How Lake Bell Made Poison Ivy TV Best (Animated) Character on Harley Quinn

Lake Bell is no stranger to the voice recording world. Just scroll down her IMDb page and see for yourself – her impressive career is littered with voice acting roles. Heck, she’s even written, directed, and starred in a movie about voice-over work. (Seriously, in case you haven’t seen it yet In one world…go on.)

The point is, Bell has played many iconic roles in both animation and live action, but over the past four years she’s been stealing hearts and making a name for herself as the voice of Poison Ivy on HBO Max’s zany name – in the best way – animated series Harley Quinn. And it might be her best vocal work yet.

Taking on a role in the DC Universe is a daunting task. Fans can rave about any depiction of their favorite comic book characters, and a beloved character like Poison Ivy is an even greater goal. But funnily enough, Bell wasn’t aware of any of this. In fact, that’s what drew them Harley Quinn Creator to her in the first place.

“They enjoyed the fact that I had few preconceived notions about the character because it allowed for a refreshing take,” Bell tells The Daily Beast. “I just look at it as this person I created, this character I created with the extraordinary writers. I have faith in them and they trust me to improvise and get out of hand when I see fit.”

That said, if you think Bell walks into the recording booth knowing every line she’s going to say and exactly how she’s going to say it, you’re terribly mistaken. “I have a wild west approach to absorbing everything that has to do with it Harley Quinn as my alter ego from Poison Ivy,” she says. “The confidence is just there now that I can show up and really just jump off the edge into the character and into the abyss of wild madness that they always seem to deliver.”

Improvisation often occurs during recording sessions Harley Quinn— and most of the improvisation, as Bell describes it, revolves around the swearing. There’s a certain amount of “fucks” that can be said per episode, so there’s always a fight between castmates for those last “fucks.” And just like Ivy, Bell loves to win this competition.

“I really try to swim them all, to be honest,” she says. “You gotta fight for your ‘fucks.'” Considering that, it’s funny that Bell’s favorite impromptu line doesn’t include “fuck” at all. This particular one can be found in the ninth episode of season two when Ivy says “Piss Cakes of a Dick” after waking up in bed with Harley on her bachelorette weekend. “I tend to always try to push the limits of swearing in creative ways,” says Bell, laughing.

It’s that very unique blend of outrageous swearing and utter calm that makes Bell’s iteration of Ivy so refreshing. The character of Poison Ivy (aka Dr. Pamela Isley) was created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in 1966’s Batman #181. She has long been portrayed as a beautiful seductress and femme fatale, often serving as a counterpart for Batman and his vigilante friends. But, much like Harley Quinn himself, Ivy isn’t a one-dimensional villain, often teetering on the line between villain and anti-hero.


In addition to providing the voice of one of the most iconic characters in the comic book universe, Bell is now responsible for half of one of the most important and beloved couples in animation. And for the first time, it’s a same-sex couple – in a superhero universe! Season 3 of the show is so good because Harley and Ivy’s relationship is so deep, salacious, and relatable. So much of that is thanks to the humanity — and wild streak — that Bell brings to the character.

In other words, this is the perfect time to pick up the phone with the voice of one of the most momentous characters in animation right now.

We talk about all matters big and small.

An example of greatness, an aspect that remains constant in both comics and comics Harley Quinn is Ivy’s devotion to plants once again ruling the earth. Given the climate crisis we are currently experiencing, it is not fully wrong about the damage that humans have done to the ecosystem. And it’s this part of Ivy’s story that Bell likes to toy with. “It’s an unusual combination of being a villain and seeking evil while protecting the environment and the earth,” she says. “It’s a fun juxtaposition, but I think it makes for a really fun, contradictory path.”

But then there’s also the wonderful fact that Poison Ivy gets to wear pants on this show. Gone (but not too far away) is the iconic green leaf dress from the comics. “She’s not wearing a bikini [or] half-naked and I think that speaks to her intellect,” says Bell. “She’s smart, she’s high and a little intellectual. So I think that’s even inherent in their sound.”

Intellect is something both Harley Quinn (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy have in abundance. Both characters have PhDs – in psychology and botany, respectively, and ironically – and the animated series never lets you forget that. Harley’s self-therapy sessions are the introspection TV needs, as are her quick and unsolicited diagnoses from friends. “You’re crazy smart. And you know, sometimes they’re right,” Bell said.

Since the first season of Harley Quinn, which originally premiered on the short-lived streaming platform DC Universe, Bell’s Ivy has always been Harley’s moral compass, voice of reason and best friend. She helped Harley see and escape the toxic relationship she was in with Joker (Alan Tudyk), she has rescued them from failed heists on many occasions and has always been a shoulder to cry on.

But now, after many episodes of Will They/Wont They, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are finally in a romantic relationship — a development that didn’t surprise Bell. “When I first read the script that they were going to be together, it just made so much sense,” she says. “There were zero questions. It was so obvious that they were in love with each other.”

The superhero genre has always been reluctant to portray LGBTQ relationships, particularly in films, but on television and streaming DC shows (whether on HBO Max or The CW) it has always pushed for inclusion. In this sense, Harley Quinn doesn’t shy away from showing Harley and Ivy’s relationship at its fullest and truest. All the speed bumps, fights and makeup are shown and portrayed with genuine seriousness – which may come as a shock since Harley Quinn is an R-rated cartoon.

“I’m happy to be a part of it because I think the relationship is very true and very real,” says Bell. “Even though it’s animated and it’s in that elevated space, it’s a beautiful thing to normalize and include something in media and culture that feels more representative of what relationships are like today.”

Much of the beauty of the relationship hinges on how Cuoco and Bell convey the passion through their voice acting. Both actors absolutely nail the show’s chaos, but also bring passion, sincerity and heartbreak when they need it. That’s even more impressive when you learn that Cuoco and Bell don’t record their scenes together.

“It’s so funny because Kaley and I have this really nice, intimate relationship in this other dimension of the show, but we haven’t been in the same room in about two years,” Bell says, laughing. “We just do our part and then we watch the show and see our relationship unfold. It’s still exciting for me to watch the show because I haven’t heard all the other bits that were put in. So it becomes this kind of very unique experience.”


The vocal prowess of these two stars becomes even more apparent as you watch everything the couple is going through this season — whether it’s normal relationship hiccups like ex-boyfriends, or a deeper look into life as a couple with an independent (Ivy ) and a codependency person (Harley) can still thrive. Again, a rare concept to see a cartoon tackle, but Harley Quinn is not your average cartoon. It has always been a precarious tonal tightrope walk.

“The most avant-garde way to attack animation is to take actual, real-world stories about the human condition,” says Bell. “In the midst of all this absolute madness and robberies and things exploding, like I said, it’s incredibly avant-garde to approach something as nuanced as communication and relationships.”

That tightrope walk is taken a step further this season as Ivy begins to discover more and more of herself now that she has a loving and committed relationship with Harley.

In a funny twist, as our conversation ends, Bell happens to walk by a billboard for the show and takes a minute to admire it. “Here I am. That’s very cute. You look cute,” she laughs. Classic ivy. How Lake Bell Made Poison Ivy TV Best (Animated) Character on Harley Quinn


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