek that they have got in hiring me. Not only do I love the work, but I love the WORK. I love their work, and I love working on it. For me, it’s a marriage made in heaven. Truly.

Derek McCaw: So you were a fan of the original graphic novel?

Phil Morris: I bought it before. I bought the first three issues, but there are so many books that I buy that I couldn’t keep waiting for another issue. So I figured I’ll bag it and just wait for the graphic novels. Bought one and two. Read them. Got the part for King Faraday. Knew who he was…thrilled, and then they sent me the collector’s edition, so I was like, okay, (smiles) I got two copies…

Derek McCaw: He’s kind of an obscure character, so you must have had some freedom. Not as many people are going to know him. He appeared in Justice League, but in a different incarnation…

Phil Morris: I never knew him in that Justice League. I never knew him before I read the graphic novel. I looked at him as a bit of a Robert Stack, just the facts, ma’am, very serious no bones altruistic government employee, albeit a high-level, high placed one. And we, Bruce, Andrea and I worked pretty hard at separating the voice for Faraday from the voice I used for Vandal Savage. We came up with a more clipped, clearer, kind of a stylized voice that spoke to the time frame they were dealing with – that McCarthyism era.

All of that, I think, created a wonderfully unique and individual King Faraday, one that’s very different from Justice League King Faraday.

In Part Two, Phil talks about his time on Smallville, Terminator and where he hopes DC takes him from here...

Derek McCaw

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