Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds, Halle Berry, Brandon Routh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Adrianne Palicki and Michael B. Jordan all have one thing in common. The actors belong to an exclusive, albeit-growing, club where they’ve portrayed more than one comic book character. Affleck suited-up as Batman and Daredevil. Evans saved the world as the Human Torch and Captain America. Well, you get the idea. Now, Alan Ritchson has joined those ranks. The sculpted Dakota native kicked off his career playing the King of the Seas, Aquaman, in Smallville. Lately, he’s taken flight as the tormented Hank Hall/Hawk on the DC Universe series Titans.
Ritchson recently spoke with Collider about stepping back into the DC Universe, Hank’s tortured soul, his character’s goofier side and his upcoming, balls-to-the-wall action sequence.
A lot of viewers recognize you as Arthur Curry/Aquaman from Smallville. Did you ever imagine you’d be playing in the superhero sandbox again?
ALAN RITCHSON: No. Not only did I not think so, I thought I would have a hand in that. When I got a call about this, my knee-jerk reaction was, “Not a chance.” That Smallville role really opened the doors to the business for me. I knew I had a lot to learn and I wasn’t sure how I fit into this whole picture. But, no I didn’t want to go back and do the same thing I had already done. That show, Smallville, gave me the life I have now, so I’m grateful for it. Don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t want to go back and do it again. I was worried about going back to the CW. I didn’t really want to do a CW show right now.
Geoff Johns called me. He was like, “Look, this is why we think you are right for this. It’s nothing like the CW. Nobody has done anything like this. This is the character we want you to play. We feel like you are the only guy who can do this vigilante, alcoholic, pill-popping hothead,” I was like, “Oh, OK. Keep going.” He pitched me the show and what they were going for and just told me how they were going to execute this thing in a very different way. I gotta say, I loved what he said. I was like, “Alright, I think I’m going to give this thing a shot because it sounds like this character is a blast.”
There has never been a live-action Hawk. What was the key to finding his voice?
RITCHSON: What you just said was the key. It’s not like Heath Ledger played some epic, unforgettable, perfect rendition of this thing. Nobody had done this before, so I felt like I had free rein to enjoy who I saw this guy as being, without any preconceived notions. That made it easy for me to slip into this. At the same time, Brad Anderson, who directed the first episode, and Akiva Goldsman and Geoff Johns, the freedom that everyone involved with this early creative process gave me was… I never had that kind of freedom before.
I remember one night we were shooting the first fight scene we ever had, which never made it to screen because we ended up scrapping it. What it became was the scene where Hawk is hanging from the chains in the warehouse and this guy is about to cut him open. That’s what it became, but it had been a fight between Hank and 40 guys. He had been drinking up on a catwalk on top of this abandoned warehouse. He gets a drop on these guys and goes to town, but has to pop a few beers before he does it.
So, I just asked the simple question of, “If I were to jump down from here, I would die. Let’s talk about Hawk. He’s drunk, so OK, maybe he’s feeling it, but does he fly down? Does it hurt? Does he land like a badass in the typical three-point stance?” Brad was like, “Good question. Yeah, let’s just say he has no superpowers.” I was like, “Oh. OK. We’re just going to make that call now?” He was like, “Yeah, yeah. That’s fine.” I’m like, “Are you sure that’s cool? I like it, but I just want to make sure it’s cool?” He was like, “We kind of talked about it. We really haven’t revisited that conversation in a while, but let’s just go for it. I’m sure it’s fine.” So, from now, I was this guy who is suffering for the kind of justice he seeks in the world. I fell in love with that.
This season has been about revisiting the sins of the Titans’ past. What is Hank’s gut reaction to using Jericho to get back at Deathstroke?
RITCHSON: He absolutely hated doing it. When you’re the guy whose life is, “Let’s go in there and talk this through with our fists,” to be part of this long con where you are manipulating the innocent, it doesn’t sit with him. But, at the same time, when you look at what they are trying to accomplish, that greater good, what a conundrum. Do we fight for the greater good at the expense of the individual? Or, is that single individual more important than any institution or idea? It annoyed the hell out of Hank, and he wanted nothing to do with it after a while, which creates some amazing tension within the group.
Hank and Dawn certainly complement each other, but they don’t always see eye-to-eye. What are your thoughts regarding the couple’s evolution?
RITCHSON: There is something really admirable about this hopeless romantic in Hank. It’s there in Dawn, too. She works for this thing. She puts up with a lot for this relationship. But we don’t often see a guy so head over heels for somebody that he’s willing to die for them. I think that’s really admirable. But we’re going to see how many straws it takes to break the camel’s back.
In the last couple of episodes, you busted out some dance moves. You also belted out some tunes. How much fun has it been doing those scenes and presenting something lighter in a darker show?
RITCHSON: It’s fun. When I’m doing the dancing stuff, it’s like, “Oh boy. Here we go. Is the entire crew that’s rolling on the floor laughing at me, or, laughing with me? I think it’s hard to tell. The lines are blurry here.” That’s sort of been my role in the business in general since finding my voice as an actor. I get a real thrill out of that, reminding myself that my inner child is alive and well, and can bust a bad dance move or sing in front of everyone. It’s good for me to remember that life is spontaneous and a joy.
I feel sorry for everybody that has to watch me sing and dance. I started out as a singer. I haven’t sung in so long because I’ve been shooting and making movies. I’ve just found what I love. I was hoarse for three weeks. I could hardly talk. The song was high in the register and we had to sing it 6000 times. That’s how it goes when you are shooting. I was really sad for three weeks because I was like, “Look how far I’ve fallen. I can’t even sing anymore.” I could hardly reach the notes.
Looking ahead, what can viewers expect from the last block of episodes?
RITCHSON: Everything has been ramping up to a culmination of these storylines we’ve been enjoying with Jericho and Rose. It’s a satisfying climax. The Titans family falls apart and there’s a decision to make. Either somebody dies because they are not together to help each other, or, they have to put their differences aside and fight. You are continually guessing where these relationships are heading and how they can possibly survive them, emotionally and physically. And we’re heading towards that big final battle…and somebody has got to go.
We’ve seen Donna Troy and Dick Grayson face off against Deathstroke. As an actor, did you want to get in there, too, and engage in some of those action sequences?
RITCHSON: Yes, I definitely did. There is a departure episode where all the girls team up. It’s girl power, which I think is awesome, but I also go, “I want an episode where it’s all-out brutal action.” It feels like the Deathstroke storyline is a little external to Hank. It’s a heavy burden for Dick. It’s almost like it’s not his war to fight.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when people started coming up to me three episodes out going, “Oh man. We just read episode 212. This Hank episode is crazy. We’re probably going to have weeks of fight training.” When I finished filming, everybody was off in Paris. I had this insane day of four fights. For me, I’ve never been happier. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but I definitely got the fight/action storyline that I wanted, but in a very different way than you’ll expect. I had a blast. I crave that stuff.
To end on a fun note and come full circle, the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths event is looming. A lot of characters are coming back, and they are promising some cool guest appearances. Did anyone ever reach out to you about reprising your role as Aquaman?
RITCHSON: They did reach out to me. We tried to work it out. We were shooting and it was a very difficult schedule for us. We were shooting three episodes at once all the time. I would have had to leave the country and come back in to get a permit specifically for that show. I did want to participate. We tried to work it out. I’m happy that everybody is getting to come back. I’m especially happy for the fans. That’s why we do this. Those shows are like a bonanza for the fans. I wish I could have been a part of it.
Titans airs on DC Universe on Fridays.