Kevin Conroy, voice of animated Batman, dies at 66


Kevin Conroy, the prolific voice actor whose gravely delivery on “Batman: The Animated Series” was — for many Batman fans — the definitive sound of the Caped Crusader, died Nov. 10 at age 66.

The cause was cancer, series producer Warner Bros. announced. No other details were immediately available.

Mr. Conroy was the voice of Batman for the animated series that ran from 1992 to 1996, often acting opposite Mark Hamill’s Joker. Mr. Conroy continued as the almost-exclusive animated voice of Batman, including some 15 films, 400 episodes of television and two-dozen video games, including the “Batman: Arkham” and “Injustice” franchises. He was a sought-after personality on the Comic-Con circuit.

Mr. Conroy was born in Westbury, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 1955, and raised in Westport, Conn. He attended the Juilliard School in New York and roomed with Robin Williams. After graduating, he toured with John Houseman’s acting group, the Acting Company. He later performed in Richard Greenberg’s play “Eastern Standard” on Broadway in 1989.

“Eastern Standard,” in which Mr. Conroy played a TV producer secretly living with AIDS, had particular meaning to him. Mr. Conroy, who was gay, said at the time he was regularly attending funerals for friends who had died of AIDS. He poured out his anguish nightly onstage.

Mr. Conroy also acted in soap operas and had appearances on TV series including “Cheers,” “Tour of Duty” and “Murphy Brown.” In 1991, when casting director Andrea Romano was scouting her lead actor for “Batman: The Animated Series,” she went through hundreds of auditions before Mr. Conroy came in. He was there on a friend’s recommendation — and was cast immediately.

He began the role without any background in comics and as a novice in voice acting. His Batman was husky, brooding and dark. His Bruce Wayne was light and dashing. His inspiration for the contrasting voices, he said, came from the 1930s film “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” about a foppish-seeming English aristocrat who leads a secret life as a dashing hero rescuing victims of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.

“It’s so much fun as an actor to sink your teeth into,” Mr. Conroy told the New York Times of his Batman role in 2016. “Calling it animation doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like mythology.”

As Mr. Conroy’s performance evolved over the years, it sometimes connected to his own life. He described his own father as an alcoholic and said his family disintegrated while he was in high school. He channeled those emotions into the 1993 animated film “Mast of the Phantasm,” which revolved around Bruce Wayne’s unsettled issues with his parents.

“Andrea came in after the recording and grabbed me in a hug,” Mr. Conroy told the Hollywood Reporter in 2018. “Andrea said, ‘I don’t know where you went, but it was a beautiful performance.’ She knew I was drawing on something.”

Mr. Conroy is survived by his husband, Vaughn C. Williams; a sister; and a brother.

In “Finding Batman,” released earlier this year, Mr. Conroy penned a comic about his unlikely journey with the character and as a gay man in Hollywood.

“I’ve often marveled as how appropriate it was that I should land this role,” he wrote. “As a gay boy growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in a devoutly Catholic family, I’d grown adept at concealing parts of myself.”

The voice that emerged from Mr. Conroy for Batman, he said, was one he didn’t recognize — a voice that “seemed to roar from 30 years of frustration, confusion, denial, love, yearning.”

“I felt Batman rising from deep within.”

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