Were there some particular lessons from your first foray in the Marvel storytelling with Iron Fist that you brought over to this project? Something you learned along that way, that you’re like, “OK, I’ve got to remember this when I do Inhumans?”
I’m sure. I learned a great deal working on Iron Fist, but I think it all just sort of sank in. I may have not necessarily been aware that I had learned this from Iron Fist. Certainly, a lot of my creative decisions came from that experience as well.
They’re remarkably different shows. Tell me about finding the Marvel-ness of both of them.
I think with Iron Fist, Danny Rand was such a unique character, very different from the other Defenders. He wasn’t a dark, brooding guy. We wanted to do that specifically so that he would clash with the other Defenders and bring something unique to the table there.
Where as with this, Inhumans is such a much more fantastical show, but at the same time, what was so important about Iron Fist was just as important about this show: make sure as crazy as some of the stuff is, that all our characters feel real, that their actions are relatable, and genuine, and grounded, and that their emotions and their drive, the things they want are very things that everyone can relate to. So they can have crazy, wild super powers, but underneath it all, they’re not so different from the rest of us.
Heroes are only as good as their villains, and you’ve got a good one here. Tell me about casting Iwan Rheon as Maximus, and then the tweaks you wanted to do to the character to make him work for television.
We were hugely excited about getting Iwan. Yeah, once we had him, it was a lot of discussions. We were very relieved to know that he was thinking very much in the same terms we were for this character, that we just didn’t want a big, dark, sinister bad guy. We didn’t want Maximus the Mad. We wanted someone who was much more complex, and relatable, and maybe sometimes he does things that seem bad, but other times, he does things that are good.
That Maximus genuinely does care about the people of Attilan, and the things that he is saying that Black Bolt won’t do, are things that sound real and relatable, and we wonder, “Why isn’t Black Bolt doing those things?” I don’t think of Maximus necessarily as a bad guy. I think of someone who has a very different point of view.
This show has a more epic feel by design, and then you added in the spectacle of IMAX. Tell me about how that IMAX prospect came to you. How did that shift things a little bit?
The IMAX of it was already there from the beginning when I came into the project. So that was something that had been worked out ahead of time. Again, that was just part of the appeal.
Normally with television, you have to force yourself to think small. It’s going to go on a screen. Especially these days when so many people are watching something on just a small cell phone. Where as this, we were pushing to think big. Not just in terms of image, but in terms of character, of the world we were creating. It was just a fun challenge to go the opposite direction you might normally go for a TV show.
Having just spent time in premium cable and on streaming, what kind of adjustments to your approach did you have to make for broadcast?
The only thing I had to re-learn was to write with ad breaks! [Laughs] I just haven’t done that in 20 years. But even when you’re writing a show for premium cable where there are no commercial breaks, you’re still writing the same basic structure. Even if you’re not having a real ad break, it’s not really that much different. The other difference is that I’m writing more of a family show for this. That’s fun as well. It’s a different sort of a challenge.
With so much of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. having had an Inhumans element, obviously you guys have got to get this show on its feet and establish it as is, but do you look forward to messing around with that connection?
I think it’s fun in a way. I think it’s fun, and that they, without even realizing it, sort of teased out our show a little bit, in a way. It was certainly not their intention, but it proved very fortuitous that way, that people who watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are already sort of familiar with Terrigenesis. And now we get to bring you the world where it all comes from, so that’s definitely fun.
Sure, some time in the future, there may be some sort of [crossover] — as it is right now, we stand completely alone and separate from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but who knows what the future might bring?
I always felt like the Inhumans are kind of a prime example of all those great things that Jack Kirby did, that only Jack Kirby could really do. Aug. 28 marked his 100th birthday. Tell me about that particular aspect, the visuals he created, what he brought to the Inhumans and the Marvel storytelling tradition that has had an effect on you.
It’s all so beautiful, that you want to honor that, to bring that in a way. Sometimes when we’re talking about like a visual effect, we’ll talk about “Kirby dots!” There’s stylistic things of his that we think are so beautiful that we want to have in a way pay homage to it, but also because it’s so cool and it looks so great. Yes, we’re heavily influenced by his original artistic vision.
Do you want to, for the foreseeable future, keep working in the Marvel Universe?
I love the Marvel Universe. It’s such a great place to work. I’m a big fan of Marvel. I love working with [Head of Marvel Television] Jeph Loeb. There’s so many big, creative minds within Marvel. We’ll see how long I can be there.
Inhumans was originally going to be cinematic experience. Do you think TV is maybe the better home for these characters?
I think so, because it’s a large cast. It’s a whole family and the world around them. That way, you do episodic television, you just have more time to really get into the complexity of these characters. So for me, yes.
The first two episodes of Inhumans are now playing at select IMAX theaters for a two-week run. The show debuts Sept. 29 on ABC.
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