In just a matter of weeks, Swamp Thing is set to hit DC Universe and bring forth to fans a dark, horror-packed show featuring one of DC Comics cult classics. As previously revealed, the show has been touted as a "hard R" series with adult themes and violence throughout to help the show stand out from an otherwise saturated superhero market.
ComicBook.com recently spoke with Derek Mears, the actor inside the massive Swamp Thing suit. Here's what he had to say about that fabled R-rating, sticking with practical effects whenever possible, and more.
ComicBook.com: In the world of superhero TV and movies, they keep these properties pretty secret. At what point did you know you were auditioning for Swamp Thing? Did you know the part you were auditioning for from the get-go or did they have you go through a couple of rounds secretly, maybe under a different name or something of that nature?
Derek Mears: Well, they were pretty straightforward at the time. I was on a shortlist to play the character, and at first, it was funny, because I went in and met with the producers and showrunner, and we were talking about just the character in general, and we had some sides we went over. At one point after I was done, I remember talking to my manager going in, and he's like, "Hey, how did it go?" And I go, "It went really well, but honestly...," because I didn't know much what they were planning on doing, I was like, "I don't know how you're going to do it. How do you do a straight-for-TV, like The CW, watered-down version of Swamp Thing? I don't think that's gonna work." And he goes, "My friend, it is not that."
He tells me that it's for DC Universe and it's hard R. They're primarily going off of the Alan Moore run for inspiration, and I'm like, "Whoa, I'm sorry, what? Holy cow." I was a nerd. I was like, "I'm sorry; I'm on board." I was very lackadaisical before, going, "We'll see what happens. When do I go back in? Because this sounds amazing."
Gary [Dauberman] had also previously teased this hard R rating. Without saying too much, in what sense could you say it lives up to that? Any teases at how it would be hard R?
Just the adult content of it. I heard, without giving anything away, on the production side at one point, a story for one of the upper-echelon creators, or studio execs were like, "Wait, you're going to do what on screen?" They go, "That's really violent." And the creators were like, "Yeah, it's hard R. This is what we're talking about."
I'm a huge horror nut, and I'm also a giant child, who after certain scenes, will go to the monitor, and going, "Oh, my God, this is what I would watch." I would say that I'm a fan representing the fans, and going, "Yeah, I would tune into this 1000%." The other thing, which I was really excited about, or just thrilled, was watching the monitors of unfinished footage, just from the day of shooting. The style and the tone, it feels very much like Seven, in a sense, like really dark and broody, and I'm excited.
We just got a quick teaser of Swamp Thing himself, and as I understand, that's a practical suit, right?
Yes, yes, absolutely. It will have CG elements mixed into the show, but any time that we can it will be practical. That also excited me about the show in general, was that they want to do old-school practical, and the suit that the Fractured FX guys have created is just the Cadillac of suits. Like the way you can emote through it is so sensitive, and it's so beautiful. So I'm very lucky, because I get to wear art.
Is it just like this one piece thing you hop into and zip up in the back, or are there multiple parts? Are there animatronics involved? How big of a suit is it?
It is a giant suit, I mean, in literal terms, because I'm 6'5", 235 pounds, so it's literally big. But the suit itself, from the shoulders up, is applied prosthetics, where there are nine different pieces to give it a full range of motion and movement. And there are other parts that break up, like with the gloves and the boots. They have a full-on bottom part of the suit with your pants and the upper part of the torso. But the way it's designed, knowing Justin Raleigh, who owns Fractured FX, the way they designed it...
Bernie Eccles, who I've worked with before on other shows, he's devised a way where you can't see the seams on this thing, and being that I'm going to be in the water so much, it's really quick drying. There are vents in it and it has all the bells and whistles that you would want. I mean, it's still difficult to do, because it is what it is, but it's the best that it could possibly be. And the team that I have surrounding me, the heads of the practical effects makeup department, with Ozzie Alvarez and Kevin Kirkpatrick, these guys...
I thought I would be spending at least four hours a day in makeup, trying to put everything on, and then have an hour or two hours taking it off. But these guys are such talents, and they've worked on such big-name projects, they've gotten it down from start to finish for two hours, to put me in this thing, and I'm just beyond grateful to have these guys on the show.
You did mention Alan Moore and that the show draws from his run. Would you consider Swamp Thing a pretty comic-accurate depiction of the character?
It's pretty right on. I mean, it has the elements, of course, the original detail from the Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein run at the very beginning. It relies heavily on the Alan Moore stuff, but there are also elements, aesthetic elements, that they tie into the New 52 series, so it's pretty cool but the main goal and the feel of everything is that kind of Southern Gothic, Alan Moore stuff. It's fun, being a nerd myself and adding in the different influences of the artists like John Totleben, and Stephen Bissette, and of course, Bernie Wrightson. And from time to time, trying to add in some of those homage poses, or to put their influence into the cake batter that I'm mixing up to serve in a sense for the final product of the cake.
This probably might get into spoiler territory, but being on DC Universe, could fans expect some sort of cameo? Obviously, Swamp Thing in the comics is very close with John Constantine. Is there a chance of any of that happening?
I'm always that guy, like I feel I've made a Christmas surprise, and I don't want people to know it until it's Christmas time so that they get that full impact of shock and awe. But maybe there's some familiar characters from the canon that pop up from time to time or make their traces known in the series. We go script to script, and then I would see little hints, or little puzzle pieces and am like "Oh, I know who you're talking about. I know what this is. Oh, wait, are we covering that later?" Just like, I'm such a squirrel for all of this. So yeah, I think fans are going to be really excited from time to time, going, like, "Oh, I know what you're referencing. Wink, got it. I know who that it is."
Say someone doesn't know much about the character, or they're still hesitant on the series, what should they expect from the show? Do you an elevator pitch for the show? What's Swamp Thing in a nutshell?
I'll answer it in two parts. First off, the show in general, the one thing that I'm really happy about is the fact not once have I heard the word superhero. I mean, he is a superhero in a sense, but what they're looking for in the show is that dark horror edge, which made me very excited, because that separates us from all the other superhero shows that are out there. We're really dealing with the darker, more adult themes, also themes with like self-existence, and what's our place and acceptance.
So Swamp Thing, I would say, it's an origin story of acceptance and growth as the character Alec Holland is trying to figure out what he's become as this swamp creature, and we all relate to that with our own personal humanity. We have those days where I'm like, "What's the point? Who am I?" And so, it delves into those more adult themes of what that is, and also, falling down the dark well of madness when you start getting existential and dealing with our own personal existential crises as we see them through the Alec Holland character.
Swamp Thing premieres on DC Universe on May 31st.
Are you looking forward to the latest new DC Universe show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or by hitting me up on Twitter at @AdamBarnhardt!
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