DC Universe's fourth original series, Swamp Thing, drops for subscribers on May 31, but the streaming service debuted the first two episodes in Los Angeles Friday evening for select press and fans. SYFY WIRE was there to watch and get some insight about the series from executive producers Mark Verheiden and director Len Wiseman (Underworld), along with 10 of their cast members.
A contemporary telling of the mythology created by the legendary Len Wein and illustrator Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing is set in Marais, Louisiana, where a mysterious disease is suddenly affecting the residents. The CDC sends Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) back to her hometown to investigate what's going on before it becomes an epidemic. As she's investigating the victims and the swampy environs, Abby's path crosses with biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who is investigating a swamp-originating biological accelerant that he believes might be crossing over into the human population, causing the sickness.
Featuring a truly unique aesthetic for any DC series, as well as a continuation of the DC Universe's R-rated approach (which lends itself nicely to Wiseman and series executive producer James Wan's horror sensibilities), showrunner Mark Verheiden told audiences that the series is a modern incarnation of the Swamp Thing mythology with a Southern Gothic spin.
"When we started, we wanted to do a Swamp Thing that is true to the comics of Wein, Wrightson, and what Alan Moore and Steve Bissette did," Verheiden explained. "We're looking to create this world in Marais in which Abby Arcane comes into it with enormous amounts of problems and backstory that she has to deal with. And we also wanted to do a great horror show that is genuinely scary and R-rated at times."
Wiseman continued, "It's in the superhero universe, but he's not necessarily a superhero. The chance to do something in the DC Universe that was more slanted towards horror was very exciting to me. Also, the time [the script] took to go into the origin story, I was fascinated by that."
The core relationship of the series is between Abby and Holland, as their early quest for answers about the organic-based disease spurs them to bond quickly. Their search prompts some mutual empathy over their checkered pasts and passion for their work.
Suffice it to say, without spoilers, something happens that changes the dynamic of that burgeoning friendship, but still binds the pair as she comes to understand what has happened to Alec as the series progresses.
"She is now looking at a green man with tendrils," actress Crystal Reed teased. "Abby is constantly searching for the humanity in the monster, and that is what makes her beautiful, as she's constantly looking for the light in general."
Not unlike DC Universe's other series Doom Patrol, where several roles are portrayed by dual performances, Swamp Thing will follow that path, with actor Andy Bean as Holland and Derek Mears as the post-transformation incarnation.
Of that duality, Bean enthused that "It was a bizarre thing going into it, knowing the work put into the human aspect, so when it turns into another thing, it matters. He wants to be human again, and what is it to be human? What is it to have connections with people spontaneously, and the potential for happiness? We went down the rabbit holes of what is it to cling onto that and have hope, yet be lost in it. I can't wait for the world to see what Derek has done. I couldn't be more happy to be side to side with him."
As for the rest of the cast that makes up the residents of Marais, actress Maria Sten (Channel Zero: The Dream Door) plays comic book character Liz Tremayne, Abby's childhood friend, and current small-town journalist. Sten said she crafted the show version of Liz from a mix of script, comics, and "what it was like for me, as a black woman growing up in a small town in the South, and how does that color her interactions with people from the outside, and people she's grown up with."
Meanwhile, actor Kevin Durand (The Strain) was a lot more cagey about revealing much about his character, Doctor Jason Woodrue (who was featured in the Neil Gaiman Swamp Thing story): "He's a genius doctor, he's a little prickly, and has a wife he loves more than anything in the world."
Veteran actors Virginia Madsen and Ian Ziering are also part of the ensemble cast, with Madsen playing Maria Sunderland, the wife of Will Patton's prominent businessman, Avery Sunderland, and Ziering as a local actor who runs the town's video store.
Of their characters, Madsen teased, "[It] was wonderful to play a woman that gains more and more power as she goes through the episodes." Ziering said Daniel Cassidy's arc will build slowly around the periphery but will pay off for sure.
Last but not least are the mother/son team of local cops Sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals) and Matt Cable (Henderson Wade). The series make it clear that Abby is the one that got away for Matt. Wade shared, "As the season progresses, you'll come to realize how deeply Matt feels for her, and to what lengths he'll go. There's a lot of heart in this town, and these relationships, and that's ultimately why you'll care about Swamp Thing."
However, Beals admitted her sheriff is a lot more suspicious of Abby, worrying that her son's heart will get broken when the case is solved. The actress also revealed that Lucilla has strong ties to Will Patton's Avery. "We tried to find out what our history was, and we were neighbors, so we would have tea every night and talk about our relationship to the town. Everyone in this town has a secret, and the show starts to explore off these secrets, how they cross over and become people's undoing."
Swamp Thing drops weekly on DC Universe on May 31. The show's episode order dropped from 13 to 10 episodes in April.