The live-action adaptation of Rick Remender's Deadly Class, which follows a group of teen assassins at their posh private school, is set in the 1980s. And the drama surrounding teen killers was set in that time period for a reason, said Remender.
"I have seen few and far between examples of the '80s I grew up in brought to any medium," he said. "One of the things that I wanted to do was just for me, was to do a Mad Men-style snapshot of the authentic '80s underground in the same way that Mad Men did such a beautiful job of capturing the late '50s and early '60s in those first two seasons. And the culture is seeping into the stories, and they're interweaving."
A huge part of that culture and time period was the music scene.
"You basically found your ideology and you found your tribe and you found your people so often through the voice of music and what the music was about and that it spoke to your soul," said Remender. "When I was growing up, you would see somebody wearing a Dead Kennedys T-shirt in 1986. You knew you could go talk to that person and you would have something in common, and that you knew that your politics and your ideology and your philosophies on life would be similar-ish."
Benedict Wong, who plays Lin, the Dean of King's Dominion, likes how the music and drama work together in Deadly Class.
"I was about 16 during that period, and I definitely remember all of that time," said Wong. "I think that's what's great about this show. I feel like this has been a real muffled voice, really, in terms of drama, that no one's really ever seen. And that Remender kind of drew his comic, in this idea of punk rock and indie music being part of a drama is fantastic, I think. And Rick is really kind of meticulous about what songs he wants, what certain lyric goes with this."
The actors even received playlists to help get into their characters.
"The first song that came up on mine was something about the world is on fire, hate the world, all this stuff. And when I first listened to it, I was like 'This is going to be a long ride,'" explained Lana Condor, who plays teen assassin Saya on the show.
"I'm 23, so I grew up in the early 2000s," said Luke Tennie, who plays Willie Lewis. "So I'm not quite familiar with the music of that time. And Rick is somebody who is a punk head. So he grew up listening to all the punk ... so he knows the punk scene, and Willie is one of the only African-American characters in the central student class at King's Dominion. So I knew that he gave everyone a punk playlist to listen to. Willie wouldn't have been listening to punk. So Luke listened to punk so I could get it, but Willie listened to a lot of NWA, Public Enemy and all that, you know."
Star Benjamin Wadsworth, who plays Marcus, said the source material provided much of the background needed for the characters too.
"The graphic novel really helped give me the '80s feel and the '80s nostalgia and pop culture whenever it comes to like the punk scene," said Wadsworth. "And the music, but like all this was kind of given to us."
In addition to the music, Maria Gabriela de Fería was inspired by the 1980s styles.
"I love the music," she said. "But my character is still sexy and she wears the most amazing outfits. Very '80s, like the hair is huge. I just got here and people were like, 'I didn’t recognize you, your hair is always so big.' And I feel weird, here, without the wig. Just feeling so normal. And that I love. I love the shoulder pads and the animal print."
Liam James, who plays punk skateboarder Billy, sees how setting the show in the 1980s impacts the world for the characters.
"I think they do a really good job at just capturing that moment in time. I find, because maybe because the world was a little bit smaller in, let's say the '80s, '70s, whatever period you wanna say, that there's more of a definition to it, as opposed to maybe today, where everything is so broad, because there's so many people and there's so many people trying, kind of becoming a conglomerate, so it loses its shape a little bit."
And sometimes looking back on the past gives new insight into the present — and future. So while 2019 isn't 1987, there's still plenty to learn from what was happening 30 years ago.
"I started writing this, obviously, long before Trump. It was in the middle of the heyday of the Obama administration," said Remender. "So it was really not something that I had anticipated that we would be going back to electing a far-right-wing celebrity charlatan. But here we are. And so one of the things that we get to do is sort of look at the society that we live in through the prism of where we came from, and it turns out that as the pendulum swings, we end up going forward and backward and forward and backward."
Deadly Class is now airing on SYFY.