Krypton cast on expanding the DC Universe: “We’re creating mythology here”

Cameron Cuffe, Ann Ogbomo and Blake Ritson talk legacy, inspiration and bringing the scariest version of supervillain Brainiac to life

With The CW playing host to four Arrowverse series and Netflix currently owning six separate Marvel outings, there’s certainly no shortage of superhero television shows on the small screen. Fortunately, Krypton promises to be unlike the comic book adaptations you’ve seen before.

Set decades before Superman’s titular home planet is infamously destroyed, it follows the Man of Steel’s grandfather Seg-El, as he fights to restore the House of El to its former, respected glory. It’s a task that proves particularly difficult, not just because Krypton is in a state of great political turmoil, but also because the reason it was shunned in the first place – the presumed treasonous claims of one of his elders that a world-killer is coming – turn out to be not so farfetched after all.

Okay, so it may still have that same ‘save the world’ dynamic that many superhero-based outings do. But the seriousness and intricacy of its plot is much more reminiscent of something like Game Of Thrones than it is The Flash

“In the gilded portion of Krypton, there are many houses with their own histories, skills and relationships,” Cameron Cuffe, who plays Seg-El, explains. “The House of El was a great house of scientists, free-thinkers and revolutionaries whereas the House of Zod, for example, is made up of more warriors and military generals. That leads into a very complex landscape – it’s very rich and diverse in terms of characters.

“We took inspiration from a number of things; not only Man Of Steel – (screenwriter David Goyer acts as co-creator here) – but also John Byrne’s Krypton from the comic books, Richard Donner’s Superman and even Star Wars and Blade Runner.”

Such revelations make it clear that Goyer and fellow showrunner Damian Kindler were keen to make Krypton its own thing. However, that didn’t stop several of the cast wanted to visit existing comics, specifically those that depict a time before Superman, ahead of filming.

“Personally, I think it was really important [to research my role] because it’s useful to know what the back history is if you’re playing a well-known character,” asserts Blake Ritson, who stars as Brainiac in the show. “But, at the same time, it’s good to go, ‘okay, I know all of that but now we’re shooting this’. You have to commit.”

When he was cast though, Cuffe didn’t really feel the need to throw himself into the old comics as he’s been reading them since he was eight-years-old. “I’ve been researching this part for 17 years of my life,” he jokes. “The thing that excited me about this show as an actor is that it’s set within the incredible lore of the DC Universe but this is an untrodden story. As artists we’re aware of the great legacy of this world but we’re creating something new here and we’re not afraid to bend some rules.

“It’s a real honour to originate a role within the DC Universe, because so often, with these iconic characters, you’re stepping into a role that someone’s played before and there are many different interpretations of. We’re creating mythology here.”

“With my character, we may not have met her before but we’re familiar with Zod and their family history,” says Ann Ogbomo, who brings newbie Jayna-Zod to life in Krypton. “The rest is a combination of me and the writers. It’s very exciting to have that known material but also have the potential to do new things. The show is for die-hard fans and people who haven’t experienced this world as well.”

During SciFiNow’s interview, Cuffe goes on to talk about how one of the most interesting things about the society of Krypton is the Genesis Chamber, a machine that genetically engineers children with a set purpose in life that is predetermined by the house they belong to. How such a concept affects free will drives major plot points throughout the show’s first season, apparently.

“You have these mythic characters and their houses, but to what degree do the heirs of these houses – (Seg-El, Nyssa-Vex, Lyta-Zod) – want to live up to their reputation”, he says. “Or, how much do they want to rebel against who they’re meant to be?”

You’d think that such heavy subject matters would make for a pretty serious atmosphere on set but Ogbomo is quick to tell us how much fun she had – especially during her many fight scenes.

“There was one where I actually experienced what it’s like to be a little boy and play with guns,” she recollects. “It’s incredibly thrilling watching an entire stunt team fly through the air and drop down dead when you’re pretending to shoot them. As a woman, I find it so empowering to be given the opportunity to knock people’s lights out. It’s great – I could not do a take without laughing!”

Interestingly, it’s the show’s weighty material that makes the cast really feel like they’re working on a superhero show – despite the fact that Kryptonians don’t actually possess godlike abilities when they’re on their home planet. (The likes of Superman and Supergirl get theirs from Earth’s yellow sun while Krypton’s sun is red).

“I do feel like a bit of a superhero, whether I have superpowers or not,” says Ogbomo. “I think it’s do with the situations you find yourself in. The characters are really forced to consider what they’re going to do; you know Seg has a lot on his shoulders. Is he going to save his planet? Or is he going to save his future grandson?

“It feels the challenges we face are the challenges that superheroes face,” she reckons. “It requires you to have a really big heart, an incredible brain and a lot of determination, which I think they have.

“We’re adding consequence and stakes” Cuffe continues. “Very often in these sorts of things, you have a core team and you have the villain of the week, and that can be really successful, but we wanted to do something different. When our characters lose a battle, they lose. When someone dies, they’re dead. They have to deal with that. Every episode drastically changes the status quo and the relationships between characters are always in flux. It’s unique for a show within this genre.”

Ritson shares a similar view point, adding: “It’s hard to know who the goodies or baddies are, because it’s constantly shifting.”

While some characters may straddle the line between hero and villain – Nyssa-Vex (played by Wallis Day) and Jayna-Zod, perhaps – there’s one figure in the show that couldn’t possibly be regarded as anything other than the latter. That is, of course, Brainiac. Based on the Geoff Johns’ Collector of Worlds incarnation, Ritson assures that we’ve never seen this version onscreen before.

“He traverses the universe in a giant spaceship and attempts to absorb all of creation, so even for a megalomaniac, he has a big ambition,” he laughs. “He rips out whole cities and miniaturises them; there’s certainly never been a Brainiac that has been this much of a threat. If knowledge is power, I don’t know anyone who’s more powerful.

“And the makeup is horrifying,” he concludes, noting how it used to take a team of three people over four and a half hours to transform him into the black-eyed, green-skinned being. And that’s on a good day. “I hope to haunt people’s nightmares for many years to come.”

Considering the show has already been renewed for a second season by Syfy, its original network, it looks like Ritson might just get that wish.

Krypton is currently airing on Sundays on E4. Get all the latest sci-fi news with every issue of SciFiNow.