The veteran actress discusses voicing Wonder Woman's mother in the latest animated feature from Warner Brothers
Virginia Madsen is no stranger to working in the realms of science-fiction and superherodom, and she is a proud mother of a fourteen year-old son - which makes her a perfect choice to give voice to Queen Hipolyta, queen of the Amazons and Wonder Woman's mother in Wonder Woman, the latest direct-to-DVD animated feature from Warner Home Video and DC Comics.
Madsen recently sat down to do a Q&A session to discuss her role in the film. Here's what she had to say:
Did you prepare for voicing the Queen of the Amazons in any special way?
Virginia Madsen: Well, I prepared this morning by writing several edicts for my son (laughs). Honestly, I love when I get to play these characters that are bigger than life. There are roles in animation that I never get to do in real life - and it appeals to my ego as an actor to play the Queen of Everything (laughs) Hey, I'm honest. I admit it.
Hippolyta has a really wide range - I use a lot of notes when I play her. She has a larger, more regal voice. I liked the range we use to create her vocally, and the way that she was written. It's not that she's over the top, but she's just a very, very big character. And I don't usually get to do that on onscreen.
Is that part of the allure of voice acting for you - to gain satisfaction in performances that you don't find on camera?
Virginia Madsen: Voiceover work reminds me of old-time radio. When I was little I used to sneak and stay up at night and listen to Mystery Radio Theater - I loved all those old radio plays. A radio play actually ended up being the first acting job I ever had. A lot of times when I'm on camera, I'm playing characters that are more like myself, and I don't get to do a lot of real character work. But when you're doing animation, you are the very epitome of colorful characters. I think I'm just really into make believe. In animation, there's silly things I get to do with my voice. I get to have a wider range, so my voice gets to dance more than it does on camera. So it's almost like I get to be more theatrical when I work in voiceover.
You're voicing the Queen of the Amazons, but she's also the mother of Diana/Wonder Woman. Did your standing as a single mother of a 14-year-old son influence your taking the role or your performance?
Virginia Madsen: Well, I am a proud mother - that's another reason I love doing any kind of animation. When my son was growing up, if he was watching something animated and I was in it, that was way cooler to him than seeing me in a movie.
Hippolyta is very protective, and she thinks she knows it all, and I do as a mother in real life know it all (laughs). And if my son would only listen to my advice, he would lead a perfect life (laughs harder). I'll still be saying that to him when I'm 75. I like to imagine that I have the control that Hippolyta does, but he's a teenager, so that never really happens (laughs).
This is a blockbuster voice cast - any thoughts on your co-stars?
Virginia Madsen: Actually, Marg Helgenberger and I were waitresses in the same restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. I'm happy to say that that restaurant has since been torn down. But Marg made it out first. We both had an audition for ABC soaps - different soaps, but we auditioned at the same time, and she got the part and went off to New York. Three years later, I went to L.A. So she was kind of an inspiration to me. And it makes sense that we will both be in Wonder Woman together, because we ARE Wonder Women (laughs).
I love Keri Russell. I watched every episode of Felicity, and Waitress is my favorite film from last year. She's just an amazing actress. And I like her voice a lot - it didn't surprise me that she would be doing voiceover work.
You've got some notable experience in the sci-fi/fanboy world. Do you seek out these projects?
Virginia Madsen: I think it seems to find me, and that might be because I'm a fan. I would have been a fan of Candyman even if I hadn't been in that movie. I'm a huge fan of Star Trek, which is why I was in Star Trek: Voyager - because I begged them to be a part of that lore. I was always an actress, even as a little kid, and fantasy, horror, sci-fi stories are really all about playing make believe. I just never grew out of that.
Dune was released 25 years ago. Do you have any specific memories?
Virginia Madsen: That was really my first Hollywood job. It was such a small part, but I opened the movie. I was about 19 years old and I had to make this speech, and I didn't understand most of the words because they were, you know, words from Dune. They were made up names that I didn't know how to pronounce, but I knew how I should sound because I was a sci-fi fan myself. I hadn't read the book, but I knew that I was the princess of the universe. I went in and sort of made her up, and David Lynch thought it matched and cast me.
Were/are you a comic book reader?
Virginia Madsen: I was not a comic book reader, but my son is. My son wasn't really interested in reading books, which was hard for me because I love to read. It just didn't come naturally to my boy. So we kind of found comic books because they were fascinating to him. They were great stories. Of course, I have to read them all first, because now when you get into graphic novels, they are definitely in deep graphic. But the stories and the characters really interest him, so comic books kind of taught him how to read. So we're really into comic books.
Is there a comic book role that your inner geek covets?
Virginia Madsen: Sadly, I really want to be Batman ... and I just never will be (laughs). That's the cross I bear. When I was growing up, the really, really cool super heroes were all male - so I wanted to be them. I really didn't like Batgirl. I was like, "No, if I'm not gonna be Batman, I'm not gonna play." Maybe they could write an evil female super villain who takes over Batman, and nobody knows. Then I could live my dream (laughs). I think that's a good idea.
Produced by the multiple Emmy Award winning animation legend Bruce Timm, Wonder Woman is an origin-- story and features a stellar celebrity voice cast including Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Virginia Madsen, Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt and David McCallum. Wonder Woman begins on the mystical island of Themyscira, where a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons resides. They have raised Princess Diana, a daughter of stunning beauty, extraordinary strength and incredible fighting prowess. Diana possesses a host of super human powers granted to her by the gods and goddesses of Olympus and her strength and stamina are unparalleled. When Air Force fighter pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization. Meanwhile, Ares (the God of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazons and has decided to exact his revenge by starting a world war that will destroy them all. It is up to Princess Diana to save her people and the world by using her gifts to become the ultimate Wonder Woman. Visit the film's official website at www.wonderwomanmovie.com. The film hits DVD and Blu-ray Disc on March 3, 2009.