Last week we got the exciting news that Gerard Way's Dark Horse comic, The Umbrella Academy, will be heading to Netflix as a live action series. As a huge fan of the comic, and Way's writing in general, I thought I'd talk about my personal history with the series and what makes
The Umbrella Academy one of the best series modern comics has to offer.

What follows is the story of how I almost wrote it off completely.

It starts with me as a teenager


I was 15 or so when I first heard the phrase 'emo'. Initially, I was unsure what to make of this new word and all the connotations it seemed to carry with it, but it wasn't long before the phrase wormed its way into my teenage vocabulary. No sooner had I come to terms with this strange new concept than I was confronted with a deluge of emo rock, in all its high pitched, hard-rocking glory, belted out by black-haired boys in impossibly-tight jeans.

During these glory days of emo rock, bands didn't get much bigger than My Chemical Romance; in high school, it wasn't long before my whole class were hooked on their hit album, The Black Parade. My whole class excluding me, that is.

The clothes, the hair, the bombast: my white-bread, Christian rock sensibilities just couldn't handle it all. It wasn't long before I wrote the genre off completely, vowing never to dip my toes into the monotone world of emo rock. Just hearing the letters MCR - shorthand for the above band of Black Parade infamy - became enough to make me roll my eyes in dismissal.

This is going somewhere, I promise.

Years later, a friend, although I can't recall who, recommended I check out a comic called The Umbrella Academy. The discovery that the writer was MCR's frontman, Gerard Way, almost stopped me from checking it out. Almost. Fortunately, the book's fantastic art -- provided by Gabriel Ba with colours by Dave Stewart -- was enough to make me put aside my teenage vendetta and give the book a try.

I will be forever grateful that I did; six issues later and I was a convert to the cult of Way.

So, what is it exactly about The Umbrella Academy that allowed me to recalibrate my opinion of Gerard Way from the skinny-jean-clad singer of that band I hated, to a formidable writer and comic book heavyweight?

Well... that might take a little bit of explaining.


No Tourist


As comics luminary and lovable kook Grant Morrison writes in his introduction to The Umbrella Academy's first collected volume, Apocalypse Suite, ' ...Gerad wasn't a celebrity tourist in the world of comics - he knew them and loved them, and had clear ideas about where he wanted to take them.'

You don't have to take Morrison's word for it either. A quick flip through the volume's pages and it will become obvious that Way is a lifelong fan of the medium, not just some hack trying to leverage his celebrity status to fulfill a misguided childhood fantasy.

The first thing that will hit you when you start reading The Umbrella Academy is how insanely well written it is. Almost impossibly so. This is Way's first published comic and yet he breezes into it like he's been writing them forever. The script is tight, the characters are engaging and the ideas are polished. Best of all, he seems at home playing in the comic book world without ever getting too comfortable.

Right from the the first volume's opening pages - which features a glorious splash of a brawny
wrestler diving elbow first onto a Rigelian Space squid  - it becomes clear that Way has a strong grasp on what makes the superhero genre so exciting.

His very premise, which involves gifted children trained to become superheros by an eccentric millionaire, reeks of the familiar (namely Marvel's X-men) but immediately differentiates itself through its time-twisting setting and unique cast of characters.  Throw in everything from Viet Cong vampires and chimpanzee cops to a death cult orchestra and zombie robots, and it's clear The Umbrella Academy stands apart as a truly unique beast in an over saturated genre.

Possibly even more impressive is the fact you will find all these crazy, bold ideas, neatly contained in two story arcs that are equal parts chaotic and coherent. It's everything weird you know and love about Morrison's writing only with an accessibility that the Scottish scribe has never really been able to provide.

The embedding of kabbalist mythology and pseudo-philosophical ideas in a lot of  Morrison's work (such as The Invisibles or his run on Batman) can prove daunting to even a veteran comic-book reader. This is not aided by the fact that Morrison never feels a need to explain or unpack these themes.

Way does something very similair, only with one key difference: the themes he embeds within his work relate to the superhero genre itself, something most people are at least partially familiar with. Way's work becomes a playground where these tropes and ideas are explored, remixed and rebooted.


 Who are The Umbrella Academy?

 

The Umbrella Academy tells the story of the Hargreeves 'family', a rag-tag team of gifted children brought together to save the world by an eccentric old man. On the surface it may seem like ground which has been well-trod by the likes of the X-Men (as previously mentioned) or Doom Patrol, but it's what lies beyond this premise that makes the book so damn special. 

Way's cast of characters, all brought to life by Ba's fantastic art and Stewart's emotive colouring, showcase this perfectly. Although some of these characters are modelled strongly off existing tropes - such as Diego, alias "The Kraken", who serves as the family's oh-so-serious vigilante crime-fighter a la Batman - each is given enough detail and nuance to make them feel new and fresh.

It's things like Luther , also known as Space Boy's, gorilla body or The  Kraken's missing eye. Hell, it's all the small details like these that really help to bring the cast to life.

Take for example Klaus, alias "The Seance" and the family's resident telepath/telekinetic. Klaus is unable to use his powers unless he has bare feet, and has the words 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' tattooed to the palms of his hands.



Unlike a lot of other psychic characters, who usually struggle with and are sometimes even resistant to their telepathic abilities, Klaus seems very at home with his powers and uses them without concern or hesitation. Rather then a person burdened with great power, the abilities function as an integral part of Klaus; simultaneously a reflection and extension of his personality. In this way, the Hargreeves family aren't walking, taking superpower repositories, but instead are fully realized people with their own nuances and personality quirks. 

Although they might all share the same last name, the Hargreeves' don't really have much else in common, and it shows. The team are always fighting and bickering amongst themselves, which usually leads to trouble - like almost bringing on the end of the world in Apocalypse Suite.

It doesn't take much time in the world of  The Umbrella Academy to realise that these character's aren't a team of superheroes, so much as they are a group of flawed people who are forced to work together.

Broken Things


This brings us to what is - in my opinion anyway - one of the great strengths of Way's writing, and a throughline permeating his entire body of comic book work: his affection and hope for broken people. It's the simple idea that the fuck-ups and outcasts of the world can get their shit together long enough to do something meaningful which makes his work so intoxicating to me.



Kraken and Spaceboy might continually butt heads, but they still work together when push comes to shove. Sure, Klaus might be off his face on drugs half the time but that doesn't mean he can't still save the day by stopping a meteor with his telekinesis. 

Time and time again in Way's work you will find instances like these, where characters - whom others within the narrative have written off - will step up and rise to a Herculean challenge. 

Throughout all the chaos, weirdness and brokenness, there is always hope. 

If teenager me could see me now...


My signed copy of the first volume of The Umbrella Academy is one of my most prized possessions. Every time I glance at it I am warmly reminded of the time I got to see Gerard Way speak at the Sydney Opera House a few years ago. 

I only got to meet him for a second while he signed my book, and he was clearly very jet lagged, but his kindness and sincerity shone through regardless. He even seemed genuinely grateful when I told him how much I enjoyed his writing, even though I was just one of a huge crowd who all felt connected to his work. 

It was a short exchange, but it meant a lot to interact with a creator I have so much admiration and respect for.


So... does that mean you're an MCR fan now?

 

Well, I'm not about to go out and buy My Chemical Romance's back catalogue, but you can be damn sure I will be first in line to pick up any comic that features Way as a creator. His comics aren't just simply "good"; within their brightly-coloured pages, you will find on full display everything good about comics in general. The Umbrella Academy TV series is due to hit Netflix in 2018. I have no doubts it will be stellar, but you really should do yourself a favour and check out the source material before then. 

For the love of God, please don't make the mistake I almost made and discount this comic due to its connection to the heavily-stigmatised genre of emo rock.

I promise you, you won't regret it. I sure don't.

- Christof   






Entertainment One Australia have announced that the complete seventh season of THE WALKING DEAD will be available on DVD & Blu-ray from September 27.

Regarded by many as the most controversial season in the show’s history, fans will once again get a compelling glimpse behind-the-scenes with brand new special features including featurettes and audio commentary.

In Season 7 of the iconic show, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group will find out yet again that the world isn’t what they thought it was and the lengths they will have to go to in order to find weapons, food and new fighters is nothing short of remarkable. While they have a singular purpose - to defeat Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) - it won’t come easy. More importantly, victory will require more than Alexandria. They need the numbers of the Kingdom and the Hilltop.


Both the DVD & Blu-ray editions of the complete seventh season of THE WALKING DEAD will have a host of bonus features as follows:

  • Featurettes x7: ‘Breaking and Rebuilding’, ‘In Memoriam’, ‘A Larger World’, ‘A New Chapter’, ‘The Writer’, ‘Top Walker’, ‘Warrior Women’
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes x 8 scenes
  • Inside The Walking Dead x 16 episodes
  • Making of The Walking Dead x 16 episodes
  • Audio Commentaries x 6: Featuring contributions from Scott Gimple, Greg Nicotero, Michael Cudlitz, Angela Kang, Norman Reedus, Alanna Mastertson, Josh McDermitt, Austin Amelio, Denise Huth, Lennie James, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan


Fans can pre-order the complete seventh season of THE WALKING DEAD from JB Hi-Fi here with exclusive cover artwork:










Episode 51! Stu and Billy are back at the flicks this week to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is directed by Edgar Wright (The Onion News Network, Clown, Cop Car) and stars Tom Holland (The Impossible, How I Live Now, Captain America: Civil War) as Peter Parker, the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man.

After his experience with the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man.

He also tries to return to his normal daily routine -- distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

As well as the films, Stu and I discuss what else we've been watching this week, and look over the latest in movie news.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





                                      Get it from Whooshkaa here


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If you want to engage with Stu and Billy more you can do so at the following: 
Stu
Twitter - https://twitter.com/stu_watches
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/stucoote/

Billy
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Aqualec
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/aqualec/







Episode 50! Stu and Billy are back at the flicks this week to discuss their Top 5 Films of 2017 So Far, and also catch a screening of Baby Driver.

Baby Driver is written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Wolrd) and stars Ansel Elgort (The Divergent Series) as talented getaway driver Baby, who relies on the beat of his own personal soundtrack to be the best in the game.

After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





                                      Get it from Whooshkaa here


                                            Get it from Itunes here



If you want to engage with Stu and Billy more you can do so at the following: 
Stu
Twitter - https://twitter.com/stu_watches
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/stucoote/

Billy
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Aqualec
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/aqualec/






Goodbye June, you were a tonne of fun. 38 films later and boy am I in need of a lie down. After much deliberation Martin Zandvilet's Land of Mine has ousted Get Out from the top spot. Courtesy of the Sydney Film Festival screenings; I Am Not Your Negro, Call Me By Your Name and Happy End have entered the top 10. Other newcomers include 20th Century Women and Edgar Wright's Baby Driver.

Please check out my lists for January, February, March, April and May. If you agree or disagree with any of the films on my list, feel free to sound off in the comments or come over and play on our Facebook page.

- Stu

1. Land of Mine
2. Moonlight
3. Get Out
4. I am Not Your Negro
5. Call Me By Your Name
6. Baby Driver
7. Happy End
8. 20th Century Women 
9. The Salesmen 
10. Trip To Spain

Films watched this month:

20th Century Women
Hounds of Love
The Promise 
Ana, Mon Amour
The Ornithologist
Waiting for Giraffes
The Nile Hilton Incident
Whitney: Can I be Me
Taste of Cherry
My Year with Helen
Happy End
Ingrid Goes West
The Wall
The Hidden Fortress
Yojimbo
Wonder Woman
78/52
Ama-San
I Am Not Your Negro
 Mifune: The Last Samurai
Graduation
Barbecue
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
On Body and Soul
Kedi
Rough Night
Call Me By Your Name

Porto
God's Own Country 
It's Not Dark Yet
The Little Hours
The Farthest 
The Beguiled
All Eyez On Me
Okja
Transformers: The Last Knight
Baby Driver 
The Villainess



Episode 49! Stu and Billy are back at the flicks having attended the the second week of the Sydney Film Festival, and also managing to watch Transformers: The Last Knight.

Transformers: The Last Knight is the 5th installement of the live-action Transformers film series. The films sees Humans are at war with the Transformers, and Optimus Prime nowhere to be found after the events of the previous film. The key to saving the future lies buried in the secrets of the past and the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

Now, it's up to the unlikely alliance of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins) and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) to save the world.

Also in this weeks episode we also recap the films we've seen from the second and final week of the Sydney Film Festival.

These include: Mifune: The Last Samurai, Graduation, Barbecue, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, On Body and Soul, Kedi, A Fantastic Woman, Call Me By Your Name, The Promise, Porto, God's Own Country, It's Not Dark Yet, The Little Hours, The Farthest, The Beguiled, Okja, Blade Of The Immortal, Patti Cake$, The Party

We also have a special guest this week for our Transformers: The Last Knight discussion, Garth Franklin from the Dark Horizons website!

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





                                      Get it from Podomatic here


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If you want to engage with Stu and Billy more you can do so at the following: 
Stu
Twitter - https://twitter.com/stu_watches
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/stucoote/

Billy
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Aqualec
Letterboxd - https://letterboxd.com/aqualec/

Garth and Dark Horizons can be located at: 
Website - http://www.darkhorizons.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/darkhorizonscom
Twitter - https://twitter.com/darkhorizons





To say I've been excited for people to finally check out Get Even is somewhat underselling it. Smartly mixing psychological horror with Bourne-style action, it was something of an oddity which greatly enthused me during the time spent with its demo. Now the full thing's out, I can rave further, and hopefully some of you will now get where I'm coming from.

Be warned, though, that the biggest, most daring thing I loved about Get Even is something I absolutely refuse to talk about. But I'll get to that.


I first checked out Get Even many moons ago, so I'll borrow from myself in terms of outlining the plot:

"You play as Cole Black, a Sean Bean-accented mercenary who starts the game tracking down a kidnapped young woman in a dilapidated house filled with armed men. After seemingly setting off a bomb whilst rescuing her, Cole wakes up four years later outside an abandoned mental asylum, with no memory of the time in-between. A mysterious figure named Red informs Cole that he is here to relive some of his memories, in order to ascertain how he got to the asylum, what happened to the girl, and why one of his most recent contracts may have something to do with both."

During that First Impressions review, I said that the game had the hallmarks of a David Lynch work with "a bit more terra firma to it". Having now finished the whole story, I'd actually say it's closer to a Christopher Nolan head-trip; the memory-reliving Pandora headset which your character spends the entire game wearing adds a strong Inception-like spin to proceeding. It might make a few plot turns somewhat predictable - of course, your memories are not entirely reliable - but I can assure you that the story comes to a more complete conclusion. Or, at least, my story did.


Most of what I said in that First Impressions review still holds here. The game is good at creating psychological horror and somewhat poor at creating an engaging FPS experience. Though the heavy story focus and reliance on your trusty super-sleuth smartphone involves not firing your gun as often as you might in Deus Ex or Hitman, when combat does get going it feels somewhat unintuitive and fairly unpolished. The lack of a HUD makes the experience more realistic, but the somewhat inaccurate aiming and occasionally poor hit detection on enemies means your stealth kill headshot might turn into a cover-blowing neck graze with little to no warning, even at point blank range. When there are a plethora of enemies around, particularly in the later levels, the game oscillates between Cole being sturdier than a fridge with legs, and Cole only being able to take one or two bullets to the knee before keeling over and dying. Maybe the realism's at play again - a headshot or tag on a vital area won't let many people in the real world get up afterwards - but given that the game goes to great pains in explaining that you're inside a simulation, and thus are not strictly bounded by the rules of reality, it feels a little disingenuous.


The CornerGun is also not the most efficient of weapons. It's useful in one or two missions, and is handy at solving a couple of minor puzzles. Ultimately, though, it's a gimmick with some relevance to the story and little relevance to the gameplay. Its ability to host a variety of firearms is neat, but considering the game insists - and, in some cases, demands - that players don't shoot nearby enemies wherever possible, it all seems like so much effort for no real gain. The ability to stick an SMG onto the CornerGun frame is immediately countered by Red informing Cole that if he kills too many people, the memory will destabilise. Granted, I spent at least one level killing anyone I could find and the game didn't throw me out of the memory, which leads me to believe the no-kill insistence is solely in service of the story. But I'll come back to that in a moment.


The one big area Get Even's improved upon since my First Impressions is its visual design. I left the demo feeling that, while immersive to a point, the background details were quite sparse and lacked refinement. Here, though, the full game has a few more rings in its trees, with map aesthetics looking a lot more detailed. A warehouse you must infiltrate is richly drawn with its massive industrial crates sporting a used look, an open air part of the warehouse littered with uniquely designed rubbish, graffiti and newspapers. The asylum Cole navigates has a number of different rooms which are each individually delineated, with in-depth designs making each cell and level of the asylum look and feel unique. Though the NPCs themselves stumble around with somewhat janky movement physics, they still look deadly and come in a variety of facial and sartorial models.

And really, I have to emphasise that the story is just so very, very good. Despite any shortcomings I've noted above, Get Even tells a gripping, enthralling tale of innovation, memory manipulation and redemption. However, to do so, the game does something that almost alienated me from it entirely.


The story of rugged mercenary Cole Black doing his thing - reliving memories, finding out how he ended up in the asylum, dealing with lunatics who are trying to kill him - is pretty good, but it becomes somewhat off-putting when Cole is continuously robbed of agency throughout. With Red fully in control of Cole's experience while within the Pandora unit, he is able to extract Cole from memories at a whim, depositing him back in the asylum and ordering him to head to the next room full of colourful psychos. This invariably comes whenever Cole is on the cusp of learning something crucial about the plot. After eight hours of this back and forth, the game got a little tedious. I wasn't happy that the protagonist wasn't just adrift, but practically a plaything of the tides; Red was really in control, and Cole was not. It made it impossible for Cole to have any kind of real victory in the game, or to proceed to the truth through his own impetus. I got a little fed up.

But then, Get Even did something which I had sort of predicted it might, but in a very unexpected way, and all of that tedium quickly evaporated for the game's final stretch.


I might do a spoiler space post a little later on, because it really is a plot and gameplay development which deserves to be talked about. But I'm keen to see how some of you folks react to things when you play the game for the first time. I should say, actually, the first of many. One thing Get Even makes clear is that this is a game designed to be played multiple times, with the user interface constantly reminding you that your actions - including who and how many people you kill - have consequences. As to the nature of those consequences, I can't say; I only played the game through once, alternately killing and stealthing it up, but the ending was still quite satisfying for me.

As excited as I was for Get Even months ago, my excitement has only sharpened after going through it cover to cover. Its technical faults and occasional narrative shortcomings are balanced by a strong overarching story, some fantastic voice acting and a wonderfully creepy soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere. I suspect it's a bit of a Rorschach test for many players who may not have the patience for such a weird, off-kilter piece. For my money, I'm seeing something excellent.

- Chris


Get Even is due for release June 23 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Review copy kindly supplied to Geek of Oz by Bandai Namco Entertainment.


Attention Aussie film fans! To celebrate the release of It Comes At Night on July 6th we're giving away 5 double passes, thanks to Roadshow. To find out how to win, just head over to our Facebook page and find the It Comes At Night post. It's seriously that simple!

The film is a psychological thriller written and directed by Trey Edwards Shults and stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Riley Keough.

Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, the tenuous order Paul (Joel Edgerton) has established with his wife and son is put to the ultimate test with the arrival of a desperate family seeking refuge. Despite the best intentions of both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over as the horrors outside creep ever-closer.















Episode 48! Stu and Billy are back at the flicks as they attempt to watch everything on offer at the Sydney Film Festival!

Running from the 7th till the 18th of June, the Sydney Film Festival has over 400 sessions and 288 films on offer.

Trying to pick a film can be a little overwhelming, so we have put together a top 20 list of the festival here

In this weeks podcast episode we delve into the films we've seen from the first week of the Festival so far.

These include: Ana, Mon Amour, The Ornithologist, Waiting for Giraffes, The Nile Hilton Incident, Manifesto, 78/52, Whitney: Can I be Me, Taste of Cherry, My Year with Helen, Happy End, Ingrid Goes West, The Wall, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Ama-San, I Am Not You Negro

As well as the films, Stu and I look over the latest in movie news.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





                                      Get it from Podomatic here


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To celebrate the upcoming Supanova Comic-Con and Gaming exhibition in Sydney this weekend, I sat down for a phone chat with the cheerful and charming Ricky Whittle earlier this week. You may have seen him as Calvin Valentine on Hollyoaks, Lincoln in The 100, and as protagonist Shadow Moon in the new series based on Neil Gaiman's beloved book, American Gods (it has been blowing up just a tad lately).

Below we talk about Australian time zones, Ricky's fandom, some of the American Gods cast's interesting on-set pranks, and some hints about where Shadow might be headed next year for Season 2 of the acclaimed drama.



Chris: First of all, thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me. It's morning here, but I gather it's late night there for you in Los Angeles?

Ricky: It's just come into the evening, yeah. It's not too bad. I was just saying that the time difference isn't too bad when I come to Australia. Because you're so far ahead it's almost like a whole day for me, whereas when I go to Europe it's like seven or eight hours so it kind of really messes with your body clock, whereas I found this when I went to Australia, I was able to adapt to your timezone very quickly.


C: Well that's good, because most people sort of have the opposite approach, and say "Oh you guys are so far ahead, and when I get home my sleep schedule is so messed up." Nice to know someone likes it here.

R: [laughs] I love it, I can't wait to get back.


C: You're coming to Sydney for Supanova this weekend, after you did Brisbane and Adelaide last year - is this going to be your first time in Sydney?

R: This is gonna be my first time in Sydney. When I was in Brisbane and Adelaide I was really tempted to fly to Sydney because, I mean, it's such an important and incredible city. People still think it's the capitol of Australia. But we had so many fantastic things planned throughout the week that I wanted to stay and just enjoy my time in Brisbane and Adelaide - which I did. I had a fantastic time, I got the opportunity to take in the wildlife and those cities. And now I've again got the opportunity to come back to my bucket list country and really take in a lot more of the country.

Sydney is somewhere I've really wanted to go to, I want to take in all the sights. I've had a lot of friends from Sydney; my Dancing With The Stars partner Natalie Lowe was from Sydney, I've got a lot of friends I've acted with throughout my career from Sydney, and you guys are kind of world-renowned, having a great time and loving life. So I'm looking forward to getting there, and then Perth is the complete opposite end of the country. I've been told nothing is nearby, it's in the middle of nowhere, but I kinda like that, I love the fact that I'm just gonna be one with nature and the people of Perth. So I'm looking forward to taking in both cities.


C: How does it feel to play Shadow on American Gods so far? What's been your experience with that as we near the end of the first season?

R: It's been a lot of fun. A lot of fun. Very taxing, very intense, because Shadow is basically the universe's punchbag. He didn't get to know his father, his mother died when he was young, the one person, the one thing he had in this life - Laura, his wife - was taken from him. He was released from prison and fights a six foot five leprechaun, and gets strung up by a group of faceless goons in a tree. He's constantly being battered left right and centre, both physically and emotionally, and it's been a very taxing shoot for both myself and poor Shadow.

I'm looking forward, as he grows as a character and is awakened to everything in this world. His struggle in the first season was always "Is he going crazy, or is the world actually crazy, and there's magic in the world?" So now that he's slowly coming to terms with the fact that maybe there is another layer to this universe, I'm looking forward to kind of growing in confidence, earning that personality, because he was so broken after losing everything. I wanted to start him off as this kind of empty vessel, and as the show progresses we're going to see him grow and it's going to be a great journey that I kinda get to play as an actor.


C: Do you feel there's any pressure for your performance when it comes to fans of the show, and meeting expectations that book readers might have? Do those expectations factor into your performance?

R: For sure, yeah, without doubt. For me, this isn't just any role. This is a iconic character in an iconic book, you know? Neil Gaiman is a rockstar of the book world, and this is possibly his most famous
book, along with various others, but this is the lead character. This is a character that has been imagined for sixteen years, to the point where the fans have made this a biography. They know exactly how he should be and how he's supposed to look. So when I booked the role there was a huge pressure to kind of deliver this Shadow that they've imagined for sixteen years. The initial press was fantastic, all the fans were tweeting online and Instagramming me and saying, "You look perfect, you're exactly as I imagined, but don't fuck it up." [laughs] There was a huge amount of pressure, like, "Oh that's wonderful, great, I'm exactly as you imagined," and then they kinda hit you with that, it's like "Oh, yeah, there's a lot of pressure."

But yeah, the response has been fantastic. It's those fans of the book that realise those nuances I'm kinda making to Shadow as a character. New fans to the show, and to Neil Gaiman's work on Shadow Moon, will learn to appreciate the journey that I'm gonna try and get Shadow through. But yeah, it's those fans of the book that kinda see that I've kept that responsibility to the book, and it's always going to be their Shadow, because I felt that that's what they deserved. But the adaptation to screen had to be a little bit more. So they've really seen what I've done with it, and the compliments have been fantastic. I'm very proud of what we've achieved.


C: Speaking as a fan of the book, I'm quite keen on what you've done with the character so far, in how it's both in line with and very unique from the book version. So personally, I think you're doing a fantastic job.

R: I appreciate that, thank you!


C: Do you find that your fanbase is having a different reception to Shadow than they have to characters you've played on shows like Hollyoaks and The 100?

R: I've been very fortunate to have an incredible fanbase, and to be quite honest, I wouldn't be standing where I am today if it wasn't for the fans. They literally introduced this project to me. I didn't know about American Gods and I'd never heard of Neil Gaiman. I then learned that I did know of his work in Coraline, Sandman and Stardust, and I didn't realise it was him. But when Starz put out the search for casting Shadow, they asked the fans who they wanted to play their lead character in Shadow, and my name came forward a lot, and that's when it kind of popped up on my radar. So I owe this all to the fans, and I really appreciate the opportunities that they've given me, and the fact that they're enjoying my take on it is kind of a nice little pat on the back for me. There was great pressure, but things seemed to go well so far.


C: When you were here in Australia last year, it was for The 100, after you'd been cast as Shadow. You've said in a previous interview that fans came to you with American Gods paraphernalia and were getting you to sign things, having a pretty positive reaction before they'd even seen you in the show. Do you think the reaction of your fans in Australia this time around is going to be different to how it was last year?

R: I have a great connection with my fans, I owe my whole career to their support and love. I'm always very grateful to all my fans. Fortunately, a lot of them, especially in the sci-fi fandom, they're so fiercely passionate and loyal, that they've actually followed me from The 100 onto American Gods, so I'm probably planning on seeing a lot of fans of The 100 and American Gods. But what this opens me up to is a new group of fans in the book world, so I'm imagining a lot of fans coming along with books and wanting me to sign those, whereas in The 100 it was all posters. So yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing the difference in the people that attend the show, and hopefully I get to say thank you for all their support and love throughout this year.


C: Well watch out on Saturday, because I may be one of those fans lining up with a book for you to sign.

R: Oh really? That'd be great, buddy! It'd be good to see you - definitely pop by and say hi!


C: I will! Have there been any particularly funny or interesting stories from filming on the set?

R: Various, various stories. I think the most known one is my pranks of welcoming Pablo Schreiber and Kristin Chenoweth to the set by plastering their whole trailer with my headshots and pictures of myself. Literally in their microwaves, in their wardrobes, in their shower, under the toilet seat, so when they lift it up my face is there. I've literally covered their walls with my face. And they kept them up for the rest of the season, I felt very grateful. So that was a lot of fun. I put rotten eggs into Pablo's actor's chair. Ian McShane's a bit of a prankster too, always tells jokes and cracks me up, and then keeps a straight face so I get in trouble while I'm giggling like a schoolgirl.

And then there was the time where we thought the gods were against us; there were so many things that went wrong whilst we were filming, it was insane. We had a fire on set, we had two absolute freak thunderstorms that flooded our whole location, and we had to stop filming and come back another day. We had various cranes that would break, and it really did feel like the gods were against us, like maybe we upset them and they weren't happy with us making a show them and they were punishing us. So fortunately we got it finished, and hopefully Season 2 won't be that eventful.


C: I guess there's a funny little irony about the gods not liking a show about the gods.

R: [laughs] Right.


C: It's been said previously about the show that the first season finale, which airs next week, is kind of outside the scope of the book, and it's doing something that's gonna be surprising to both newer fans of the show and old-hand fans of the book. Can you give us a hint about where Shadow might be at the end of Season 1, and where he might start off in Season 2?

R: Everything that's in the book is going to be in the show, no need to worry about that. I think that's why it's been so well-received, is that they're getting everything that they loved in the book and then so much more. That's why I think the reception has been so fun and so great, with the fleshing out of sporadic characters like Mad Sweeney, Bilquis and Laura, with the scenarios they're given. It's been great. The finale's the same; what they've done is build a finale that's going to drag you headlong into Season 2. It's going to leave the audience both in awe and frustrated that they won't know what's happening next. Even if you have read the book, you don't know everything.

Bryan [Fuller] and Michael [Green] are very clever in weaving together both the new storyline and the old storyline, so we kinda find Shadow at the end of the season on the edge. He's kind of not believing. He's spent this whole season going to the logical answer of, "Maybe he was high, maybe he was imagining all these fantastical elements and things happening around him." He's always kind of trying to explain it, but Mr. Wednesday even said to him, "Are you crazy, or is the world crazy?" Finally Shadow has to make that decision in the season finale, as Mr. Wednesday reveals to him a very large secret. We're also going to see the culmination of Mad Sweeney and Laura's road trip, as they finally catch up to Shadow, and as we kind of see in the penultimate episode, there's more to that relationship than meets the eye. So it's all going to kick off, and it's all going to climax at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, you're probably going to have to wait a good year before Season 2. We're in the writers room at the moment, and we've not jumped onto set yet. So, fingers crossed you stay with us! [laughs]


C: I think it's safe to say that if people weren't excited before - which they were - then they definitely are now, and I think you won't have a problem with them waiting for when Season 2 drops. The quality is just been so outstanding; you've got a whole lot of fans who are going to stay with you right to the end.

R: Thank you, I appreciate it. It's almost frightening, you know. This is Season 1. It's already in my opinion the best ensemble cast I've ever seen, so I'm looking forward to seeing who joins that cast in Season 2. And I've never done a Season 1 that's had so much press, so much hype. Normally Season 2 is when shows start to blow up as people kind of get around to it, or Season 3 when people catch up on their various systems - which is gonna be Amazon Prime video in Australia - so it's gonna be exciting for Season 2, because I'm sure we're gonna blow up as people are gonna catch up and binge watch. I'm really looking forward to seeing where we go, and hopefully we can blow your minds again.


C: As you said before, American Gods is such an important book, and I think you and the ensemble, writers and production team are definitely doing it justice. I read the book several years ago and always wanted to see it on screen, and it's just exactly as I imagined. So I think it's definitely a credit to you and to Michael Green and Bryan Fuller, and it's just an amazing show. Just speaking quietly as a fan!

R: Oh wow. Oh that means a lot to me, thank you so much. I appreciate that. Thank you so much. It was definitely an intense shoot.



American Gods is available to stream in Australia on Amazon Prime now.

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