Fans of the hit animated show Harley Quinn may have noticed that the Lex Luthor of the series is shown to be a person of color. The character is voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, best known to fans as the ever-polite but extremely menacing Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, and Moff Gideon on The Mandalorian. In an interview, Esposito spoke about how much voicing Luthor meant to him.
"I remember Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, which excited me so much, I'm a big fan of his from back in his big film days, from The French Connection. It's really a wonderful opportunity to be able to do that... What I've always desired is to be unconventional in the roles that I play, and how I play them, because it's not just to be different, it's to bring something original to the table."
Harley Quinn showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker also weighed in on the casting, revealing that while they knew they wanted Esposito to play the role of Lex Luthor, they were rather skeptical that the celebrated actor would be interested in voicing a character for a cartoon show.
"We were huge fans of Giancarlo. It was one of those situations where we wanted someone who could bring an intensity but also pull off jokes, which is incredibly challenging. There are so many examples in Giancarlo's body of work where he's been both terrifying and wryly funny. He's just a brilliant actor. To be honest, we were almost certain he'd say no, so we had a bunch of backup names ready, and then for some reason, he decided he wanted to do it and we all flipped out."
Of course, Harley Quinn is far from a run-of-the-mill animated show, but is a genuinely clever and edgy-in-all-the-right-ways reimagining of the DC Universe that has gained universal critical acclaim and a strong following right from season 1. Taking on the role of Luthor fell right in with Esposito's goal of having audiences look past his skin color while reacting to the character he plays on screen.
"Because he is different than what we have expected and brilliantly cast with me as the voice - because, you know, many people who watch may not know who I am in the beginning, and they may not have any idea what my skin color is. It has always been my dream to play characters who don't have to be defined by that, and I was really pleased that they felt like I was the guy that to do that voice work."
The second season of Harley Quinn ended recently while continuing to push the envelope of what it means to be a DC Comics property. Harley and Ivy have declared their love for each other, and Halpern and Schumacker have confirmed the queer relationship will be an integral part of the story in future seasons, which will hopefully feature more of Esposito's delightfully sinister Lex Luthor. This interview was originally conducted at Collider.