Michael Emerson, The Joker Michael Emerson, The Joker

Michael Emerson's latest gig is no joke. The man best known as Lost's über-manipulator Ben Linus and Person of Interest's calculating Harold Finch is taking on one of pop culture's most iconic villains, the Joker, in the upcoming animated DVD-movie Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2. In the film, a harrowing adaptation of Frank Miller's seminal 1986 DC Comics series, the depraved Clown Prince of Crime renews his rivalry with an aging Batman, who has just reemerged in Gotham City after a decade. (Part 2 comes out in early 2013; Part 1 is available Sept. 25 on DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand.)

"He's one of those great villains that an actor like me likes to play because he has layers — he has a face for the world and a face for himself," the Emmy-winning Emerson says of the Joker. "He is, in a way, a villain who is a natural actor. All of that is that is delightful and confounding at the same time."

Playing the unbridled fervor of the Joker was a switch from some of the more emotionally controlled roles on Emerson's resumé. "It's freeing because of the largeness of it," he says. "When he laughs, there's nothing subdued about it. When he screams in rage, there's nothing controlled about it. The amp is turned to 11 at all times."

Batman is voiced by RoboCop star Peter Weller, while Modern Family's Ariel Winter plays Gotham's new female Robin. Part 2's cast also includes Human Target vet Mark Valley as Superman.

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