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We talk with the Powers cast about bringing Bendis' 'hard R' comic to life at NYCC

Contributed by
Oct 16, 2014

Sony's move into the original programming arena couldn't have had better timing. As Netflix, Hulu and Amazon all find various degrees of success with their own original series and Microsoft pulling the plug on Xbox Entertainment months after announcing its arrival, Sony may have entered the race at an opportune time. Though Xbox had the edge in the overall console war against Playstation, Sony's original programming might not only put them ahead of their biggest competitor, but see them become the very thing Xbox set out to be in the first place: a true all-in-one entertainment system.

First out of the gate for Sony is Powers, an adaptation of the gritty crime-noir superhero comic of the same name with a devoted cult following. While this isn't the first attempt to bring Powers to the screen, from the sound of it this time around will yield far more successful results. For those unfamiliar with the title, Powers tells the story of homicide detectives Christian Walker (Sharloto Copley, District 9, Maleficent) and Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward, The Following) as they investigate crimes of super humans, or those with powers. Rounding out the major cast are Michelle Forbes (Retro Girl), Eddie Izzard (Wolfe), Noah Taylor (Johnny Royalle), Oleysa Ruin (Calista) and Logan Browning (Zora).

Most of the show's stars, sans Copley and Forbes, accompanied co-creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming to this year's NYCC panel. Fans of the comic were treated to a peek at some footage and teasers of art that will appear both in the series and on upcoming covers. The cast were pretty tight-lipped about much of the series, partially since they are still in the middle of shooting and have only completed three episodes to date, but also sticking to the trend of secrecy that seemed to be the status quo for this year's con. Bendis made it clear to fans that though the Powers show is an adaptation of the comic, they plan to treat the two as seperate entities, so expect to see some changes to the characters many have grown to know and love. For example Calista and Zora will both be older than they are in the comics. The change isn't without reason; Powers the show will be a "hard R" and include its share of sex, violence and strong language as it navigates a celebrity-obsessed culture where superheroes and villians aren't so much battling to save or destroy the world but are, as Izzard puts it, " just in this f-cked up world. It's really a metaphor of what celebrity is, I think."

An older Calista appears in Powers.

We had a chance to sit down with the cast after the panel, and while there wasn't too much they could tell us about the show itself, they shared their thoughts on comic books and the perks of creating an online series.

Blastr: It seems like lately there isn't much that can compete with the programming happening via online streaming. For actors, are the better roles now on these types of streaming networks?

Noah Taylor: 10 years ago if you asked any actor whether they wanted to do film or TV it was a bit of a no-brainer. You know, people wanted to do film because that's where the writing was interesting and things were a bit edgier, and I think that's totally flipped around now. There's stuff you can do on cable that you can't do on film because of the way the ratings work for cinema. But more than that, the nature of long, episodic TV, without having any restraints on what you can and can't write or do, means that you can develop a character over several seasons and have incredible arcs that you can't really do in a feature-film format, particularly for comics, which by their very nature are episodic. I think streaming TV is the way to go, as opposed to film. Film for comic-book fans -- I'm a big comic-book fan -- and the disappointment of feature films is often that they condense a lot of ideas into a very short period of time, and it seems like it's for an audience of non-comic-book readers and it's made for them. But episodic TV really suits the format of comics and the way stories are told over a long time. I just think TV is where it's at.

Noah Taylor as Johnny Royalle.

Blastr: Do you feel like these networks -- Sony, Hulu, Netflix -- are giving showrunners much more creative leeway?

Noah Taylor: The writing is king in those shows. To develop a long story you really have to have great writers developing that. It really comes down to The Sopranos kind of opened that up for the rest of TV and said "Yes, you can have violence and sex and complex relationships and audiences can handle it." It's such a rich field now for writing.

Olesya Rulin: I think that's what makes our show so beautiful, because it's not just a superhero show. It's so realistic, and it's because it's on PlayStation, and with Sony that we have that creativity. It's gonna get kind of ugly, and that's what happens in the real world. We're not sugar-coating anything, and you can't do that in cinema. Well, you can, but you have less opportunity to, or like on a network where you have regulations. It's amazing to be in that position as an actor. Not only are you supported, but you're encouraged, and I feel like sometimes, at least in my experience and being a woman in this industry -- I don't want to speak for everyone -- but you get kind of pigoenholed in certain situations. And having more material for us to play with is really freeing. 

Logan Browning: The cool thing about streaming networks in comparison to TV is that what you have to do with TV is bring your audience back every week. With streaming, when you're going to get it all at once, people are going to binge-watch. And that's what makes it like a movie. You get to tell characters' stories instead of just convincing an audience to come back.

Blastr: Is it easier adapting a role from characters with a cult following like Powers, or from a more known, popular comic?

Noah Taylor: Cult followings, even though they're smaller, they're more hardcore, so you want to please the original audience as well. 

Blastr: During the Birdman panel, Edward Norton called comic books the new mythology and how the writing and storylines provide so much opportunity to adapt them and become mainstream. How do you feel about how mainstream the comic-book genre is becoming?

Eddie Izzard: It's great if it's crossing over from alternative to mainstream. I think it was mainstream when it was less edgy, and the fact that the edginess could potentially cross into mainstream, with people going through real life with swearing and f-cking -- with everything going on -- if that's what's bleeding into mainstream, that's what's getting impressive. 

Blastr: Are these types of adaptations, with all their mythology, becoming the more interesting things to make?

Susan Heyward: What makes a role interesting is what the character needs and how they fight and struggle to get what they want. 

Eddie Izzard: As an incubator for story and drama, comic books are the best place. We use storyboards in filmmaking, and we use scripts. They [comics] are storyboard and scripts matched. So it's been sitting there. It's been 100 years since Chaplin played his first tramp, and it's like it's 1914 again.

Michael Avon Oeming: Films started off a lot like comics. It was not taken seriously at all. It was this outcast thing, it was very lowbrow. People just got used to new ideas coming through, and I think that's what's happening with comics. 

Blastr: In regards to the fame aspect of the show, do you like being famous? 

Eddie Izzard: It definitely has positive aspects to it, and I definitely prefer it to struggling to get it. But if you see it as one thing, then you're lost. 

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