From 2010 to 2013, one of the vert best superhero shows on television was Young Justice. The animated series, which aired on Cartoon Network for two seasons, followed a group of DC Comics’ greatest sidekicks who teamed up to form their own super squad. The initial team consisted of Robin (Dick Grayson), Aqualad, Kid Flash (Wally West), Superboy, and Miss Martian. The second season picked up five years later, and saw numerous additions to the unit, including Tim Drake’s Robin (Dick Grayson had assumed the role of Nightwing), Batgirl, and Blue Beetle, to name a few.
Young Justice was lauded by critics and fans alike for its mature storylines and fresh take on the expanded DC Universe. Unfortunately, after just two seasons, the series was canceled, apparently mostly due to low sales from the associated toy lines. Since the series’ cancellation, however, Young Justice has continued to grow its fan base — in no small part due to its availability on Netflix — and this renewed interest led Warner Bros. to announce a third season.
With Young Justice set to return, we felt it appropriate to speculate on who could play the characters in a live-action adaptation of the series. Just to note, we’ll assume this hypothetical adaptation would take place in the established DCEU, so the series’ JLA members would be played by the actors currently occupying those roles on the big screen. With that said, here is our attempt at Dreamcasting A Live-Action Young Justice.
15. Vandal Savage – Gerard Butler
This list will primarily focus on the heroes of the series, but since every group of heroes needs its villain, let’s start there. The primary antagonists of the team were members of the group called “The Light.” Throughout the series’ two seasons, the Light had quite a few members, but the most prominent were Vandal Savage and Lex Luthor. In fact, the second season of Young Justice ended with the former traveling to Apokolips to strike a deal (of unknown consequence) with Darkseid. With Luthor, Darkseid, Black Manta, and other members of the Light already (or likely will be) having their place in the DCEU, Vandal Savage would make the perfect villain for the team.
Outside of the slight similarity in appearance, Gerard Butler is an actor with all the tools necessary to play the menacing villain. Vandal Savage is a unique antagonist in that he is pretty much the total package. Over the centuries he has been alive, he’s developed a genius-level intellect, incredible fighting skills, and a vast knowledge of military strategy. Gerard Butler has the ability to portray the intimidating physicality of Vandal Savage while also bringing his dazzling intelligence to life. A good performances to look at (though not necessarily a great movie) is Law Abiding Citizen, where Butler plays a brilliant former military operative seeking vengeance.
14. Wonder Girl/Cassie Sandsmark – Ashley Benson
Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl) joined the team in Young Justice‘s second season. Though she never had too large a role, Wonder Girl would likely take on greater prominence in a live-action adaptation. Again, though hypothetical, a live-action Young Justice would arrive after Wonder Woman (and Justice League), so we have to assume that Warner Bros. would want to capitalize on Wonder Woman’s immense popularity — especially as portrayed by Gal Gadot.
An interesting option to play Cassie Sandsmark would be Spring Breaker‘s Ashley Benson. Benson is just about ready for a major role in a blockbuster film, and Wonder Girl may just be a perfect fit. Benson is primarily known for her tenure on Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars, in which she plays the fashionable and funny Hanna Marin. Given that Young Justice is a series, in essence, about a click of teenagers, Benson could reflect on her past role in Pretty Little Liars to inform her take on Wonder Girl.
13. Zatanna – Tatiana Maslany
One of the team’s first recruits was Zatanna, who was brought to Mount Justice (the group’s headquarters) by her father, Zatara. Zatanna had some prominent storylines in season 1, including donning the Helmet of Fate in order to defeat Klarion. While Nabu does eventually release Zatanna, her father, Zatara, ends up taking her place as Doctor Fate, prompting her to move to Mount Justice permanently. Season 2 began with Zatanna now an adult and a full-fledged member of the Justice League. Still, this does not stop her from playing a prominent role in the season, including providing the amulet that allows Artemis to shield her identity from Black Manta.
While perhaps a bit too old at first glance, Tatiana Maslany would be a perfect choice to play Zatanna (and one we’ve been behind for quite some time). Though initially just thirteen years old in season 1 of Young Justice, the five year jump forward in time did propel her to adulthood. Plus, as a character who has frequently existed as a love interest to older heroes like Batman and Constantine, there is certainly some flexibility with the role.
As for Maslany, she has all the acting chops to knock this role out of the park. For her role in Orphan Black, Maslany has been universally lauded, and earned Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the most recent Emmy Awards.
12. Bart Allen/Impulse – Thomas Barbusca
If there is one type of hero that played an extremely prominent role on Young Justice, it’s speedsters. Barry Allen, Wally West, Jay Garrick, and Bart Allen all made appearances on the hit animated series. Bart Allen appears in the second season, when he is sent back in time from the year 2056 (ironically, the same year from which Barry Allen’s mysterious message in Legends of Tomorrow was sent, just saying) to prevent his bleak future from occurring. Immediately upon joining the show, Bart Allen became a standout. He provided a new mix of cockiness, fast-talking, and futuristic catchphrases that made him a must-watch character.
Bart Allen would provide the opportunity for a young comedic actor to really shine in a superhero movie. A great choice to attempt that endeavor is Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp‘s Thomas Barbusca. In that series, Barbusca plays the incredibly obnoxious bully, Drew. He plays a very similar role in the GEICO commercial featuring Peter Pan, the boy who never ages. Bart Allen could be the perfect role to catapult the talented young actor to the big time.
11. Rocket/Raquel Ervin – Nathalie Emmanuel
Like Zatanna, Rocket was recruited to the team during Young Justice‘s first season. From that point on she played a prominent role, before eventually joining her mentor, Icon, in the Justice League during the five year gap. Who plays Rocket will likely be determined by how large a role she would have in a live-action Young Justice. After all, there is only so much screen time to go around. However, if Warner Bros. is looking to expand audience familiarity with the DC Universe, a lesser-known character like Rocket would be a prime candidate for an increased role.
Nathalie Emmanuel is starting to make quite a name for herself in Hollywood, and if she were looking to get in on the superhero game, Rocket could be the perfect character for her to play. Emmanuel is probably best known for her role as Missandei on Game of Thrones, though she has appeared in a pair of popular film series as well. She played Harriet in the second Maze Runner film, a role she will reprise in the franchise’s upcoming third installment, Death Cure. She will also be reprising her role as Ramsay from Furious 7 in Fast 8. With Game of Thrones, Maze Runner, and the Fast & Furious series all nearing their conclusion, Emmanuel may just be in the market for a new franchise to call home.
10. Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes – Avan Jogia
The season 2 addition who played probably the largest role in Young Justice is Jaime Reyes (the second Blue Beetle). In the series, Reyes gained his power from an alien Scarab, which was sent to Earth by the Reach — who ended up invading the planet. As it turns out, the whole reason Bart Allen was sent back in time was to prevent Reyes’ Scarab from turning him into Earth’s dictator. Fortunately, this did not come to pass, but it did make for some intriguing dramatic moments.
It’s likely that any live-action adaptation of Young Justice would feature Blue Beetle in a large role. He would give the DCEU a strong diverse hero, and furthermore, it would be in keeping with the series. Blue Beetle is also set to appear in the new animated series, Justice League Action, and will likely play a role in Young Justice‘s third season. An interesting choice to play Reyes would be Avan Jogia, who is perhaps best known for his role as the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun in Spike’s Tut. Though 24, he did play a teenager in the ABC Family series, Twisted, and likely could do so again in Young Justice.
9. Barbara Gordon/Batgirl – Emma Stone
Should a live-action Young Justice ever come to pass, there is a good chance that Batgirl would be heavily featured. While the series certainly has other strong female characters — Artemis, Miss Martian, Zatanna, etc. — it’s hard to argue with the popularity of the Bat Family. Barbara Gordon appeared very briefly in season 1 of Young Justice, but returned as Batgirl in the series’ sophomore run. Again, should this hypothetical (it’s probably important to continue emphasizing that) adaptation take place in the DCEU, the choice of who plays Batgirl would be constrained by the universe’s creative direction.
For all we know, Barbara could appear in Ben Affleck’s The Batman or a Birds of Prey adaptation. Given the character’s immense crossover potential, it would make sense that she’d be portrayed by one of the more recognizable actresses in the cast. Enter Emma Stone. Sure, she’s done the superhero movie thing before, but this time around, she would have the opportunity to skip the whole damsel in distress trope and play a brilliant, self-reliant hero. Should the DCEU elect to take the character through her Oracle arc, Stone certainly has the acting chops to pull off Gordon’s initial struggles as a wheelchair-bound hero.
8. Tim Drake/Robin – Ryan Potter
Sometime between season 1 and 2 of Young Justice, Dick Grayson assumed the Nightwing persona and Tim Drake became Robin (of course, it was hinted that Jason Todd held that role for a period). Assuming that Grayson would be Nightwing in a live-action Young Justice, we’ll need somebody to play Tim Drake’s Boy Wonder. And why not Ryan Potter? The voice of Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6 has already let it be known he wants to play the character. He even shot a pretty cool concept video in an attempt to convince Ben Affleck that he was the right man for the job.
Since Tim Drake would likely be the third person to assume the Robin moniker, there would have to be a noticeable age gap between him and whoever plays Nightwing. In all likelihood, this would require Tim Drake to be a teenager. And at just 21, Ryan Potter certainly could play a character several years younger than his actual age. Actors rarely get cast in roles they publicly audition for (see: Tyreese Gibson), but this one could actually work out rather nicely.
7. Roy Harper – Jack Reynor
Roy Harper is one of the more interesting characters in Young Justice. As it turns out, the Roy Harper who begins the series as Speedy and eventually becomes Red Arrow was, in reality, a Cadmus clone. While it would be easy to ignore that plotline in a live-action adaptation, it would be a lot more fun if it were embraced. Eventually, in season 2, the real Roy Harper is found, leading to him assuming the moniker Arsenal. It could be fun for both Arsenal and Red Arrow to appear in the same live-action adaptation, played by the same actor. And Jack Reynor would be an excellent fit.
Perhaps best known for his role in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Reynor recently appeared in the Michael Fassbender-starring live-action take on Macbeth. These performances should show that Reynor has the range to play two wildly different versions of the same character. While both Red Arrow and Arsenal develop into loners, there is a lot more rage in the latter, which Reynor would have to channel. Plus, we’ll never say no to a good old-fashioned cybernetic arm.
6. Artemis – Elle Fanning
Another intriguing character, should a live-action Young Justice follow the series, is the team’s first recruit, Artemis. Originally joining the team under the guise of Green Arrow’s niece, it quickly becomes apparent that Artemis is harboring a big secret. That secret turns out to be that she is the daughter of Huntress and Sportsmaster, and the sister of Cheshire. In short, being a hero was not in her DNA. Artemis develops even more in the second season, which she begins “retired” and living a peaceful life with Wally West. She ends up coming out of retirement and faking her own death — a plan developed by Nightwing and Aqualad — to infiltrate Black Manta’s organization as Tigress.
One of the most interesting aspects of the recently renewed series is what they will do with Artemis. After Wally West met his apparent demise, Artemis decided to remain as Tigress, who’s traditionally a villain in the comics. Given her complicated backstory, it would take a great young actress to successfully bring her to life, and we think Elle Fanning may be just what the doctor ordered. Fanning has had breakout roles in films such as Super 8, Malificient, and Trumbo, but has not yet made her mark on the superhero genre. Artemis is an excellent fit for Fanning if she elected to make that leap.
5. Miss Martian – Naomi Scott
Miss Martian is the final member of the original team in Young Justice. Her character experiences, perhaps, the most development of any hero on the show. Whoever plays Miss Martian will have to replicate her kind, outgoing personality, while at the same time pull off her mysterious character history (namely, the fact that she’s a White Martian in disguise). And if a live-action adaptation of Young Justice were to follow the basic formula of the series, Miss Martian would likely have one of the film’s most prominent romantic storylines: that being her relationship with Superboy.
Naomi Scott could the perfect choice to bring Miss Martian to life. The biggest issue, though, would be her schedule. Currently, Scott is set to star as the Pink Ranger in the upcoming Power Rangers reboot. While there is no guarantee that the film would spawn any sequels, Lionsgate is certainly hoping that is the case. In fact, the studio’s CEO has said that he hopes the Power Rangers series spans six or seven films. Assuming the franchise won’t last quite that long, Scott could assume the role of Miss Martian in a few years. Regardless, if Scott were available to take on another superhero franchise, she’d be a great fit here.
4. Superboy/Conner Kent – Ryan Guzman
The team would not exist if it were not for Superboy. After all, the series began with Kid Flash, Robin, and Aqualad rescuing Clark Kent’s clone from Cadmus. Once a member of the team, though, Superboy had a lot of adjusting to do. As a clone, everything he faced was something new. The lack of natural development showed, with Superboy often succumbing to his anger and frustrations with not having a mentor figure of any sort in his life (despite being Clark Kent’s clone, Superman had very little interest in comforting young Conner).
Despite his age, Ryan Guzman would make a great Conner Kent. He has the look, and although he’s nearly 30, he did recently pull off being a college student in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! Through his roles in the Step Up series and the Jennifer Lopez-starring The Boy Next Door, Guzman is recognizable enough to play one of the leading men a Young Justice adaptation, which would be a huge career boost for the up-and-coming actor.
3. Kid Flash/Wally West – Tyler James Williams
Any live-action adaptation of Young Justice would have to heavily feature Wally West — one of the original three sidekicks. Should this hypothetical adaption take place in the DCEU, this is a character whose casting will be most constrained by the direction of that universe. Despite having recently lost its director, The Flash movie is still currently slated to begin production this year, and it’s very possible that Wally West is being considered for a minor part (this is just speculation, of course). While Wally West appears as Iris West’s brother in The CW series, he is traditionally her nephew, as was the case in Young Justice. However, with the DCEU’s Iris West set to be played by 23 year-old Kiersey Clemons, it is possible that Wally West — if he were to appear soon — would be her brother, like he is in The CW series.
Should Warner Bros. decide to go that route and cast somebody around the same age as Clemons, Tyler James Williams could be a great choice. Wally West is traditionally seen as a bit of a joker, and Williams certainly has some experience in comedy. His first major role was in the Chris Rock-inspired Everybody Hates Chris. Currently, Williams is one of the leads in CBS’ Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Though he hasn’t had much of a presence in film to date, Williams could easily take on the Kid Flash role with all the gusto fans have come to expect from the character.
2. Aqualad – Alfred Enoch
The original leader of the Young Justice squad was Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm) — a character specifically created for the show. From the very beginning, Aqualad proved himself most fit to lead, though he did make decisions that were unpopular, like keeping his teammates in the dark when he felt there was a mole within their ranks. The second season began with Aqualad no longer on the team, but rather, as a member of Black Manta’s (his father) organization. As it turns out, he was acting as a double agent on Nightwing’s instruction, and ended up being intregal to the group’s defeat of the Reach.
Alfred Enoch is no stranger to big franchises, though, to be fair, he’s never been the headlining star. To date, Enoch has only appeared in film as one character — Harry Potter‘s Dean Thomas — a role he played in seven of the eight films. In his adult years, Enoch may be best known for his work in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. It may be time for Enoch to return to the big screen, and Aqualad could be the role to make it happen.
1. Nightwing/Dick Grayson – Dylan O’Brien
There is little doubt that any live-action adaptation of Young Justice would feature Dick Grayson prominently, either as Robin or Nightwing. Young Justice begins with Dick Grayson as Robin, Batman’s sidekick, and an original member of the team. At first, Robin desires to be the team leader, but it soon becomes apparent — after frequently acting on is own — that he is not ready to assume that role. As a result of the Boy Wonder’s immaturity, Aqualad leads the team until Robin is ready. Season 2 begins with Grayson assuming his Nightwing moniker and heading up the squad as its leader. At one point, he suggests that he prefers this role over the idea of being promoted to the Justice League.
The second season of Young Justice ends with Nightwing quitting the team, after prior episodes revealed he feared becoming like Batman. Given how important this role will be (to both a Young Justice film as well as the DCEU as a whole), the actor who plays Grayson needs the name recognition and talent to pull it off. 25 year old Dylan O’Brien has both. With the Maze Runner series set to come to an end in 2018, O’Brien could be looking for another franchise to lead, and why not make it Young Justice? (Well, other than the fact that this is an entirely hypothetical film, of course). In any case, O’Brien has all the makings of a true leading man, and the DCEU would be wise to snatch him up while they can.
Which actors/actresses do you feel deserve a role in a live-action Young Justice movie? Let us know in the comments!