An Hour with the DC Titans

Friday afternoon, the American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media track brought DC Titans actors Conor Leslie, who plays Donna Troy, and Curran Walters, who plays Jason Todd, Robin, and Red Hood, to the Marriott Atrium Ballroom. For an hour labeled “DC’s Titans Guests: Meet the Titans” moderator Thomas Parham and various audience members engaged in a lively Q & A with the actors.

Parham noted that the actors are the first to play their Titans characters in live action and asked how they felt about that. Both Walters and Leslie noted a certain amount of pressure that comes with playing characters who’ll be seen by fans who’ve built up their expectations over 30-40 years.

Both actors also did extensive research by reading the comic-book versions of their characters. “A Death in the Family” was one of the first Batman stories Walters read. Leslie read “Who Is Donna Troy?” along with “Who is Wonder Girl?” and “Who Is Troia?” Donna’s storyline, as she notes, has no structure.

Leslie said the awareness of fan expectations generated so much pressure that she almost declined the role. She noted that Donna Troy’s origin is “all over the map.” The actor said she did enough to form an idea of what Donna is like in the show’s world and hopes people like it.

The “sides,” or audition scripts Walters and Leslie received did not bear their characters’ names. Leslie said all she was told about Donna was that she is “confident,” but basic research led her to see Donna as “really dope.” Both actors were told their characters’ only when they were formally offered the roles. Walters didn’t know at first that his character was returning. Leslie knew she might come back but “you never know.”

Asked about fandom interactions, Walters said he loves meeting people who care bout Jason. He enjoys the fandom and the work. Leslie pointed out that not every job comes with this fandom, which she described as both a source of pressure and “a beautiful thing.” Every acting job is different, and some characters are new to the world.

Both actors enjoy action scenes. Leslie said she has to workout to build stamina because her half-Amazon character can’t be winded on stunt-intensive days. Walters said one of his favorite scenes was the famous line from Season 2, “The Titans are back, b*tches. Leslie mentioned the scene after Donna dies with all the Titans talking about how much they love her. She said the scenes that are the most fun to watch are the ones she isn’t in because she doesn’t know what happens next.

The actors declined to say whether they’re returning in Season Four.

An audience member asked the actors which characters they most enjoyed fighting. Walters chose Nightwing, citing the Red Hood-Nightwing fight from Season Three as a favorite. Leslie mentioned Donna’s fight with Deathstroke in Season Two, lamenting that much of it was cut, and added that she loved the sword work Donna did, particularly the fight in the forest, in Season Three.

Asked what characters they would like to see on the Titans show, Walters picked the Joker although, he said, the show couldn’t actually do that. Leslie said she would like to see Wonder Woman interact with Wonder Girl. The audience applauded her pick, and she responded, “People love the good.”

The actors said they often don’t feel like they’re acting, that they slip into the roles. Walters joked, “I want to be Red Hood, but I can’t.”

Walters mentioned enjoying Alan Ritchson, who played Hawk until Red Hood murdered him in Season Three. Hawk had been sort of a mentor to Jason Todd. Despite liking the story arc, which Leslie called heartbreaking, Walters was sad to see that dynamic end.

Knowing that families watch together means a lot to both actors. Walters loves hearing about that and said such comments are one reason he attends conventions. If he wasn’t at them, he wouldn’t have heard it. For Leslie, although she loves knowing the show brings families together, that’s part of the pressure and the responsibility of playing Donna, that people respond to her choices. She said she wanted to play Donna because she’s confident and strong. As an example, she cited Donna saying in Season 1 that she didn’t stop being Wonder Girl but had decided she could do more good as Donna Troy.”

When asked about storylines from the comics they would like to see in the show, Walters said he would like any Red Hood one. Leslie added that the arc from Jason Todd to Red Hood was great and said she would like to see Donna become Troia.

An audience member asked how the actors prepare for their scenes. Walters said every actor has a unique approach. For him, the rooftop scene with Dick Grayson required shifting to a darker place. He emphasized the need to leave such moods at work. Leslie often listens to music to block out the hectic atmosphere on the set. She especially lies film scores and chooses ones that work with Donna because “she’s a badass, guys.”

If the actors could plan their own shows, Walters would choose Red Hood and the Outlaws, which Leslie applauded. She would choose a look at Donna in both the Amazon and the mortal world and would like a little bit of Donna learning from Wonder Woman.

Each actor has a favorite prop. Walters loves Red Hood’s guns though he has difficulty holstering them because the hood cuts his field of vision. Leslie loves Donna’s sword.

An audience member asked about Jason Todd’s relationship with Dick Grayson. Walters said Dick is almost a father figure and really gets under Jason’s skin. Jason also struggles with his relationship to Bruce. Walters especially liked the alley scene with Iain Glenn and the discussion of Bruce’s parent’s deaths.

Leslie talked about the brother-sister, best-friends relationship of Dick Grayson and Donna Troy and the importance of showing that on screen. She cited Brenton Thwaites’s welcoming attitude as helping her bring that across. The first scene she shot was the one where Donna and Dick walk down the street together.

When asked about what show elements they would like to see infused in Titans, the actors agreed on Stranger Things.

When asked to describe their castmates, Leslie said “perfectly cast,” and Walters agreed.

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.