Written by: Angelica Monk
The hit SYFY series Deadly Class wrapped its first season.
Deadly Class based on the graphic novels created by Rick Remender is set against the backdrop of 1980s counterculture. The series follows the young students of Kings Dominion, a secret academy for the Deadly Arts. We watched as our gang of outcasts (lovingly referred to as Rats) navigate the hardships of high school while balancing the rigors of their training. The group consists of HBIC Saya, newcomer Marcus, goofball Billy, cutthroat Maria, aloof Petra, twisted Lex, and our main man and Marcus’s best friend, Willie. The Rats are quickly embroiled in a plot between rivaling factions and must come out unscathed while still managing to ace their exams! We caught up with one of its stars, Luke Tennie, who plays fan favorite, Willie, and discussed his character and his experience during the epic first season.
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) January 17, 2019
How did you become involved in the project? Were you a comics fan?
I have always been a comic book movie/TV fan but I had never read any actual comics before Deadly Class. It’s the first and only graphic novel I’ve read every issue of. I got involved simply looking for a job. I didn’t have much experience as an actor yet, and I still don’t have much. But I auditioned for this project just trying my best to get a gig. The thing that got me so excited is the fact that it’s just good writing. I feel that’s a rarity in shows with characters in high school. After a couple of rounds of auditions, the team thought that what I brought into the audition room was what they were looking for. So they brought me on board and I’ve been through the moon about it ever since.
What drew you to the role? Do you see yourself in your characters?
Again, young actors don’t really get to pick and choose, so I didn’t have my eye on Willie Lewis thinking, “Hmm, I’d like to work on this”. It was more like “Lord please, give me a job,” but when I found out the quality of the job I realized how hard I’d have to work to bring Willie to life. Getting to know Willie was amazing. Yes, I do see a little of myself in him. His stubborn will, that kind of illogical righteousness, his conflicted heart. But I think that’s a mark of good writing. Who doesn’t see a little of themselves in Willie? He’s the only one who doesn’t like violence. Most of us ‘normals’ don’t either.
Willie is the MAN! #DeadlyClass
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) February 28, 2019
What’s it like playing a character that goes against the typical Hollywood stereotype? Willie presents himself as a gangster, but he’s actually a kind-hearted pacifist. How does that work in a school where you are trained to be a killer?
It’s a dream. I’ve begun to tire of the same old characters whose identity is somehow based in their race. I get that culture is a lot of times based in race, but that doesn’t always equate to personality, and especially not to states of mind. So yes, he speaks like a gangster. He curses like a sailor, but can also preach like a poet. Yes, he thinks like an assassin. He’s always looking out for number one, yet he’s loyal to those who have proven themselves loyal to him. It’s a treasure to play such a human character. Finally, young African-Americans can see someone who looks like them, maybe even in the same circumstance and see the specifics of how to maintain morality in an immoral world. It’s an honor. To your question about how pacifism works in Kings Dominion, the answer is: It doesn’t. Something’s gonna break and soon.
Willie is the classic embodiment of “Fake it til you make it” #DeadlyClass
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) January 24, 2019
What was your toughest day/scene to shoot on set?
For me, the toughest time I had shooting was during episode nine. I had a bad back pain episode and I was suddenly unable to walk, sit, or stand for any time at all. It was very painful. The cast and crew were extremely supportive through the whole ordeal. I felt truly loved and cared for. I’d never had to push through such physical pain before, but it all worked out. Episode nine is my favorite so far. I absolutely loved it.
What story arcs from the comics do you look forward to the most? Where do you see your character?
I look forward to seeing more of Willie’s relationship with the rest of the Kings Dominion crew. Out of all of them, he’s the one who doesn’t fit. I want to see what’s up with that. That’s if he’s not kicking it with Gabrielle in LA. The TV show is based on the comic, but that doesn’t mean we follow it completely. We shall see (inserts wink).
Deadly Class has wrapped for the season and it’s been a wild ride, to say the least. Here’s to hoping Season 2 is on its way soon. In the meantime, you can catch up with our favorite assassins-in-training at King’s Dominion via SYFY’s On Demand or the following streaming platforms: Amazon Prime, Google Play, and YouTube.
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