First Gen­er­a­tion Su­per­hero

Can Su­per­man’s grand­fa­ther be cooler than Su­per­man? Cameron Cuffe, who plays the lat­ter in “Kryp­ton,” cer­tainly makes it look that way


Can Su­per­man’s grand­fa­ther be cooler than Su­per­man? Cameron Cuffe, who plays the lat­ter in “Kryp­ton,” cer­tainly makes it look that way

Pho­tog­ra­phy Mitchell Nguyen McCor­mack

After run­ning for more than a decade, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of su­per­hero films is start­ing to show its age. Some are hits, plenty are misses—es­pe­cially on TV. Syfy’s “Kryp­ton” is def­i­nitely a hit. And a big part of this suc­cess story is English ac­tor Cameron Cuffe, who plays Su­per­man’s grand­fa­ther. So, what is it like be­ing part of a hit in what is an in­creas­ingly volatile field? We’ll let the man him­self tell his tale.

DA­MAN: Hi, Cameron. Awe­some to have you with us. How are you do­ing?

Cameron Cuffe: I’m re­ally well. Thanks for hav­ing me!

DA: It’s been quite a while since “Kryp­ton” fin­ished its first run. To­day, what do you re­mem­ber the most about the se­ries?

CC: It’s hard to think about what I re­mem­ber be­cause it’s all still hap­pen­ing! Once we fin­ished film­ing sea­son one we went straight into pro­mo­tion. Im­me­di­ately after we were fin­ished with pro­mo­tion we were on the air. Be­fore we even left the air we were con­firmed for our sec­ond sea­son and that’s when the work all started again. I’m gear­ing up to go back now! It’s a roller­coaster that has no end in sight, so it’s dif­fi­cult to take a breather and look at the process ret­ro­spec­tively.

DA: If we could go back to the start of it all, how did you end up land­ing the lead role of “Kryp­ton”?

CC: It was a long jour­ney. I was still play­ing sup­port­ing roles in the­atre and Bri­tish TV, so when I got an au­di­tion for the lead role of an epic science fic­tion show I was al­most cer­tain I wouldn’t get the part. I kind of felt I had noth­ing to lose so I did a tape and was called in to meet Colm McCarthy, who di­rected the pi­lot, and I au­di­tioned for him. We had a great chat and I gave a solid au­di­tion, but hon­estly, I was just happy to be in the run­ning. I didn’t think any­thing would come of it. Sure enough, I was turned down ... but it never re­ally went away. Ev­ery few weeks I was be­ing asked for another tape. Even­tu­ally, I was work­ing on another TV show in New York when cast­ing asked to bring me in to screen test for Seg-El. I was whisked from a set in Brook­lyn all the way to the Warner Bros. lot in Los An­ge­les where I met David Goyer—a hero of mine and the show’s cre­ator. It was a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence but I still didn’t think I’d get it. So I just told my­self to have a bit of fun with it. The scene they wanted me to play was quite se­ri­ous but I rec­og­nized there was a bit of hu­mor in it, that as much as the char­ac­ter could be played earnest and ide­al­is­tic, he could equally be played as a love­able rogue. I gave my take on the char­ac­ter and, de­spite my dis­be­lief that my gam­ble paid off, a few days later I was film­ing the pi­lot in Ser­bia.

DA: What would you say was the big­gest chal­lenges in play­ing this role?

CC: “Kryp­ton” was the big­gest thing I’d ever done. I’d never been a lead be­fore, let alone a lead in a show of this size. I was re­ally ner­vous un­til I re­mem­bered that all I had to do was keep do­ing what I’d done since I was a kid. It didn’t mat­ter that the stage was big­ger. All I had to do was play and play for the love of the game. Sure, it was, and still is, a big chal­lenge to take on but I love ev­ery minute of it. I’m sur­rounded by an amaz­ing cast and crew who have taught me a huge amount. I’m end­lessly grate­ful for this whole ex­pe­ri­ence.

DA: Your char­ac­ter, Seg-El, did ap­pear in a num­ber of comic books, but he’s never been fleshed out the way it’s done in “Kryp­ton.” So, we were won­der­ing, how much of the Seg-El we see on the show comes from the writ­ers and how much of him is your in­ter­pre­ta­tion?

CC: I think ev­ery char­ac­ter is a mar­riage of both. It all starts with the writ­ers, of course, lead by our in­cred­i­ble showrun­ner Cameron Welsh. Every­thing bril­liant and bold and fas­ci­nat­ing about “Kryp­ton” starts with them. It’s their world and their story and it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring it to life. As far as what I brought to Seg, I think it’s fair to say that in the ini­tial pi­lot script he seemed very in­no­cent and hon­est, and I wanted to mix it up a lit­tle. A lot of lines that could be played re­ally earnestly could be played sar­cas­ti­cally. A lot of lines that demon­strate self­se­ri­ous­ness can be played in a way that is self-dep­re­cat­ing. By the time we went from mak­ing the pi­lot to film­ing the full sea­son, the writ­ers had taken that ball and ran with it. It’s been a mas­sive col­lab­o­ra­tion, and it’s hon­estly one of my fa­vorite parts of the job. I have to thank the writ­ers from the bot­tom of my heart for hu­mor­ing my wild ideas.

DA: Now, TV se­ries based on comic book fran­chises have been a bit hit-and-miss. “Kryp­ton,” while lack­ing any main­stream he­roes, man­ages to be well re­ceived. What do you think are the key fac­tors be­hind this suc­cess?

CC: The su­per­hero genre has been around for a while now and we’re at a point where we can start to play with the for­mula a bit. I think our show is a suc­cess be­cause we’re not afraid to do things dif­fer­ently. We love the mythology. I think that’s clear to any­one who has watched the show. But we’re also not afraid to take it in a new di­rec­tion. We love sub­vert­ing ex­pec­ta­tion. But it’s not sim­ply chang­ing things for the sake of chang­ing things. I think that fans rec­og­nize that we’re chang­ing things in a way that sug­gests that we know and love what has come be­fore, and we’re pre­sent­ing a new spin on it. We’re ask­ing “what if?” And that’s al­ways an ex­cit­ing ques­tion.

DA: And, of course, we were all quite ex­cited to hear that the sec­ond sea­son has been con­firmed for next year. Is there any­thing you can tell us about what to ex­pect from “Kryp­ton” sea­son two?

CC: One of the things that sets us apart from other su­per­hero shows is that our show is very much about con­se­quence. The fall­out from sea­son one will con­tinue on into sea­son two. The his­tory of the mul­ti­verse has changed. This is no longer a pre­quel head­ing to­wards a de­fined end. This is an al­ter­nate uni­verse that can go in any di­rec­tion and that means our char­ac­ters are con­stantly ques­tion­ing them­selves and the new fu­ture they’re creat­ing. It’s a dan­ger­ous path they’re on ... and not all of them will make it out. I can’t wait for you guys to see what we’re work­ing on.

DA: On the flip side, what do you ex­pect from “Kryp­ton” sea­son two? What do you think will the show bring to the genre this time around?

CC: That’s a great ques­tion! Firstly, I’d say we’re in com­pletely un­charted ter­ri­tory in the DC mul­ti­verse, we can go in any di­rec­tion. Also, since we’ve done the work of in­tro­duc­ing the char­ac­ters and the world in sea­son one, we now get to take a much deeper dive in Sea­son two. We’ll dig fur­ther into who these char­ac­ters are, what they stand for and what drives them. These things will in turn drive the story. But at the same time, as I ex­pect it to be char­ac­ter driven, I ex­pect it to be big­ger and bad­der than ever be­fore. I’m train­ing now as hard as I’ve ever trained and that tells me one thing ... there’s go­ing to be ac­tion. Lots of it.

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