Justin Hartley on Doing the ‘Flawed’ Man of Steel Justice for ‘Injustice’

Justin Hartley as Superman in 'Injustice'
Jeff Lipsky/NBC; Warner Bros. Animation

Before This Is Us, before Stephen Amell, Justin Hartley was the Green Arrow. And before embodying that superhero for The WB/CW’s Smallville, he was Aquaman for a proposed series from the Smallville folks. So the guy behind Kevin Pearson knows a few things about donning a cape.

Now, he’s adding a third DC Comics icon to his IMDb page with a voice-acting gig as the Man of Steel himself in the Warner Bros. Animated feature, Injustice.

The all-new original film, inspired by the massively popular videogame, finds Hartley’s Superman on the wrong side of the whole “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow” vibe after The Joker (voiced by Kevin Pollak) tricks him into murdering Lois Lane (Laura Bailey). Horrified by his vengeful actions, the rest of the Justice League lines up to straighten him out, leading to a series of unexpected team-ups and throwdowns.

Here, the endlessly affable Hartley discusses his turn in the cape and what he thinks of his star-studded fellow voice cast.

I feel like you’ve been doing press for the last six years straight. Like ever since This Is Us started, it’s just been nonstop for you.

Justin Hartley: [Laughs] I know! Well, the COVID thing kind of shut everything down for a little bit and even though we’re filming right now, we’re not airing until January. So I haven’t been doing that much for a couple of months.

Ah, well at least you got a break. Now, back in in 2008, I spoke to you for Smallville and asked who you’d want to play after being Oliver Queen and then Aquaman in the proposed spinoff. You said, back then, Superman… and now, you are!



Warner Bros. Animation

And I feel like this Superman was sort of written to your sensibilities. When we first met him, he’s a like he’s a little bit more comedic and down-to-Earth…

Yeah, and an overall nice guy, I think is what you meant to say? [Laughs] He’s very smart and witty, just like me, of course!

Also incredibly shirtless when we first meet him.

That’s right, yes! I had a good decade period of my career where I feel like half my life was shirtless. Thank God I don’t have to do that anymore. [Laughs]

Thank you for your service. Aside from getting to voice Superman, what was the appeal here?

I loved the arc of the character. I love the way it started and how you get behind him. You go, “This is very cool to see him at home and nesting and having a good time.” And then all hell breaks out and I loved the idea that they wrote this guy flawed and this idea of Superman not having all of the answers… and sometimes, the answers that he has are outrageous. That’s a fun character to play.


Warner Bros. Animation

Usually, it’s Batman who everyone teams up to fight. But this time we get to see Superman not be the Boy Scout he usually is.

Right, which I thought was interesting. You don’t typically see that, like you said, and then also how the hell do you deal with that? We did a couple of those storylines on Smallville, but it we would be like in the Phantom Zone or something where Clark (Tom Welling) didn’t have his power. And also with Clark, he hadn’t fully developed all of his powers yet anyway. But I don’t know how you stop Superman? He’s this unstoppable thing.

No wonder they have to call in so many Justice League members! These Warner Bros. Animation movies draw incredible voice casts — this one has Anson Mount (Batman), Edwin Hodge (Mr. Terrific), Brandon Micheal Hall (Cyborg), Oliver Hudson (Plastic Man), Gillian Jacobs (Harley Quinn), Anika Noni Rose (Catwoman). It’s like a cast we’d kill to see onscreen together, but you guys didn’t even record together, right?

That’s right… Unfortunately, we didn’t. And I would love to work with all of those actors in this movie. All of them. I think that would be a treat. Anytime I could get a chance to work with any of them, I would be more than happy and willing to.


Warner Bros. Animation

How much of this story did you know? Were you aware of the Injustice storyline from the game? Because it’s pretty brutal, the story.

Oh yeah, it’s brutal. I knew that much. As far as the intricate details and all of that, I kind of had to brush up and get sort of a fast Cliffs Notes version of all that stuff. And I can understand why the games are so popular and why the comics were so popular. I mean, what a world to get immersed in! I was thinking earlier that I would pick up the game, you know the console and everything and play it, but then you wouldn’t see me for days. I would be pale and starving, because I have that kind of personality. I know what I can and cannot handle. [Laughs]

When you finally sat down and watched the movie, is there anything that kind of surprised you as to how it translated to animation?

I don’t know if I was surprised [but] I’m always impressed by how they do it all. And one of the things that I did find interesting was, because you’re not watching your physical body on camera — you’re watching the animated version of Superman with your voice — you kind of forget that you’re listening to yourself and you just sort of get immersed in these characters and this world. Then every once in a while, you go, “Oh, that’s that’s me!” But you do forget. It’s very cool.

And did you have any PTSD in moments where you saw and heard a different version of the Green Arrow or Aquaman?

No, not at all. I love all that stuff. I think it’s so great that you have this world where it’s open to so many different interpretations and so many different versions. I love any actor who gets a chance to play the Green Arrow or Aquaman, Superman or really any character… as long as it’s not Kevin Pearson, then I’m fine. [Laughs]

Injustice, Movie Premiere, Tuesday, October 19 on 4K, Ultra-HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray, and Digital