Jerry O'Connell on 'Justice League Dark': 'Superman belongs to the fans so I take criticisms seriously' (exclusive)

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Superman in 'Justice League Dark: Apokolips War'. (Credit: DC/Warner Bros Animation)

Superman voice actor Jerry O’Connell has admitted he does read what fans say about him on Reddit and other social media.

The actor is playing the Kryptonian hero once again in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War — the epic conclusion of the DC Animated Movie Universe.

This movie sees Clark Kent reeling and powerless in the wake of a botched attempt to counter the threat of the super-villain Darkseid, voiced by horror legend Tony Todd.

O’Connell told Yahoo Movies UK he believes he has improved as Superman since first taking the role, but that he still treasures the input of fans on Reddit and Twitter.

Read more: Henry Cavill hasn’t given up on Superman

“It’s probably not psychologically healthy for me, but I do [read fan criticism] and I do find it helpful,” the 46-year-old said.

He added: “Superman is going to be here way after I’m done playing him. He’s not mine. He’s yours, he belongs to the fans.

Superman is forced to deal with extreme guilt in 'Justice League Dark: Apokolips War'. (Credit: DC/Warner Bros Animation)

“I have no right to tell them how it should be played, but they have every right to tell me how he should be played.”

Read more: Superman stars past and present unite for Crisis On Infinite Earths

In Apokolips War, O’Connell is part of a huge ensemble of DC superhero characters, including incarnations of the Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, as well as the Justice League and Justice League Dark.

Matt Ryan reprises his role as John Constantine, with Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman and Taissa Farmiga as Raven also part of the cast.

Jerry O'Connell attends the Build Series to discuss "Carter" at Build Studio on January 20, 2020. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

O’Connell admitted that the intensity of the superhero fanbase was “scary” in the early days of his DC work.

He said: “In the beginning, I was not as good as I am now. I openly admit that. It’s like anything else: when you start something out, you’re just not as good.

“Some of the fans let me know that through social media. I really took their advice and it really helped me in creating the many characters that Superman is.”

Read the full interview with Jerry O’Connell in which he discusses his friendly rivalry with Batman actor Jason O’Mara, his Rotten Tomatoes track record and the long-running affection for his debut role in Stand By Me...

Yahoo Movies UK: The scale of this movie is so epic. Are you able to get a sense of that as a voice actor?

Jerry O’Connell: It starts with the amazing writing that happens. I think the writing that goes on in Warner Bros Animation is some of the best writing happening in the superhero world these days. I’m just so proud of all the work that we do and this is like our big finale.

I don’t like to talk about Marvel, but this is our Endgame.

It’s a very tough place that Superman finds himself in this time. How much of a challenge was that?

They really give it to me! This is not a day job where I just come in and have to speak in a deep voice as Superman and then a nerdy voice as Clark Kent. They really give me rich stuff.

But that just goes to show how great our writers are. I don’t know if it’s because it’s animation or because we really want to make our mark, but our writers are doing things that are completely different than anyone else is doing in any superhero storytelling. It’s really fun as an actor to see what they come up with and then work with it. It’s not something you can merely phone in.

Read more: Looking back at Superman: The Movie

As I’ve done a few of these films, it gets less scary and more exciting. It’s some of the most exciting stuff to work on in the superhero world and also to be a part of because the fan base is having so much fun — and they let me know it, whether it’s to my face at a convention or it’s through social media. It’s really a fun place to be and I hope we get to keep doing them.

It cuts both ways, I guess, the fandom. If they love something, they’ll tell you they love it, but if they don’t they’ll tell you that as well.

Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman prepare for action in 'Justice League Dark: Apokolips War'. (Credit: DC/Warner Bros Animation)

I have to say that in the beginning it was a little scary. In the beginning, I was not as good as I am now. I openly admit that. It’s like anything else: when you start something out, you’re just not as good. Some of the fans let me know that through social media.

Read more: How to reboot the DC movie universe

I really took their advice and it really helped me in creating the many characters that Superman is. He’s not just one character — he’s Superman, he’s Clark, he’s a son, he’s an orphan, he’s a hero, he’s a jealous co-worker when it comes to Batman, he’s an insecure boyfriend with Lois. It’s a bunch of different characters and he’s really fun to play.

The thing we’re seeing now too is fans having more and more power. We saw it this year with Sonic the Hedgehog and Warner Bros has the “Snyder Cut” with all of the actors getting involved. Are you seeing that — more and more fans having influence and power?

My psychiatrist would probably disagree with me, but I do listen to what people say on platforms and social media and Reddit and stuff. It’s probably not psychologically healthy for me, but I do and I do find it helpful.

Superman is going to be here way after I’m done playing him. He’s not mine. He’s yours, he belongs to the fans. I have no right to tell them how it should be played, but they have every right to tell me how he should be played.

What’s your process for when you go into the recording booth for the day? I imagine you doing it in the full suit.

Jerry O'Connell and Jason O'Mara attend 'The Death Of Superman" press line during Comic-Con 2018. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Of course, I do it in the full suit! I just have to make sure I’m more muscular than [Batman actor] Jason O’Mara. I’ll tell you it’s tough to keep up with that man. He’s a very strong man. I do like to, when we do cons and stuff, try to just be a little more swole, I guess is the term. Don’t tell him I said this, but it takes every last fibre of my energy to keep up with that man.

Read more: Brandon Routh on why Superman sequel didn’t pan out

All jokes aside, I love him — not only as an actor but a voice actor. Jason has also been very helpful in motivating me. I have a pretty large constituency I have to represent when it comes to portraying Superman. There are two types of people in this world — Superman people and Batman people — and I have to make sure that the Superman people are represented.

Before I let you go, I have to ask about Stand By Me. What’s it like having a film that beloved as your first credit?

Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman in 'Stand By Me'. (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Its crazy, man. It’s crazy that we still talk about it. Now that we’re in this quarantine, a lot of people are watching it. It’s just crazy that I’m part of a timeless classic.

Read more: What happened to the cast of Stand By Me?

And, you know, maybe Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will get there. By the way, if you go to Rotten Tomatoes and you type in my name, my highest score is for The Death of Superman, not Stand By Me.

[Note: Apokolips War is currently at 100% and is technically O’Connell’s highest score]

Everyone talks about it like it must be such an honour to play Superman, but I’m just in this to get my Rotten Tomatoes score higher. I’ve had a couple of zeroes. I don’t know if you know anything about grading but, when you get a zero, it really messes with your average and you might not graduate. And one day I want to get to the Hall of Fame of Rotten Tomatoes.

You’re on Reddit looking for tips?

Yes! But really, the fans [of Stand By Me] have been really great. When we’re all allowed to, I hope to see everybody at a Comic-Con.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is available now on digital download and DVD, Blu-Ray™, Blu-Ray™ Steelbook, & Blu-Ray™ Minifig from 18 May.