Ricky Church chats with Laila Berzins about her role as Sofia Falcone in Batman: The Long Halloween…
After many years of fans clamouring for its adaptation, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two has been released on Blu-ray and digital as the next in DC and Warner Bros.’ animated film line. Based on the maxi-series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the story follows Batman in his earliest years of crime fighting as he, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent investigate a serial killer named Holiday who is targeting members of the Falcone crime family on one holiday each month. While they are trying to solve the case and bring down the Falcone mob, they also have to contend with the rise of Gotham City’s supervillains.
To celebrate the release of the second part to this highly anticipated film, we sat down with voice actor Laila Berzins who stars as Sofia Falcone, the daughter to Gotham’s mob don Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone. Unlike her younger brother Alberto, Sofia is very much involved in her family’s business and one of Carmine’s most trusted lieutenants, even if she’s seen as unready to take over and unafraid to shoot it out with their enemies. We chatted with Berzins about Sofia’s relationship with Carmine, playing against the typical role of a mob daughter and the legacy of The Long Halloween. Check out our interview below…
Ricky Church: Batman: The Long Halloween is a story almost every Batman fan has wanted to see adapted for years now. How does it feel to be included in this two-part adaptation? Was there any kind of nervousness or intimidation?
Laila Berzins: I was really just over the moon excited and when I walked in to record, it just felt kind of like a dream because there was a lot of people I was working with in the cast that I grew up admiring and now we were working together, albeit single mic, but we were still working together. To see myself as a part of the story and to perform a more dramatic acting role was just such a thrill for me. So I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited. I was thrilled. I was like a kid on Christmas morning, you know.
Of course you play Sofia Falcone, the daughter of Gotham’s most powerful mob boss Carmine Falcone. How did you prep for that role? Did you read the book beforehand?
I actually pulled it out of a comic book store when I was visiting family in Vermont. I also did my online research, Google and Wikipedia and all the different places to kind of get a feel for who she was. That’s kind of where I used my base and then the thing that I focused more on was just her relationship with her father because it was very, very clear that there was a longing to be seen as an equal, but that wasn’t really happening. There was this underlying kind of power struggle. She wanted to be seen in a certain way and she just wasn’t getting that recognition.
For sure. She does play the loving daughter and she is also a very loyal lieutenant. How do you think she balances those sides of her with Carmine and wanting to be seen as an equal, but not disrespectful to her father or his position?
Yeah, I think it’s one of those things that as somebody who I myself have a very close relationship with my father, I also know that he can be very stubborn and I have to choose my words carefully when I’m discussing things with him, even if it’s just something simple, like you know, “I know you’re retired, but you need to get up and walk around more.” Those sorts of things! I have to choose my words very carefully, choose my tone very carefully, think things through because the way that I would talk to my dad is very different than how I would talk to a friend or a coworker. I think we’re all slightly different people when we’re talking to our parents as history has shown because, first of all, they know us better than anyone else and also they know how to push our buttons. We also have to be aware of “how do I approach this, still keeping my ground and my assertiveness, but not walking around on eggshells.” I think it is a delicate balance because Sofia behind the scenes seems so sure of herself and has this incredible sense of self and is so very ambitious, but in the same token, she’s dealing with a lot of kind of deep seated pain and frustration when trying to talk to her father, you know?
Yeah. Now what’s interesting is in most mob movies we often see the don’s daughter usually played as the innocent one who has no part in the business, but Sofia is the exact opposite of that as she wants a bigger role in the organization and also has no problem wielding a couple of machine guns. How does it feel to play against that trope?
Oh my gosh! It is the best. I mean, it feels very empowering and it’s great to see that kind of representation in any form of media. It’s great to challenge those roles and then break out of them. I think that more and more, we’re seeing a lot of those traditional norms in both TV and film being challenged today, and more diversity and inclusiveness as well, and also just kind of challenging what our roles are because there is no one definitive role that a person can play. It’s just a matter of open-mindedness and being able to allow those to be expressed because once they are, it allows for more of that to come into the picture. I mean, I think there’s nothing I like playing more than a bad-ass powerful woman who knows who they are and don’t take no gruff as they say in the olden times!
Awesome! Now the two Falcone children are very different from each other. Alberto was very quiet and rather unloved by Carmine while Sofia is outspoken and cared for. How do you think that affected Sofia’s upbringing?
In what sense? In terms of her relationship with her brother or how she felt in the family in general?
How she felt in the family and why she wants to take part more in the organization.
Well, I think definitely when she has had more kindness and encouragement in those moments where she did have that from her father, the more we are in that warm, supportive environment, even if the emotional side of that wasn’t there a lot with Carmine, I think there were moments where he did give her some opportunity and saw what she was capable of. I think having that supportive environment in any capacity is going to foster more ambition. As for myself, I’ve been very lucky that my parents have always supported me in my dreams and they’re also very connected and want to see how things affect me and how I’m doing. I think growing up that way for myself, it made me feel like yeah, I can do anything. I kind of have that base where I felt that nurturing and support so that I could go out and take on the world or try to take on the world. [Laughs]
One of the interesting things about The Long Halloween, which I think is one reason why so many people have enjoyed it so much, is it features nearly all of Batman’s major villains. You’ve got Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy among the others. Of all of them who’s your favourite Batman villain and why?
Ooooh! Yes! Oh! Okay. So for male villains, I have to say Joker. First of all, there’s so many different ways that The Joker has been played. There’s so many nuances and what makes a great villain is not just the subtle power that they hold underneath, but it’s their story. I think that The Joker has one of the most intricate stories and the other side of that is there has to be a lot of pain. A lot of pain and torment and something bubbling up on the surface to make this character. He’s just riddled with layers and it makes it a more raw character to have the dichotomy of both the vulnerability and the pain with the yearning for what they desire and the power.
For female villains, man, it’s a tough call. I really think Poison Ivy because she’s got that more classic villain role where she has the control, she doesn’t need to push that, she doesn’t have to prove anything. She’s already got that alluring, seductive quality as a villain that is so intriguing. I think for female villains, it’s hard because you have to walk that fine line between being seductive and powerful and their power is also their own seduction. That’s what I love about Poison Ivy. She’s got that swagger, you know. [Laughs]
Thank you very much to Laila Berzins for speaking with us!
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.