When one thinks of Lex Luthor, a handful of actors are more than likely to be the first to come to mind.

For most, it’s Gene Hackman, who tops many a list as the ‘Best of Lex Luthor of All Time’. Younger fans may jump to Michael Rosenbaum, who brought the Superman villain to life in Smallville. Some may even think of Jesse Eisenberg, though in his case, it’s solely because of the DCEU.

Source: Batman v Superman (2016), Warner Bros.

Related – Ghostbusters Star Dan Aykroyd Throws Full Support Behind Cancel Culture, Claims Offensive Comedy Should Be “Rightly Cancelled”

Yet, in animation, one name stands tall above the rest: Highlander star Clancy Brown, who played Lex on Superman: The Animated Series and returned for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

His run lasted almost ten years and is a high note in the history of Superman, though, interestingly, the gig was apparently an unexpected turn for Brown at the time. However, according to the actor, he had a good reason for accepting it.

Source: Gage Skidmore (2015), Wikimedia Commons. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

“I threw my hat into the ring because I was a new dad,” he told CBR during an interview given in recognition of Superman: The Animated Series’ 25th anniversary.

“I thought it was astounding but my agents said at the time, ‘What are you doing?! You don’t need to go into voiceover!’” he jovially recalled. “But I really wanted to go into voiceover and Warner Bros. was casting outside-of-the-box because they had cast outside-of-the-box for Batman and that was such a success that they decided to do Superman: The Animated Series.”

Source: Superman: The Animated Series Season 2 Episode 12 “Brave New Metropolis” (1997), Warner Bros. Entertainment

Related: Zack Snyder Opens Up About a Possible Sequel to His Cut of Justice League

According to Brown, he originally went in to read for Superman, but was asked by Warner Bros. Animation Casting and Voice Director Andrea Romano to read for Lex. His reaction was a roll of the eyes, to which “she went, ‘Oh, you don’t have to read for it!’”

“I said, ‘No, I’ll read for it,” he continued. “‘I just wonder what it is about me that I’m always playing the bad guy?’”

It could have something to do with the Kurgan in Highlander shaving his head before the final battle with MacLeod but Brown still got the part and “wasn’t bummed,” he noted. I was actually quite happy to do it, but I really thought I had a shot at being Superman. [laughs] But I never did! I didn’t ever!”

Source: Highlander (1986), Lionsgate

Related: Zack Snyder Changes Course On Proposed Justice League Trilogy Ending, Now Says Lex Luthor Would Have Sacrificed Himself to Defeat Darkseid

Even so, Brown credited Romano with making him a better voice-over actor, asserting that “she was a big blessing for me.”

“I was basically going to school,” he said of his time working with the voice director. “She taught me how to be a voiceover actor. She’s a lot of fun and is very high-energy. Most of the direction to me was to go faster. She doesn’t waste any time. When she gets stuck, and she got stuck with me a couple of times, she’ll put it aside and come back to it. She’s not about giving a line reading and I’m not about taking one. Mostly, she’s very supportive.”

Source: Justice League Unlimited Season 3 Episode 12 “Alive!” (2006), Warner Bros. Entertainment

Brown also described how Romano was a good leader during the lively group reads DC’s animated projects are known for.

“At that time, it was an all group read too,” he said. “We were all in the room together and that was always fun because you had people that were new to it — TV and movie stars that had never done it before. You had old pros, whose voices you would recognize, these chameleon voices, like Corey Burton, who could do everything.”

He added, “It was a lot of fun to be in the room and Andrea was really the conductor. She would coordinate and manipulate all those guys to talk a bit differently but, mostly, she got us into a good rhythm and we’d execute.”

Source: Justice League Unlimited Season 2 Episode 12 “Divided We Fall” (2005), Warner Bros. Entertainment

Related: Batman v Superman Actor Jesse Eisenberg Details His Love For Lex Luthor And Desire To Play The Character Again

When it came to approaching an erudite and calculating Lex, Brown revealed it really came down to the writing of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and the rest of their team at Warner Bros. “That’s really what separates this whole iteration of Superman – the writing of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and all those guys,” he praised.

His main concentration as an actor was capturing the big, bass voice of Stanley Jones who voiced Lex on Super Friends. “Then you put the writing in and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s nuance here so let’s play that nuance!’ It was so much fun,” Brown reflected.

Source: Justice League Unlimited Season 3 Episode 8 “The Great Brain Robbery” (2006), Warner Bros. Entertainment

Related: Warner Bros. Announces Superman: The Complete Animated Series Blu-Ray And Digital Box Set

In the years since Brown’s time in the role, several actors have followed in his path as the voice of the Man of Steel’s archenemy.

Most recently, chrome dome was played by Zachary Quinto in the Superman: Man of Tomorrow animated film and Giancarlo Esposito in HBO Max’s adult-oriented Harley Quinn cartoon.

Source: Harley Quinn Season 1 Episode 8 “L.O.D.R.S.V.P.” (2020), HBO Max

This year, Superman: The Animated Series was released on Blu-ray and Digital HD to mark its 25th birthday. Further, Romano is currently sharing her knowledge as a guest instructor for celebrated voice actor Steve Blum’s online classes at Blumvox Studios.

What do you make of Brown’s insight into his time as Lex Luthor? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!




  • About The Author

    JB Augustine

    Writer, journalist, comic reader. I cover all things DC and Godzilla. Fan since Batman TAS was brand new. Favorite character is between Swamp Thing and Darkwing Duck.