Launching a new television series is a daunting task.
Now add on the pressure of having that series being the debut original show on a new streaming service. That’s a lot to handle.
Akiva Goldsman, who co-created and co-wrote “Titans,” the first new original superhero series airing on the newly launched DC Universe streaming service, had a simple solution to dealing with all those expectations.
“We behaved as if we were blindly unaware of it. You know what I mean?” Goldsman says. “It was a hard show to make. … I think if we worried about that, we would have broken.”
The series follows a familiar group of DC Comics superheroes, starting with Batman’s longtime sidekick Robin, alongside Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire, Hawk and Dove. Fans of “Teen Titans Go” should know these characters well, but this version is a much more adult take, even darker than the DC Comics shows on The CW.
That’s one of the benefits of being on this streaming service.
“It gives us a lot of creative freedom,” says Geoff Johns, who co-created and co-wrote the series. “We work with Warner Bros. television and DC and there’s no creative restrictions that they’re putting on us, there’s no time limit. The shows are around 42 to 47 minutes. There’s no commercial breaks. There’s no demand to do a villain of the week. We’re open to be able to tell the story and explore the show and the characters the way we best want to. And we can go deeper.”
amNewYork spoke with the cast of “Titans” — which premieres Friday — during New York Comic Con last Friday.
You know him from: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “The Giver,” “Maleficent”
What makes your character tick?
I think what makes him tick is his past. He was brought up to be brutal and fight crime in a way that he doesn’t really feel instinctually is right and I think that’s one of the things that — that’s more of a physical tick he can’t control himself and he’s trying to run away from that and find a more practical, more just way of fighting crime.
There have been quite a few Robin costumes on the big and small screen. You have one of the better ones. Were you happy with not having to wear one with the little elf boots?
I don’t mind that. That would have been fun. I just love that it looked like it was worn. One of the most important things was it had to look like I had been fighting in it for years. … Yeah, Laura Jean Shannon, our costume designer, did a great job of breaking it down and making it look and feel like it was a suit that kind of had the tiredness that Dick Grayson feels.
You know her from: “Bosch,” “24: Legacy,” “Greenleaf”
Can you relate to Starfire?
I relate to Starfire in that she’s an alien and a warrior. I was born in a different country. I was born in Senegal and I moved to the States when I was 6, and I was a literal alien to the government and also felt a bit like an alien because I didn’t speak the language and I didn’t understand the people. But I assimilated as Starfire does, or tries to. So in that way I completely relate to that feeling of trying to understand the people in the world around you and just doing your best, but sometimes still feeling alien because this is not your place. And then the warrior aspect, I come from a family or incredible women who are warriors and who have wars in their own lives. So I feel like I can relate to that, too, and personify that.
Any fun moments on set?
All of the fight scenes were just always fun. We had an amazing stunt coordinator by the name of Larnell Stovall. The fights are brutal and they’re scary, but fun to do.
Have you ever done stuff like that before?
I’ve done fight scenes, yeah, but not this physical. Like I’ve done like using guns or stuff like that. Starfire doesn’t need guns.
You know her from: This is the Aussie actor’s first role in America
What makes your character tick?
So, Rachel is a troubled girl who doesn’t really know who she is. All she really knows is that there’s a darkness that comes out of her whenever she gets sad or angry or emotional in anyway. So she has multiple aspects to her. She has this half-demon side of her which she sees in her reflections and that tries to convince her to do evil. And she has her own self who wants to heal and wants to help people. And it’s really fun to play both of them because I get to be two different people, as well as myself, because I’m pretty different to Rachel. Yeah, she’s just amazing like that.
Do you have a favorite scene?
Well, any eating scene. There’s a scene in one of the episodes where I’m just sitting, watching TV and eating candy. And then after that scene I got into a different room with soda. And I made sure that in every shot I had a drink of soda. So I had as much soda as humanely possible.
How was the craft services?
Ah, craft was great. Everyone was super nice, too, and they always save me my Cheetos, because I ate a lot of Cheetos.
Did you have the orange-stained fingers?
Yes, oh my gosh! One scene I just ate Cheetos and then there was a shot where I had to heal somebody with my hands and I’m like, “Oh, no! I have Cheetos dust on my fingers.” So I like frantically tried to wipe it off.
Gar Logan/Beast Boy
You know him from: The voice of Hiro in the “Big Hero 6” movie and TV show
What makes your character tick and how do you relate to him?
He’s a complex character. I mean, he’s the lovable goofball in whether it’s with the Doom Patrol or whether it’s with the Titans. There’s a lot more going on. He has a really dark history. I feel like all superheroes have tragic origin stories and Beast Boy isn’t an exception. … But one thing that kind of remains true is his use of humor in making friends in also kind of repairing his emotions state. Sometimes he uses it as a defense mechanism, but because I feel like he went through that trauma so early on it’s not necessarily to cope but it really became part of his personality. And I can identify with using humor in situations where I feel very uncomfortable. I’ll tell terrible jokes just to defuse the situation.
If you could change into any shape, what would it be?
Ooh, my Japanese zodiac sign is a boar. I would love to turn into a boar or a panda or a turtle. Those are my top three.
I need you to settle this as Beast Boy, is it or is it not easy being green?
I mean, Kermit the Frog said it, right? It’s not easy being green.
You know him from: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Smallville”
What makes Hawk tick?
There’s nothing simple about him. This guy, he’s very human. He’s dealt with a lot of pain. He’s suffered a little bit and he’s also learned to cope with that in his own ways with codependency, with numbing it with some pharmaceuticals. It’s something I think a lot of us understand to one degree or another. And I can relate to that. From an emotional side, he wears his heart on his sleeve. You don’t have to guess what he’s feeling. And I’m the same way.
Hawk’s the avatar of war. Do you have that warrior in your soul?
Yeah, I mean … I think it gets me into trouble sometimes. I don’t say this to brag or whatever. … I was in Montreal shooting a show and my wife and I were walking to dinner and it was a place we had been trying to get to for a long time and I’d been busy, had reservations at our favorite restaurant in the old port, it was sunset, it was a beautiful, quintessential night. She’s like, “Oh, my, God. Is that guy breaking into that car?” And there was a guy, glass everywhere, he’s sticking half way out of a car, and all of a sudden he takes a bunch of duffel bags and a purse out of the car and looks at us. And we start to put it together. And he just runs right by us. And I was like, “Oh, my God. We just saw that happen.” And she was like, “Don’t do it.” And I was like, “I got to go.” And I took off running and I chased that dude like, four blocks and took him out. I held him there until the cops came. And they’re like, “Oh my God, this is like the worst thief in all of old Montreal. Like we’ve been looking for this guy forever. Thank you.”
You’re a real-life superhero!
Yeah, I guess you could say, something like — vigilante maybe. But I can’t stand seeing stuff like that happen. And I wish more people stood up to that. Thankfully nothing bad has happened.
You know her from: “Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”
How do you relate to Dove?
I relate to Dove on many levels. My favorite thing about this is the relationship between her and Hawk and how codependent it is. I find that to be such a relatable situation. I know I can relate to it, I’ve been through this relationship once or twice. I’m just really attracted to flawed and broken characters. And I think Geoff Johns and Akiva Goldsman have done such a great job at finding the balance of being able to tell a story that is also grounded and raw and real, but not losing any of the superhero aspect of it, because that’s also very important and a lot of fun. And I just think they’ve hit such a balance of all of that and so I love it.
Dove is the avatar of peace. Do you also fall on that side?
I do. Listen, she can be a pacifist but she’s also ready to fight and throw down herself. She’s no pushover by any means. So I like to think I relate to her in that regard.
Streaming: "Titans" begins streaming on Friday on DC Universe.