In the new superhero series THE CAPE (which debuts tonight on NBC at 9:00 EST), David Lyons stars as Vince Faraday, a loving family man and police detective whose honesty gets him framed and left for dead. Unable to resurface publicly for fear that his wife and son will be harmed, Vince is taken in by a circus-cum-criminal enterprise run by magician Max Malini (Keith David).
Besides sheltering Vince, Max teaches the newcomer how to wield a surprisingly versatile cape, as well as other sleights of hand that are very useful when reinventing oneself as a crime fighter based on your son’s favorite comic book hero.
Executive producer John Wirth, who was previously part of the team on TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, gives an exclusive interview to ASSIGNMENT X about his new series.
ASSIGNMENT X: How did you become involved with THE CAPE?
JOHN WIRTH: Tom [Wheeler] conceived it, pitched it to Berman/Braun [the production company headed by CAPE fellow executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun]. They all went to NBC. They sold it and then the show got picked up, they made the pilot, and while [Wheeler] was making the pilot, he called me. I was attempting to take a year off last year, and then I got roped into doing a little consulting on V. So I was doing V in the springtime and Tom called and I came down to see the set and hang out a little bit, and he said, “If this thing goes forward, would you be interested in working on it?” And I said, “Absolutely.”
AX: Did the role of Orwell exist in the original concept, or was it written so the show could have your TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES colleague Summer Glau?
WIRTH: Well, Tom created [THE CAPE] and I think the role existed in his mind as integral to what the show is, but once they got into the casting process, I think it became very clear that Summer was the one. And I think she was on hold to do some other show – I don’t know which it was or what was going on, but I know there was a little bit of an issue of, would she be available? And that was a little tense. And then here she is.
AX: Speaking of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, can you talk a little about what would have happened if you’d had a third season?
WIRTH: Sure. Season Three would have taken place in the future. John Connor met Derek, his uncle, who had never met him – it was before [Derek] went back in time. Shirley Manson’s character, the liquid Terminator, would have been there. Summer was not Cameron, she was a real girl, Allison from Palmdale, so we just would have played it out from there. John Henry was on the loose. And I think the idea was that we would run into Richard T. Jones’ character, who would have survived the holocaust and had become a minister and had a devoted following in that future.
AX: And the little girl, who was the Shirley Manson character’s not-daughter?
WIRTH: I think our plan was to meet her as well.
AX: What would have happened to Sarah Connor, as they were her chronicles, but she stayed behind in the present?
WIRTH: Good question.
AX: Did you have an answer to that, or were all of you on the creative team going, “Let’s see if we get a pickup and then give ourselves that headache later”?
WIRTH: [laughs] We had some thoughts. I think the show probably would have taken place in multiple time zones, where we would have followed multiple stories as everybody tried to get back together.
AX: Are there elements of THE CAPE that resonate for you with what you were trying to do with TERMINATOR, or are they completely different shows?
WIRTH: I think they exist completely separate from one another. The thing about SARAH CONNOR was, as the New York Times called it, it was “resplendently grim.” It was pretty grim, and there’s a delightful quality to this show [THE CAPE] and a more hopeful aspect to it. I think in that show [TSCC], every day we had characters who were waking up knowing that the world was going to come to an end, and could they stop it? In this show, we have characters waking up, saying, “I need to take charge of my problem and go out and fix my problem and I can do it, and I have the wherewithal to do it.”
AX: THE CAPE is certainly not positioning itself as ripped from today’s headlines, but in fact, it is dealing with a real issue as far as privatization of armed security, which is what the villain Chess is trying to do in Palm City. Are we meant to understand that the show takes a dim view of privatization, even though it’s depicted in relatively fantastic terms?
WIRTH: I think people can read into it what they want to read into it. Everybody has their own sense of politics by which they live their lives, and they feel certain ways about certain things, and it comes out just in conversation and in their work, and in the workplace. And we happen to be people who write things down that become stories that we end up putting on television, so some of it is going to get out there. But I think what we’re doing day to day in the writers room is less about trying to make a statement about what’s happening in the world or the privatization of this, that or the other thing, and it’s more about empowering human beings. What’s happening in the country right now, this is the way I would go with it, ten percent of our population is unemployed.
There are probably a lot of those people sitting around saying, “Why did this happen to me and what can I do to get out of this? I can’t do anything, I’m just one person. It’s beyond my control.” And what we’re doing in this show is, we’re taking a guy who’s in a similar situation to that, and he’s saying, “Okay, I have to be responsible, I have to take charge, I have to go out and fix my problem.” And that’s how it resonates for me, both as a guy and as a guy who’s been unemployed, because there’s a lot of unemployment in my business, and as a father and as a husband. And by the way, that all sounds so self-serious, and it isn’t, because one of the things that I love about the show is it’s delightful. That death scene with [a certain character] where he dies and then he wakes up and he’s [sorry those weren’t really his last words], “Damn it, it’s a good speech!” I love that.
AX: Is THE CAPE like KICKASS in so far as this is a hero with a costume but no superpowers?
WIRTH: There are no superpowers in our show. Nobody has superpowers.
AX: So the character of the Cape is sort of like Batman.
WIRTH: Yeah, he is, exactly. And he doesn’t even have the cool suit that Batman had. Batman had the money and the technology to create all this really cool stuff. Our guy has just got what [circus owner] Max Malini has given him, which he got out of the costume trailer.
AX: Given that Vince is a super-honest former cop and Max runs a gang of thieves operating out of his circus, are there going to be sort of ethical skirmishes between them?
WIRTH: Yeah, exactly. The push-pull is that dramatic tension of, it’s a quid pro. “I’ll help you if you help me, but at what cost? Am I going to help you to the point where I actually become a good guy? Because I don’t want to do that.” And, “Am I becoming a bad guy by taking help from bad guys?”
AX: What is the division of responsibility in the production team?
WIRTH: Tom is the creator and the visionary of where we’re going. He generates a lot of the ideas – a lot of the super-villains come out of his brain. He writes a lot of the scripts and he pretty much oversees the entire creative drive of the show. My job is to work in the writers room, run the writers room, keep the trains running on time, as it were. I do a lot of invisible writing – I work a lot on creating story, on rewriting story outlines, giving notes on scripts, restructuring. In sort of the analogy of nuts and bolts, he’s the nuts, I’m the bolts. And then I do a lot of post-production. I have a lot of interface with the set and I really sort of run herd on the post-production aspect of it.
AX: How arced versus standalone is THE CAPE?
WIRTH: Well, as the network likes to call it, it’s a very “joinable” show. Unlike SARAH CONNOR, which was kind of a serial drama, there isn’t much of a serial aspect to this show. At least what we’ve been doing so far, it’s super-villain of the week that comes into the show and creates a situation that the Cape has to resolve. I think if you drop in week in and week out, you will have a very satisfying viewing experience. You’ll understand what the Cape is up against. If you’re a person who watches every episode, or multiple episodes, you’ll have a really good idea of what he’s been up against to try to get back home. I think it works on many levels. It’s a wonderful show for the fanboys. It also, I think, has family appeal. It’s multifaceted and I love it. I hope people watch it.
CLICK HERE for ASSIGNMENT X’s reviews and interviews from THE CAPE