For nearly 20 years, Susan Eisenberg has captured the hearts of DC fans everywhere by literally giving voice to the most famous of all fictional female characters, Wonder Woman. Across tv shows, movies, and video games, including Justice League Unlimited, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and now Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, Eisenberg is considerered by many the definitive Diana of Themyscira. We recently sat down with Eisenberg, and she told us how she plays Wonder Woman as a warrior diplomat, her favorite moments from Justice League, and whether another Trinity reunion is in the cards...
What was your earliest exposure to Wonder Woman? Did you grow up with her?
I definitely grew up with her because I came of age at a certain period, so I knew her from the TV series with Lynda Carter. But I wasn’t comic book nerdy in that way, except for maybe Archie, Veronica, and Betty. But, of course, everyone knows Wonder Woman, she’s just iconic that way, so of course I was aware of her, but didn’t know much about her origins or anything like that.
Because her origin and background were less well-known than those of Batman and Superman, was it exciting to bring a faithful version of the comics' Wonder Woman to the screen?
You know what? I don’t think I thought about that. First of all, I was really nervous walking into that experience. It was very, very intimidating, because Bruce Timm, who created the show, Andrea Romano, who cast it and was our voice director, the cast of the show, everyone, had on-camera careers, except for me. So it was very daunting. And while I had done animated series before, I’d never been a lead on a show before. So it was nerve-wracking and scary. My biggest concern, and my only concern, was giving Bruce and Andrea what they wanted, and sounding like the character they wanted, and telling their story. Each and every time I went in there, it was about making them happy. So I wasn’t concerned with other iterations, or Wonder Woman from Super Friends, or anything like that. It was just about making Bruce smile, and if you know Bruce at all, you know that doesn’t happen frequently. [Laughs.] When I first got the job, Andrea said, "You always have to remember that she’s a princess and an Amazon. So she’s a warrior and a diplomat, and you have to always keep those two things in mind when you voice her." So that stayed with me, always keeping her tough, but not forgetting she’s regal, and she has a vulnerability to her, and bringing all that together.
What was the chemistry like between you, Kevin Conroy (Batman), and George Newbern (Superman)?
I think that we genuinely like each other. I think we all found ourselves in the middle of something magical, and when that happens... There’s sort of a bond that develops, and when you’re on something glorious and historical...though we didn’t know it at the time. We just knew that we were honored to be voicing these characters. I think we all felt lucky. Kevin had already done it ten years prior. Maybe it was old hat for him. But for all of us, it was really thrilling, and I’m sure for Kevin too. So we had a chemistry, and I don’t know that you can plan for that, or if it’s luck. I don’t know, but all of our voices just worked in that show. Then you combine that with the writing, directing, the producers... It’s why people are still talking about it to this day.
Why do you think Wonder Woman has endured and why has she been celebrated for almost 80 years?
You can’t take away the fact that she’s a woman in a man’s world. So, when you talk about the Trinity, or you talk about other superheroes, it’s completely male-dominated. In that alone, she’s a standout. But then when you think about who she is, and what she stands for, and the sense of justice and peace, equality, that people can look up on a screen and see her, and feel connected to her, and feel appreciated, and inspired by her. So many people have said to me that she embodied something for them, that gave them hope, that made them feel inspired to do better, and also, to feel accepted. She brings everything else to the table too, as a superhero. She can kick ass, she can take on anybody, but she’s also peaceful. She’ll try everything else first. I think that resonates. She will try to talk it through. She’s not somebody who’s going to reach for the sword right away. She’ll try everything else before she’ll reach for the sword. And we need more of that. There are so few people willing to talk something through, and there she is trying to talk something through. She’s just magnificent. She’s beautiful, she’s kind...and I think you can never have too much kindness in the world.
What are your favorite moments from the show?
You know what? I think seeing who they got to play with us, I mean, that was extraordinary. Looking over and seeing Ed Asner. I grew up watching Mary Tyler Moore, and Rhoda, and seeing Ed Asner voicing an old woman. That was really thrilling, seeing who they got to play with us. And as for episodes, I loved episodes that had big action, and also the quiet moments too, so you could play both. Like "This Little Piggy" by Paul Dini -- and I feel like I should get royalties on that episode at this point because I talk about it all the time [laughs]-- but it had such sweetness in it with Wonder Woman and Batman. I’m a huge fan of that flirtation, that pairing... Also "The Once and Future Thing." You had Dwayne McDuffie, you had Paul Dini, you had Stan Berkowitz, you had Rich Fogel. These are masters. We got to say those words. There are few that stand out, but I love pretty much all of them. I have all the original scripts, and I had to go through the box the other day, and I posted "This Little Piggy," the front page, on Twitter and people were so excited to see it. I could not believe the response it got from people that were like, "What?! Are there notes in the script??" I’m like, "Of course there are notes in the script. It’s the original script!"
What line of dialogue do fans ask you to say the most?
It’s funny. If you do cons with Kevin, he always stands up on a chair and says, "I am Batman!" He’ll do that and the place erupts. I do say "Great Hera!" quite a bit in the series and it became kind of an ongoing joke during the recordings, when I would get to say that. But I do say, "I am Diana, I’m princess of the Amazons, and I will not be denied..." People will often talk about the relationships with the characters, they’re Wonderbat fans. [Laughs.]
The Batman and Wonder Woman relationship hadn't really been done before. Yet as portrayed it was a natural and very charming thing despite the fact that Superman may sometimes seem like a more logical pairing.
I literally have a visceral response to that, because to me, how I grew up with this stuff -- I saw Superman with Christopher Reeve, and it’s Lois! It feels wrong because Superman’s my brother. It feels so brotherly with Superman. [Laughs.]
And #Wonderbat was one of the original ships.
I had no idea that it had resonated with people until social media, and until comic cons. We recorded this at Warner Bros, and you just don’t have a sense of what will resonate with people. I don’t even want to analyze it too much because I think it’s something just yummy that it worked out like that. And we have fun when we appear together, because Kevin will typically sing "Am I Blue?" and honestly, it makes me gush a little bit -- because he’s been my only Batman. I remember, he took me out to dinner when we first got the gig. It was just me and Kevin, and it was so long ago. It was just the sweetest, most generous gesture to say, "Let me take you out." It was just lovely. I adore him.
Do you have any favorite Wonder Woman-related stories from the movies, TV, or comics?
In terms of the comics, I just love Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier Wonder Woman. She’s so unique, his version of her...she's taller than anyone! I love the imagery. I love it. I’ve fallen in love with that version. And aside from Justice League Wonder Woman, who’s clearly my favorite, seeing Darwyn's vision of her just melts me. And of course we don’t have him anymore, so it just makes it all the more touching... I love Phil Jimenez, and Cat Staggs, and people who have told her stories. Of course I loved seeing Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman on Themyscira, and seeing her interact with all her sisters there.
You've also met Lynda Carter. Was there anything from her show that stood out for you when you were a kid?
I think just her grace and beauty really stood out. The fact that she was on that show for three years and made the impression she made on an entire generation. And that exists today, where people associate the character with Lynda, I mean, that’s an achievement. That’s a massive achievement. The more Wonder Woman, the better. I think that’s my message here. Whether she’s in video games, in comics, I think it’s all terrific. If her story is being told, then I’m happy.
Online you’ve been a great champion for a Justice League reunion, and we saw your Trinity reunited in Justice League vs the Fatal Five. Would you still like to see the entire cast get together?
Is this a trick question? [Laughs.] It would be a dream to see it. I’ve wanted this since, I think, 2008. Because you can’t have a conversation with the fans where you don't hear you were part of somebody’s childhood, or that when they read the comics, they hear you in their head when they read the characters, and not want to reassemble that magic. Put that magic together. I love the audience, and I love these characters. But to be able to revisit that...and when we’ve done it at the comic cons in Denver and New York, seeing the reaction from the fans, from us just being together again and reading those scripts again, there’s not a dry eye among us. We’re like the audience in that way. As actors, you don’t have the power to make it happen. You have to rely on the powers that be. So I feel like it’s a concerted effort here with the fans and with the actors. And Bruce said at WonderCon that if Justice League vs the Fatal Five, which we are all hugely proud of, if it does well, then it’ll be not only the Trinity, but it’ll be the whole League back together. So we have to support Justice League vs the Fatal Five, and that’s an easy support because it’s a great movie, and I’m honored that I was a part of it.
Speaking of the new movie, we're happy to see that it continues the Justice League series. Did you create any backstory for yourself to explain the time jump?
The continuity question, so funny... I'm asked about this online, but Bruce isn't online. So at WonderCon, when Bruce said, "Yes, there is continuity," and the writer Eric [Carrasco] said, "Yes, there is continuity," it was just like, "Phew! Get this off my plate!" Because, again, we’re just actors. They have the entire vision. So until Bruce said it in that moment... I almost fell off my chair by the way, when he said, "There is hope for a full reunion." I’m waiting like everybody else. [Laughs.]
You're known for being incredibly generous to fans at conventions and online. What are some of the fan encounters that have been most gratifying to you?
You meet extraordinary people. I voice a hero, but you meet real heroes. You meet war veterans. I’ve met several. I met this lovely woman who had lost her arm in combat, and she did this thing where you jump out of the plane. When she did it, she wore the Wonder Woman cape, and she dressed up in all the gear. She came to meet me, and we took several pictures together. You meet these extraordinary people, you meet people who say, "You helped me through a really hard childhood" or "I used to run home to watch your show, and it got me through..." I know what that is. If you’re human, you know what a rough childhood is, whether you had one or your friend had one. You know what being bullied is. It’s a privilege that we’ve been given to voice these characters. So I feel like we should use it responsibly. Be gracious. Be what they want you to be. I don’t understand anything else, frankly. I really don’t. Because we’re so lucky. We’re lucky that people want to ask us questions, and sit on a couch and care about what your answers are. That’s lucky. Most people don’t have that. I never lose sight of that, ever, ever, ever. I mean, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, being able to voice this character.
Be sure to watch Susan's recent video interview on DC Daily!