What can you tell us about the universe in The Cape?
"I'm a lifelong comic book fan and the idea of writing my own comic was always really appealing. I knew I wanted to write a story about a father and son, and a father who takes on the persona of his son's favourite comic book hero, but then it took me a while to settle on who that hero should be. If I was going to write it for TV I wanted to wrap my arms around something that felt like its own comic universe - still emotionally grounded and high stakes, but I wanted to create my own playground. The idea of creating a fictional city seemed to fit in a Silver Age fashion - to create a hero with some Silver Age sensibility, even though it's set in the 21st century. I knew I wanted costumes. I knew that would be a challenge but I feel that's what embodies a superhero, at least the ones I grew up with. I wanted it to have a pulp sensibility, I wanted Palm City to feel like it had a timeless element to it. The nightlife I wanted to feel Old Hollywood. I wanted it to have a feel of different worlds within it and yet still be a relatable world."
How much detail do you know about the universe in The Cape?
"One of the things I felt grew the most from the pilot to episode two was the character of Palm City. We developed this world called Trolley Park, which is this Blade Runner-ish world that we imagined. Palm City is surrounded by these railroad tracks and we put the carnival of crime at the end of this community. It's where the poorest and real squalor of Palm City is and it's where Vince hides. Coming up with worlds inside Palm City was one of the great aspects of it. It's a part of the US and the further out we get from Palm City the more it is our world. We'll hear them talking about the military stuff in Afghanistan. But I wanted a place that could feel contained enough. The issues are within this city - it's gangs, corruption, a little bit of this police state within the city."
How do you move the show past superpowers and saving the day?
"One of the things I wanted to establish was that even though our guy would wear a mask and we were going to tackle this idea of costumed superheroes, I didn't necessarily want it to be superpowered. The Cape does some extraordinary things and obviously we will push the envelope in terms of science and what is conceivable but it's also going to be limited in what the character can actually do. I prefer that because I feel that will bring us deeper into a character. There's a fugitive aspect to the story about a guy trying to get home, but we tackle it in a pretty real way. What launches The Cape into existence is this struggle to get back to his family and to send a message to his son. What will keep him as The Cape as we go along, we'll approach very realistically. His family is going through the loss of a father and husband, and he's going through the struggle of this decision he's made to protect his family, to keep his identity a secret. Even though there is an adventure of the week aspect, for those who tune in every week there are undercurrents of change and developments that will sometimes subtly and sometimes suddenly change and reverse course. I have big plans for The Cape, the character of The Cape, the mythology of The Cape and the mythology of characters like Max and Orwell. I also love to dig deeper into Palm City."
How are you going to attract people who aren't into comic books?
"There's the regular guy in extraordinary circumstances aspect to the story and the wish fulfilment aspect of the story, but there's a whole side of this story... Yeah, we'll have some larger-than-life villains and wonderful actors will play them, but there's a Palm City, real people living their lives part of this story. For instance, Vince's wife Dana is a single mum who has been forced to move to a scarier part of town who is now the sole breadwinner for her family, who is plunging into Palm City as a public defender and coming face to face with the corruption and the stuff that's going on. There's a really romantic angle to this woman who's lost the love of her life but The Cape is now in her life, and she's wrestling with, 'How long do I mourn?' and, 'What does that mean?' and, 'When is it appropriate to move on with my life?' I think you can tell a story that embraces 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds and people who are fans of comics and people who aren't into comics through stakes that are real and emotions that are real. What I love about The Cape is we tell one story that deals with something cutting-edge, hi-tech, and dipping into science fiction, and then the story that we're shooting right now is a really gothic, creepy, wonderfully scary story. I think there's influences that are pretty embracing to all audiences."
Why did you pick David Lyons for the role of Vince?
"He's not only really compelling in looks, but he was the only one that convinced me. His conviction and his sincerity immediately brought the scenes to a place where you can only hope they'd go, and he's continued to do that. The awesome thing about him is his total commitment, and through him we're able to go through these crazy worlds and these experiences and meet these characters. He never loses sight of what it's about, why he's doing this. He's a really good action guy - that stuff comes so naturally to him. I think we're slowly killing him with everything we're putting him through - having him fight with Vinnie Jones on a train and stuff. I hope he's okay at the end of this! But there's a vulnerability and a conviction and a reality to him - there was no question in our mind."
What can you tell us about Summer Glau's character Orwell?
"We had been searching and searching for Orwell and one day in the casting office, Summer walked in. We were like, 'Summer Glau's here!' She was fantastic and obviously perfect for the role and we hired her immediately. The character of Orwell is one of my favourites because she's sort of this mysterious box. There's a lot in her background to be revealed. She plays a lot of different characters, she uses a lot of different disguises. She sees herself as a revolutionary in a police state - she's really quite military in her thinking. She's pretty hardcore and that creates a lot of tension with The Cape, who was not a corrupt cop and was actually a pretty straightforward kind of family guy, although there were some aspects in his past that hinted at some darkness as well. There are big plans for Summer's character. She's not just behind the computer all the time - she's out there and quite in the thick of it and we're very lucky to have her."
What can you tell us about the villains on the show?
"We're super fortunate to have two regular villains. I'd say they're polar opposites. James Frain plays this billionaire Peter Flemming who is a corporate titan. He seems to be using Palm City as a stepping stone for a real experiment and that becomes clear as things unfold. He moonlights as this sort of psychopath terrorist, Chess, who is a killer and master strategist. We have Vinnie Jones who plays this mobster called Scales. He's this really brutal crime lord. Actually, he and Peter Flemming don't always get along so well, but they're the two initial villainous forces The Cape has to contend with. We quickly start bringing in some other characters. We meet this character from Max's past and tell a story that has a lot to do with the history and the mythology of the physical cape itself - it suggests that the cape has a darker history than we might realise. This character comes to town to reclaim what he feels is his. Like all the villains we try to give them a real drive - I feel the best ones are motivated from a relatable place. Mena Suvari comes in as a mysterious dangerous woman called Dice who has a real grudge against Peter Flemming, with good reason, and The Cape gets involved in this almost romantic triangle. It's always character first, although in episode two this character called the Tarot - he's a pretty straightforward bad guy. He's just pretty awful. And he's really a great deal of fun."
Do you have any dream guest stars?
"There's a lot of people who would be fantastic. We're lucky so far. Vinnie Jones was a coup for us because I threw out his name never thinking we were going to get Vinnie and lo and behold he showed up in the office. Vince alone could give The Cape a run for his money. I think we've set a really high bar and so far we have been really fortunate with who we've managed to get. In an early episode, we have Elliott Gould, who plays a character who has a certain amount of mystery around him. I would love to shoot for the moon and see who we can get. I can think of hundreds of people I'd love to see play villains and over time we'll see. It's also sometimes great to make a discovery and have someone who isn't as well-known and they just knock it out of the park. That's great because when they come back later in that series they're that character - it's not, 'It's so-and-so as this'. But it's also fun in a summer movie fashion to have that famous person taking on a role. We're trying to get the script as fun and inventive as possible so that they're parts people want to play."
How far in advance have you planned out the show?
"I came in with a plan that has held pretty well. Sometimes you end up getting to the same place through a totally different avenue, which I love. But I know where this season will end, though the scripts aren't written yet. As for season two, I have very strong ideas about the thread that would go through it and a couple of options about how I'd want to end it. There's some really exciting stuff and places that I'd like it to go and to give it a little bit more of an epic scope, but we'll see how the initial run goes. I would love for it to go on and on because there's a groove and a rhythm that I would love to find that I think would be terrific. What I want to do is create this very rich rogue's gallery with these really cool actors so that people can in a very fun way anticipate who's coming back. And I look forward to revisiting some of the characters that we've already established."
The Cape premieres on Sunday at 9/8c on NBC.
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