One cast member I wanted to ask you about specifically is the man whose music was a big part of the '80s punk-rock aesthetic that fuels Deadly Class, Henry Rollins. What was it like meeting him? And what can you tell us about his character, Jurgen Denke?
Henry is playing the poisons teacher, who we only see briefly in a few issues of the comic. In the comic books I have to choose the most essential storytelling elements. So I don't really get to linger in the school all that much. I don't deal with the classes, the training or the ins and outs of things like PTA meetings. Because as readers of the comics know I can barely fit the story of my main cast into the 35 issues we've done of the series so far. [Laughs]
So the joy of this is it allows us to expand and unpack the universe. We can look around and see what corners of it were unexplored. And the poisons teacher was somebody who always excited me. I had a lot of ideas for him that I ultimately could never do anything with because I didn't have the space. So he, and Ms. de Luca, and Benedict Wong's character, Master Lin, will all have big stories coming up in the season that were things I could never quite fit into the comic books, while staying true to the spine of the overall story in the books.
As far as meeting Henry? I obviously love Black Flag in all its iterations, but in 1989 I started hearing Henry Rollins' spoken-word stuff and buying his books. Those things had a huge impact on me because here was this guy delivering this authentic disclosure without any need for veneer or trying to sell a cult of personality. It was somebody who was philosophical like Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut, and just as smart, but came from a scene that's near and dear to me. It's a scene that inspired me to do things myself and get out there and to try. So he's a huge influence.
It was him recounting his tales of growing up with Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat and Fugazi that were one of the biggest influences on Deadly Class, because that stuff is so heartfelt and interesting. I realized I also have childhood stories I’d love to tell. So I thought, “I'll wrap them up in a high school for assassins. I'll use the danger as a metaphor for the high emotions and trauma of the teen years.”
So the day he was on set I knew what I wanted to talk to him about. I wanted to talk to him about a homeless gentlemen named Paul that he used to mention in his stories. One day he was walking past Paul on the street and Paul said to him, “I always wanted to be a dancer but I never could get the shit off my shoes.” Henry turned that into something that was very inspiring to me. It made me quit my job in animation and pursue my dreams to make my own comic books. He turned it into this parable of we all want to be dancers if we could just get the shit off our shoes. That's beautiful. So I went up to him and talked to him about Paul for a little bit. He told me that Paul ended up being killed at a shelter. He was kicked to death by a bunch of other homeless people who mistook him for somebody.
I said, “That's a super bummer ending for Paul.” Then I took my exit and went back to video village to watch the scene be shot. That's where I spent my day. At one point I snuck up behind Henry, put my arm around him, and had a buddy of mine take a picture. Then I disappeared again because he's such a hero of mine I just wanted the experience to be clean and easy. I didn't want to be a drooling fan boy. [Laughs] I didn't want to taint my memory or my overall experience of it. So I clocked in at five minutes, and I Constanzed out.
It was really great and a little surreal. Especially to watch him acting in a scene with Marcus, Billy, Viktor and Petra. Plus, we had such an amazing set design and an amazing cinematographer, Tim Ives, from Stranger Things. And we had Lee Krieger direct what looks like a David Fincher movie.
That day goes down as one of the top five days in my life. A few weeks later I interviewed Henry for a new and upcoming podcast; that was surreal. He’s amazing. You always fear meeting your heroes, but in this case I only ended loving him more.