The following story contains spoilers for this week's episodes of the podcast “Batman Unburied.”
“Batman Unburied” — a narrative audio series created by David S. Goyer and starring Winston Duke as Bruce Wayne/Batman — is stuffed with increasingly dramatic twists and turns. This week’s episodes — “May Day” and “Deadly Things” — feature the most surprising reveal of the series so far.
Last week’s installments — Episodes 5 and 6 (“Park Row” and “Work Clothes,” respectively) — started with the significant revelation that Bruce’s “psychiatrist” was actually the ever-conniving supervillain Hugo Strange (John Rhys-Davies). But in an unexpected turn of events, the latter episode ended with his sudden murder, leaving listeners with a thrilling cliffhanger.
Turns out it was all just a well-executed bait and switch; Episodes 7 and 8 unearth the true mastermind behind both the Harvester’s (Sam Witwer) rampage and Bruce’s psychotherapy and drug-induced hallucinations.
The Times spoke to Raver-Lampman about the shocking reveal, her experience acting in such a unique medium and what it’s like playing such a storied Batman villain. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
A few days after its release, “Batman Unburied” became the No. 1 podcast on Spotify in the U.S. and in many other countries. What it’s been like to have such an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: I think it's so incredible. Voice-over work is a new medium for me, and I’m just starting to dip my toe into it. I'm so honored to be a part of it [“Batman Unburied”]; both the actors on it and the creative team are just so incredible. I'm truly just thrilled for everybody involved, because I know they've been working on this for so, so, so long. To have their work pay off with such rave reviews from all over the world and to have people tuning in every week to listen to the new episodes that come out is just really, really exciting.
The story is stuffed with shocking reveals, twists and turns and dramatic cliffhangers, especially when it comes to your character(s). You also play Kell, the unassuming morgue attendant from the opening episodes. What were your initial reactions upon reading the script?
I was so excited to have that opportunity to get to kind of split myself in two within the same project and to really try to pull off playing two different people. Initially, I was so nervous because Poison Ivy is iconic, just like so many of these [Batman] characters. I wanted to do the fans proud and give a performance that the creatives felt was right for the part and that could play along well with the rest of the cast. There is so much source material for all of these characters, but I was like, “You know what? I have to do my own thing and I have to make my own Poison Ivy and I have to find her, and I also have to find Kell.” Once the initial shock of the offer and the idea kind of wore off, I settled a little bit and then just started kind of trusting the team and trusting myself that we would find something really cool together.
After your experience onstage and screen, including “Hamilton,” “Umbrella Academy” and “Central Park,” what unique challenges did the podcast space present?
For me, personally, it was really, really quick. We did all of it in one weekend, I was actually still up in Toronto shooting Season 3 of “The Umbrella Academy.” We got the offer on a Monday, and they [Spotify] were like, “We need these to be done by next week.” I was on set every day so only had Saturday and Sunday of that coming weekend to do it. I had two back-to-back, six-hour studio sessions, and we basically did the entire season. Voice-over really takes me back to my [musical theater] roots. It feels really collaborative, and it's just really experimental. The whole thing kind of feels like a rehearsal process, you're in the studio and you're just trying things and experimenting and just jibing with the creative team. There’s a safe space to try new things and make bold choices, and sometimes they work and sometimes you have to try something different, but it really does kind of scratch the itch of when I do start to miss being on the stage.
Your performance as Poison Ivy is incredible. You play it in a way that allows her complexities to really shine through. What it was like to play such a complicated character?
There's so much to chew into and bite into as an actor. You have this incredibly heartbreaking backstory of the abuse that she experienced and had to survive because of her father and how he was experimenting on her. She's a victim of what her father put her through. She’s put in this situation where she has to live with the repercussions of what someone else has done to her and how that completely changed the course of her life. She spends a lot of her early life trying to cure herself and figure out how she can fix what she thinks and believes — at that time — is wrong with her. She finally gets to this point where it doesn't really matter if she ever fixes herself because people will always have this view of who she is. At that point, she decides to make the choice to lean into this person that she's become, and that shift is really exciting to play. The moment when she stops being a victim of her past and she starts using that to her benefit. She's at a point where she's just unapologetic.
“Batman Unburied” has such a unique voice cast, many of whom are people of color — Winston Duke, Gina Rodriguez, Hasan Minhaj, Lance Reddick and Toks Olagundoye. How important was this emphasis on diverse representation for you personally and did it inform your performance at all?
Having Winston involved and knowing that Gina [who plays Barbara Gordon] was going to be involved and knowing that Bruce's parents were going to be played by two Black actors [Reddick as Thomas Wayne and Olagundoye as Martha Wayne], I was kind of already filling in the blanks even though at that point I didn't know everybody who had been cast. That was exciting enough for me, and I wanted to revel in that opportunity to bring diversity and representation into the voice-over space, which has also been a huge part of my journey with Central Park, which is so exciting. These [Batman] characters have not previously been as diverse, so it's just really exciting that the cast ended up being so beautifully diverse in so many different ways. It was exciting to know that there were so many people on the other side of the microphone just bringing everything that makes them who they are to these characters that have not previously been depicted by people that look like us.
What do you hope listeners take away from “Batman Unburied”?
My hope is that people just get lost in these performances, the story that we're telling, the dialogue and the incredible sound design. I hope we allow people to completely immerse themselves in this world and go on this journey with these characters and block out the [real] world and get lost in it. I used to travel almost every summer with my parents, we used to do cross-country road trips, and we camped a lot. We loved listening to books on tape, and this experience has reminded me so much of my childhood. Sitting in the back of the car with my parents and getting lost in the world that we're listening to, but knowing that all of us are seeing it so differently in our heads because it's not visual. I think that's something that's so beautiful about this medium. Everyone is creating a different version of this experience in their heads, and I love the idea that millions of people listening all over the world have a completely different version of what they're hearing. We’re all just giving these different performances, and they're creating these worlds in their heads that are so uniquely theirs. I think that's what's so cool about this medium. I loved working on this so much, and I hope that there's more. I’m honestly so stoked and so happy that it's doing well because I’m like, “Great! [laughs] Are we doing more? What’s happening?”
Listen to this week's episodes here.
The final two episodes of "Batman Unburied" will be available to stream exclusively on Spotify next Tuesday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.