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'Arrow's Michael Emerson Calls The Joker One of His Hardest Roles

Russ Burlingame


Before revealing himself as this season's big bad on Arrow, Lost and Saw veteran Michael Emerson had a long career full of challenging roles -- but some of the hardest work he ever did was in the voice booth, when he took on the role of The Joker.

Emerson played The Joker in the two-part, animated feature film Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, based on the acclaimed comic book miniseries of the same name by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley -- and he was acutely aware of the baggage that a character like The Joker has with audiences.

"That baggage is heavy, particularly when you are daring to voice The Joker at this stage of the game," Emerson told "That character is a global icon and has been done successfully by a whole bunch of stars. That's daunting. You think, 'I should just take off these headphones and run because I'm not sure I can do it,' but I defer to the people in charge because everyone in the control booth has the same high standard for it. They know what they're up against."

While those working on DC's animated features knew the challenges of introducing a new voice in the post-Ledger, post-Hamill era, they also knew exactly what they wanted when it came to The Dark Knight Returns.

"That was some of the harder work I've ever done, though, in the sound booth, doing that character," admitted Emerson. "They had very specific ideas for how certain lines would be read. There's a whole drill to what they call effort, which is making all the grunts and oofs of when you're beating beaten or running. All that sound stuff that's not words, all of that is real particular, and laughter or screaming, all of those things. They want that stuff full-tilt. They want it full-throttle. You come out of the booth a little wrung out."

Emerson's next supervillain take -- Arrow's Cayden James -- is a bit more understated than The Joker, existing largely in the shadowy world of Helix and being spoken of in hushed tones before showing up to wreak havoc on Team Arrow and Star City this season.

You can see him getting back to it on Thursday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the midseason premiere of Supernatural on The CW.

ArrowWednesday at 8 PM ET on CW

ArrowWednesday at 8 PM ET on CW

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