On the final day of WonderCon, Sony’s live-action “Powers” took center stage Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center arena. “Powers” creators (and TV show executive producers) Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming were all in attendance, along with showrunner Charlie Huston and cast members Olesya Rulin (Calista) and Logan Browning (Zora).
Following a sizzle reel recapping the first season thus far, panel moderator Roth Cornet opened the session by asking Bendis and Oeming how it feels to see “Powers” become a TV series after years in live-action development. “I also have an 18-year-old son, and it’s like that,” Oeming said. “Watching your kid grow up and turn into his own person. The comic is like that. To watch it become its own thing, have its own life — it’s a very strange point of pride.”
“I Just saw a show on Netflix called ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,'” Bendis said. “You know how she was in the bunker for 15 years and then comes out? That’s what it’s like for us. It’s a new normal.”
Huston contrasted “Powers” to other superhero fare by not having black-and-white heroes and villains. “That’s not ‘Powers,'” he said, pointing out that it dates back to the source material.
Cornet asked Browning if it would bother Zora if Calista obtained powers. “Maybe it would affect her,” Browning answered. “You saw in the beginning that she didn’t like that Walker came to see her only because Calista was there.”
“I think there’s an interesting balance because there are people who are born with powers, and those who find their way into it,” Rulin added. “That’s going to cause friction.”
Teasing future episodes, Bendis said, “Now we’re going to see them all on a quest. Whether it’s a hero’s quest or not, we’ll know by the end of the season.”
Asked about the advantages of being on PlayStation Network and the subsequent lack of content restrictions, Bendis answered, “That was always one of the biggest obstacles in our way for the last 15 years. ‘Powers,’ even though it has superheroes in it, is a hard-R crime story. It’s for adults. That’s what we had to offer that was different than most of the things out there. We needed a home that would let us go dark, and throw the f-bomb around.”
Rulin was asked about her character’s involvement in the “kaotic chic” movement. “I don’t think she’s gotten to the point of thinking this movement is negative,” Rulin said. “This is her first opportunity to be a part of something bigger than herself that is welcoming.”
Bendis said his favorite scenes are the ones between Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) and Retro Girl (Michelle Forbes). “We had the luxury to have Retro Girl as a character in the show,” Huston said. “Brian and Michael told me several times that part of the reason they killed her in issue #1 of the comic is they thought they had five or six issues. We didn’t have to do that. We could actually have her alive and in our world.”
Tuning the discussion to some of the show’s antagonists, Cornet asked about Wolfe (played by Eddie Izzard). “He’s clearly trying to make some kind of a move,” Huston said of the character’s arc. “At the same time, what he’s offering to the world at large is, ‘Just take my powers away.’ How can the world at large resist that bait?”
Bendis praised Izzard’s performance, along with him as a person. “When you hear ‘Eddie Izzard,’ you think ‘cool,’ and that’s a lot to live up to,” Bendis said, making it clear the actor has more than met his expectations, including inviting the folks from “Powers” to his secret stand-up performance at midnight in New York City following a promotional day at New York Comic Con. “It’s cool when cool people are cool.”
Huston addressed the changes to Triphammer, the most alerted character from comics to live-action. “One is the obvious, just about property,” Huston said, alluding to the character’s similarity to Iron Man. “The other element of it is just the goddamn armor, man. Having that stuff snap on and snap off and everything — that’s just too much money for TV, plain and simple. We started to think, we need to jump off in a very different direction for this character, visually.”
Cast members Aaron Farb (Simons) and Justice Leak (Kutter) joined the panel from the audience. Farb shared that he has a clear idea for each of the Simons that informs his portrayal. Leak was asked about his character’s perspective — as a police officer in the Powers division — on the drainer, robbing character’s of their powers. “From Kutter’s perspective, he f-ing loves the drainer,” Leak said. “It creates this interesting power play.”
Huston hinted that it may take a “superteam” to confront the escalating threat as the first season draws to a climax.
Towards the end of the panel, an extended look at next week’s episode — No. 7 — was shown, including fateful scenes between Christian & Wolfe and Calista and Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor).
“The next pile of goodies comes in episode 9,” Bendis teased. “Anything I say will be a spoiler, but the shit really hits the fan, leading into episode 10, where I think Sharlto gives everything he’s got.” Oeming said it’s the quieter moments between characters that are his favorites. “The stuff I’m looking forward to is just more than that.”
Asked what they like about the first season, Rulin said, “Unlike most shows or movies, the longer we keep going, the stronger our female characters are. The women are amazing on our show. We’re all powerful.” “It’s such a colorful show,” Browning answered. “I’m just obsessed with watching it.”
Farb said he admires how human of a show “Powers” is, despite revolving around superhuman characters. Leak said the Powers division will have a chance to “make things right” before the first season closes. “Once that happens, I think it’s going to be really special.”
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