Who better to talk to about the MCU’s new addition, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger than the head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb, Showrunner Joe Pokaski, and Director Gina Prince-Bythewood? BGN talks with the team who also pulls double duty as the show’s Executive Producers.
On how the show differs from the comics…
Jeph Loeb: Well it was certainly a conversation that Joe and I had from the very beginning. We started with the reality that the fact that the comic characters were created in the 80’s, and any material that feels dated you always have to try to work with it. The goal was to stay within the boundaries of what Cloak and Dagger really are, which is about two kids that are trying to find their way in this world and find that they are stronger together. So, whether or not that takes place in New York or New Orleans doesn’t change anything as far as we’re concerned.
It did, however, allow Joe to tell the story that incorporated a beautiful city in a way that we use New York in some of our other shows or use L.A. in the Runaways. So, it only mattered in the sense that it made for a stronger story. At the end of the day, Cloak is still Cloak, Dagger is still Dagger, the powers are the powers that they have. They are Tandy and Tyrone. And those elements feel true and authentic. So, we’re hoping that our fans come to it and go “It’s still Cloak and Dagger.”
Joe Pokaski: Yeah, at the end of the day it’s all about Tandy and Tyrone. I think the relationship’s the most important thing. The fact that it’s really a true, equal relationship, it’s not hero and sidekick. It’s two people who are both damaged and both need each other.
Jeph Loeb: Let’s just put it this way, the comics are very much an inspiration for what we do, whether or not we get into specific stories. Marvel’s always felt that if all we do is take a story out of a comic and film it, it’s both unfair to the comic, which has its own art form and we see it as an art form — and the same way that if you’re a fan and you’re watching something that you’ve already read the comic you’re just sitting there going, “Okay well I know what happens. There’s no reason for me to be able to watch this.” So, to be able to go and venture off into new stories that have retained kind of — and I’m gonna use a word I can’t believe — themery, that we see in the comics. Does this feel like Cloak and Dagger? The answer’s yes, you’ll enjoy the show.
On the importance of the show to today…
Joe Pokaski: Well I wish they showed up five years ago, to be honest, but I think it’s great to see a young woman as a superhero; it’s great to see a young Black man as a superhero. Having problems that relate to who they are as people. Sometimes you see generic stories that apply to people but, I think we’re in that era where police are looking at different people differently. I think we’re in the era where women aren’t always feeling safe, so they’re gonna be the heroes. Kind of the way the Parkland students are standing up. We’re hoping Tandy and Tyrone can stand up and make people fight for the world the way it should be.
Jeph Loeb: And that’s true of every Marvel show. We define a hero by the person that stands up when everyone else is told to sit down. And whether or not they are in their teens and trying to figure out their lives in modern day New Orleans, or whether or not they’re the Avengers. It still all comes down to that same truth in the heart that we’re always looking for.
Joe Pokaski: I wanted to make sure I separated race and socioeconomic structure. I forget who it was, but someone pretty high profile had conflated the two and it felt more interesting to have a conversation about both of them separately. It also just felt like we needed to update our own preconceptions and triangulate these characters from very different places. And as Gina directed so brilliantly, Tyrone, while he’s well off, still is carrying the weight of the world.
Jeph Loeb: It’s also important to us, even though they started out in opposite ways, that when they flipped back around again, it didn’t make their lives any easier. It felt like the right way to go from the beginning.
Gina Prince-Bythewood: The casting of this was incredibly scary and exciting. We knew, starting out, it was very important they were really teenagers. What we’re dealing with is a theme and we wanted the authenticity and want people to look at the screen and believe these two. And it’s hard to find real teenagers who have chops, and these characters have a lot of depth and we needed that. It was crazy how many people we saw, and it just wasn’t clicking. And literally, we were supposed to leave Monday night for New Orleans, and it was Friday night and we did not have Tandy and Tyrone.
And I do have this optimism, I know it always works out and everything happens for a reason, and Olivia Holt came in and that was something that Joe had talked about. He led the entire process, but she had never been able to come in. And then Aubrey Joseph, who was a newcomer. They did individual auditions and we were like, ‘Oh wait a second.’ We started getting that thing in your gut and then we put them together and the chemistry was immediate, reciting the scene. But it was still “Do they really have the chops?” And we ended up doing an improv with them and just threw a scene on them that they hadn’t seen before that I read in one of the drafts, and just let them feed off each other, and it was an incredible moment.
What they were coming up with, they were the characters. And we didn’t know where it came from, they don’t know where it came from. And we knew at that moment, as soon as they finished and left, Jeph said, “I’m gonna watch those two all day.” It was incredible. And you see their chemistry now. They really do like each other. They have a real chemistry, you can’t fake that.
On lack of villains…
Joe Pokaski: This is a show about our heroes, and unfortunately, we live in America in 2018 where there’s plenty of villains to be found if you look around.
Jeph Loeb: If you throw a rock.
Joe Pokaski: Exactly. We are very excited about Season 1, at least starting as Tandy against an entire corporation and Tyrone against the entire police department. Those feel like formidable villains. It turns into something bigger and at the very end of the season, you guys are gonna be very excited to see what pops up.
On a Spider-Man crossover…
Jeph Loeb: [laughs] Never, but okay. And that would be because of our friends at Sony, not because of our friends at Marvel.
Joe Pokaski: We’ll figure it out.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger will premiere on Freeform Thursday, June 7 (8:00 pm – 10:00 pm ET/PT).