A serial killer stalks Gotham and the Batman must stop him before his trail of bodies cripple the city with fear. Batman Unburied is a new narrative podcast that takes the Dark Knight in a bold, unprecedented new direction. Don’t expect much Caped Crusading, though. Rather, this Bruce Wayne is a forensic pathologist who helps the Gotham City Police Department solve crimes by getting into the heads of murder victims. And there have been plenty of those. A new serial killer—the Harvester—is on the loose, and worst of all, he seems to have taken an interest in Bruce Wayne. After Bruce is assaulted by the killer, Thomas Wayne, his father and the head of Gotham City Hospital, puts his son on medical leave to try to keep him safe. But is any place ever really safe in Gotham?
Yes, you read that right. Thomas Wayne is still alive, so needless to say, we were eager for a chance to talk to him, especially since he’s voiced by none other than Lance Reddick. We got in touch with the John Wick actor just ahead of the Batman Unburied premiere to discuss his role in the new David S. Goyer creation and what Thomas’ apparent survival means for the Dark Knight.
Photo credit: Storm Santos
How were you approached for this role?
It was an offer. I do remember that I got a call offering me the role, and I thought about it and I took it.
This is kind of a return to Batman for you. You had played Ra's al Ghul in the animated series Beware the Batman. In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul was Batman's father-in-law for a while. So, you're going from playing Batman's father-in-law to playing his father. Probably the only person to do both
I guess there was one iteration in the Batman mythos where he and Talia got married. In the iteration that I played, they weren't lovers yet. With playing Thomas Wayne, it was more me just wanting to be part of the project and just thinking it was kind of cool to play Thomas Wayne. But Ra's al Ghul is one of my favorite villains of all time. For me he's up there with Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor and the Kingpin. I had been a fan of Andrea Romano's casting of the animated universe for years. I was thrilled to be able to work with her too. So that was all just really kind of heavy and surreal to me.
With Batman Unburied, did you get a chance to talk with the producers and the writers?
I never spoke to David Goyer for this project, but I did speak to some of the other producers. It feels so long ago because it was done during the beginning of the pandemic, so this was like two years ago. I was recording in my house. I was just completely fascinated by the nature of the story. We rarely get to see Bruce Wayne as an adult interacting with his father Thomas Wayne. I thought that was really cool.
Can you describe this version of Thomas Wayne for me?
He's a patriarch, and he's the head of Gotham City Hospital. He's kind of Bruce's boss, because in this version Bruce is a forensic pathologist. He's just paternal. He loves his son, and he's used to being in charge.
How would you describe Thomas Wayne as a husband and a father?
Stern and loving. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's kind of true. Bruce gets his strong will from somewhere. When you hear the Wayne family interacting, it's a little like Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver, except for the fact that Bruce is kind of overworked and is having emotional issues. In terms of how Thomas Wayne interacts with his family, he's very much kind of an idealized father and husband.
How did you find your voice for him?
I didn't try to do anything too much out of the ordinary. I feel that in terms of most larger-than-life authority figures, in terms of the voice, I didn't have to go very far. It's not like something I did when when I played Papa Legba from American Horror Story, or when I played Charon in the John Wick series.
What are some of the biggest surprises about making an audio series?
The most difficult thing about voice acting is not being able to use your face. You have to communicate so much more with just your voice. And I didn't realize how difficult that was going to be until I started doing voice acting.
How would you compare the experience recording Batman Unburied to some of the animation work that you've done?
Most of the animation stuff I've done, with the exception of Beware the Batman, has been comedy. When I did Beware the Batman, it may be the only time that we actually did it as a radio play. We were all in the room together. We rehearsed it and we were riffing off each other. Whereas with this, I recorded on my own. So, you're saying the lines kind of in a vacuum. At least in a podcast, you have someone reading with you, so you're not just seeing your lines. Somebody's reading the scene with you. On the other hand, you're not reading opposite the actual performance of the other person. In that regard, it's tricky. And it becomes, in some ways, very much an editor's game.
What are you hoping listeners get out of Batman Unburied?
They'll be excited, thrilled and a little scared. There are some great twists. And you're dealing with a serial killer, which is a lot of what Batman deals with. I think it’s going to be a very exciting experience.
Listen to new episodes of Batman Unburied, starring Winston Duke, Hassan Minhaj, Gina Rodriguez and Lance Reddick as Thomas Wayne, every Tuesday on Spotify.