From Academy Award blockbusters Titanic and Milk to Emmy-nominated performances in Alias and Will & Grace to Tony Award nods for a lengthy list of leading roles on Broadway, Victor Garber has achieved acting greatness regardless of the format.
Now add animation to his list of successes.
In his animation debut, Garber masterfully crafts the voice for the calculating, villainous Sinestro in Green Lantern: First Flight, the fifth in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies. Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation are set to release the all-new film â€“ as a special edition 2-disc DVD, a Blu-Rayâ„¢ Hi-Def edition, as well as single disc DVD â€“ on July 28, 2009, as distributed by Warner Home Video. The action-packed movie will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, July 28, 2009.
Green Lantern: First Flight finds Hal Jordan recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps and placed under the supervision of respected senior Lantern Sinestro. The earthling soon discovers his mentor is actually the central figure in a secret conspiracy that threatens the philosophies, traditions and hierarchy of the entire Green Lantern Corps. Hal must quickly hone his newfound powers and combat the treasonous Lanterns within the ranks to maintain order in the universe.
The Canadian-born Garber first captured national attention in his 1973 big screen debut as Jesus in Godspell. Garberâ€™s film credits include Titanic, Milk and Sleepless in Seattle, while his television career boasts six Emmy Award nominations spread over four different series, miniseries and movies. He earned a Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series for his portrayal of Sydney Bristowâ€™s mysterious father in Alias, and most recently was featured in Eli Stone and Justice.
The toast of Broadway for more than three decades, Garber has four Tony Award nominations for a career of performances that range from the Devil in Damn Yankees! to originating the role of John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheimâ€™s Assassins.
Though Garber has recorded books on tape and done some narration for television, Green Lantern: First Flight represents his first-ever voiceover performance for animation. It is an ear-catching performance that captures Sinestroâ€™s true sinister nature. Garber stole a few moments during his New York-based Green Lantern: First Flight recording sessions to chat about his first-ever animation experience, his hero-posturing co-star, Simon Cowellâ€™s attitude, and the directing tornado that is Andrea Romano.
QUESTION: 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, itâ€™s all voice â€“ at the recording stage of the process, you donâ€™t even really know what itâ€™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 â€“ and very well written â€“ so you could understand the sense of humor and irony in this character. I appreciated that.
QUESTION: 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.Â 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.
QUESTION: 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.
QUESTION: 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 â€“ and maybe this was a bit misleading â€“ 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 heâ€™s got a real edge. So I played with it, and once I got into the studio with Andrea, the voice really came out.
QUESTION: What was your impression of Sinestroâ€™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 â€“ you donâ€™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.
Itâ€™s important to prepare and understand the entire script, not just your lines. You donâ€™t want to upstage the other actors. If itâ€™s a scene with two or three or five people, you really basically need to think, â€œHow am I communicating with all these people?â€ Everybody in this mix makes it whole, and I think they’ve assembled a really good group of people for this film.
QUESTION: Speaking of the cast, youâ€™re playing opposite Christopher Meloniâ€™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, Iâ€™ve just come back from Morocco, I was jet lagged and my agent called and I thought, â€œTwo days in the studio with Chris Meloni? I can do that.â€ We had a lot of fun. He really does exude the heroic quality that Green Lantern would embody. It was funny because youâ€™re in the studio and you’re focused on the microphone, reading the script â€“ you hear each other in your headphones so you can play off each other, but you donâ€™t really look at each other. And occasionally I would catch a glimpse of him â€“ striking the (super hero) pose. He was definitely in character.
QUESTION: 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 â€“ to make it believable. I didnâ€™t pull anything for Sinestro from any specific character Iâ€™ve played in the past. They’re all different.
QUESTION: From Nora Ephron to Gus Van Sant to James Cameron, youâ€™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. Sheâ€™s very specific, she knows what she wants, and she’s relentless at getting it â€“ 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.
QUESTION: Based on this first experience, are you interested in doing more voiceovers for animation?
VICTOR GARBER: Well, I hope that people like what weâ€™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 canâ€™t do during a voiceover. There are constraints that you’re required to pay attention to. ButÂ it was completely fun to do and challenging only in the best sense. Iâ€™d like to do more.