By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/17/19 –
The Epix series Pennyworth, now airing its first season, is quite the mashup. It boasts the intelligence of public television, costumery worthy of a James Bond installment, and the sensuality of a Cinemax series. For the uninitiated, Pennyworth is set up as a sort of prequel, or origins story, to Batman. The title character, a former special forces officer in London, works for Bruce Wayne’s father. Let the intrigue begin.
Back in February, the cast joined The Television Critics Association for an in-depth panel, which included Executive Producer & Director Danny Cannon; Executive Producer Bruno Heller; Alfred Pennyworth actor Jack Bannon; Ben Aldridge, who plays Thomas Wayne; and Paloma Faith, who plays Bet Sykes.
“We owe a debt to Michael Caine for making him an SAS soldier in the first place,” explained Heller. “And it’s really the chance to make him the center of a story and explain that journey. How did he get from being a young SAS soldier to being a butler in America? And it also gives us a chance to create a real world around him, a world in England that fits the whole DC universe.”
Bannon admitted to the TCA audience that a certain weight comes with playing such a venerable character. But, he added, there are things that made it easier.
“What takes the pressure off is that we’ve never seen him this age,” said Bannon. “And, really, it’s a play — you know, the world that Bruno’s created is a great playground for us to muck
Paloma Faith has discovered her own challenges to playing an inherently “evil” character. The actor admits it’s difficult to get ‘out’ of the character once she’s in. “I recently went to my next-door neighbor, who was threatening my boyfriend and told him I was gonna kill his dog,” she related. “And I realized afterwards that I hadn’t got out of character yet, and that’s not really my
It turns out Batman himself isn’t the only character in the DC universe. Shows like these, according to its creators, allow for serious exploration into many different angles.
“In his own life, he’s not a sidekick, and that’s one of those fascinating things about taking a story from a different angle,” said Heller. “It’s a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, you know? It’s looking at the elephant from another angle.”
There’s a particular challenge, however, in dealing with the fanatical following of DC. “I think the DC audiences, what we’ve learned about them, is that they’re begging for something new and different and maturing the brand,” said Cannon. “You know, it’s like we always said. Like, the Beatles wrote some great songs, but when other people do them, you don’t want them to do them exactly the same, you know, bring something of your own to them. I mean, it’s a great canon of work with which to come in and do a version of.”
They’ve definitely brought their own angle to it. Dare I say, their take on the DC Universe is…actually fresh? There. I said it.
Pennyworth should be separated, at least mentally, from any idea you may have of Batman. And if you’re able to do that, you’ll find it’s a show well worth investing your time in.