What we learned about Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger at WonderCon
The executive producers and cast of Freeform‘s highly-anticipated new original series Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger attended WonderCon on Friday, March 23, in Anaheim, California, where we got a special sneak peek at the premiere episode. We also chatted with Olivia Holt, who plays Tandy Bowen/Dagger, and Aubrey Joseph, who plays Tyrone Johnson/Cloak, executive producer and showrunner Joe Pokaski, Executive Vice President of Marvel Television and executive producer for the show Jeph Loeb, and Gina Prince-Bythewood, who directed the pilot.
Pokaski told us that the biggest challenge with the series was casting Tandy and Tyrone, and in finding teenagers who could actually act. Holt and Joseph were actually cast very close to the beginning of shooting. He also spoke about how Freeform was actually allowing them to go further than he expected. “They were fantastic from day one,” he said. “I was scared at first, not knowing them well enough, that they might ask us to curb some things or to pull back, but they were the exact opposite. When we started pushing stuff, we started asking if we could do some edgy things — we’re trying to tell the story of a young woman superhero, which we haven’t seen too much on TV, and a young black man who’s a superhero. They really allowed us to push the envelope and to tell a different story.”
Pokaski also spoke about the differences in origin story from the comics to the TV series: “Listen, I think the original stories were fantastic, but for the time, while they were a little progressive, they were a little bit sexist and racist once you got into it, for now. What we tried to do was deconstruct it and make it about Tandy and Tyrone, understand who they were. Jeph had the great idea of moving it down to New Orleans. I think New York is covered for superheroes. Hell’s Kitchen has got like six of them. It’s like four blocks of a neighborhood!”
Holt talked to us about getting the part. “Aubrey and I had a really amazing chemistry read, and I think that’s what made me feel so confident about what we brought into that room,” she said. “I got on a plane the next day and flew to New Orleans.” Joseph also talked about his biggest challenge in taking on the role. “We talked about it. It was kind of emotionally draining to a point. The material is so serious and so dark in some ways. But I feel like we kind of went into the situation prepared, you know? We know that what we’re doing is very important and it has a chance to impact a lot of young lives.” Holt added, “We wanted to do it justice. We’re tackling so many important topics…[what] I think this world needs right now is a certain amount of education about things that are happening in 2018. We also just want to impact and inspire people and move people.”
We asked Prince-Bythewood about the Tandy and Tyrone relationship: “I wanted to make sure they had chemistry, and that started with the casting. The casting process was really, really tough… it was three days before we were supposed to leave and we didn’t find them. People started getting willing to settle and the people that were on the table were 27, 28. They felt grown and it didn’t feel right for the show. Then Aubrey and Olivia walked in the door, and they had such great chops individually… it was exciting as a director to know that I get to build this relationship with them and they just dove in. They’re just two really damaged characters who find the one person in the world that they’re so connected with and maybe able to help.”
We asked Loeb about the possibility of crossovers with other shows in the future. He said, “You’re trying to get me in trouble so I’ll say hashtag it’s all connected,” he laughed. “I mean, look, when I say that, what I always find myself explaining to people is, of course it all takes place in the same universe, because we’re at Marvel. They’re heroes that generally, not always, but generally don’t wear capes and cowls. Generally we’re much more interested in the people themselves than we are in, oh, this guy can shoot lightning out of his eyes… to be able to control the dark and control the light as a metaphor for what it is like to be young, and what it’s like to get through a day, much less your life. Those were all things that were interesting to us. Now, are there opportunities because now The Runaways also live in that same kind of world? It certainly makes much more sense to me, but we’ll see what happens as we often say to everyone – it was certainly a much more easy thing for people to understand with The Defenders, is that we like people to get to know the characters in their first season. We don’t want it to become, oh, look who stopped by in order for you to watch the show. It has to be organic to the storytelling that we’re doing. We don’t ever want it to feel like, oh, Foggy Nelson just got off the bus. Great! We want to make sure that, if that’s going to happen, if we share, and there are always challenges when you’re not on the same network, that it’s appropriate for the story. It’s Marvel, so it’s all connected.”
After the interviews, we got a chance to see the pilot. It was a lot darker than one might expect from Freeform, though they’ve been moving in that direction. In it, we get a sense of where each of the characters is coming from. As it starts out, we find a young Tyrone hanging with some older kids and his older brother. They’re talking about stealing a car radio, and when his brother mentions that he’s scared, little Tyrone steals it for him. We don’t want to spoil anything, but it doesn’t go well, and Tyrone ends up in the water after an explosion happens behind him.
Young Tandy is in a ballet class and her father picks her up. It’s a rainy night and he’s on the phone talking about a project of his when they get into a car accident. The car ends up in the river after the very same explosion. Though they both appear about to die, they save each other, though we don’t see it.
Later on, as young adults, Tyrone is having trouble dealing with school and is trying to do everything right. He plays sports and is clearly a good student, but things aren’t going well for him, despite parents who are doing their best to help him. Tandy is busy living in a trailer park with an alcoholic mom and stealing things from rich guys who try to take her home. As you may have seen in the trailers and scenes that have been released from the pilot, they run into each other, literally, at a party in the woods. That’s all we’re going to give away, but needless to say, this first episode establishes the characters and the powers that are just beginning to manifest. We also get a sense of the connection between Tyrone and Tandy.
Are you guys excited to watch Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger when it premieres on Freeform on Thursday, June 7? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.