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TCA 2019: Pennyworth will have Ian Fleming influence in a Britain no one remembers

By Tara Bennett & Lisa Granshaw
Alfred Pennyworth

There have been numerous versions of Batman over the years and, as a result, many versions of the hero’s loyal mentor and butler Alfred Pennyworth as well. In the upcoming Epix prequel series Pennyworth, though, Alfred is taking center stage at a time in his life we haven’t really seen before, in a 1960s London that, according to actor Jack Bannon, is cool enough on its own but with the show has this added DC Comics twist.

Bannon, who plays Alfred, was joined by fellow cast members and the executive producers of the show during a panel at the TCA 2019 winter tour Sunday. Bannon spoke about London when asked if there’s an Ian Fleming influence to the show, to which he added yes, with “guns and turtlenecks.” Executive producer Danny Cannon said of the setting that it’s a time the British always want to revisit, as things were happening culturally and artistically. Later, fellow executive producer Bruno Heller added that the show is “a story about the country on the brink of civil war.”

“It’s an alternative universe. [It’s] not a Britain anyone remembers, well, except for me,” he said.

For Heller, this is an origin story for Alfred that owes Michael Caine, who portrayed the character in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and had the background of a SAS agent. Heller said Pennyworth shows “the journey from a young SAS soldier to a butler in America.” To Bannon, the fact that so many great actors have played the character in his older years meant there was a huge amount of pressure, but some of it is off given that we’ve “never seen [Alfred] at this age.”

“The world is a great playground to muck about in, and we’re changing bits so it alleviates the pressure,” Bannon said.

Other characters who will be a part of the show are Thomas Wayne and Bet Sykes. Ben Aldridge, who plays Wayne, said the throughline for the character is that “he’s very moral and philanthropic.”

“In our world, he’s associated with more of a covert secret world,” Aldrige said.

Paloma Faith is playing Sykes, a brand-new character and the villain of the series. Faith said she’s having the time of her life on the show.

“I think she’s multi-layered and has a lot of depth. People keep coming up to me saying she’s scary and they’re worried for me. I’m pretty playful, and Bet isn’t playful except with bodies. She’s an absolute psycho, and in the pilot I was a little scared of her,” Faith said. “Bruno knows more about her backstory than I do. I lived in Northern England, and she’s from the North. There is a huge diversity between North British and South British. I joke that I am an honorary northerner. We’re good at repressing ourselves in Britain, and Bet is more about what she doesn’t say.”

As for any connection with Gotham's Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee, Cannon said the actor did speak to them about appearing but that the two shows stand alone.

“DC audiences are begging for something new and different and maturing the brand,” he said.

Pennyworth will premiere this summer on Epix.

For our full coverage of the TCA 2019 winter tour, click here.