Most fans know actor Bruce Boxleitner from his roles in “Tron” and “Babylon 5” — but the actor has recently gone behind-the-scenes as co-creator and executive producer for “Lantern City,” a new television series highlighting the steampunk genre that allows viewers to be involved in the process of the show itself. Both Boxleitner and co-creator and fellow executive producer Trevor Crafts have been hard at work promoting the television series, which has yet to find a home, but has 250,000 combined social media fans that have built up on the project for over a year and a half.
Both Boxleitner and Crafts joined CBR in the Tiki Room at New York Comic Con 2013 to discuss the development and concept of “Lantern City,” the proliferation of genre television in the modern media, the unique aspect of television development today and more.
On the early genesis of “Lantern City”: “It was an idea that I brought to Bruce, something I had created and worked on. Bruce and I had done a pilot for a comedy western called ‘Smokewood, Nevada,’ which was ‘Tombstone’ meets ‘The Office,'” Crafts said. “We hit it off and we started talking about this new series concept. So much of television production is changing — TV is almost becoming a novel. You can pick it up, put it down whenever you want on Netflix or On Demand. One of the things that’s becoming so prevalent is that television shows have to have a social base to start with. We tried to turn things on its end and begin with this wonderful maker community of steampunk creators and try to involve them in the show. We set it up so that the engine that drove the show was the fans.”
On the draw of the project: “When Trevor and I were talking about it, Trevor was a fan of ‘Babylon 5,’ and I was saying, ‘Why can’t there be another ‘Babylon 5’ for this time, for our age?'” Boxleitner said. “First of all, steampunk is something that is still very under-represented in the media. There’s fashion, you look down there, you’re going to see it, but as far as television audiences … they don’t really have anything in the media. It’s a diverse enough sub genre of science fiction that we can make our mark on it and be very different than say somebody else’s version of steampunk. I think it’s that diverse. It was just something that I always saw but I didn’t know what the heck to call it. I just knew what I liked. I’ve always been a history buff, Trevor’s a history buff, and we’re creating a story that is a history. … Hollywood has used it, but those are elements of it. We’re world-creators.”
On concern about over saturation of genre television: “I personally think it’s good,” said Boxleitner. “It’s exciting to me that these things are finally being recognized by the television establishments, it’s gotten mainstream respectability now. It was always child stuff before.”
“I think with our show, one of the things that — you’re always going to have a thinning out of the herd — but one of the things about our show that is different and reaches a broader audience is at its core, it’s a love story,” Crafts said. “It’s about a man doing anything that he can to find the woman that he loves more than anything in the world. That means going to another reality and throwing away everything he believes about science and religion and technology just to be with her for one more minute, or find her and be with her for one more minute. That’s really the core theme of the show. On top of that, it’s essentially a period costume drama. With ‘The Walking Dead,’ you’re going to get a certain audience, with ‘Downton Abbey,’ you’re getting a certain audience. I think we’re bridging the two.”
“We’re ‘Downton Abbey’ meets ‘Boardwalk Empire’,” said Boxleitner.
On series writer Matthew James Daley and the potential for comics: “He’s phenomenal,” said Crafts. “He took the ideas that Bruce and I had. Matt built this ever-expanding bubble. Because television production is a long timeline, we’ve also written a prequel novel called ‘Rise.’ … The nice this is that Matt never sleeps. He writes faster than anybody I know, and we’re actually working on a three-part miniseries right now that goes a little beyond the end of ‘Rise.’ The illustrated novel format i a little different than a graphic novel. There are 26 illustrations, gorgeous illustrations from Section Studios, the company we’ve been working with for all the concept art. Comics, that’s the next step. We have a digital version of the book where Bruce is doing a reading of the book, which we just finished about a week ago. We’re looking for that transmedia connection for the show. There’s not any one area that you’re not going to have a part of ‘Lantern City.'”
Boxleitner on the legacy and lasting impressions of “Tron”: “30 years ago when we did ‘Tron,’ none of this [New York Comic Con] existed,” he said. “If it did, there was a small — people going around with ad hoc ‘Star Trek’ uniforms they had made. It has grown into a pop culture phenomenon with all these conventions. I’ve done a lot of them; I’m still doing them. I think ‘Tron’ lives on because of the very technology that we’re carrying. That’s why that one is resonating. ‘Tron: Legacy’ did very well, we’re probably going to move to ‘Tron 3’ in a year or so. I think it has that kind of legs because it speaks to us now. You guys are the generation that grew up playing video games. That’s what it speaks to, that’s why it can keep living. Other movies like it are great pieces, but they haven’t lived on.”