CS Interviews: Cast & creator talk Amazon’s Invincible adaptation
Ahead of the animated series’ debut on the streaming platform, ComingSoon.net got to partake in special roundtable interviews with Invincible creator Robert Kirkman and stars Steven Yeun (Minari), J.K. Simmons (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) and Gillian Jacobs (Come Play) to discuss the superhero drama.
When asked about whether the two had read the comics prior to signing on to the series, Yeun, who previously worked with Kirkman for the AMC adaptation of his zombie graphic novel franchise The Walking Dead, noted that he had read them even prior to the start of that series as he “poured through all of his stuff” and became a “big fan of Robert’s” while Simmons stated he was “much less familiar with Robert’s work” prior though found his initial readings that helped open the universe of the material to him to be “mind-blowing.”
“In terms of working with J.K., I mean I know you’re in the room so this is awkward, but like, it’s J.K., it’s so cool,” Yeun brightly stated. “It’s voiceover, so it’s not this not the same dynamic, sometimes you’re there solo recording, sometimes you’re knocking out things by yourself and then sometimes, they bring us both in the room to do it all together. There are key moments and scenes in which I got to share the room with J.K. and like, really go for it and that’s my privilege, it’s really fun to do that. So it was really great, I had a great time, I can’t speak for J.K.”
“The kid who played my kid, whatever his name is, he was okay,” Simmons jokingly responded. “Obviously, I’ve done a fair amount of animation, but yeah, this was a whole ‘nother level. I found it really intriguing in a number of ways and then yeah, as Steven said, to be able to do these scenes, a lot of the times you are in the booth by yourself, but sometimes to be able to do these things with the other wonderful actors in the room at the same time was just a real bonus.”
In reflecting on the evolutionary path his comic book series took from a fairly light tone to its more mature nature towards the end, Kirkman believes that Invincible “has always been very mature” but does agree that the mature tone “became more prevalent in the later issues” and the series will look to mend the gap.
“It’s good to be able to in the adaptation possibly unify the series a little bit more and have the maturity that was in some of the later issues present in some of the earlier seasons in this form,” Kirkman explained. “So I don’t think that there’s too much difference, really, when you look at the whole of both versions, but I guess we do get to the more mature aspects and the more brutal aspects of the storyline a little bit earlier in the television show.”
With multiple of his works having been adapted for the screen, including AMC’s Walking Dead and Cinemax’s Outcast, Kirkman has seen a various degree of leniency in creative freedom for his work and while finding that they “were able to do a lot of crazy things” on the latter series, partnering with Amazon has really let him and his crew “run wild with it and do whatever content you want.”
“I was always waiting for that tap on our shoulder to be like, ‘Hey, tone that violence down a little bit like, we don’t want to go too crazy’ and, you know, ‘this sequence might be a little too intense,'” Kirkman recalled. “But that never happened, I mean if anything, we were always encouraged, like, we want to break new ground, we want to do new things, I think you can see what Amazon is accomplishing with The Boys in that they are really into pushing those boundaries and bringing people new kinds of entertainment that really provide you with a unique experience. So I feel really fortunate to be at Amazon and I think if you guys have seen any episodes of the show, you can kind of see that we didn’t pull any punches and we’re going in some really interesting directions. I’m just really excited with how we’re able to pull that off and I can’t wait for people to see the show.”
Invincible marks the latest comic book or superhero outing for Beetz and Jacobs, with the former starring as Domino in 2018’s Deadpool 2 and the Oscar-winning Joker and the latter lending her voice to Justice League Action and Rick & Morty and helming an episode of the Disney+ anthology docuseries Marvel 616 in which she explored the women who have worked at the iconic comic book publisher. In looking at their consistent returns to the genre, both found unique and personal reasonings for a desire to continue exploring the superpowered and fantastical worlds.
“I feel like this genre is really just another way to talk about the human condition and I think anxiety and feeling different and trying to find your place in the world, except the setting is just more heightened,” Beetz related. “So in some ways, you almost have more access to what those raw emotions are because, I don’t know, if it’s dealing with death or something like that, which is something that Invincible does a lot, obviously we’re not flying around and killing aliens, but I think that it is still to me just the story of how to deal with grief or guilt or killing off parts of yourself in order to continue to grow. So I think for storytelling, it’s just a different world to set in, I think, very human and grounded themes for me.”
I had the interesting experience of recording my voice for the show at the same time I was directing a documentary about women who’ve worked at Marvel Comics as writers and editors and artists, so I was learning so much at that time and developing such a deeper appreciation for comics, comic storytelling, the way they’re laid out on a page and, you know, learning about different writers and artists having runs on it,” Jacobs recalled. “So it was really fun to be working on that and then come to the recording studio and be talking to Robert and the writers on the show about what I was learning. So I feel like I still don’t know everything about the world of comics, but I certainly know a lot more now than I did like three years ago and I have a lot of respect for people like Robert, who have made such incredible comics. I mean, so many that he’s made have had a real impact on the genre, so it was an honor to be a part of this project.”
Based on Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley’s Skybound/Image comic of the same name, the series is an hour-long, adult animated superhero show that revolves around seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson (Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers that his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.
Alongside Yeun, Simmons, Beetz and Jacobs, the ensemble cast for the series includes Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Seth Rogen (This is the End), Andrew Rannells (Black Monday), Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Walton Goggins (Justified), Jason Mantzoukas (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Kevin Michael Richardson (The Simpsons), Grey Griffin (Avengers Assemble), Khary Payton (The Walking Dead), Mae Whitman (Good Girls), Lennie James (Fear the Walking Dead), Ross Marquand (Avengers: Endgame), Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery), Justin Roiland (Solar Opposites) and many more.
Behind The Walking Dead, Invincible is Kirkman’s second-longest-running comic and the series serves as his first show under the new deal with Amazon. Invincible is Kirkman’s fourth scripted series based on his Skybound comics, alongside AMC’s The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Cinemax’s Outcast.
Invincible is produced by Skybound and executive produced by Kirkman, Simon Racioppa, David Alpert (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead), Catherine Winder (The Angry Birds Movie, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) with Supervising Director Jeff Allen (Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man), and Linda Lamontagne serving as casting director. Invincible, Kirkman’s second-longest comic-book series, concluded in February 2018 after a 15-year run with the animated series now streaming on Amazon Prime Video!