KRYPTON [Exclusive Interview]: The Brains Behind Brainiac.
The year 2018 is a milestone for the Man of Steel. Not only does he turn 80 (and doesn’t look a day over 35), but Superman has his rich history expanded upon through the first season of the highly popular show Krypton. Airing on SyFy and renewed for a second season, the show follows the story of Seg and the House of El, in addition to several other familiar characters from the Superman mythos, as they shape the future of an alien planet orbiting a red sun. In a GHG exclusive from your “Righteous” Reverend Ryan, I was fortunate enough to sit down with one of the show’s very talented writers (and super nice guy), Mr. David Paul Francis, and ask him a few questions about this very successful entry to the canon of Ka-El.
GHG: Thank you very much for joining me today. You have written for several different formats like streaming, network episodics and so forth – how has the experience with SyFy been as compared to your previous work?
David Paul Francis: It’s a unique experience. I’ve worked for Netflix and Sony Playstation, and streaming and network are two different animals. There are different things you have to think about when writing each show, like commercial breaks. For SyFy, we have a 43 minute show, whereas in streaming, you’re writing for a 60 minute show, so you get about 15 extra minutes of screen time that you have to write for, but for network you want to make sure the audience keeps coming back after the breaks. That’s why we make sure we tell the best story possible. And we have a really great team – SyFy has been really gracious and I’ve been fortunate enough to work some really great executives that support the ideas generated in the room.
GHG: On the note of commercial breaks, do you find that obstacles like these force you to be more efficient in getting to the emotional and informational end points of any given scene?
David Paul Francis: There are a certain set of rules that you want to follow to engage the audience. With Krypton, we have 6 acts, so there’s definitely a point that you want to leave a little mystery. There’s a tendency to leave a little bit of a cliffhanger between acts.
GHG: For the desired run of the show, do you have an arc mapped out? Is there a planned ending for the show?
David Paul Francis: Yes, there is a planned ending. But, you know, when you have a big, macro idea and break it down into it’s component parts – those ideas can change. We know where we want to end up. How we get there, that’s the fun of it.
GHG: We you do break down the episodes, how are they distributed to the writers? Are they assigned by relative strengths or by who has specific ideas for each episode, or is it more of a top-down delegation?
David Paul Francis: It’s all driven by the showrunner and the showrunner’s vision for Krypton. Our showrunner, Cam Welsh, is extraordinary. He and David Goyer – a giant in the world of comic book movies and shows, one of the creators – they have a vision of where the show wants to go and as writers, our job is to support that vision and execute it. They will come in with big ideas of where the show wants to end up and us writers will develop what steps we want to take to get there. It’s completely collaborative and a true meritocracy to where all voices and concerns are heard and the best idea wins. We want to honor DC canon, honor the spirit of the DC universe and focus on that stuff, but as far as who gets what episode, that’s all up to Cam. Last year, I wrote episode 7 and this year I think I’m writing episode 9, but that could all change.
GHG: How much of these “big ideas” are coming from source material such as Dan Jurgens’ World of Krypton run versus how much are original concepts designed to fit the needs of the show?
David Paul Francis: When we first started, we read so much DC canon from so many different stories – yeah, we all read Dan Jurgens World of Krypton. Everybody read that. We take a lot of stuff from there. While we don’t do it verbatim, it does inspire a tremendous amount of ideas that we’ll take and spin through our own filter.
GHG: Like how you’re planting seeds towards the future. In that vein, do you feel a necessity to build towards the destruction of the planet or is it simply more important to focus on the House of El in the now?
David Paul Francis: The way that we do it for the season is we’ll break the whole thing down. We’ll create character arcs, their journeys – we’ll create a story for the whole season. Then, we’ll break it down episode by episode. We know where we want to get to, we know what marks we need to hit, then it’s just a matter of how do we get there. Sometimes we might not know how we want to get there and there will be multiple ideas that we’ll work through until we get the best one. And the DC source material helps out a lot. I mean, we’re always bugging the DC guys to give us more comics because we want to honor what’s come before us as we create our own part of the Superman canon.
GHG: The show deals with a lot of different issues from politics to religion to the thought of “we’re the only people in the universe” while the main villain is an extraterrestrial. Are these themes included in specific episodes intentionally or do they arise organically as a function of the story?
David Paul Francis: Number one, we want to tell the best, most entertaining story we can. If those nods to social issues come out, they’ll come out. There’s not a drive to make any given episode about any specific issue. And you have to remain flexible. The story will tell you where it wants to go and you’ll discover new things along the way.
GHG: How many of those new discoveries come from the actors?
David Paul Francis: That’s a huge thing too. We are really blessed with some fantastic actors. Cameron Cuffe who plays Seg-El is amazing. Colin Salmon who plays General Zod is phenomenal. Ann (Ogbomo) as Jayna and Wallis (Day) as Nyssa Vex, Shaun Sipos who plays Adam Strange – they’re all brilliant actors. There’s no weak link in that chain and they’re all a real pleasure to work with.
GHG: Do the actors influence how you shape their character’s voice?
David Paul Francis: Yeah, because we’ll watch their performance and a lot of times it’s so nuanced that we’ll be like “oh, that’s interesting. Let’s explore that”. And that can lead to more story ideas for that character.
GHG: Who are your favorite characters to write for?
David Paul Francis: I really like writing for Brainiac. Brainiac is a character that hasn’t really been done before and the actor that plays him, Blake Ritson, is amazing. Some of my favorite scenes from last season are between him and Eliot Cowan, who plays Daron-Vex, where it’s just two guys in a room talking. Those guys are so good and it’s so interesting.
GHG: Now that we’ve touched upon Brainiac, why was the decision made to have him as the big bad of the show?
David Paul Francis: He was baked into the cake from the get go. Brainiac was always going to be the villain right from the start and I think a lot of it is because he’s never been done before. He’s such a versatile character, too, because he’s a twelfth level intellect. When you think you have him defeated, you don’t. There are so many incarnations of him – he’s alway gathering information so he can adapt to any situation. It makes for a great villain that has the potential to create danger for years to come.
GHG: In that same respect, with regards to how time travel is a big part of the show, does that mean we could potentially see Brainiac 5 and the Legion of Super-Heroes?
David Paul Francis: One thing I will say is that Krypton is definitely its own thing, its own show. It’s not connected to any other show or any other universe, like the Arrow-verse, or anything like that. But, that being said, we do have the potential to play with a multiplicity of characters. Characters can show up that you don’t expect. We have a pretty large sandbox to play with.
GHG: Speaking of characters, I’m going to name a few off that I know a lot of fans, including myself, are speculating could pop up. You can answer with “No” or “Maybe”, just to make sure we don’t spoil too much.
David Paul Francis: Ok.
GHG: The Hawks and the planet Thanagar.
David Paul Francis: It could happen, I think it could happen.
GHG: The planet Rann, Alanna and Adam Strange’s jet-pack.
David Paul Francis: I think those are great questions and people should keep watching.
GHG: Booster Gold?
David Paul Francis: (laughs) I’d love to do Booster Gold, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to see him.
GHG: Any possibility towards Apokolips and the New Gods?
David Paul Francis: We have a saying on the show that “anything can happen”. Fans will have to wait and find out.
GHG: So that means we could possibly see the Green Lantern Corps?
David Paul Francis: Anything is possible.
GHG: Any final thoughts for all the fans?
David Paul Francis: If you thought last season was crazy, that was just an appetizer. Season two will amp up the action and intrigue like you won’t believe. Make sure to watch and find out.
As for my final thoughts, I would like to extend my thanks to David Paul Francis for his time and wonderful insight to how such a successful show is created. You can follow him on Twitter @dpfrancis1985 and I encourage any fans of Superman to watch Krypton, airing Wednesdays at 10PM on SyFy, but make sure to check local listings. Also, for all the geeks looking for a little background reading and potential insight to future plot lines, check out DC’s World of Krypton. For everything geek related in general, keeping checking back here and follow me @nayrdrof. This is your Righteous Reverend Ryan Ford, signing off.