The Milk actor speaks out on his animation debut as Green Lantern's greatest foe
Victor Garber is known for his incredible performances in such films as Titanic and Milk, and his television roles on shows such as Alias and Will & Grace. Now he's turning his talents to animation, as he takes on the role of the villainous Sinestro in Green Lantern: First Flight, the fifth in Warner Brothers Animation's series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies. Green Lantern: First Flight flies onto DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as OnDemand and Pay-Per-View on July 28, 2009.
Garber recently sat down to discuss his role as Sinestro, where he talked about his first experience with animation, his work alongside Christopher Meroni (who plays Hal Jordan/Green Lantern), Simon Cowell's attitude, and working with voice-direction legend Andrea Romano.
Here's what Garber had to say:
How did you settle on the voice of Sinestro?
Victor Garber: The challenge of bringing this character to life was to find exactly the right tone. My tendency would be to make it a little too colorful, but Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm) gave direction that was very specifically to modulate it and find the right tone. It was interesting because with animation, it's all voice - at the recording stage of the process, you don't even really know what it's going to look like. But when I read the script, I had sort of an idea of the sound of Sinestro, because it was very specifically written - and very well written - so you could understand the sense of humor and irony in this character. I appreciated that.
How does Sinestro compare to other characters you've played before?
Victor Garber: Having played the the ultimate villain as the Devil many years ago in Damn Yankees!, I found Sinestro was just kind of a modification of that character. The thing about villains is that they all think they're doing the right thing, and Sinestro believes that what he's doing is for the better, that it's going to improve the universe. The scariest part about a villain is that you know, at any cost, human life or super-powered life, they will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. They believe in their cause, and Sinestro fits that mold.
Do you enjoy playing the villain?
Victor Garber: I like to play any character that has dimension and complexity and if he happens to be a villain, great. If he happens to be heroic, great. I just like well-written roles.
What development did you put into the voice?
Victor Garber: I actually read the script aloud a couple of times and sort of experimented with a certain qualities. In the script, it says - and maybe this was a bit misleading - but it refers to Sinestro as having a bit of a Simon Cowell attitude. I tried not to let that influence me too much, but Sinestro is sarcastic and he's got a real edge. So I played with it, and once I got into the studio with Andrea, the voice really came out.
What was your impression of Sinestro's dialogue?
Victor Garber: When I first read the script, I came to these four-paragraph speeches, and that always alarms me a little bit because with anything (that long), you really have to figure out how you're going to shape the entire piece. But they're well written, and they have a definite rhythm. So I sort of read it aloud in the privacy of my own home, because I just wanted to get the sound of it - you don't want to be tripping over your words when you get to the studio. So I had a sense of what I wanted to achieve and it worked out pretty well.
It's important to prepare and understand the entire script, not just your lines. You don't want to upstage the other actors. If it's a scene with two or three or five people, you really basically need to think, "How am I communicating with all these people?" Everybody in this mix makes it whole, and I think they've assembled a really good group of people for this film.
Speaking of the cast, you're playing opposite Christopher Meloni's heroic Green Lantern, and you had the opportunity to act with each other in the booth. How was that experience?
Victor Garber: Chris was very disappointing (LAUGHS). Christopher Meloni is a really great actor and I'm a huge fan of his -- the opportunity to work with him was really my incentive to do it. I'm on a little break, I've just come back from Morocco, I was jet lagged and my agent called and I thought, "Two days in the studio with Chris Meloni? I can do that." We had a lot of fun. He really does exude the heroic quality that Green Lantern would embody. It was funny because you're in the studio and you're focused on the microphone, reading the script - you hear each other in your headphones so you can play off each other, but you don't really look at each other. And occasionally I would catch a glimpse of him - striking the (super hero) pose. He was definitely in character.
Did your previous work on the stage and screen help prepare you for this style of performance?
Victor Garber: From my experience as an actor, every role you do helps you build a kind of a repertoire of characters that you pull things from unconsciously. This is very different from anything I've done on television or even on stage. But my job as an actor is to imbue it with some sort of authenticity and truth - to make it believable. I didn't pull anything for Sinestro from any specific character I've played in the past. They're all different.
From Nora Ephron to Gus Van Sant to James Cameron, you've worked with some impressive directors. What was your impression of your first voiceover under the direction of Andrea Romano?
Victor Garber: Andrea is a task maker. She's brilliant at her job, I have to say. You just feel confident that there's someone in the booth that's really watching out for you. She's very specific, she knows what she wants, and she's relentless at getting it - which is a great thing because then you know that the product is going to be the best it can be. I had a great time with her.
Based on this first experience, are you interested in doing more voiceovers for animation?
Victor Garber: Well, I hope that people like what we've done and I hope I get more work from it, but you never know. It was challenging in that it requires some very specific techniques with the microphone, things that you would do naturally that you can't do during a voiceover. There are constraints that you're required to pay attention to. But it was completely fun to do and challenging only in the best sense. I'd like to do more.
In Green Lantern: First Flight Hal Jordan becomes the newest recruit of the Green Lantern Corps, and put under the watchful eye of veteran Lantern Sinestro. Jordan eventually discovers that the man he has trusted to mentor him is actually the leader of a conspiracy that threatens everything central to the beliefs and ideals of the Green Lantern Corps. Hal finds himself forced to master his new powers and abilities, and lead the loyal members of the Lantern Corps against those traitors who represent a threat to the Lantern's mission of maintaining order in the universe.
Please visit the film's official website at http://www.greenlanternmovie.com