Mark Hamill is back. Mark Hamill never left.
He was the big reveal this time a year ago at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and he’ll be back in Star Wars: Episode VIII a year from now, but he’s got plenty to do here on earth. He’s recurring this season on The CW’s The Flash as the Trickster, and he’s doing voice work on Cartoon Network’s Regular Show in Space and several DC Comics animated shows and video games as the Joker, a character he has been voicing for 20 years. He’s also the host of Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest, an engaging new series about the history of comics and collectibles on Comic-Con HQ.
Hamill sat down with Playboy to talk about why he’s staying so busy at 65 years old.
What is it about the artifacts presented in Pop Culture Quest that fascinates you?
They’re cultural artifacts that reflect their times. If you read a comic book from the World War II era, you’d see “paper drives” like, “Hey kids, when you’re finished with this comic, donate the paper for the war effort!” They’re like time capsules to me. I wasn’t particularly a fan of I Dream of Jeannie, but the board game fascinates me. The lunchbox fascinates me. I love that kind of stuff.
Do the things that you collect mostly reflect the 1960s, when you were a kid, or is it heavy on Star Wars?
Star Wars is really my son’s thing. Nathan was born when we were making The Empire Strikes Back, and he’s far more knowledgeable on those collectibles than I am, so I thought he would be a better caretaker for those things than I would. He’s like a museum curator; he has meticulous logs of everything. People say that your favorite music is what you grew up listening to, and that’s my starting point. Sixties culture was Beatles, Bond and Batman. I was one of seven children, so there was lots of things I wanted that I couldn’t have, and I used to spend hours poring over the Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck catalogs making lists of things I wished I could have.
What do you remember having?
One of the things I did when I had some money of my own was to acquire some of those things I had always wanted. I went to nine schools in 12 years, so we were constantly coming home to find out we were moving. We’d get to the new location and I would say, “Where’s my Car 54, Where Are You? hand puppets?” And my mom would say, “Oh, I gave those to Goodwill. You’re 14 now!” [Laughs.] I was shamed out of a lot of things I loved.
Were you more into DC or Marvel as a kid?
Even before those, I was into Dennis the Menace and Uncle Scrooge and Mad. The first superhero comics I read were DC. When Marvel had its resurgence in the 1960s with the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, that was so refreshing. They were hip in a way that DC Comics were not. In 1964, I tried to figure out what to spend any extra money on between new comics and a new Beatles record or the Rolling Stones or the Kinks. If I had to choose, I’d say I like DC more, but I don’t want to start a war about it.
You’ve been doing the Joker in DC animation for a long time. When did you figure out you could do voice work?
When I was in kindergarten or first grade, I saw a show about the making of Disney’s cartoons and saw Clarence Nash doing Donald Duck. I had never thought about it before, and a light bulb came on that people actually do these voices. I loved cartoon voices and going to the record store—way before you could look things up on the internet—to see who was doing the voices for Huckleberry Hound or Rocky and Bullwinkle. With Laurel and Hardy, I wanted to know why Laurel sounded the way he did, where he was from. I went to the library and looked it up. Stan Laurel was from England, and Oliver Hardy grew up in Georgia. I was always imitating those voices on the playground to make people laugh.
You do the Joker voice in the first episode of Pop Culture Quest, and it’s so jarring. I’m used to that voice coming out of the Joker, and I don’t think I had ever seen you do it before.
I hesitated to do it. It kind of spoils the illusion. When kids ask me to do the Joker, I’ll tell them to close their eyes. When I did The Simpsons, I was mesmerized to see these voices I’ve heard from years coming out of actual people.
I know George Lucas is working on a museum for Star Wars. Is there anywhere now where you can see a lot of that memorabilia and props from the early films?
I don’t know; I don’t think that there is. We have an episode of Pop Culture Quest with Bob Burns, who has one of the greatest movie prop collections in the world, and I can’t understand why there isn’t a Hollywood museum to acknowledge our film heritage. Debbie Reynolds tried to get the backing for a Hollywood museum and couldn’t get enough interest. George Lucas got blocked on the space he wanted for a Star Wars museum in Chicago.
Did you go the Rogue One Hollywood premiere?
No, I was working. My wife went, my son went, my daughter went, but my middle son and I weren’t able to go.
Star Wars is moving beyond Rogue One into an expanded universe. Where do you hope that goes?
The sky’s the limit. Rogue One looks like a gritty, dark World War II film. The standalone films can establish their own identity. They can tell the stories that they want to tell without being encumbered by the trilogy structure. The young Han Solo film could be about him as a rogue and a womanizer and a gambler or it could be like Maverick or it could be a light-hearted comedy. There’s so much opportunity to do different kinds of stories from the Star Wars universe.
You’re doing Star Wars VIII and recurring on The Flash and the Pop Culture Quest series and still doing a lot of voice work. You’re at a point in your career where you should be sitting at a pool talking about how they don’t make movies like they used to. Why are you staying so busy right now?
The Joker came back; I didn’t expect it to after we finished the original series. Star Wars unexpectedly came back. The Flash asked me to come do some episodes as the Trickster. It was unexpected. I should be telling kids to get off my lawn and puttering around with a metal detector.
Find new episodes of *Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest Tuesdays on Comic-Con HQ.*