With the Saw and Conjuring franchises (would it be called the Conjure-verse?), filmmaker James Wan has become a maestro when it comes to horror, thrills, and demonic possessions that make you sleep with the light on. Wan goes from scares to superheroes with the forthcoming Warner Bros. DC comic pic Aquaman starring Jason Momoa — and he goes all out with giving us never-before-seen underwater action realness. When Wan stopped by the New Hollywood Podcast, he talked to us about how he went beyond the superhero of it all and gave us a fantasy film grounded by an interracial relationship.

During part one of a two-part Aquaman series of episodes, Wan points out that Aquaman (aka Arthur aka Momoa) and the world of Atlantis are still made up of humans, but they just happen to live underwater — they are just a little more enhanced than all of us land dwellers. From an octopus playing the drums to men riding seahorses to the wildly attractive and fit citizens of Atlantis, Wan’s Aquaman is indeed bonkers and fun, but amidst all the aquatic window dressing, Wan folds in thoughtful messages of cultural identity, environmental awareness, representation of amazing Australian and Kiwi talent, and the power of love and family. But rather drown you in schmaltzy hokiness, he does it in his distinct, hyper-fantastical Wan-ian way. The filmmaker talked to us about what he wanted to do with this huge superhero narrative, his journey to Hollywood, his favorite Malaysian food and why he loves Crazy Rich Asians so much.

Listen to the episode below.