On March 15 at SXSW, SYFY premiered the pilot of its new Superman series Krypton at the Alamo Ritz in Austin, TX. Afterward, I hosted a panel with a few of the show's stars, who offered up insight on both the show and their prep work.
The guests included Cameron Cuffe (The Halcyon), who plays Superman's grandaddy Seg-El; Georgina Campbell (Black Mirror, Electric Dreams), who plays Lyta-Zod (yes, that Zod); and Wallis Day (The Royals, Hollyoaks), who plays the mysterious Nyssa-Vex. Showrunner/producer Cameron Welsh also joined the conversation.
**Spoiler warning: Mild spoilers for Krypton ahead**
Let me start by saying that this is NOT your father's Superman story. If you squint, you will see references to canon, but the creators wanted the freedom to move beyond the comics and the DCEU. In fact, the cast welcomed the chance to create a new story by going two generations back into Superman's lineage. "There's 80 years of history to draw from, but there's so little about where our story starts," Welsh said.
Although there are Man of Steel references in this show, Krypton is not about a world in turmoil about to be blown to bits; instead, it's about an extremely classist society controlled by the religious order of Rau, which offers deference only to those who belong to select ranking families: House Vex, House Zod, House Em... and, you guessed it, House El. Anyone not of an acknowledged bloodline is deemed "rankless" and is destined to eke out a living literally below everyone else at ground level in the domed city of Kandor. This gives the show an interesting vehicle for commenting on the universal themes of societals ills such as racism, classism, ableism, politics and police brutality.
Upward mobility and order in Kandor society are based on genetics. Marriage with a higher ranking or equal member of society is a government-sanctioned event, as is procreation through the Genisis Chamber. (Yep, the same one Jor-El swam to in Man of Steel to save baby Kal). This Gattaca/Matrix style of reproduction is another example of Kandor's rigid caste system, which is less concerned with sex and more concerned with genetic superiority. One interesting result of a eugenics-obsessed society with no viable need for heterosexual sex is gender fluidity, which is also explored in the show. "Because Kryptonians have evolved beyond gender roles, that allows characters to grow and become who they're meant to be," Cuffe remarked at the event.
There have been rumors of other DC characters that will make appearances on Krypton. Pretty much from the jump, it's clear that Brainiac is a threat, even though he physically doesn't make an appearance in the pilot; Adam Strange (played by Shaun Sipos), on the other hand, does check in. Strange has traveled from Earth's past with the aid of his trusty Zeta beam (Welsh confirmed for us that it is Earth Prime) to warn Seg-El of Brainiac's impending visit to Krypton and the importance of saving his family so that Kal-El (aka Superman) can be born in the future.
I asked Welsh about why they chose to use Adam Strange as the time-traveling catalyst for the show and (CW cast aside) not another chronokinetic character like Booster Gold or (as one excited fan yelled out) Max Mercury. "We want to [eventually] go to Rann & Thanagar. Adam Strange is our way into the space sectors of the DC universe." Welsh told the audience. He confirmed when I asked before the screening that Hawkwoman will not be making an appearance in the show before Season 2.
And speaking of new characters, Campbell, who plays Lyta-Zod, one of several people of color and part of a cast of incredibly strong women on the show, has a very interesting story. I won't give it away, but let's just say the Zods have not always been enemies of the Els, and Lyta, a member of the warrior class of Sagitari, Kandor's security force, tries desperately to be a voice of reason within a strict military class. Which is pretty tough given that the Sagitari are actually trained and overseen by her mother Jayna-Zod, played by Ann Ogbomo and who suffers no fools.
"The physical training [on the show] was intense and I when I first saw the script I was truly frightened," Campbell said. Another Sagitari, Dev-Em, played by Aaron Pierre (not present at the screening to my dismay), is House of Em, and we don't learn much about him in the first episode other than he is betrothed to Lyta and his family has sworn allegiance to Rau.
Day's character, Nyssa, is House Vex and the daughter of a high-ranking political figure, Daron-Vex, played by Elliot Cowan. The youngest of five daughters, Nyssa has a way of fighting that's more subtle. "There's much more to see from my character in this series. I think she has the biggest story arc of all the characters." Day said, and the other cast members agreed.
The cast also commented on a common misconceptions about the series, including how Krypton will not connect with any of the CW/DC characters in any way and how this is not another Superman origin story. "It's not a prequel," warns Welsh. "We are in completely new territory. This is not the Krypton that blows up." I questioned this, referencing basically every other story I've ever read about Superman, to which Welsh answered, "This is a completely different story."
Well alrighty then. I guess we'll just have to see for ourselves.
Krypton premieres on March 21 at 10PM on SYFY.
Are you a Superman superfan? Then check out SYFY's Fan of Steel Trivia Challenge for a chance to win $1000 every day until the Krypton premiere!