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'Powers' creators and cast introduce the first PlayStation TV show at NYCC panel

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Powers, the upcoming television series based on the graphic novel from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, is the show with which Sony is launching its original programming efforts on the PlayStation Network later this year. Bendis (above right) and Oeming (left) discussed the project along with some of the main cast during a panel at New York Comic Con, and explained how they "wanted the show to be its own entity," according to Bendis.

"This has been 14 years coming," Bendis told the audience; the first issue of Powers was published in 2000. "Your loud internet voice was part of the equation that made PlayStation and Sony make the decision to go right to series with Powers."

Bendis said Sony approached him and Oeming and told them that the company was starting a new television network, and that it wanted a TV series based on Powers to launch it.

"Some people don't understand [...] that this is a real television show," Bendis noted. Actor Noah Taylor, who plays Johnny Royale, expressed the same sentiment in an interview following the panel. Asked if the experience of filming Powers, a show destined for a streaming network, was any different from working on a more traditional series, Taylor said no. Powers is a "full high-value production," he told Polygon, "not webisodes or something," from two experienced production companies in Circle of Confusion (AMC's The Walking Dead) and Sony Pictures Television.

Charlie Huston, Powers' showrunner and one of its executive producers, is an accomplished author of crime fiction such as The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. And according to Bendis, Huston is "coming at Powers like a 10-chapter crime novel." Bendis noted that he didn't want the TV series to be a word-for-word translation of the comics, since he doesn't believe that those kinds of adaptations work well. Instead, the show focuses on the differences between the lives that ordinary people and "powers" — individuals with super powers — lead in modern-day Chicago.

"We are going in a slightly different direction to the actual comic books," said Eddie Izzard, who plays Wolfe. Super powers allow "powers" to do amazing things, but Izzard pointed out that "we're [all] just the same fuckers in this fucked-up world ... it's a metaphor, really, for celebrity."

Even so, Huston's first script captured the essence of the graphic novels, said Oeming in an interview after the panel. Sony's series isn't the first attempt at adapting Powers for the small screen — FX shot a pilot in 2011 and then scrapped it — but Oeming said "it wasn't until I got that very first draft from Charlie" that he felt like someone had nailed it.

"I got chills," Oeming continued. "I was like, 'I am reading Powers for the first time. I'm not reading something that's looking to find Powers.' Charlie's writing from inside Powers out, if that makes any sense." Taylor said during the interview that Sony has been very "hands-off" in the production of the series, and the company isn't neutering the adult-oriented material from the comics. "We're an independent comic," said Bendis. "It's feisty and it's rated R, and sometimes a hard R."

Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are the two detectives at the heart of Powers. Sharlto Copley plays Walker, who was once a power but was stripped of his abilities and chose to become a cop. Pilgrim is played by Susan Heyward, who told the audience that Pilgrim is the "feet-on-the-floor character" of the show, the one who's asking the questions the viewers would ask — and doing so with a cocked eyebrow. Pilgrim is a no-nonsense cop, and she has to babysit Walker somewhat, since he's so inexperienced.

Along with Izzard, Taylor and Heyward, the cast members on the panel were Olesya Rulin, who plays Calista, and Logan Browning, who plays Zora. Both Calista and Zora are slightly older in the show than in the comics; they're in their late teens. According to Browning, Zora is a character who isn't interested in the celebrity of being a power; she just wants to be a hero. Calista, meanwhile, is a young woman who really looks up to Retro Girl (Michelle Forbes), whom Bendis described as "the Beyoncé of superheroes."

As for the more nefarious characters on Powers, there's Wolfe and Johnny Royale. Izzard called Wolfe "ancient," "dark" and "fucked-up as hell," and noted that he has a "familial relationship" with the powers. According to Taylor, Johnny Royale (photo below) is a "fiendishly brilliant criminal mastermind" and a "bad motherfucker."

Toward the end of the panel, the panelists showed a trailer for the 10-episode first season of the show, which you can watch above. They also aired a brief clip, perhaps 15 seconds long, that illustrated some of the levity that Huston and the creative team are bringing to this dark world. Both showed an amount of potential that might have been surprising were it not for the level of talent involved.

Production is currently under way in Atlanta on the third episode, and Powers will premiere on PlayStation Network in December. The pilot will be free for everyone, and PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to watch the entire first season for free.

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