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Twisted Metal's Anthony Mackie On How They Built a "Whole Three-Dimensional World" From Playstation Game
"We took [that] reality and gave it a backstory and gave it characters who you can really relate to in a television sense."
The biggest challenge faced by many video game adaptations is the process of trying to graft a coherent narrative onto a bare-bones premise that works because of its inherent simplicity.
Anthony Mackie saw that as an exciting opportunity rather than a tire-popping roadblock when he signed on to star in and executive produce a small screen take on the beloved Twisted Metal video game franchise (hitting Peacock late next month).
Anthony Mackie on building out the Twisted Metal mythos
Sitting down with Rolling Stone to discuss the hotly-anticipated streaming project, Mackie talked about how he grew up playing the games, which took the recreational concept of bumper cars and amped up the intensity by a factor of 11. Not a particularly complex set-up, of course, but plenty of upgrades were added to the once-simple chassis under the creative pit crew of Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese, and showrunner Michael Jonathan Smith.
"There were basically cars just shooting each other and blowing each other up with nondescript characters, but characters nonetheless, that we never got to see," he explained. "And what we did was we took [that] reality and gave it a backstory and gave it characters who you can really relate to in a television sense."
The Marvel Cinematic Universe vet puts the pedal to the metal as John Doe, a delivery driver — or "milkman" — without a true identity, searching for a place to call home in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Divided States of America.
Mackie described his character (a more fleshed-out version of the Doe from the games) as a "nondescript" and "very simple" guy "with a lot of flair and flavor, a guy who has adapted to the world in which he lives in now, and has developed the ability to [navigate] himself through that world in a successful way."
"[There’s] no exaggeration or extreme around him," he continued. "The simplicity of the world has now taken over the simplicity of the nature of [John] as an individual."
Doe gets a chance at a better life when he's tasked with delivering a mysterious package across a winding road populated with savage marauders in vehicles of pure destruction, including an ice cream truck driven by a sociopathic clown named Sweet Tooth. His only ally on this asphalt odyssey is an axe-wielding car thief called Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz), whose name "plays a very significant role in the character," Mackie teased.
"Like you see in the trailer I say, 'She don’t speak much,' and she goes, 'F*** you,' and I’m like, 'All right, I guess she does.' It was just really well-crafted and smartly done, but the world is intricate in a way that every name and every character have their place. It becomes a whole three-dimensional world from basically a one-dimensional video game."
Twisted Metal drives onto Peacock Thursday, July 27.