I had the opportunity to sit and chat with a few members of the cast of DC Universe’s new original show Titans at New York Comic Con 2018. Sitting with me were cast members Brenton Thwaites (Robin), Teagan Croft (Raven), Minka Kelly (Dove), Ryan Potter (Beast Boy) and Alan Richson (Hawk), as well as series co-creator Akiva Goldsman.
My first question to Brenton Thwaites went right to the heart of the most talked about part of the Titans trailer, namely Robin’s “Fuck Batman” line. I jokingly asked him, “Why all the cussing?” Brenton put his hands up and said “I need to say what’s written on that page. If I didn’t, I’d be fired.” We got on the subject of what separates Robin from Batman. Brenton explained that Dick Grayson had a different upbringing than Bruce Wayne. Yes, both of their parents were murdered, but for Robin, it happened at a different time in his life. Robin also had a different upbringing after his parents’ death than Batman had.
When asked about the violence on the show, Alan Richson said, “Sure, it’s a violent show, but it’s a violent world. Why shy away from the stories that really exist? The real reason to tell those stories isn’t that we’re nihilists. It’s that we see ourselves in these broken characters and in this broken world. We also see the possibility and potential of what they can do.”
The big question Akiva Goldsman asks himself when it comes to Robin is “what happens when you’re taken off the streets at age 10 and weaponized? Dick Grayson is not Bruce Wayne. Different experiences. His age at the loss of his parents is different. They’re not the same person.” Brenton Thwaites added, “Batman took Dick Grayson in and mentored him. There’s a love and a care that they have for one another. Underneath it all, there’s that love. But Bruce’s brutality that he inflicts upon his opponents has driven Dick to go a different way. On that journey, he realizes, it doesn’t have to be that brutal, that destructive, and he discovers and all-new identity.”
Minka Kelly and Alan Richson both identified their characters codependency on each other as the driving force behind both characters. In describing Hawk and Dove’s relationship, Richson said, “It’s pretty simple from my point of view. He’s found his soulmate. He’s head over heels in love with her. Some of that is born from his codependency.” Minka Kelly described Hawk and Dove as “a very codependent relationship. A very flawed and damaged relationship. These are very flawed and damaged people. I loved that because I relate to that. I’ve had my share of codependent, toxic relationships. I think we’ve all had them.” Alan added about their relationship, “I think it’s special because we objectify women a lot and to see a man on screen who pines for his woman is special.” He also added that their codependent relationship “raises the stakes, because what happens if they’re taken away from each other?”
Alan Richson had a funny story in regards to researching this character. He contacted Geoff Johns asking him to send over some Hawk and Dove comics. Geoff told him, “Sure, we’ll send you a bunch of stuff.” A package arrived at Richson’s from Warner Brothers and he was excited to open it up, only to find one comic book. He says he thought, “Okay, fine, I guess there isn’t much to it. I read it.” Later, he showed up on set and Minka Kelly asked if he read all the stuff. Alan said, “Yeah, I read it.” “It?” was Minka’s response. Apparently, they had sent her 80 comics compared to Alan’s 1. Also, the issue that Warner Brothers sent Alan starred the original Hawk and Dove, where Dove was Don Hall, Hawk’s brother, not Dawn Granger.
I asked Minka Kelly what it’s like to play the most peaceful character on a very violent show. She answered with a laugh, “I think anyone next to Hawk is going to be seen as peaceful.” She added, “It’s an honor to play a female character who is nurturing and warm and calm, who also will fight and be tough when she needs to be.”
Teagan Croft is excited to be the first person to play Raven in a live action role, and described bringing Raven to life as “amazing.” Raven won’t be Raven when the show begins. She’s a girl named Rachel who has empathic abilities she doesn’t understand. “In terms of superpowers, it’s fun to discover new powers as Rachel does,” Croft said. Rachel/Raven won’t know who her true parents are at the start of the show. Croft explained, “A big part of Rachel’s identity is not knowing who her parents are this season. She finds out her mom isn’t her real mom. Anyone who has read the comics knows who her true father is.” Does this mean we’ll be seeing the demon lord Trigon on Titans? Teagan teased that, “On the show, it may or may not be the same.”
In order to to prep for the role of Raven, Teagan Croft took a deep dive into the world of the Titans. “When I got the audition, me and my father went to the comic book store and we got the first volume of the Marv Wolfman Teen Titans series and we also got the Raven spinoff series. We got the first season of the cartoon. I did my research, definitely,” said Croft.
Ryan Porter described playing Beast Boy “as a trip.” Ryan has been a fan of Teen Titans since he was a child. “When I moved from Japan to America, Teen Titans was the first animated series I fell in love with because the animation style was reminiscent of something I would see back home,” the actor explained. Porter has a strong affinity and kinship to the character he plays on the show. Ryan said, “Beast Boy was an example of an outsider using pop culture knowledge to assimilate to teen culture and humanity in general. Being who I was in my elementary school, I used toys, comic books, film, manga and music to make friends.”
I asked Ryan what it’s like to be the light spot on such a tonally dark show. He answered with a smile, “It’s so much fun. When we had those 16, 18 hour shoot days, and people are covered in blood and the set’s dark and the atmosphere, I get to just be the pain in the ass and make people smile. When we’re going to six in the morning, I try to maintain the character and brighten the mood.”
In regards to why Garth Logan isn’t green, Ryan said, “There’s a very good reason as to why he’s not green. He’s not Beast Boy yet. He’s still Garfield Logan, and Garfield Logan knows how to turn into a tiger, and he’s like, cool, I’m happy with that. He’s not yet Changeling or Beast Boy.” Does this mean Garth will turn green as time goes on? Only time will tell.
Series co-creator Akiva Goldsman described the first season of Titans as “a 12 hour origin episode.” Brenton Thwaites added, “It’s starting a time we haven’t seen before. It’s a brand new story. Where we start, there’s so much room to travel.”
The actors universally praised the showrunners. Alan Richson said, “I can just do the best I can with the material I’m given. Thankfully Geoff, Akiva and everyone is doing an amazing job with that.” Minka Kelly described the show as “very real, rounded grown up world, unlike any superhero movie or show you’ve ever seen, while also keeping the superhero aspect of it.”
Is there pressure on Titans to succeed? Alan Richson said “There’s a lot of pressure. I don’t want to screw that up. I learned through my experience in Aquaman that you cannot please everybody, you just have to do the best you can and that’s what I’m doing.”
The final lineup came mainly through Geoff Johns, according to Akiva. “Geoff and I have literally written this thing eight times. They’re all slightly different versions, but Geoff held onto Robin for Titans even though the show kept getting stymied, which was amazing because features and other TV (wanted Robin).” He was quick to add, “If Chris Nolan had wanted to do a Robin movie, we would have been fine with it.” Akiva said they got every character they wanted “except for Cyborg, who is on Doom Patrol.”
Will Batman play a part in the series? According to Akiva Goldsman, “Batman’s shadow is over the whole show. It’s story where Batman is absent and omnipresent at the same time.” Are there any plans to ever see Batman on the show? “I won’t tell you definitively that you won’t see him in season one,” Akiva teased.
Titans premiered today exclusively on the DC Universe app.