New Syfy series goes up, up and away to ‘Krypton’

Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service

LOS ANGELES – It worked for Batman. Now, it’s Superman’s turn.

The Fox series “Gotham” has taken a look at the world of the dark knight crime fighter before Bruce Wayne ever decided to don a cape and cowl. The stories have focused on the supporting players, particularly the quirky band of villains that Batman will spend his career tossing into Arkham Asylum.

The new Syfy series “Krypton” takes the same approach but rolls back the clock two centuries. The series is set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s home planet and follows Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), the Man of Steel’s grandfather. He is faced with a life-and-death dilemma of either saving his home planet or letting it be destroyed in order to restore the fate of his future grandson. DC characters Brainiac (Blake Ritson) and Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) will be helping Seg-El with his struggles.

Anyone who has seen a Superman movie or read a comic book knows what’s going to happen. Just before the planet Krypton explodes, a baby Kal-El will be placed in a rocket ship and sent to Earth. That means there is a definite ending spot for the show if there are no changes to the character’s mythology. But there has never been any hesitation to tweak the history of DC comic book characters for the big screen and “Krypton” could continue that trend.

Executive producer David S. Goyer says: “This is really an untold story, and time travel is involved. What that means is that the ending of our show history could be changed, and what happens in this show could be very different than the sort of backstory that most people know.”

Part of that comes from how the series is being based on several of the storylines in DC comics – going back to the ‘60s and from only a few years ago – dealing with Krypton. Those have used some variations on the main theme with the only real constant being Kal-El eventually gets rocketed into space.

Geoff Johns, president and chief creative officer of DC Entertainment, is riding herd over the production. He points to the time-traveling element as being the biggest factor in how this familiar origin story can be changed. If there are changes, the team already knows what will happen; they have created a basic story that can run for seven or eight years before reaching a finale.

Characters from the DC universe have been adapted for both TV and feature films in recent years. The plan was always to make “Krypton” as a TV production because that gave the production team a lot more time to let the story unfold. In the first season, there will be 10 one-hour episodes.

Johns adds: “I think that’s why people are so invested in television right now and the storytelling in television has become so sophisticated and intriguing and interesting and different, and you want to kind of continue to experience a world and explore a world. With a movie, I love movies too, but they come and you see them and they’re a great experience, but I think people are moving towards television because they spend more time with television series because of that depth of character and that depth of story.”

Because the series takes pace 200 years before the world of Superman most people know, the producers are convinced they will not only be able to attract viewers who know the story but also appeal to those who aren’t experts in the origin tale.

All of the stories will revolve around Cuffe’s character, who brings a new chapter in the Superman saga to life by playing Seg-El. Cuffe’s not feeling any pressure because he’s been a fan of the character for a long time.

“I’ve always loved Superman. We were all sort of saying we can’t really remember when Superman came into our lives. He’s just always been there,” Cuffe says. “And as far as the pressure playing the role, it’s a good thing. It’s something that keeps you grounded. I, as a fan, know exactly what is riding on this.

“I know what that symbol means. It’s just a joy. Yes, there’s pressure, but that’s something that keeps of grounded and keeps you humble and makes you remember how lucky you are to be working on something like this.”

Landing the role in the series is big for Cuffe. The British actor’s previous work includes Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins” with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, and a recurring role on “The Halcyon.”

Cuffe’s first exposure to the Superman story was through the animated Batman and Superman series that aired on Saturday mornings. He feels like that gave him a cursory knowledge of who these characters are. It wasn’t until he picked up the comic books that Cuffe got a better understanding of the size of this story.

“As someone who’s always been interested in telling stories, it was the emotional depth as well as the mythological scale of these characters,” Cuffe says. “And specifically with Superman, for me as a kid who spent a lot of time in my imagination, it was so inspiring to see someone who is so immensely powerful, who stood for hope and justice and, no matter what, always believed in you and in the good in people, and that was something I always carried forward.

“Whenever I have a difficult decision to make, I always think ‘what would Superman do?,’ still.”

– “Krypton” premieres at 10 p.m. March 21 on Syfy.