In a matter of weeks, Zack Snyder’s Justice League will finally grace HBO Max and present a massive, four-hour director’s cut of the DC Comics team-up film to the very fans that have been campaigning for since the theatrical release hit theaters. It features everyone that appeared in the theatrical release — anyone from Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.
Then are a few new additions to the property, like Harry Lennix‘s reprisal of Calvin Swanwick, the general-turned-Secretary of Defense who is actually Martian Manhunter in hiding. We recently caught up with The Blacklist star to chat all things Snyder Cut — so peep the video above or keep scrolling to read through a transcript of our entire chat.
ComicBook.com: Next month, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is heading to HBO Max. You know the studio side, the creative side, and all this stuff. Finally, after all the stuff that went on with the theatrical release, they gave…it’s kind of like the ultimate victory for a filmmaker, getting their full, unadulterated director’s cut. The Snyder Cut is four hours long. When did you first get pulled into it? When did you first know something was gonna go on with Zack’s ultimate vision?
Harry Lennix: Well, I think probably about the same time everybody else, because I don’t think Zack knew from the very beginning. All of a sudden it was clear that the fans were making a demand for his cut, and I think a lot of it came just from the sort of immediate dismissal of the studio cut as it were of the Justice League that Zack didn’t get to finish. I think it’s sort of like what the government does with the banking system in a way, Adam, where the bank gets into trouble but the public bails them out in a way.
Zack didn’t do a whole lot of that movie that came out, but he got all of the criticism for some reason. I don’t know how that happened. It was like a magic trick, but the fans knew that what he would have put out was not what was put out, and I think that he probably didn’t know any earlier than I did that there was a clamor for this. Now I was aware that there had been people demanding the cuts. I know Ray Fisher, a lot of the guys, Jason Momoa even I think said he saw it.
Zack Snyder closer to what would have been the case, the footage that he shot, and I think ever since that was known, that there was a momentum that became an inevitability. But this is the first time at this level that I’ve ever seen the fans demand that a release of a vision was put out. This isn’t just a standalone Justice League movie. This is the third part of what I like to think of as a trilogy, which started with Man of Steel. So to that extent, I was a part of it from very early on. Swanwick, my character that I played in Batman v Superman and Man of Steel was supposed to always be in the Justice League, but for whatever reasons it didn’t work out and I wasn’t in it.
Then it became Zack’s vision, or he got the popular support to put that out there, and this is just one of those things where it worked out better than I would have thought, and I love that. I think it shows the power of the people. It’s in a positive way what happened with GameStop.
The Robin Hood of movies.
Exactly. You do bring up a good point with Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Justice League, the spiritual trilogy there. You have that really good working relationship with Zack himself. Have you seen the theatrical release of Justice League at all?
Well, I’ve HBO Max, so I’m gonna be watching with the rest of the fans, I hope, but I don’t know if anybody’s seen this version yet, except for the studio and the people who made it, because I’m a fan. I want to have the same experience. If it were pre-COVID days, I’m sure we would have been invited to a special screening a couple of weeks before, a week before, but right now I’m just looking forward to getting some popcorn and being a kid all over again.
Yeah, I’m excited about it, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to sneak peek it.
Martian Manhunter, man. I mean, it’s something Zack’s certainly heavily promoted on his social media. Obviously, we don’t want to spoil the whole darn movie right here and right now, but do you feel it gives your character justice? How involved is Martian Manhunter in this final product?
All I could say, Adam, is that full justice won’t be done until there’s the Martian Manhunter movie.
There we go, there we go. Let’s workshop a hashtag after this.
Listen up, fans. They made the Justice League happen, but I’m gonna say I don’t know if I’m in it at all. If I’m in it for 20 seconds or 10, I will be more than happy because I didn’t think I was gonna be in it, and I certainly didn’t know I was gonna be Martian Manhunter until after Zack revealed it. He always likes to surprise me and stuff like that, so I know that it was the happiest day that I never expected when I found out that this was gonna happen. It was great, and I’m looking forward to whatever it is. If it’s a second, I’ll be thrilled.
How’s a call like that go? Do you Zack Snyder pop up on your phone and does he go, “Harry, do you want to be a superhero?”
Sometimes I’ll look down at the phone, it’ll be Zack Snyder calling. I’m older than he is, but I’m a fan. Way before I met him, I was a fan of his work, so that’s really cool. I always know it’s gonna be something very interesting. What I tell him all the time, I hope he believes me, but he’s a really good director of actors. In addition to having this great eye and the sort of vision of that big world, of his own worlds that he creates, I like his direction. He knows nuances and acting styles and all kinds of stuff. It’s very interesting.
I have gained a respect for voice acting, having done some voice work even for Zack with Army of the Dead and so forth, but other things. The nuances that these actors are able to come up with, the people that are in most cartoons that we grew up watching, these are people with a tremendous skill set that’s different from the sort of acting that you usually get to do. So in any case, Zack is a really good director, and I think that he had some sort of a way into making his reality come to fruition by knowing how to talk to actors playing otherworldly beings, in some sense, metaphysical people who were given a human form, directing demigods, effectively. And so I think that in any case, the way that he can humanize that which is generally speaking a little bit hyperreal, I think makes him really in a class of his own.
He has shown us concept art for J’onn J’onzz, Martian Manhunter, and all that stuff. You’ll hear these stories on Guardians of the Galaxy about how Dave Bautista has to sit in his makeup chair for six hours. Is that something you also went through with practical effects or did you go the motion capture route for Mr. Manhunter?
Mocap, mocap. I don’t know what I’m gonna look like. I don’t know anything about the role, what the body is gonna look like, and all that stuff, but I’m thrilled to see it. The guy’s probably in good shape.
Right, they can do anything with that. Did Zack go through and show you the concept art and the visual development, the suits, and all that stuff to help you get into character a bit?
Just a little. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s reverse engineering or what, but I had the mocap on myself and I did the thing. I don’t know what that’s going to look like finally, but I wonder if to some extent it’s reverse engineering. I mean, maybe they didn’t know or maybe they wouldn’t have done that part in some way, finally render it without seeing the performance, which would be really interesting.
As a kind of acting exercise, sometimes you know that if you put on the Superman cape, you’re going to have to have certain characteristics. I think that this Martian Manhunter figure is being established for this world, and maybe they will base it on what the actor did. That could be very interesting. I wonder how they did, for example, well, I won’t mention a rival world’s name of the character, but I wonder how they do that in a lot of the superhero movies. Do they have the actor’s performance and then design around that, be inspired by that, or the other way around, because it works either way.
So, if I understand right, you were absent from Justice League entirely before. Did you film anything with Joss Whedon in the theatrical release?
So everything you’ve filmed to now is exactly for Zack’s vision and with Zack for HBO Max?
He’s shown us the storyboards. I think it was one of the earliest times we find out Martian Manhunter was involved, was when Zack revealed the storyboard with Lois Lane. Is that a scene you guys filmed, or did that not make it in?
Oh, you’re talking about what he did with the storyboards? I don’t know if it made it into it, but I filmed what was suggested in the storyboard.
Then this weekend — you can’t get out of the news it seems — because this weekend, Zack posts another quote, and let me get this right, is that “a war is coming.” We didn’t get the first official look of Martian Manhunter or anything, but the quote is Martian Manhunter’s, and it’s over a picture of Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. Can you provide some context to this quote? What’s Martian Manhunter saying, is he kicking ass alongside Cyborg or something?
Well, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I really haven’t seen it. I don’t know, but I could say that I remember saying that line and I remember that it’s not for nothing that I’m saying it, that I’m predicting. I don’t know if it’s a declaration of war or just an acknowledgment that it’s coming, but I’m curious to see. I don’t know.
Most of this stuff happened on sound stages, because it’s a super quick turnaround. How many people were on stage with you? Did you act alongside Ray or Gal Gadot, or I think Jared Leto even came back to film as The Joker. Did you film with any of those people?
Without giving anything away, they can do many things with people filming in isolation, but yeah, I filmed by myself.
The Snyder Cut movement is this huge…I mean, it’s a cause now, right? It absolutely is a cause. They pulled this movie out of thin air. Even a year ago, there were reports it wasn’t even a thing, and then it might’ve been a thing, and then Zack said that it’s a thing, and finally HBO Max orders it.
The Snyder Cut movement has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for suicide prevention awareness and all this stuff. It’s just this big machine. You joked, you jested perhaps, about the Martian Manhunter movie, but you’re a frequent collaborator with Zack. Do you feel that this four-hour director’s cut is the end game, or do you feel like it can go on to other things?
I think any great movie, any great segment of a movie or section thereof — now this gets into things like mereological nihilism and all sorts of philosophy — but that said, what is a simple abstract should be able to stand alone. That said, as a fan, I hope that it is just the start of something big, that if he has a complete vision for it, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he does, that he has a fuller story to tell, I think that he could certainly do that, but I also know that the movie will be able to stand alone as a one-off, should it turn out to be that. But I don’t think that it will.
My gut tells me that it will be well-received, and if it is, and when it is, I think that, give the people what they want. That’s the nature of show business. I don’t think any great storyteller is ever, you know, could say, “Well, that’s it. I won’t do any more on that character.” If he hadn’t died at the end of the story, Jay Gatsby, for example, would have come back in The Great Gatsby, I think, if Fitzgerald had lived. I think these characters in this movie that populated, The Justice League themselves, are eternal in some way, and I think that there’s so many ways that it could be spun and so many stories that could be told, and I hope that Zack continues to be able to tell at least some of them.
Absolutely. In the era of cinematic universes, in the era of franchises, multi-picture deals are the norm. Does that mean you are currently obligated for more so they choose to do some?
No. I mean, I’m not obligated to do anything, but I’m happy to be obligated. If this is all that there is, great, no problem. I have a swell time working with Zack. I’m sure there’ll be other things that come up, but I would love to play. I love to play. I mean, I’m an actor. I want to play cops and robbers too, you know, cowboys and Indians, the whole thing, so this is where people have their imaginations now in this genre engaged, how far can this thing go, how real can it get, how hyperreal can it get, where is the technology going with it? What do ancient ideas about gods and principles that they represent mean in the 21st century and in the near future?
These are very interesting ideas, so I don’t think we’ve exhausted this genre by quite a sight. I want to go where the people’s imaginations lie, or to at least be there to direct it in something that I consider even more fascinating. For example, I’m fascinated in the genre of superheroes because I very much believe them to be from mythology, that is to say, stories about gods or the principles, the concepts or natural phenomena that they represent. But it all goes back to, to me, this concept of God the creator, God the almighty perhaps and his communication with the world as we know it. So engaging in a kind of theological thing, which is what this is, but actually going closer to the original stories about God in the Judeo-Christian sense. That’s a fascinating figure. In any case, that’s why I’m interested in the genre, and I hope to continue doing things within it.
Awesome. How much of a comics fan are you? You didn’t know you were Martian Manhunter to start off with, so once you get the call, do you go out and pick up all those comics? Were you at least familiar with some comics growing up? How deeply embedded are you within comic book culture?
No, I mean, my brother was into those things back in the old days, but I don’t know. I don’t really remember when Martian Manhunter started, but I wasn’t particularly familiar with him. I’d heard of him, but I studied up on him once I found out that this was trending and was in Zack’s mind all along. I did some background on it, but part of the fun for me as an actor is to study. That’s where I really get most of my fun, is in preparation and research, learning what the times were if I’m planning a historical figure, learning the world if I’m playing some sort of mythological figure, which again, I consider this to be, so that’s the fun, is how does Martian Manhunter fit in to this world? Who is he? What are his powers? What do those represent in some way? So I didn’t know really much about him until I took a dive.
You mention the fun. Nut what’s the opposite end of that? What’s the most challenging part as an actor trying to get into roles like these? Obviously, there’s a clear disconnect between acting as an FBI agent or an alien, right? What’s the most challenging part of this?
It’s not even limited to Martian Manhunter. It’s really a process of what is it to take on a persona. We don’t know what it’s like to behave like anything other than a human being, because we’re human beings. So I think that what makes the movies, cartoons, all of the stuff that people like to see with fish talking or dogs talking or whatever, is how human they could be. What makes a god relatable is how human they could be. What are their shortcomings? What can’t they do? What is their kryptonite? What is their human frailty that is to say, and ultimately, unavoidably, that’s all we can ever really play?
But I think that the fun of it is if I were something pretending to be human or being an alien pretending to take on human characteristics, what things would that alien focus on? You couldn’t focus on all of the things that make me, me. You might focus on my voice, for example. If I were something, somebody pretending to be talking like me or a human, what would that be? And you can modify those things. Like for example, love what they did with Ben Affleck’s voice as Batman. They made it electric in some way and sort of deeper. It was really quite real. So it became a machine, a mechanized thing because he’s speaking through a mechanized apparatus. So that said, I think some of what the actor brings, in this case me, it might be treated by an artist, technician somewhere down the line.
This is why this genre, movies in general, theater in general, this enterprise is so collaborative, because the beauty, the great work comes from everywhere. Sometimes actors get awards just because the makeup artist was a badass, you know what I mean? Sometimes the makeup artist gets the award because the actor was so great. I just think that process, but that is the opposite of the fun, is in working out the details. If I were going to do something extraordinary with some aspect of my human expression in playing the part, what were those things? The way I look, that is to say literally use my eyes to observe?
One of the things that Schwarzenegger did well as the robot was that you could sort of imagine a robot, probably cause he’s robotic in some form in his personal being, but we’re able to transfer those things that the actor concentrates on, and then that gets enhanced by the technology, by the music, by the costume, by the production, by the director, by the angles and all of that. It’s a very complicated and beautiful art form, which I think is one of the reasons I love that it’s the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences, ’cause it’s a perfect integration of those two things.
After doing the stuff on the Snyder Cut,you also are working with him on Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas. What can you tell me about that kind of project? We know it’s an animated series on Netflix. Have you started work on it?
Yes, I recorded a few months ago now. I don’t know when it’s gonna come out. I’m looking forward to it.
I do have to ask. We started off the show talking The Blacklist, and my boss Jim Viscardi happens to be the biggest Blacklist fan I know, so I’d be remiss not to talk about it. To get past the third season in the golden age of television is a big deal. Here you are, going on to Season Nine. How far do you feel you guys, you and the team can take this? Do you feel comfortable going a few more?
Certainly. I’m a Chicagoan. You said that you’re from the Midwest, Adam. Our motto is The City That Works. I love to work. I don’t feel I can even relax unless I’m working, so we could go on. As long as there are cops and robbers, there’s no reason for The Blacklist to logically end. There’s not gonna stop being dangerous criminals up there, and we’re gonna continue to need information on how to get them, so I hope that the show can go on for very much longer, but at this point, it’s like I said about being in Justice League and The Matrix and things like that. I’m glad for what I’ve had and always ready for more.
Right, right, right. Be glad for what you have. What’s a role you haven’t had yet that you’ve been wanting to get your hands on? The franchise, genre, what’s something you still haven’t got that’s on the top of your to-do list?
There we go. There’s another hashtag.
Those British people are always coming over here, playing our parts. We can do something.
One of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a little while now is to portray Duke Ellington. I’m a musician sometimes, and I’ve always wanted to play him. He’s a very fascinating man, obviously a great genius, contributed a great deal to the only American musical form, really, so I’d love to play him. I think I’ve got a couple of romantic leads in me left while I’m still young, that sort of thing.
I’m in development now with my partner Steve Harris. We have a company called Exponent Media Company. We’re developing projects right now, and so we’re excited about it. One of my movies, Troubled Waters, is doing well on the streaming platform, and I’ve got a movie called Revival. So we’ve got product out there, and we’re gonna make more because I think right now is a great opportunity. Everybody’s sort of in the same place, trying to figure out what the next steps are, how people are going to get entertainment, how they’re gonna film it, make it available, make it viable, make it new.
I think there’s no time like the present. I feel bullish about 2021, and I think I’m just gonna continue to concentrate on what’s right here in front of me, but also dream about the future, and I think it’s bright. We always really have to do both of those things. You can’t just sort of stay where you are. You do have to project forward. And so to that end, I’m thinking about stuff like Legacy and thinking about things like the Performance Arts Center I’m building in Chicago. I’m thinking about continued work on The Blacklist, making that character as rich and real as possible. I enjoy going to work every day, but I enjoy thinking about what is next.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League hits HBO Max on March 18th.