Ben McKenzie currently stars on the excellent police drama Southland, as a rookie cop being shown the ropes by Michael Cudlitz and, for some reason, C. Thomas Howell. In kind of a reversal of his The O.C. roots, he plays a rich kid trying to fit in with a blue collar crowd. With Batman: Year One, he plays a rich kid trying to beat the snot out of the criminal crowd.
How many times in the last weeks since you've known you got the role have you said to anyone, "I'm Batman"?
Ben McKenzie: (laughs) I usually wake up in the morning, go to the mirror and say, "I'm Batman." I'll say it to my dog, and he gives a very confused look, which he always does because he doesn't speak English. I’ve tried to use the "I'm Batman" line on everyone from the valet to the guy washing my car. You know, anyone who will listen. No one seems to pay any attention. But I know. (laughs)
Did you do any research or prep work going into the recording session?
I did actually read the comic again, and it was exactly how I remembered it. Really cool and kind of dark and gritty and very bold in how it approached the source material, which has been carved out into such a revered piece of comic book fiction. It is impressive that someone would do a new take on the story, summoning the courage to just throw away a lot of that traditional stuff and really focus on some of the darker elements, which is what Frank Miller did. I think it's great. It's cool, it's bold, and I think the film lives up to that.
It's always fun to do something that you're not particularly experienced in, something that's a little bit of a new skill to learn. Regina King has done a lot of voiceover stuff for Boondocks – with Andrea (Romano) – and she loves it. So it was really nice to feel like I was in good hands and that I'd be well treated. I think any job where you can stay indoors, work a couple of hours, say a few things and get paid is a good job to have. It beats Southland, where you're out in the streets and the heat in the wool uniforms. Nobody needs that. (laughs)
Were there any outside influences on your performance before working on the booth?
I'd like to say I was influenced mainly by Adam West's performance as Batman more than anyone else – but it’s not quite the same take. There's something in the way that Frank Miller wrote the comics that lends itself to a darker gravelly-voiced kind of intensity. You can’t help but go there. So maybe it's sort of similar to the live-action version that Christian Bale is doing, but maybe not quite as much in that direction.
How did you differentiate the voice or the attitude for Batman versus Bruce Wayne?
It's hard to do because when you're going through the script in the sessions, you'll just jump back and forth. One page, you'll be doing Bruce Wayne, and the next page, you'll be doing Batman. So it is hard to kind of keep them separate in your mind. It requires a few takes to sort of relax into it and to switch it up. I'm sure tonight I'll be dreaming of being Batman. (laughs)
Do you see any parallels to your character on Southland?
I think there is sort of a broad parallel between Bruce Wayne/Batman and my character on Southland in the sense that they're both wealthy and they're both fighting crime – in the broadest sense. Bruce Wayne and, really, Batman is just the extreme version. Instead of becoming a patrol officer, he spends his money creating an alter ego and going out and doing it himself. So Bruce Wayne/Batman is just the fantastical version of what Ben Sherman is doing on Southland. He's just doing it to a more extreme level. So, yeah, there's definitely a comparison to be made for sure.
Batman: Year One arrives October 18, 2011 from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. Batman: Year One will also be available in a special download-for-purchase early window starting October 11 through iTunes, Xbox Live, Zune, VUDU HD Movies and Video Unlimited on the PlayStation Network & Sony Entertainment Network.