Kevin Conroy, the The voice actor best known for portraying Batman in a slew of animated films, television shows and video games over three decades has died. He was 66.
“It is with profound sadness that I send you this today: Kevin Conroy, the quintessential Batman and a dear friend to so many of us, has passed away,” Conroy’s rep confirmed Rolling Stone.
Conroy voice starred Batman: The Animated Series for four years from 1992-1996 and went on to act in nearly 60 different projects.
Mark Hamill, who played Conroy’s on-screen rival the Joker, remembered the actor as one of his “favorite people on the planet.”
“Kevin was perfect,” Hamill recalled. “He was one of my favorite people on this planet and I loved him like a brother. He genuinely cared about those around him – his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke to him, my spirits lifted.”
“Kevin was far more than an actor for me to cast and direct – he was a dear friend for over 30 years whose kindness and generosity knew no bounds,” added casting and dialogue director Andrea Romano. “Kevin’s warm heart, delightful deep laugh and pure zest for life will accompany me forever.”
While the Dark Knight dominated Conroy’s professional career, he didn’t necessarily intend for such a role to define his career. Born in 1955 and raised mostly in Connecticut to a devout Irish Catholic family, comics were never his thing. But a middle-school outcast, he found solace in acting and pursued it, eventually earning a spot — and several leading roles — in his high school’s acclaimed acting troupe. Conroy was so successful that not only did he drop out of high school, but he also earned a scholarship to the Juilliard School, where he enrolled when he was just 17.
After graduating from the Juilliard School, Conroy spent the late 1970s with touring company The Acting Company while also appearing in a handful of Broadway plays. But as he stated in an interview in 2009, he soon realized that television would be key to making a living as an actor. He worked part-time on soap operas during prime time. In the eighties he scored cameos on everything from Matlock to cheers and stopped recurring parts dynasty and mandatory tour.
Then, in the early ’90s, Conroy was asked to audition Batman: The Animated Series, which followed Tim Buton’s two successful Batman movies in 1989 and 1992. Conroy had done some commercial voiceover work but never an animated series; more so, his only vision of Batman/Bruce Wayne was tied to the 1960s Adam West series, which was utterly different from the noir-tinged show the animated series creators were trying to create.
In various narratives of the story, Conroy has described himself as both fascinated by the darker elements of the Batman story and completely bewildered by the character. As he said esquire 2012: “As soon as [the producers] described his schizophrenic lifestyle, it bugged me. I thought, wait a minute, he’s Gotham’s Bill Gates. He is the most desirable bachelor. Everyone knows who he is. And he puts on a cloak and no one recognizes him? Come on.”
What helped Conroy earn the role—and what later made his performance so definitive—was the fairly simple decision to use separate voices for Batman and Bruce Wayne. At first his Bruce Wayne was a bit too tongue-in-cheek and charming, and the producers asked him to go back and re-record a few episodes so there wouldn’t be such a big gap with his much raspier Batman voice. But as I said The Hollywood Reporter 2017: “They liked my idea with two votes; They just wanted it to be more subtle.”
Batman: The Animated Series was a critical hit, winning three Daytime Emmy Awards and an impressive Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 1993. Batman: The Animated Series technically only ran for two seasons between 1992 and 1995, though it produced a whopping 85 episodes in that span. (A third season technically aired a few years later on another network under the name The new Batman adventuresand with a slightly different aesthetic look, suitable for an accompaniment superman Series.)
Voiced Batman in TV shows, films, and video games wasn’t the only job Conroy held over the next 30 years, but it was certainly his most enduring and prominent. He once even directed himself in Kevin Smith’s 2016 comedy. yoga pantsknown as “Canadian Bat, Man!”
Earlier this year, Conroy even ventured into Batman’s original medium, comics, and penned an autobiographical edition. Find Batman, for DC Pride 2022. In the issue, Conroy spoke about his difficult childhood and experiences as a gay man, both growing up in an extremely religious household and navigating an industry often still hostile to homosexuality. He also wrote about how those experiences actually prepared him perfectly for the role that would define his career.
In which last panel Conroy wrote of the comic: “My heart was racing, I felt my face go red, my breathing deepened, I started to speak and a voice I didn’t recognize came out. It was a hoarse, hoarse rumble that shook my body. It seemed to roar from 30 years of frustration, confusion, denial, love, longing… Yes, I get it. Yes, this is terrain I know well. I felt Batman welling up deep within me.”