Exclusive: Peter Serafinowicz is ready to save the world as The Tick

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Mar 25, 2021, 10:00 AM EDT (Updated)

If you’re a Brit TV and film Anglophile, then actor/comedian Peter Serafinowicz is already on your radar. He was Pete in Shaun of the Dead, Benzie in Spaced, and the host of The Peter Serafinowicz Show. But this week, he’s taking on a role that could make him a household name in the U.S. -- The Tick.

When The Tick drops on Amazon Aug. 25, Serafinowicz will be the third actor to portray creator Ben Edlund’s big blue superhero. The beloved cult comic book hero was voiced by Townsend Coleman in a 1994 animated series and brought to live action in a 2001 series starring Patrick Warburton. Now The Tick is back in a new live-action iteration that finds Serafinowicz collaborating with Edlund for a whole new take on the weirdo hero. In both our exclusive video and print interviews below, Serafinowicz tells us what made him decide to jump onboard the project, and what weirdness will ensue.

There’s no shortage of superhero TV series these days, so what about Edlund’s reimagining of The Tick first grabbed your interest?

The pilot script, or the entire series in Ben's mind, is called The Tick (A Parody), so that did make me think, "Huh, superhero parody? I don't know what the appetite is for that?" There have been a lot of superhero parodies, and most can usually only sustain a sketch. My initial impression of it was this is a weird kind of parody. Before I read the scripts, I looked at the comics, and Ben's got a very singular sense of humor. It looked pretty good, but I wondered, "Is that what people want now?"

Was any iteration of The Tick on your comedy radar before Edlund pitched you to play the role?

It weirdly escaped my sphere. I just don't know why. But I was very flattered before I knew much about it.

So what was the thing that made you take the part?

Somewhat of what attracted me to it is the brilliance of Ben and his writing, and the sheer pleasure of reading his words and becoming that character is a gift. I just love that he embodies a version of a superhero we haven't seen in a long time. I'm sure someone can think of a more recent version, but when I was a tiny kid watching Christopher Reeve as Superman, he's the archetypal one for us. He's got very strong views on right and wrong. He's compassionate. He saves people and that's what he does. There's little inner turmoil, despite losing his parents, but that functions in the background. But for a little kid, it's this super man who can save people from impossible situations, and that version of super heroism has been out of fashion, and has been for a long time. I like the purity and simplicity of that. I don't think it's something today's kids get enough of.

Since there are two beloved takes on the character already out in the world, did you feel you needed to see them to prepare your take?

With regards to the other versions of Tick, I think I watched two YouTube clips of Patrick's performance, which I loved, and both made me laugh. I found his Tick to have this very sweet vulnerability and neediness. But then I didn't want to see any more, firstly because he was so great, I didn't want to be compared to him, even though I will be. I wanted to do my interpretation of him. That snippet was helpful, but I did try to put it out of my mind.

Did you and Ben work on how this new Tick would come across as unique?

Yes. I have to say that when we embarked on the pilot, and even before, we would Skype and read bits of the script together, and I would give him my version of what the Tick should sound like.

Warburton is an executive producer on this. Did he give you his Tick approval?

He did send a message where he was very sweet and encouraging. I've never met him, but he sounds like a real beauty. I also feel this responsibility with his character. He's so loved. When we film on location, a lot of time we've been filming in Harlem, and as I'm walking around there, the amount of times people shout, "Hey, it's The Tick" is kind of crazy, and lovely. And again, I also hope I don't let everybody down.

So the pilot episode is darker than the other adaptations of the comic. Does it stay that way or get weird?

It deals with some grownup issues like Arthur's psychological problems, but it's not Christopher Nolan's Batman at all. It's a real world, with people with real problems. But Tick and the other superheroes turn up, and the other characters are so nuts. I can't tell you how bizarre and utterly beautiful these things are. It's very silly, as well. I think maybe the pilot was maybe a little darker than the rest of the series.

How’s the suit?

Well, the suit has been so uncomfortable. I don't have a problem being embodied by it because I literally am. (Laughs)

Who do you think the audience for the show is?

It feels like something that everybody can watch. I kind of hope the superhero-ness of it doesn't put people who aren't superhero fans off. But the characters are also very grounded.

The Tick Season 1 drops on Aug. 25 on Amazon.