Superheroine Speak: An Interview With Susan Eisenberg
Written by Guest Writer AJ Dent
It’s not every day that one gets to talk to Wonder Woman, but attendees of GeekGirlCon ‘14 had the chance to do just that! Susan Eisenberg, the voice of Wonder Woman in the animated television shows Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (and more!), was featured on two panels, letting fans learn firsthand about her experiences. “The Voice of Wonder: Spotlight on Susan Eisenberg” dove into her professional history and voice acting superpowers, with Samantha Cross moderating and The Mary Sue writer Alan Kistler sharing his background as well. while “Great Hera: Let’s Watch Justice League!” was one enormously fun view-along of episodes from the series. The highly animated panels (pun intended!) were a hit, but for those who missed them, we caught up with Susan afterwards for even more tips and tricks of her trade.
How did you initially get into voice acting?
SE: I actually started out acting, and discovered fairly early on that I was far more comfortable in front of a microphone that I was in front of a camera. I had done radio ads for my father’s business when I was a kid; I did some of the commercials for his department store, growing up in Rhode Island. It scared me to death, and I loved it. You know, it still scares me a little bit, but I still get giddy when I go into a studio!
After attending university for acting and voice acting, were you hoping to land a specific type of role, such as voicing a superheroine?
SE: When I first started out, anything that came my way, I would say yes to. I would do narration jobs, commercials, regional commercials, and it’s still the same: It’s all good, as far as I’m concerned. You get to do a radio spot, or a commercial for television, or a promo for the NFL network, or you get to be on an animated series—if you love doing voice-overs, then you’re going to love doing all those things. Of course there are distinctions with money; certainly commercial voice-overs are the most lucrative, so you get residuals, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there who does voice-overs who doesn’t covet being on an animated series. I say all the time that getting the Wonder Woman job was the biggest gift of my professional life. I got to have fun all those years on the Justice League and the Justice League Unlimited and now, I still get to play her.
How do you think voicing and spending so much time with the character of Wonder Woman has changed your worldview?
SE: It has gotten me into comics more, because it’s the universe I’m in. When I first started out, I hardly knew anything. I had grown up reading Archie comics, but I still get a bit glassy-eyed when people start talking about comic book characters’ origins and things like that. I’m lucky enough to have a few friends invested in that universe, so they’ve helped me along.
Even if it’s not my passion as much as say cinema is, and soap operas—I love my soap operas! [laughs]—I want to know about it, and what’s happening. Being on Twitter has helped a lot with that, because people talk about it so much. That’s been incredible. I’ve been able to interact with people who are directly connected to her, like Phil Jimenez, who draws Wonder Woman, and Gail Simone and Amanda Deibert. That’s been another great gift. I’ve met them all at cons, and been able to travel the world because of Wonder Woman. I’ve been invited to Australia and New Zealand because of her. That’s just been extraordinary, really special.
Speaking of cons, what was your experience like at GeekGirlCon ‘14?
SE: There were a couple big highlights! One of the panels we did was watching the Justice League episodes, and that was just such a hoot. Watching them with a room full of fans was just unbeatable. I got everyone to sing the theme music. When you’re recording shows, you’re doing it in a small group in a recording studio, or you’re watching it at home. Being in a room full of people who, ten or fifteen years later, are still crazy about the show—it’s so incredibly gratifying.
Then, meeting a couple people that I followed on Twitter or who follow me was just so much fun. Meeting the young fans, too, was great. There’s a picture I got of this beautiful little girl, just a tyke, she could barely see over the signing table and she came up in her little Wonder Woman outfit. C’mon, that’s just darling! The best. The best.
I also want to mention Samantha Cross, as it was because of her that I went to GeekGirlCon. It was she who invited me and organized the panel with the screening of the episodes, and it was a great idea. I want to give her a shoutout!
It was also interesting, because it was so intimate as a con. It’s not chaotic, and I like that. I like the energy around it; there was just a kindness to the people there. It was very sweet. They had science exhibits for girls, and things like that that I really support, so I was very happy to be part of it.
Also, while I was there, meeting fans who did grow up with the shows, and who cared about them—I don’t want to sound immodest, but for them, I’m their Wonder Woman, because they’re too young to know Linda Carter. She was my Wonder Woman because I grew up with her, but when I meet people in their twenties and thirties, to know that [Justice League] had an impact on them is really moving. It was such a quality show, and everyone—the actors, the producers, the artists, the musicians, the directors, and especially the writers—made it just so well done.
That’s one great thing about Wonder Woman as a character—she’s been in different shows for a few different generations now, yet she’s remained a feminist icon throughout it all.
SE: Yes! Except it depends who you ask, because sometimes the word “feminist” gets you into trouble. People get kinda scared, and I’ve never understood why. I think if you’re of a certain age, it’s something to be grateful for, feminism. It’s just equality. Really, to me, it’s freedom and equality, and certainly Wonder Woman is that. You throw truth and justice in there and it’s like, “Hello!” It is Wonder Woman. I feel very, very fortunate.
I think about that all the time when people ask about this Wonder Woman or that Wonder Woman, this actress or that actress. The truth is that it’s the character that endures and endures. Whether it’s me or somebody else, an animation or live action, books, comics, whatever, it’s the incarnation. She will just continue to be as popular as she is because, in my opinion, she’s extraordinary. I think in this day and age, we need her ideals and that moral compass. You can’t play somebody like that and not feel it, even in everyday life. I never take that likely.
What advice would you give to those who want to break into voice acting?
SE: I would say the first thing is to take classes. I think oftentimes, people are under the misconception that if you have a “good” voice, quote unquote, then oh, you should do voiceover. But it’s far more involved than that, just like there’s a skill set for acting. People ask me all the time, “Did you ever want to be an actor?” And I’m like, well, Wonder Woman isn’t me. I wasn’t Diana Prince. I only say “Great Hera!” maybe once or twice a week at most [laughs].
There is a skill set there, and you have to get a demo reel. Depending on if you’re doing commercial or promo or animation, you put that together so you can send it out to agents. That way, they can listen right up front and bring you in for auditions. I can’t emphasize the importance of classes enough. I still take classes! There are always things you can tweak and be more comfortable with. You can get into habits, and sometimes it’s just really good to throw it all upside down and get out of your own grooves.
Plus, the beauty of voice-over today, as opposed to twenty years ago when I started, is that there were always voice-overs throughout the country, but the big markets—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles—were really the only main games in town. Now, you can have a successful voice-over career living in Minneapolis, living in Portland, Seattle has a huge market, I’m sure. You don’t have to get on a plane and move to Los Angeles; there’s plenty of work to be had.
The days that you get to be in front of a microphone: that’s what you’re in it for. Even the days you get to audition; that’s basically our full-time job. You have to audition, and practice, and be lucky. And if you are lucky, just be grateful.
Do you have any goals or projects you’re working on now, or looking forward to doing this year?
SE: Recently, for DC, I did an online video game, Amazon Fury, and a couple episodes of a show for Marvel [Avengers Assemble]. That’s already done, and there are one or two other things, but I can’t reveal them yet, because they haven’t been announced yet. It’s to be continued!
And actually, the other thing I’d like to do more of this year is to be involved with more cons. I can announce that I’ll be going to Emerald City Comicon! I’ll be doing several panels, and that’s a goal of mine. I love being out there. I love meeting the fans and hearing their stories, having them introduce themselves to me and talking about who their favorite character in the Justice League is. If that doesn’t make you giddy—to be in a room with the fans, singing the theme song of the show you’re in—if you can’t be moved by that experience, you’re dead inside [laughs].
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, views, and voice, Susan. You do Wonder Woman justice!
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