This month, new show Batwheels is premiering on Cartoonito. This awesome action-adventure preschool comedy series stars Bam and his fellow crime-fighting vehicles alongside Batman, Robin, Batgirl and other DC Super Heroes. You can read more about this fab new series as part of the Batwheels takeover by clicking here.
But first, keep reading – the team at UKMums.TV had the opportunity to chat with actors Jacob Bertrand, the voice of Bam (Cobra Kai, Marvin Marvin, Kirby Buckets) and Leah Lewis, the voice of Batgirl (The Half of It, Elemental, The Tiger’s Apprentice, Nancy Drew).
Can you tell us how you came to be the voice of Bam and Batgirl?
Leah: I auditioned for Batgirl. I feel like the essence of Batgirl similarly matches the kind of exuberance that I exhibit in my real life, so I just auditioned. And then I got the call and I was like “Really?! That’s awesome!”
Jacob: I also auditioned, but originally for the Joker Van. But they sent me the breakdown for Bam and I really liked it. At the time I was watching this Anime show called Tower of God and the main character in that was also called Bam. So, when I ran through my audition for Batwheels’ Bam, I did it with that character in mind. And they came back to me and said they loved my take on the character and that I had booked it!
And what were your first thoughts about the series and the characters you would play?
Leah: Firstly, that it’s super, super cool that they have put Batman, his journey, and all of his accomplices in a way that kids can digest. Some Batman content can be a bit much for younger children – it’s a bit dark. So now kids get to join in all the fun – and through the eyes of these characters’ vehicles, too. Now that’s a really cool concept!
Secondly, to be able to play Batgirl – a character that’s so iconic – I was over the moon to be a part of the Bat Universe and I was super excited about that.
Jacob: I was super stoked about this series. The first thing I thought was “Dang, I wonder if they’re going to make a Hot Wheels version of Bam? That would be so cool!” I think it is really cool that they’re able to take a lot of the themes from Batman and adapt them for kids. For most kids this is going to be their first introduction to Batman. I like that the writers still keep him cool and dark and mysterious. But it’s not as heavy as some of the movies that have come out recently.
Batwheels is targeted at kids around 4+ – can you tell me how you try to adapt your performance for this younger audience?
Leah: I definitely had to make Batgirl a little less sassy. Being 26-years-old I have a tendency to go about things in a way that’s a little more direct and I had to adjust Batgirl to make her a bit softer and a bit more fun and youthful – a little bit less realised and self-actualised. But that wasn’t too difficult to do – I just had a few prompts not to be quite as sassy!
Jacob: For me, big energy is the biggest thing. For my character I do a lot of calls to action, for instance: “Let’s ride!”, “Let’s get out of here”, so the biggest thing is having a bunch of energy to keep the kids engaged.
And tell us – how is voicing an animated character different from being able to physical play a role?
Leah: We rely so much on our body language, our face, and the emotions you can see. So sometimes when you record something as a voice over, there are times when you think you’re saying things in one way but then you hear it back and it’s much different to how you thought it was. Often you have to amp it up a notch and go the triple extra mile – especially with characters like these that are so energetic. Simply saying: “Yeah!” is not enough. It’s like: “YYYEEEEAAAAHHHHHHH”. But that’s so fun, because you get to act like a maniac in the booth, trial new things, flail your arms, act in a really animated way that I don’t get to act in real life.
Jacob: That’s what I enjoy, too. When you’re in the booth, you really can just do what you want. They film us when we’re recording, as they try to match our face for the car. It’s so much fun to fully go that extra mile. Most of the time the want us to go bigger. It’s fun being able to play a crazy person in the booth.
When I was younger, I was in a show called Bubble Guppies, and we recorded in a studio that did another kids animation. When I would finish set early, I’d go over to that studio, and I’d watch all these amazing voice over actors perform. And I remember that they would crazy, moving around and I was like, “You can do that?!”. It was so cool.
Leah, your character is based on an established DC character. What inspiration did you take from existing content that fed into your own performance of Batgirl?
Leah: I think because this version of Batgirl has more of a youthful feel, I had to keep this in mind when referencing some of the existing versions of Batgirl. But just like these other Batgirls, this Batwheels version is fierce, she’s strong, she’s got a little spice and zest, but not enough to take away from her genuine nature. She’s ripe and ready to grow. And when you look at this Batgirl, and other existing versions – they’ve all got similarities, I just think this one is just a little more suited to a younger audience.
Jacob, your character is based on an iconic vehicle within the DC universe but it’s a brand-new character. That must have allowed a lot of creative freedom. Tell us about Bam and how you used your performance to bring him to life.
Jacob: I love Bam – he’s such a good kid! When they sent me the first two scripts before filming, the biggest thing I liked about him was that he views all the other cars as his family and he really loves them. He’s also so, so earnest and says everything with the utmost care. That’s something I wanted kids to feel. I wanted them to understand that you can be a strong, powerful leader. But you can have fears and you can be honest. You can rely on the people that you love. Through Bam that was a goal I had.
What’s the secret of bringing a character to life with just your voice?
Jacob: The anime I mentioned, Tower of God – the main character in that whose name is Bam, too. He was so cool – and because he had the same name I just kept thinking of him and wanted to embody him in my version of Bam!
Is there anything you want to add?
Leah: I just hope that families really enjoy the show and that they find a character that they can relate to.
Jacob: And I’m just looking forward to having my character be the favourite character!
Leah: Quote: “I’m looking forward to my character be the favourite character, too!”