Everyone knows who Superman is, but how many of us know about his family? And that’s where David S Goyer (above, inset) thinks his show Krypton comes in to fill in the blanks: a Superman story without Superman, a la Gotham, which is a Batman story without Batman. Set 200 years before the Man of Steel’s birth, Krypton takes place on Supes’ eponymous home planet where his grandfather, Seg-El (British newcomer Cameron Cuffe) is embroiled knee-deep in political skullduggery. Because Seg-El is an obscure figure in the Superman mythology, Goyer, 53, a veteran writer-producer who has a history of adapting comic books into movies (Batman Begins) and TV shows (Constantine), also drew on ancient history (“the fall of the Roman Empire”) and news headlines. “The best science fiction is really an allegory for current events,” Goyer tells us. “It’s a way to talk about things that are happening in the world, but you come at it sideways.”
8 DAYS: You’ve worked on many TV shows and movies based on comic books. Do those experiences make it easier to work on Krypton or is it just as difficult?
DAVID S GOYER: I would say both. Because Krypton is connected to the mythology of Superman, probably the most recognisable comic book character in the world, a lot of people have preconceived notions of what Superman should be, and sometimes that extends to even what his ancestors might’ve been like. Having said that, we haven’t seen all that much of Krypton, and Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather, has never been seen in movies and TV shows. He’d only appeared a few times in comic books. So it’s certainly been easier because unlike, perhaps, some of the restrictions they’ve had to deal with on Gotham, we don’t know how and when Seg-El died or when he died, or any of the other characters we’ve introduced, which gives us a little bit more latitude.
Was there pressure from the network to cast big names?
Not at all. In fact, I was very vocal that we were probably better off not casting big names. I think when you’re dealing with a really iconic property, sometimes casting big names can almost be a detriment. The property is so big that that kind of serves itself, and I like the idea of casting actors that weren’t as well known, because they didn't have a lot of preconceived baggage, good or bad, that they’d carry into their roles.
The sets on the show are impressive, especially the Fortress of Solitude set.
It’s funny that you mention that. I’ve been watching the show as it airs week-to-week with my family. They haven’t seen any of the rough cuts, so it’s been fun watching the show with them. They’ve been incredibly impressed with the buildings, sets and visual effects. I felt that we needed a really healthy budget for these aspects because we were depicting a truly alien world and I thought, initially, Warner Bros and Syfy were a little alarmed at the budget (laughs). But ultimately, we got behind it because as I explained to them: For it to feel truly alien, every single detail of what you’re seeing has to be manufactured. You can’t buy a chair or a glass off the shelf — we have to make all the props from scratch, and they have to feel authentically alien. And it’s very difficult to shoot much, if not any, of the show on location, or to find any locations that would even be appropriate because they wouldn’t feel organically part of that world. So we had to build a lot of sets and, and most of them [were digitally extended]. You see that in the Fortress of Solitude and I won’t lie to you — in between filming the pilot and getting picked up for series, we actually redesigned the Fortress of Solitude set. Syfy, in particular, felt that it needed to look even grander, and they were right. I think that set is pretty glorious. I’m also a fan of the tribunal set, where Seg-El’s parents were executed. I think that’s a really incredible set as well. There’s a number of really incredible sets that you’ve yet to see.
Because Seg-El is rarely referenced in the comics, where else did you draw inspiration for the show?
While we were developing the show, we referenced a lot of historical events like the fall of the Roman Empire At the same time, the best science fiction is really an allegory for current events. It’s a way to talk about things that are happening in the world, but you come at it sideways. I think even in episode three for instance, there are scenes where the Kryptonian military are rounding up terrorists and persons of interest that echo what’s happening in Syria and Afghanistan or even police measures that are being used in the United States. In recent years, I think what Battlestar Galactica did was the best example of that. It’s a science fiction show that really shines a light on current events and did it in an incredibly effective way. Some people have asked, “Are we specifically making reference to what’s happening right now?” We first started developing the show in 2014, so any similarities is just a coincidence.
I was delighted to hear John Williams’ theme from the 1978 movie, Superman, in the pilot.
I actually have to credit Susan Rovner [Warner Horizon Television co-president and executive VP of development at Warner Bros Television] for suggesting it. She suggested [doing a homage by using] the score. Because Warner Brothers Pictures had made [the Christopher Reeve movies], they have the license to the music, so I didn’t know legally if we were able to use it [on the TV show] or how expensive it would be if we were to use it. But it turned out that we were able to make it work.
Bruno Heller, the creator of Gotham, said his show will end just before Bruce Wayne puts on his Batman costume for the first time. Do you have an end game for Krypton?
We have an ending that we’ve talked about. It’s an idea we have, but we also let ourselves open to possibilities as things continue. One of the things that’s unique about our show is that it has time travel aspects. So all things are possible. But yes, I think it’d be foolish to work on a show like this without having some idea of how it would end, and I will say this: if we go that route [we’ve envisioned], it doesn’t end with the world blowing up.
Will Superman make an appearance on the show?
It is entirely possible, but he may not appear in a way that people would expect.
Krypton airs Thur, WarnerTV (Singtel TV Ch 306 & StarHub Ch 515), 9pm. It’s also on HOOQ.