DATE : 21ST OF MAY 2021
The Movie Culture spoke with the showrunner of the Invincible, Simon Racioppa. The show has garnered so much attention for inducing so much realism in the animated format. We talked to Simon about the various character arcs, upcoming seasons, comparison with shows like The Boys and so much more. Read the entire thing below!
Hi Simon, I am Hardik Agrawal from The Movie Culture. How are you doing today?
Simon Racioppa: Good, very nice to meet you. Yeah, thanks for taking the time to talk about Invincible.
Q. So, first of all what an insane show I just finished watching it and I was just blown away by the amount of thrill and violence and the overall maturity of the show. It was such an exhilarating ride, and I just don’t regret a moment of it. When did this project actually come into existence and when did you tag along in it?
Simon Racioppa: Well, so, um, I don’t know, if you’re aware of the comic book. It’s obviously a pre-existing comic book. Here’s one volume (Proceeds to show the huge first volume of the Invincible comic series) and there’s three of these. So, it’s like many books. And Robert Kirkman obviously created invincible and has been writing it since I think 2000 or 2003, maybe 2005. But he’s been writing it for 15 years. So obviously, the book had a huge following and a huge storyline and existed before the show ever came along, before I was ever brought in. And I had read the comic book before I met Robert and before I started working with him. But I had done some other projects for Skybound Entertainment, which is Roberts company. And when they started talking about adapting invincible to television, I think my name came up as someone who would probably be good for that job. So, I met Robert, talked to him, said how much I enjoyed the book and how I would work with him to adapt it and what we could do with it. And obviously, I think I said the right things, because he gave me the job. So that’s kind of how it started. Then Amazon Studios came along as the broadcaster. And they’ve been great. And even from day one they were involved with, you know, just giving us a lot of creative freedom about how we could adapt this into a television show and how far we can go in terms of an adult themed series in terms of violence and in terms of language, drama, subject matter and content and letting us do all that and then also stick closely to the books as well. So, that’s kind of the origin.
Q. So, the main priority was to stay focused on the source material. And I know that’s obviously visible from the show itself. You created one of the best episodes of the season, which was titled “We need to talk”. I think that was the episode where we finally get to see Omni man going batshit crazy and actually becoming the antagonist of the show. So, what was the most intriguing thing about this character which appealed to you the most?
Simon Racioppa: Well, to me, the interesting characters are usually people who are struggling with something. There’s a quote, it’s not my quote, somebody else said it, but like, the most interesting characters are the ones who are on the verge of collapse. So, the ones who are having an internal fight or a struggle, you know, they’re more interesting to people. They are just like, characters who just don’t know what they’re doing. And they just do it. You know, it’s more interesting to see someone fight and struggle with it. So early on in the books, obviously, Omni man has this deep dark secret, like, obviously, you’ve seen the show, you know what the secret is now? Or rather, you know what the secret is up to now? So to me, that was really interesting, because it’s sort of like we’re following a man who’s torn between family and love, and duty and heritage. That’s an interesting character. It’s like, how do you write someone who is pulled between those two extremes? And he isn’t one or the other but he is a combination of those. So, you know, Omni man does some terrible, potentially unforgivable things in the television show. But I don’t think he’s all bad. I don’t think most people are all bad or all good. There was a combination of that. So, getting to write that character and getting to get into that headspace and sort of deal with him being pulled one way of being pulled the other way. And even he himself not knowing the character, not knowing what he is going to do. That, across the course of the series was what made him fascinating to write and more interesting to figure out as a character.
Q. So we see the struggle of Omni-Man trying to uphold his Viltrumite heritage. And then at the same time, he also has this family on earth and deep down, he has some sort of affection towards his family. So will we see more of this struggle? Because right now it seems like he’s gotten back to Viltrum. He’s starting his own new life over there. So how much of this struggle will be visible in the upcoming season to the show?
Simon Racioppa : Obviously, we’re sticking close to the books. You know, I can’t really reveal the future seasons, because we’re also changing things from the books, right. But what I can say is that Omni-Man’s struggle isn’t over and the answers are not that easy. And I think if anything, the end of season one only, cracked him even wider and made that gulf between duty and family even bigger. So “IF” we see him again, that will be something he will have to deal with, and move forwards from and a bigger question is that, how do you move forwards from something like that? That’s a big question for anybody who does anything terrible. Or is going through anything like that in his life is what are the next steps? How do you make reconciliation for that? Um those are questions that potentially you would have to answer in a future season, if you wanted to get back and see Omni-Man deal with that again. But yes, if we Omni-Man again, we would definitely be delving even further into those questions and forcing hard decisions on our characters.
Q. There’s a lot of dark humour in the show. And most of it comes from The Mauler twins, which were some of the best characters of the show. I really enjoyed every scene that they were in. And they sort of have this excellent coordination while they also lack unity. It’s like a really ironic relationship that they share. Judging by how open ended their final appearance is, what are the possibilities for these characters and how can they ultimately become more chaotic, or maybe will change their course or something like that?
Simon Racioppa: I mean, obviously, the end of the season, you see they’re put back in jail. Back in prison, but I mean, they broke out of prison once already. With some help, but they broke out once already. So, you know, I think in a lot of superhero series, you see characters go to prison and often they break back out. So, I think if we do future seasons, you’ll probably see The Mauler Twins again. I like writing them so much. It’s so much fun to read these two bickering twins who are back and forth. And they’re both voiced by the same actor, Kevin Michael Richardson. Yeah, he’s just phenomenal. And he does both of them back-to-back. It’s amazing to see him work. And once I heard him really performing them, I was like, Oh my God, we have to do more of this and give him some more lines. So, they’re really fun to write because of that. They’re kind of like brothers in a way, except they’re clones. So, they bicker, they argue, they fight, but they still work together. So again, I mean they’re a fan favourite. They exist in the books going forwards quite a few ways. So, if we did if we do future seasons – Well, I mean, obviously we’re doing we’re doing up to three – You know they exist in the books. So, if they exist in the books going forwards you can draw your own conclusions about whether you think they’ll be in season 2 and 3.
Q. So also in the second last episode, we see this really interesting arc of the Robot. He finally embraces this humanoid state he chases off towards love. He develops feelings inside him. How did you choose to write him in a way which, which is borderline sadistic, but also has a lot of feelings in itself? There are always these little conflicted emotions which are attached to this character. So, could you elaborate on that?
Simon Racioppa: Sure. I mean, The Robot’s fascinating. Obviously, the arc about making his own body and switching bodies is in the comic books. We moved it forwards a little bit as it happens a lot later in the in the graphic novels. But to me, again, it’s a really interesting character who is torn between a couple different things. He is torn between existing as he is and being this hero and using his intelligence to help Earth and then he starts to have some other desires of his own, to maybe have a life, to maybe meet someone to maybe love again, and he gets pulled between those two but he’s an awkward person. He’s never been sort of out in the real world and he’s never interacted with anyone. He never had a lunch with someone, you know. And he, up to that point, kind of saw himself as above and beyond that, right? Like, that was something he would deal with. So, he’s an awkward kind of God. And again, he’s like Nolan in that he is born between a couple different places. So, that’s what makes him sort of interesting to write. You know, how does this this guy who’s potentially one of the smartest people in the planet, with a series of books, right, he’s obviously a genius, but he’s also not very smart about human relationships. He’s not plugged in to people in that emotional sense and so that that’ll be something you would see with him potentially coming to terms with or learning to deal with what does it mean to be human? Even though he was human before he was very robot like, so now it’s like he has a body but what does that mean? That means a lot more emotion, a lot more hormones, and a lot more of just being in the real world. So, you know, those would be things you could expect.
Q. So, will that be sort of more like, Blade Runneresque, like more human than human or something a bit lighter than that?
Simon Racioppa: I think it’ll be a combination of things. I don’t want to talk too much about season two. But he’s a fascinating character, obviously, we just want to continue exploring him. And where does he go from here? I think it’s a good question. It’s like he now has a body. He’s done that. What is next for robot, you know, where do you go, now that you have to wear clothes and walk around in the real world? Like, what does that mean? So that’ll be interesting to explore.
Q. So, I become obsessed with the violence and realistically gory aspect of the show. There have been, rightfully, a lot of comparisons being made with Invincible and another hit TV show of Amazon itself, The Boys? How would you differentiate between the two shows in terms of tonality and the overall appeal?
Simon Racioppa: I love the boys. I mean, I’ve watched both seasons, I think it’s amazing. It’s a favourite of mine. I think the boys is a lot more nihilistic, a lot more anarchist and a lot more sarcastic. The Boys, I think takes our current world and a lot of the problems in our current world and twists that and shows you that, ramped up to like, 11. It was like, companies gone mad, people who have like, sadistic streaks or weird fetishes gone crazy, you know, what would they be like, with powers? I love the show, but I think it’s a very nihilistic view of superpowers where I think invincible is very optimistic. Like Mark is a good person, and he wants to do well, and he’s doing his best, but the world is hard. And there are consequences to actions, both his and everybody else’s. In a lot of ways. We’re much more of a family drama, and I think we’re a more optimistic show than The Boys. We do have real hero heroes in our show. And I think in The Boys, Hughie is a great example. Jack Quaid’s character is very pure of heart, but like, he’s one of the few that show. So, they are totally very different even though they’re both superhero R-rated, violent and gory, but very different takes on that. And both are amazing. I think it’s incredible that you’re able to watch both of those shows. Because again, I love the boys. I think the boys is amazing.
Q. Just the fact that we are able to, you know, even draw comparisons between the two shows is such a such a great thing. So obviously, this show has been so successful in the past week. All the memes that I’ve seen have been about Invincible. So do you think this will open doors for more shows like these, like more violence induced and dramatic animated shows. Are you hopeful about that?
Simon Racioppa: I hope so. I don’t think violence is the goal you know, consequences is how I always thought about it. We weren’t showing violence for violence’s sake although we do have some fun with it. But it’s about the consequences and it’s about what would actually happen if a character with the strength of Omni-Man did do something like that. What are the consequences of that? And unfortunately, when you’re dealing with superpower individual, there’s consequences often aren’t very violent. So I mean, I hope it opens doors for other people or for other books and other characters. I mean, I would love to see more of hour long animated series. I think that’d be really cool. We’re the first one. I know, there’s a couple other shows that are on our heels that are going to come out soon and that are in that space. So that will be great. Anything that opens up the type of shows that we’re getting and makes them broader, I think it’s a good thing. I want to see weirder, cooler, different shows. So, if we contribute to that in any tiny way, I would love that. I don’t know if it’s true, but that would be fantastic.
Q. So, a final question. This is sort of unrelated to the actual plot of the show. But there’s an array of really talented actors voicing their show from J.K. Simmons to Steven Yeun. Could you tell us about how you and the other writers and creators got so many renowned celebrities to be involved in the voice acting of this insane project?
Simon Racioppa: Yeah, my God! That’s a really good question. Well, a couple things. We had a really great casting director, Linda Lamontagne, who works here in Los Angeles and she’s just relentless about getting talent, she’s really good at getting people to say yes. I don’t know how she does it, she’s kind of magical. But early on, Robert, obviously, is also a very well-known creator down here in LA, with The Walking Dead and everything. So being able to go to other actors and say, hey, it’s a Robert Kirkman show and it’s this new thing. Here are some scripts you can read. And then also, once you get one or two actors involved, that makes it more attractive to other actors. So, Steven Yeun, was one of the first actors who got involved in the show, and he and Robert are old friends. Steven was the only person we had in mind play Mark. So, once we got Steven on, that made it easier for us to go out approach other actors like Sandra Oh & J.K. Simmons and once we got them on, then other actors were like, oh, you have really great actors on the show. Now I’m interested in coming on. So it’s a combination of things. But it kind of helps. It helps when you get a few great actors on, other actors want to come and work with great actors, you know? So, we were very lucky. But it was also hard work. Linda did a lot of work and I would talk to Linda, “do you think you could get this actor on” and she’d be like, “let me go check”. And then she would just be relentless. And, you know, work her magic until they call us back. She’d be like, they are in on this. And we’d be like, That’s amazing. So yeah, the cast is obviously one of the delights of the show. And I think they do an incredible job. And they really helped elevate the show and make it make it much better.
Q. So, thank you so much for interacting with us. It’s been a pleasure talking with you Simon. And I wish you all the best for the season 2 and season 3 of Invincible and all the other TV shows and movies that you are working towards. It was a pleasure!
Simon Racioppa: Thank you so much for caring about the show. Thank you for spending the time with me today. And yeah, have a great day. Take care!
The Movie Culture Synopsis
Invincible is streaming on Amazon Prime Video and it is helmed by Robert Kirkman and Simon Racioppa, along with an ensemble of glorious actors. It creates new standards for superhero shows in general and we can’t wait to see what happens in the upcoming seasons of Invincible.