EXCLUSIVE: “What’s wonderful about TV shows, we can go so deep and flesh out so much more with meat on the backbone,” exclaims Mark Millar of the adaption of his Jupiter’s Legacy comics to a Netflix series. “You know, characters can have a few pages that can take up an hour’s television time and I love that,” the executive producer adds. “I love the fact we were able to make something so crazy.”
Shifting from the 1930s to the present day and over the generations literally and figuratively, the super powered Jupiter’s Legacy is the first of a series of projects that Millar and the streamer have been planning since Netflix bought the Superman: Red Son author’s Millarworld imprint a few years ago.
Debuting tomorrow, the eight-episode series stars Josh Duhamel as Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian, Leslie Bibb as Grace Sampson/Lady Liberty, Crown alum Ben Daniels as older sibling and telepath Walter Sampson/Brainwave, Andrew Horton as Sheldon and Grace’s son Brandon/Paragon”, Elena Kampouris as daughter Chloe Sampson, plus Matt Lanter as George/Sky Fox and Mike Wade as Fitz/The Flare, among others. Taking elements from Millar and Frank Quitely’s 2013 premiering comic and its 2015 prequel Jupiter’s Circle, Jupiter’s Legacy the TV series takes off with intergenerational conflict and an America that has lost its way – which should sound pretty familiar to today’s viewers.
Late last year, Sang Kyu Kim stepped in as showrunner to replace Steven S. DeKnight who exited after creative differences. DeKnight left about half-way through production, but he wrote and directed the first episode of the series and the Season 1 ender.
Calling from the UK just before the eve of Jupiter’s Legacy’s May 7, Millar and Daniels talked about bringing a very different type of superhero story to fruition. The duo also discussed how Jupiter’s Legacy the show differs from Jupiter’s Legacy the comic, how long it could run for, and Francis Ford Coppola’s influence. Plus, Millar had some magic news about another Millarworld effort that has been given new life, both on screen and on the page.
DEADLINE: Mark, Netflix acquired Millarworld in 2017, Jupiter’s Legacy is the first project to see the light of small screen day, how will the rest of your universe roll out now?
MILLAR: Well, I think, you know, the comic book universes and Horror universes, they both have an interconnectivity.
I don’t want to say take the audience for granted when the audience decides they want these things connected. So my philosophy, we talked about this on day one, is let’s just do something really good. Don’t think about it as part of a giant tapestry or anything. You know, Marvel started in 2000 in theatres, but it wasn’t until 2008, before they started doing things together with Iron Man. So my feeling was always about quality, let’s just do the absolute best stuff we can do and maybe down the line we’ll think of bringing it all together.
DEADLINE: So, no Season 2 decision on Jupiter’s Legacy just yet?
MILLAR: (LAUGHS) Season 2 is up to the audience. We don’t want to get too cocky. All I see is we’re going into this incredibly bullish. We feel great about it. I’ve watched, even over Covid, I sat in edits every day pretty much and I never tire of it. So, fingers crossed people love it as much as we do.
MILLAR: Well, here’s the good news, it was never killed. What happened was, we were planning to be shooting in Prague, and then, unfortunately, the end of last year, Prague became the hot spot for the whole of Europe. You know, became the hotspot for Covid and some of the production crew came down with Covid and we all thought stick a pen in it and we’ll come back to it this year. You know, so, we’ve always said, it’s a huge priority for us.
I mean, we can go public on some stuff down the line but unfortunately a Netflix drone will take me out if I say more now. But that project has never gone away as a show or as a book. We’ve just been talking about more in the background. It’s happening.
DEADLINE: Speaking in the foreground, Ben, The Crown deals with exalted figures, but this is your first real go around the superhero world, how has that been?
DANIELS: It’s fantastic.
I was filming The Crown and I got a call from my agent saying you’ve been offered this Netflix show called Jupiter’s Legacy. I’m sending two episodes. Have a look at them. I had no reception on my phone, at all, to download it but on my kindle, I did have reception. So I downloaded all the comics and I sat in that field…it was one of those days where we sat around for hours, and hours, and hours and I read both Jupiter’s Legacy and Jupiter’s Circle.
DEADLINE: What an image …
DANIELS: Yeah, I just became totally sucked into the world and it was like I’m on a grayscale kindle that, you know, I’m trying to make the picture bigger, and I just thought Netflix was completely insane trying to make this.
I just thought it was such a crazy idea. I just wanted to be a part of it. And then, when I eventually got the email, it said you were playing the young people and the old people as well, and I was just in, already, before I even spoke to anyone.
I was just thrilled.
DANIELS: Basically, it’s a drama and that’s what pulls me in to any job I do. It’s whether the dramatic content is worthy, really. This talked about really big, important things, and it’s all so very universal. I never kind of really thought as a superhero thing, I thought it was sort of a family drama, really, and then they start flying around and fighting people, so yeah. It took a strange, sort of brilliant, magical hybrid of a show, I think.
DEADLINE: Mark, Jupiter’s Legacy, the comic is one series, then, as Ben mentioned, there’s Jupiter’s Circle. Jupiter’s Legacy, the TV series moves back and forth in time a lot, incorporating parts of both to various extents. What was the idea of adapting it in such a fashion, with the main actors playing both their 1930s selves and their contemporary selves?
MILLAR: Well, Steven DeKnight must take the credit for the structure, you know, which is genius, which is the idea of telling the old psychiatrist’s story in the present day. At the same time he used the structure that Coppola used from Godfather, and Leone obviously used in Once Upon a Time in America, which is amazing. It would be a tedious TV series otherwise, making a start in 1929, and then you have three seasons to get to the present day. So, I love the pacing here, the fact that you’re telling both stories at once. It makes it so exciting.
I love the idea of using the same actors, we get to be King Lear and Hamlet. You know, you get them when they are young and full of excitement about the future and then older, feeling like, God, I’ve completely failed. Well, except Ben.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
MILLAR: Ben’s Brainwave still has a plan, even as an old guy, you can see the flicker in Ben’s eyes and everything is just falling into place for him, which is so interesting. You knew immediately that there’s something kicking there.
I love this direction and structure, I think it actually works, because when you’re adapting something, you have to mess with it, change it. You know, we tried to do it as a movie, which a lot of people don’t know, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and I over like two bottles of whiskey back in 2015. We started talking about it as a film, but it was too big. It needed something like this. Now it has the Coppola sense of scale and make it unlike all the other superhero stuff out there in the big crowded market.
DEADLINE: What was that like for you Ben, playing Walt AKA Brainwave in two different eras?
DANIELS: I mean, the idea of playing two completely different, well, the same person but the completely different time in their life is really exciting. When I got it, I tried to make it even more different than they were on the page.
I just thought it was really exciting to be given that opportunity to play essentially different people and yet link them by what is the basic massive insecurity that he has. How that manifests in him as a young man and how it manifests in him as an older man. It was really fascinating to lose myself in that, really. It was one of the hooks for me doing it. I never tired of it either.
DEADLINE: So, Mark, leaving whether or not, there is a second season or not, how long do you envision the show running to tell the story you created in the comics?
MILLAR: (LAUGHS) You can figure it out by looking at the book, but I never want to say because, you know, things can change. You know, they may end up being longer. It may end up being shorter, but we have to keep everybody loving it. We’re pretty confident but you never know.
What’s wonderful about TV shows, we can go so deep and flesh out so much more with meat on the backbone. My God, Steven added too many amazing elements and went so deep. You know, characters can have a few pages that can take up an hour’s television time and I love that. I love the fact we were able to make something so crazy.
DEADLINE: In that, I think of the old Marshall McLuhan idea of being outside America can give you a greater perspective on the idea and reality of America, which is so much of what Jupiter’s Legacy is about underneath the capes and superpowered conflict. So, do you think that having a British, or specifically Scottish, in your case, sensibility, and somewhat the same with Ben playing Brainwave, do you think that brings something extra to the mix?
MILLAR: Oh there’s no question. I think seeing things from an outside perspective can show you things as they truly are. I remember, I literally was studying medicine and I remember an old doctor said to me, God, I’m really angry at vets sometimes. And I went why, and he said veterinarians doesn’t have anybody asking him what’s going on and giving his opinion and asking what’s happening. The animal just accepts the diagnosis, I think it’s a bit like being a writer outside of America.
MILLAR: American writers are in the chaos of it all, but as we have that outside perspective of their homes. We’re looking at them and see what’s great and what doesn’t work and then, simultaneously, and I’m in love with America, and you know, this complex thing where you can see their problems, too.
Like, capitalism, in some ways, is the best system in the world, but you only have to walk two blocks to see multi-millionaires and you see homeless people, you know, where there’s no infrastructure to look after them. So, I’m fascinated by America. As a little kid I had the American flag up in my bedroom. I saw it as the land of superheroes and everything.
So, Jupiter’s Legacy came to life as a love letter to the American century, the 20 century, and where America is now. That’s the Utopian’s angle, he doesn’t quite understand his place, and power is shifting onto these other people and who are now worried about power slipping through your fingers.
DANIELS: For me, we live in a very black and white world at the moment. You say the wrong thing and you’re cancelled, and the only way that you can explore those gray areas, that we all have as a human being, is in drama. It’s the only way, I think right now, you can talk about the intricacies of life. I really love that about this show, and I don’t know that’s in any other show. It might be and I completely missed it but I think we have something unique here.
MILLAR: When I was creating it, the most important thing for me was to do something bigger and better than anything I’d done in my Marvel work. I thought, what’s the point of me doing another superheroes series? Why bother?
And I sat down with my pad, in 2012, when I started to think about it properly and I wrote, it has to be the greatest superhero epic of all time, otherwise what’s the point? Like, I was making notes to myself at the beginning. I thought it has to do all the things the other ones can’t. Then, in terms of bringing it to market, I think you have to differentiate yourself and do something that’s unlike anything else. Not just superheroes fighting supervillains, which I’d done and now was kind of boring.
DEADLINE: So what was your thought process?
MILLAR: Well, what is a supervillain? In life, nobody’s a hero and nobody’s a villain but all people who’ve tried our best, and we have shades of gray and sometimes we do terrible things. You know, we don’t mean to.
I came to like the idea that even those superheroes can like no longer have backbone anymore and having actually found to have discussions among themselves. We’re talking ethically. If you have the power to move mountains, ethically, is it right that you let people in some parts of the world live in concentration camps? And ethically, is it right that you can halt starving overnight and you can stop all the terrible things that’s happening, and yet you’re busy with bank robbers?
So, that becomes a great Boomers vs Millennials ethical argument, which is a big part of Jupiter’s Legacy. You know, like a lot of young people now are like, now, I’m not crazy about the world I’m inheriting from my parents. So, I love the fact that nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. And that, as you’ll see in the show, there’s a big, monumental fuck up coming.
That just feels really exciting to me from a dramatic point of it, much more exciting than catching a supervillain and throwing him in prison. And that’s the TV show we have now, which is really exciting to me