gen:LOCK Writer, Director Talks Rooster Teeth's Emmy Ambitions and Dream Mecha Crossovers

When it comes to mecha series, there are classics like Gundam which standout above the rest. Series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion have helped bring out dozens of legacy titles, and their influence has not been limited to Japan. Creators all over the world have leaned into the anime genre, and Rooster Teeth's team is no different.

After all, gen:LOCK combines the best things of anime mecha into one gorgeous series, and it looks like the highly praised show is eyeing its own Emmy nomination chances this year.

Recently, Rooster Teeth began its campaign to score an Emmy nomination for gen:LOCK, and ComicBook.com was lucky enough to speak with Gray Haddock about the series. As the Head of Animation at Rooster Teeth, Haddock has been involved with gen:LOCK since the very beginning, and he worked on the series as both a writer and director. Now, Haddock is opening up about Rooster Teeth's hopes for gen:LOCK and breaking down its cast's impressive anime recommendations below:

gen:LOCK has become one of Rooster Teeth’s most popular series, and its mecha anime influences are hard to overlook. What series did your team source inspiration from when making this series?

Ha -- what’s your word count limit for this article? I think there are tiny bits of influences from dozens of shows over the years. If you had to shorthand it to someone, I’d say it’s the love child of Gundam and Ghost in the Shell. Fans will also be able to pick out influences from Evangelion, Code Geass, Macross, the list goes on. As the show progresses, you’ll get to see more influences and homages, both in terms of story elements as well as designs. We tried to demonstrate that, even in these first 8 episodes, with the way the Holons evolve. Some of the ingredients might feel pleasantly familiar, but we’ve brought some new ideas as well, and hopefully we’ve put it all together in a way that stands on its own.

With anime-inspired productions, it is sometimes hard to pin down how to categorize a show. Debate has been on-going with fans on whether to call gen:LOCK an anime or animated series, so did this debate ever come up during production? Do you think there’s merit having one or the other label respectively?

Bring it on. I enjoy the confusion and conversation about it. People are welcome to debate it and try to apply as many different labels to us as possible, if that’s what they’re going to insist on doing, because then we’re getting traction with that much more potential audience. It’s a good sign that we’re not easily pigeonholed. It means we’re something new.

gen:LOCK features an all-star cast featuring Michael B. Jordan, David Tennant, and more. How did you go about building this cast and introducing them into the world of mecha?

It didn’t take as much work as you’d think! Michael grew up on Gundam Wing. Maisie loves One Punch Man, which isn’t mecha of course, but she’s already getting tuned into certain anime aesthetics. And with David’s career so steeped in sci-fi storytelling, he instantly understood the goal of any given scene. We were able to drop into a directorial shorthand for performing these scenes very quickly. Everyone in the ensemble got into the world of gen:LOCK very quickly.

Clearly, Jordan is a massive fan of anime. Did the actor bring any suggestions to the table for gen:LOCK which were inspired by anime?

We had fun syncing up on all that, and he’s called out some specific favorite mecha action moments that I definitely want to go look at for future reference. I don’t want to get spoilery about it, but I think we might’ve surprised him by the end of this season, in terms of just how many levels things were working on, how his different characters interacted or how things got a little spiritual at the end. So now that’s in play, I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas or memories of shows that unlocks in him, if we’re lucky enough to do this again.

gen:LOCK has received impressive reviews from critics and fans the world over. With the series being submitted for an Emmy consideration, what focal points of the series do you hope the selection committee will hone in on?

The crew put in no small amount of blood, sweat and tears to get this project across the finish line. And we innovated the process as much as we could, leveraging the technology as creatively as possible while still working at a certain budget tier. So I hope voters enjoy the aesthetics of it, while the production minded folk can recognize what it took to be an independent, lower budget house and still produce something with this level of cinematic approach. Look at our show, and then look at the other series who tend to take away the Emmys for animation, and then ask yourself if you think we’re bringing something new to the conversation. I just want this crew and Rooster Teeth in general to get some well-deserved recognition for their unique talent and passion.

And what hasn’t been said about these performances? The combination of this world-class voice talent and the lovingly animated character performances crafted some truly rich, emotional moments. Because of what this team brought to their work, you fall for these characters, you’re right there with them through their ups and downs. I have faith the voters will bond that way as well, if they simply check out the show.

If possible, would gen:LOCK ever consider doing a crossover with other established mecha titles like Pacific Rim, Gundam, etc?

Sorry, I was distracted by the sudden image of Cammie and Asuka yelling in each other’s faces about how best to go fight Godzilla. What was the question?

The world built in gen:LOCK is a complicated one with plenty of threads to explore. In your opinion, which side stories would make for an interesting spin-off series or arc in future season?

I want more time for everything and everyone! It was already a ridiculously precise balancing act this season, making sure all the characters got great moments, and providing at least a couple arcs that would make this set of episodes feel satisfying. There’s so much going on with these characters, and between them, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like we’ve truly done right by all of them. But I would love to try.

The technology is also meant to evolve story after story. So there’s a lot to explore, as the rules change and the system makes its way further into the world. We’ll see what it does to the team and those around them.

Speaking of, there’s also a lot of worldbuilding we’ve barely touched on. We had a very limited number of episodes with which to launch an entire new franchise. So I opted to prioritize spending as much time getting to know the characters at first. We definitely would not get another shot at this if the audience doesn’t fall in love with these characters and demand to be with them again. We definitely suggested some things happening in the world, provided the occasion clue about other factions and how the war is going. So now that we’ve done so much establishing work, we want to follow through on that. The gen:LOCK team is going to have to get out there, get educated, and figure out how to make their stand.

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So, have you checked out gen:LOCK through Rooster Teeth yet? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB to talk all things comics and anime!