The following story contains spoilers for this week’s episodes of the “Batman Unburied” podcast.
“Batman Unburied” — a narrative audio series created by David S. Goyer and starring Winston Duke as Bruce Wayne/Batman — is filled with increasingly dramatic plot twists. This week’s episodes – “May Day” and “Deadly Things” – feature the show’s most startling reveal to date.
Last week’s episodes — Episodes 5 and 6 (“Park Row” and “Work Clothes,” respectively) — began with the big reveal that Bruce’s “psychiatrist” was actually ever-conniving supervillain Hugo Strange (John Rhys-Davies). But in an unexpected turn of events, this final episode ended with his sudden murder, leaving listeners with a thrilling cliffhanger.
Turns out it was just a well-executed bait and switch; Episodes 7 and 8 reveal the real mastermind behind Harvester’s (Sam Witwer) rampage and Bruce’s drug-induced psychotherapy and hallucinations.
The woman behind it all is none other than Poison Ivy – an admired, if underutilized member of Batman’s rogues gallery – played beautifully (hauntingly) by Emmy Raver-Lampman.
The Times spoke to Raver-Lampman about the shocking revelation, his experience as an actor in such a unique medium, and what it’s like to play such a legendary Batman villain. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Within days of its release, “Batman Unburied” became the #1 podcast on Spotify in the United States and many other countries. How does it feel to have such an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: I think it’s so amazing. Voiceover work is a new medium for me, and I’m just starting to dive into it. I’m so honored to be part of it [“Batman Unburied”]; the cast and creative team are so amazing. I’m really thrilled for everyone involved, because I know they’ve been working on this for so, so, so long. That their work is paying off with such rave reviews from around the world and people tuning in every week to listen to the new episodes coming out is really, really exciting.
The story is full of shocking revelations, twists, and dramatic cliffhangers, especially when it comes to your character(s). You also play as Kell, the unassuming morgue attendant from the early episodes. What were your first reactions to reading the script?
I was so excited to have this opportunity to split myself into two in the same project and really try to be successful at playing two different people. I was initially so nervous because Poison Ivy is iconic just like a lot of them [Batman] characters. I wanted to make the fans proud and give a performance that the creatives felt was appropriate for the role and could play well with the rest of the cast. There are so many sources for all these characters, but I was like, “You know what? I have to do my own thing and I have to create my own Poison Ivy and I have to find her, and I have to find Kell as well. Once the initial shock of the offer and the idea kind of wore off, I settled in a bit and then started trusting the team and trusting myself that we would come up with something really cool together.
After your experience on stage and screen, including “Hamilton,” “Umbrella Academy” and “Central Park,” what unique challenges has the podcast space presented?
For me, personally, it was really, really quick. We did it all in one weekend, I was still in Toronto to shoot season 3 of “The Umbrella Academy”. We received the offer on a Monday, and they [Spotify] were like, “We need this done by next week.” I was on set every day, so I only had Saturday and Sunday of the upcoming weekend to do it. I had two consecutive six-hour studio sessions, and we pretty much did the whole season. The voiceover really brings me back to my [musical theater] roots. It’s really collaborative, and it’s just really experimental. It all feels like a rehearsal process, you’re in the studio and you’re just trying things out, experimenting and hanging on to the creative team. There’s a safe space to try new things and make bold choices, and sometimes it works and sometimes you have to try something different, but it really itch when I start to miss being on stage.
Your performance as Poison Ivy is amazing. You play it in a way that allows its complexities to really shine through. What was it like to play such a complicated character?
There’s so much to chew on and bite into as an actor. You have this incredibly heartbreaking story of the abuse she suffered and had to survive because of her father and the way he experimented on her. She is a victim of what her father did to her. She’s put in this situation where she has to live with the repercussions of what someone else did to her and how it completely changed the course of her life. She spends much of her youth trying to heal herself and figure out how she can fix what she thinks and believes – at the time – is wrong with her. She eventually gets to that point where it doesn’t matter if she ever fixes herself, because people will always have that vision of who she is. At that point, she decides to make the choice to lean on this person that she has become, and this change is really exciting to play. The moment when she stops being a victim of her past and starts using it to her advantage. She’s at a point where she’s just being shameless.
“Batman Unburied” has a unique voice cast, many of whom are people of color – Winston Duke, Gina Rodriguez, Hasan Minhaj, Lance Reddick and Toks Olagundoye. How important was this focus on diverse representation to you personally and influenced your performance?
Having Winston involved and knowing that Gina [who plays Barbara Gordon] was going to be involved and knowing that Bruce’s parents were going to be played by two black actors [Reddick as Thomas Wayne and Olagundoye as Martha Wayne], I was already filling in the blanks even though at that time I didn’t know everyone who had been cast. It was pretty exciting for me, and I wanted to take this opportunity to bring diversity and representation into the voiceover space, which has also been a big part of my journey with Central Park, which is so exciting. these [Batman] the characters weren’t as diverse before, so it’s really exciting that the cast ended up being so beautifully diverse in so many different ways. It was exciting to know that there were so many people on the other side of the mic bringing everything that makes them who they are to these characters that haven’t been represented before by people who we look alike.
What do you hope listeners take away from “Batman Unburied”?
I hope people get lost in these performances, the story we tell, the dialogue and the amazing sound design. I hope we allow people to fully immerse themselves in this world and continue this journey with these characters and block the [real] world and get lost in it. I used to travel almost every summer with my parents, we used to take trips across the country and camp a lot. We loved to listen to books on tape, and this experience reminded me so much of my childhood. Sitting in the back of the car with my parents and getting lost in the world we’re listening to, but knowing that we all see it so differently in our heads because it’s not visual. I think that’s such a beautiful thing about this medium. Everyone creates a different version of that experience in their head, and I love the idea that millions of people listening around the world have a completely different version of what they’re hearing. We all give these different performances, and they create these worlds in their heads that are so unique to them. I think that’s what’s so cool about this medium. I enjoyed working on it so much, and I hope there will be more. Honestly, I’m so happy and so happy that it’s going well because I’m like, “Great! [laughs] Are we doing more? What is happening?”
Listen to this week’s episodes here.
The final two episodes of “Batman Unburied” will be available to stream exclusively on Spotify next Tuesday.