It’s an understatement to say Eddie Izzard has not had a typical show business career. He’s done stand-up for decades, acted in roles both comedic and dramatic, ran dozens of marathons and declared his intention to run for mayor of London in 2020. His current stop on this unconventional journey is a key role in Sony’s live-action adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming‘s long-running creator-owned comic book series “Powers”, as lead character Christian Walker’s (Sharlto Copley) ancient enemy, Wolfe.
Izzard has some experience in comic book-based material — he appeared in 1999’s “Mystery Men” — but at a recent press event attended by CBR News, he said it was a personal letter from “Powers” showrunner (and novelist and comic book writer) Charlie Huston that convinced him to take the role.
“Charlie Huston wrote me a letter about the character,” Izzard said. “It was an unusual letter. It was almost poetic in the darkness of the character. And I thought this would be interesting. ‘If this guy’s in charge of writing it, I think I will go and do this.'”
In the “Powers” comic book, which debuted in 2000, Wolfe is a deadly villain with a very long-standing rivalry with Christian Walker — which is to say, back to the Cro-Magnon days. Izzard has had recent experience with the darker side of humanity as Dr. Abel Gideon on NBC’s “Hannibal,” and contrasted that show’s protagonist with his portrayal of Wolfe.
“Hannibal is a character that eats people, but in this beautiful, psychotic, sociopathic way — very precise, very cuisine, very music,” Izzard told reporters. “I’m eating people, but I’m inhaling people. I said, ‘We’ve got to drive him towards a lion-esque point of view.'”
Though there are years of “Powers” comics to draw from, Izzard said — with acknowledged respect to Bendis and Oeming’s work — he elected to arrive at this own interpretation of Wolfe, rather than pulling inspiration directly from the source material.
“There was a connection, but Brian Bendis said, ‘I’m happy for this to go off on its own,'” Izzard told CBR News. “I talked to Charlie, I said, ‘I’m just going to put him together from my own ideas.’ So I didn’t get into the comics to take it from there. I just wanted to put him together, I wanted to make him English, I wanted to make him historical, I wanted to build his backstory to come in with a certain attitude.”
Though there are certainly differences between the “Powers” TV show and “Powers” comic book — the show begins with an adaptation of a story further into the run of the comic, for instance — much of it remains the same between the two versions. One of the main similarities is Wolfe being responsible for former superhero Walker losing his powers — a scenario Izzard seems as comparable to real-life situations he’s witnessed.
“Wolfe disempowered [Walker]. He took probably his reason for being,” Izzard said. “I’ve studied people who get well known, and then they lose that, and they’re less well-known, or their careers go backwards. It’s kind of a wonderful thing to have, and it’s a hellish thing to lose. If you equate that into having superpowers, which must be pretty similar, and then being just a real, standard person again — like we all are — I could see him one step away from madness.”
The fact that the show’s two co-leads are a former superhero and a non-powered detective (Deena Pilgrim, played by Susan Heyward) is both a major component of the show’s premise — showing a world filled with superheroes, but from a slightly detached perspective — and also a significant factor in what appealed to Izzard about the series.
“The fact that the superhero things were going to be in the background, and the foreground was going to be the character interplay, that I thought was the right move to do — which I kind of feel is a ‘Game of Thrones’ thing,” Izzard said. “The fighting is in the background, the foreplay is how the characters are interacting.
“I did love this premise,” he continued. “In superherodom, it’s always, you’re trying to save the world or destroy the world. In [‘Powers’] we’re just the same idiots that we are in this life, but some of them have superpowers. What would that be like? I did find that intriguing; people having sponsorships, and being represented by CAA, having meetings.”
“Powers” is the first original series to debut on the PlayStation Network — an attempt by Sony to move PSN into similar space at streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. “There’s a lot of ambition there,” Izzard shared. “People really want to make this work. We’re kind of out there on a limb — we’re a new network, but it’s [a] post-Netflix situation.”
Izzard also appreciates the inherent video game connection of “Powers” appearing on PlayStation Network. “I was a big gamer. I was an ‘Asteroids’ king. I got a million and a half score, that was my top score.”
After years of attempts to turn “Powers” into a TV show — it was first optioned by Sony back in 2001, and a failed pilot was produced for FX in 2011 — the full 10-episode initial season has now wrapped production. If there is a season two, Izzard said he’d be happy to come back to the role. With a stand-up tour set to start n May — in venues ranging from Stockholm to Boise — the actor/comedian said he always looks forward to more collaborative performances.
“I love it because I’m with people,” he said. “I love the energy of it. We’ve got these massive sets — I love all that. I see drama as the main meal of a creative subject, whereas comedy is a dessert. It can be fantastic dessert, but it is very sugary, and it plays up at the top part of your head, whereas drama gets in here, heart and soul, and you can cry and you can laugh and you can be moved.”
The first three episodes of “Powers” are set to debut on the PlayStation Network Tuesday, March 10.
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