Inspired by the comic book series by Mike Mignola, Richard Pace and Troy Nixey, Warner Bros. Animation's Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham is a 1920s-based tale that finds explorer Bruce Wayne accidentally unleashing an ancient evil, expediting his return to Gotham City after a two-decade hiatus.
The logic/science-driven Batman must battle Lovecraftian supernatural forces threatening the sheer existence of Gotham, along the way being aided and confronted by reimagined versions of his well-known allies and enemies, including Green Arrow, Ra’s al Ghul, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Two-Face, James Gordon and Bruce’s beloved wards.
In this mystical, often terrifying Batman adventure unlike any other, Better Call Saul star Patrick Fabian plays Harvey Dent, though this take on the character is definitely different from past iterations.
Running for Gotham City's Mayor, Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham's Harvey is a classic good guy with a 1920s spin and Fabian steals the show with every scene he's part of. As you'll know if you've read the comic (and there are some minor spoilers below), the actor also gets the chance to explore the character's darker side too.
In this interview, Fabian tells us all about that, what he loves about voiceover roles, how he approached playing Harvey in this movie, and why he'd like to play Superman. We also hear from him on Better Call Saul's incredible ending and whether he feels Saul Goodman finally did right by Howard Hamlin when all was said and done.
Check out our full conversation below.
How aware of Harvey Dent were you before joining this project and did your perception of him change at all once you got to step into his shoes?
I’ve said this before, but I’m not a comic book head. I was not that kid growing up and I didn’t drag it into adulthood. Really, comic books have been introduced to me mostly by the movies. Tommy Lee Jones and his portrayal of Two-Face were immediately in my brain when this came up. I wanted to do my best not to imitate Tommy, mainly because I can never be as good as him and also because I wanted to bring my own stamp to it. What I liked about the comics with this one, it wasn’t the world I was familiar with when it came to Batman. This Elseworlds thing and the H.P. Lovecraft place they go to…I really dug that. The Harvey Dent written for this particular version is not the Harvey Dent people mostly know. We mostly see him as the good guy running for Mayor doing all those good things and that’s something I can relate to, without a doubt. That was fun to play. With Wes Gleason and Sam Liu, I think we came up with something really cool.
A few years ago, you played Hank Henshaw in a couple of Superman movies, but returning to the DC Universe for this movie, did you find much had changed in terms of being in the booth and working on this type of voice role?
I’m nervous every time I do voice work because I haven’t done a tonne. The good news is, Wes Gleason is a master at getting what he needs to get. He knows how to make you feel comfortable and knows how to move me to the left or right and direct me in a way that makes me feel comfortable and that we’re discovering something together. That’s really great. He doesn’t give line readings; he says, ‘Try this [or] try that. Think about this.’ Because of my lack of familiarity with this world, he’s good at filling in the gaps of what’s going on and, at that point, story is story. There are things that you need to do and, as an actor, a script is a script. It doesn’t matter if it’s being animated or you’re actually doing it. A good script is a good script and this is a good script.
You are an actor who has primarily done on-camera work, but what do you enjoy most about stepping into the recording booth for a project like this one?
I’m not in the booth very often, so it’s really just a very different set up with the headphones and the glass booth. What’s fun is I’m still moving around. No one is filming me, but as a matter of fact, Sam and Wes have to constantly tell me to stay on the mic because I’m moving my head [Laughs] and that doesn’t help them! There are some different disciplines with what you’re doing, but in the end, you’re still acting.
I loved what you did with Harvey here and was wondering if there were any real-life political figures or even actors from that 1920s time period who were at the forefront of your mind?
You know, I think of the Gatsby era. That’s one of my favourite novels and I think of the movies I’ve seen from that period. Like Robert Redford in the three-piece suit or what Leonard DiCaprio did in the latest version. There’s a sense of us having martinis and things are on the up and up…men are wearing fedoras, women are wearing dresses and long pearls, and I think that lends itself to an attitude in the language and an attitude of how things get delivered. I got to see the renderings they had of Harvey and that helped a lot too as I could see his double-breasted suits and things like that.
I think people tend to forget that before he was a villain, Harvey was a heroic figure in Gotham, but what about this iteration of the character did you find most compelling as an actor?
This is not necessarily the Harvey Dent people are already familiar with. There’s a bit more that they show of him and he’s actually an optimistic and good guy. Like a lot of politicians, he gets into that because he thinks he can help and he wants to help. There are good impulses that drive him but like a lot of politicians as well, there’s an ego that’s involved which makes him think he can fix everything that’s going wrong. That eventually leads to people’s downfall, but in this particular case, the way he becomes Two-Face by having ‘Poison Ivy’ on his hand…I like that because he’s actually heading in a direction where he’s going to be a good guy before he gets thwarted by that. He doesn’t even know why which makes him becoming Two-Face the way he does even more tragic.
If the opportunity presents itself to return to this role comes up in a different project, is the duality of Two-Face something you’d be keen to delve into?
Absolutely. I’m already pitching to Sam and Wes, ‘We should have a full-length feature about Harvey, shouldn’t we?’ [Laughs] I would very much like that. It’s a tease to only get to play a little bit of it, you know?
The dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Harvey is one we’ve seen explored across a lot of movies and comics, but it felt different to me here as they don’t really seem to know what to make of each other. Was that something you found exciting to explore?
Definitely. When they had the coin flip near the beginning, I think that makes the audience go, ‘Ohhh…’ At the end, with Kai Li Cain having the coin, I like that. And when Harvey is next to the gates that Batman goes through and says, ‘Good luck’ as opposed to trying to stop him or hurt him or be an obstacle, I think it could mean he really does wish him good luck in this quest which means his goodness is still there or it’s a little more ironic. Like, ‘Good luck, but you’re not gonna get out of here. Just like me.’
On another note, some time has now passed since Better Call Saul ended so how do you feel now about that heartbreaking outcome for Howard and do you think Jimmy finally taking accountability did right by your character in some ways?
I’ll tell you what, those writers did Howard really well. Every season, there was a new window into Howard as a person. They yo-yo’d the audience when it came to what feeling they had about him and, by the time they finally exited Howard, the audience was shocked. It seemed unfair. I thought it was really powerful and really great, and it was such a treat to be able to portray that. In the end, when it comes to what Jimmy did, I feel like they handled the end of the series so well because I loved the notion he was willing to stay in jail and redeem himself as a human as opposed to getting out in seven years. I can’t say enough about the writers, the directors, the costumers, the lighters…it was a project where everybody in every department was firing on all cylinders at the height of their game and I was just fortunate to be able to put on a suit and stand around with them.
Something fans love about these movies is that they really get into the meat of the story, but when you’re thrown into a role like this one without a lot of backstory, for example, are you giving a lot of thought to what makes Harvey tick beyond what you have in the script in front of you?
Without a doubt, Wes is a great sherpa for all character work in animation. There’s no doubt about that. He’s really steeped in the DC lore and comic book legends. He knows the world much deeper than I do, but you can still do your own work, and I do as an actor. In this situation, after reading the script, I was talking to Wes saying, ‘Well, Harvey seems like a good guy here.’ He responded, ‘Yeah, Harvey is not a bad guy. He’s running for Mayor for all the right reasons and literally wants to get rid of all the rats and vermin - what’s wrong with that? It’s a good thing. It just goes awry for him later on.’ In terms of prep work, you write down some history, some ideas on what he’s doing, and then as an actor, it’s about there here an now. What’s happening? What does this character want? How do they go about getting it? You go from there, but I definitely rely on Wes Gleason a tonne.
The DC Universe is so massive, but having played a couple of really iconic Batman and Superman characters, is there anyone else, in particular, you’d like to have a go at bringing to life? I feel like you’d be a great classic Superman…
God bless you! If they make the over 50 Superman at some point, I absolutely would. There’s no doubt about it [Laughs]. You’re talking about animation? Yes! I’d love it. Without a doubt. It’s funny, I was listening to David [Giuntoli] in this movie and he’s terrific in it as Batman and Bruce Wayne, and I thought, ‘Oh, we’re in similar registers. My voice could live there, without a doubt.’ Who knows. If they don’t make the Harvey Dent animation next, then maybe they’ll have me come on as Superman in one or two of them. You never know!
Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham will be available to own on Digital, 4K and Blu-ray on March 28, 2023!