This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
In a roundtable discussion with other college reporters, The Maroon had the opportunity to sit down with Jupiter’s Legacy stars Elena Kampouris, Andrew Horton, and Ian Quinlan as they chatted about the process of filming and the show’s nuanced messages.
The Academy of Art in San Francisco: Hi, thanks. Love the show, super fun to watch. One of my favorite parts of the series was the way that it uses superheroes to kind of examine social, political, economic issues through American history. And I was wondering, given that it's airing at such a fraught time in our history, has that affected at all the way that you guys have related to the show?
Ian Quinlan: Absolutely. If you guys don't mind, I'll just start off.
Andrew Horton: You guys take this one—it’s more your history than it is mine.
IQ: I think when I read this series, the biggest thing for me was the fact that the show kicks off with a person of authority executing somebody without due process. So that's a pretty big deal. And that struck me pretty hard. The Utopian says bad guys are people too. And what I love about Mark is that he talks; he loves to live in the world of gray. These are not good guys, bad guys, superheroes, or supervillains; they're all humans. And we're actually seeing what these people are like and their general humanity in a way to start the conversation of, where are we going and who do we want to be? And how do we want to live amongst each other? And so that, to me, was a really epic story to tell. I was really excited to be a part of that, especially as my role as Hutch, who is this counterculture revolutionary, who’s trying to offer the counter-narrative to this family's so-called legacy.
Elena Kampouris: That's a wonderful question. And you have definitely hit a theme that, as Ian says, is a big part of what Miller has packed into this juicy comic. And that's what I love about it. This isn't just a superhero cookie cutter spectacle, explosions thing; it’s got so much more to it. There’s so many layers, and there’s so many conversations that hopefully can be sparked from these discussions. Whenever I look at material stories in general, the most compelling things, much like Shakespeare, have themes that you can parallel to today. Stuff that's timely that you could—like again, Shakespeare—like so many years ago that could still be seen as relevant to issues that we are going through. If it's universal, that's the mark of strong storytelling. And that excites me. I think that resonates and that shows that it can stand the test of time. So I think you've hit a really poignant part of this whole story and the messages in it. It’s just chock full of messages.
AH: Echoing exactly what the guys have just said, but particularly what they were picking up on in terms of it being a human story—I think that's what makes it individual in comparison to a lot of superhero stuff that is already out there. We really focused on these interfamilial relationships within the show. And it's almost, as we've said, more of a drama than it is a superhero action-packed show. It treads the line and it balances these huge, massive action sequences with incredible CGI and explosions and all that wonderful stuff, which the superhero fandom loves. And then you can bring it back down to an incredibly poignant scene between a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, a brother and a sister, and all of these kinds of things that are incredibly relatable to anyone who is watching it. And the fact that we touch upon socioeconomic, political, religious factors within the show as well just gives it that extra dimension that potentially other shows don't have as much of. It's really exciting for us to be a part of that and to be unleashing on the world in just over a week.
IQ: The show also heavily explores power and privilege. We see basically what has been an institution that is over a hundred years old that has been operating under a code of conduct that has gone unquestioned for quite some time. And now we're at a pivotal point in this country where the country is asking, “Do we need to change?” and “Do we need to evolve?” I think some of these people are saying, “Hey, these guys have been flying up in the sky for so long that I think they forgot about the people on the ground and what are they really doing? Who are they really serving?”
Fordham Observer: I love the show. It's amazing. You guys are doing amazing. The question that I have is, how do you think all of your characters differ from other heroes from Marvel or DC, such as Captain America, Superman, Wonder Woman, or Black Widow?
EK: Well, I think that's an awesome question. I feel like that's what's so juicy about this story in particular is that these characters are so multilayered. In the sense of Chloe—because I play her, I'll take that route—here's someone who has major trust issues, major issues with her father, who is that trope, that cliché, you could say the perfect superhero. And then you've got Chloe, who has superhuman abilities, but she doesn't want anything to do with that. She wants to forge her own path. She doesn't feel embraced by her family unit. She doesn't feel like The Code is actually serving her, serving anybody. She feels like it's more of a box that her father, who invented the whole thing, is trying to put her in. So you've got these superheroes—I think this is where we kind of distinguish ourselves in this whole space—you have these superhuman seemingly perfect people, super-beings, but they have human issues. Chloe is dealing with drug addiction, which I'm so glad that our writers didn't choose to shy away from. We're showing that just because you can fly, just because you have super strength, you're not immune to human issues. We've got the Sampson family. That's pretty much, as you were saying, the equivalent to the Royal family of the supers, but they too have major dysfunction. They've got major baggage. No one's immune to it. So I think that's really cool. The way we look at it in this show is, it doesn't say on the periphery, we go deep and we go really intimate. It gets pretty gritty, but I think that's the best way, because when you have sci-fi and when you have spectacle—and you've even got period thrown in there, because we go back in time—by virtue of that, with that lens, it's a nice icebreaker to talk about these kinds of issues and to delve into like real things like addiction and so on and so forth. So I think it's a great vehicle for that. And I think it's unique in the way we do it. Hopefully you will feel the same.
AH: I would agree; it covers a multitude of things. It's much, much more than just what's on the surface. And I think the really striking thing about the show is that everyone in the show is flawed. There's no one perfect person, despite the Utopian supposed to be like this standard of perfection and excellence—he still isn't perfect. And I think that's what Brandon struggles so much with is the fact that that's all he's ever wanted to be. And then he still sees the Utopian as a contradiction: “Well, would you rather, you know, you were dead then?” So there's that to it, but it's also, within Mark's writing, as Elena was saying, he doesn't shy away from the darker things.
And I think that's what distinguishes us from more sort of family superheroes. It's not saying that this isn't family-oriented, but it's on the older end of the scale; it's not directed for young viewers necessarily, and the people who won't be able to watch gore and drug use and sex and things like that. We do have those things, and it's more of an adult superhero genre, as we see The Boys and Watchmen kind of stepping into as well. We're more of that universe than we are of Marvel andDC. And I think that what's really enjoyable about it is that you get to have these moments of darkness, and you get to have these more real characters because they aren't perfect. That's what was really enjoyable.
IQ: I would say Hutch might be unique in his strategy of heroism or anti-heroism, if you will. But I think we've seen this before in our reality and in other comics. We see a guy who is rejecting the status quo, who decides to live outside of this way of being to forge his own path, and actually to try to expose the flaws in this paradigm that is being set by these authority figures. I mean, for me, like this guy who's questioning, “Are we living up to the values of the symbols that are on the chest of these heroes” is a question I've seen happen in our lives by Colin Kaepernick, taking a knee saying, “Are we living up to the values of the flag?” I see it in the 1968 Olympics. I see it in Muhammad Ali rejecting going to Vietnam. We have seen heroes like this throughout the decades, just as we're going to see Jupiter's Legacy’s Union throughout the decades and how they responded to these incidents. And I think this guy is here to really challenge the world in a way that people aren't really ready for.
EK: Hopefully audiences are ready for it!
The Chicago Maroon: So much of the show is about family and also chosen family, and I would like to know how you guys went about preparing for your roles and also developing relationships with each other off-screen, which then played into what was happening while you guys were filming.
EK: I have to say I'm very grateful because they truly feel like family to me. And I feel lucky that I got to act alongside these people. And might I also add a little side note, but do I not have a really handsome boyfriend and brother? Like, the casting! They just knew what they were doing. But I think a big part of the bonding was training together a month before we started up, just talking about the scenes in general. As we were taking in and unpacking the material, I felt such great chemistry with Ian when we were delving into Clutch: this really fiery relationship. And then with Andrew, playing this brother-sister dynamic, I really felt the chemistry there. I hope it will show on both sides on the screen, but it was fun to see what these two were bringing to each encounter, the way they would play. That's exciting, as an actor, when people will surprise you with things: it lifts your game up when someone is bringing ideas and putting things you don't expect each week. If it’s the same each way, you get really static, because this isn't theater, this is film. And I got really lucky because these are great guys and a great cast overall and also so fun to play and dig into what's going on here as we were researching and getting ready to bring it to life.
IQ: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. Andrew and I don't have any scenes together, but we all had to work out together to get in shape for the show. So Andrew and I would work out as a pair sometimes, and we would get to talking about the storylines, about how our characters are kind of foils of each other. They’re two men with their respective daddy issues, and we’d talk about how they're respectively handling it, which would help us understand how our characters are foils of each other, but also what our own family lives were like growing up and what our own relationships with our dads were like. And that was really interesting to know him and get an understanding of what he's doing, even though I don't see him to give that alternative perspective when I'm on set. And then, when I tested for the role of—
EK: Tell this story. It’s a great story, take this down.
IQ: So we're doing a chemistry read, I'm reading with Elena, we’re meeting later for the first time, and the casting directors are like, “If you want to choose to kiss her,”—it's a very hot and heavy scene, it was the scene where I tell her that her dad came to see me. And we're doing this hot and heavy scene and the casting director’s like, “Do you want to kiss her? Like, just ask her beforehand.” And then we started, we didn't have any time, because there was a whole kerfuffle, but Elena and I went right into reading it. And then the scene ends with us pretty much making out. And then we both broke and I was like, “Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm supposed to ask your permission.” And she's like, “No, no, it's fine. It's fine.” And then the casting directors were just looking at us like, “Are we interrupting?”
EK: But there was an audible gasp because everyone was like—
AH: “And, scene. And, scene!”
EK: But it was electric. It was straight fire. And after, he was apologizing, and I'm like, “I don’t know if…like, you don’t need to apologize cause that was fun,” and he was the only one that did it, but it felt like—that was it! The Hutch quality.
AH: The risk taker.
IQ: We had to do that scene a few more times, and the casting director kept being like, “And scene. Scene, scene. Break apart.”
AH: It was super, super fun getting to work together. As Ian said, we didn't have any scenes together, but our characters, despite being such opposite ends of the spectrum on the show, are actually remarkably similar in a lot of ways. And it was so lovely to get to know Ian on a personal level: to train together, to go out for drinks together and stuff, and talk about the show, our experience of acting, and things like that, what we've worked on before... Likewise, speaking to Elena, training with her, seeing her do scenes—you just feel lucky to be in this situation because these are two incredible actors. To watch Elena work and then to see Ian work on the show blew me away. It's incredible. And we also had the absolute privilege of working with some incredible directors and, one particular director for a scene that Elena and I were doing together was Mark Jobst, who's another Brit. There weren't a lot of Brits on the show and that made me feel a little bit more comfortable because it was a big scene for Elena and me, and Mark approaches work in a way which is almost akin to theater. So it was really asking about the intentions of the characters and what is driving them in this scene. And I would feel that he would have pulled exactly the same out of Ian, and I can't speak for him, but that's the kind of dynamic we had, not only with each other, but also with the directors. So it was working not only with incredible actors, but also with an incredible crew. We were super lucky.
The Daily Bruin: I was actually really interested with what Ian said about power and its role in the show. So Jupiter's Legacy explores the characters’ descent from having power, initially through wealth, the stock market crash, then to power again, as manifested by how the superpowers acquired their actual superhero powers. So how do you think power plays a role in how your respective characters interacted with each other?
EK: I would just say in my case, with Chloe, I feel like, you're right, there's constant power struggles. There's a power struggle between the new generation and the old generation. There's a power struggle between Chloe and her father. They're both very headstrong. They both are also trying to assert their dominance in the sense of who should do what with their lives: Chloe wanting her freedom and to be accepted for who she is. And additionally, it's interesting because there's that one bagel scene; in watching it, I got a revelation—I was like, there's also a whole part going on here that, in them struggling for this power, they've lost the means of communication. It's kind of eradicated their means of how they can even get across to one another. They’re both saying words, but no one's really hearing the other. No one's really breaking through that barrier that the power struggle has built for them. So that's really interesting and yeah, there's a whole lot of those power struggles going on. And then you've got Chloe and Brandon. I feel like he's her older brother, but she feels really protective over him. He feels protective over her, and she wants to warn him like, “Stop, you're ruining yourself! You can't live up to this. You're going to destroy yourself like I'm destroying myself.” So there's a lot of that, at least from my perspective with Chloe’s situation. And then Hutch too, what makes our scenes so dynamic is in one minute there is sometimes a power struggle with what information the other one has, and there's sparring going on, but it's like a sexy sparring, a flirtatious sparring, because the next second, they’re taking each other's clothes off, but they really challenge each other. That's the positive part of the power struggle, but there is also darkness.
IQ: Yeah, I think power gives a person an insatiable hunger for more power. I think that we're seeing everybody in the show, I believe, as the characters, doing their best. The characters think they're doing the right thing. But I see people, I see Brandon crippled by the fact that he doesn't have more power because he's trying to fill his father's shoes. I see Brainwave wanting to do more politically with the power that he has. So he's still not satisfied in the position that he possesses. I see Sheldon, who's a great human being and a good man trying to do the right thing, for some reason, can't remember the names of the people in his own teams outside of their power names. Like he doesn't really know who they are—
AH: He doesn’t know who they are as humans.
IQ: That's correct. He only knows them as how they serve the Union and with their power. So I just feel like we're learning about the nature of power and how it can eventually blind you sometimes, or keep you from seeing the humanity of others or seeing an alternative perspective. And I think Jupiter's Legacy is going to open that door to really have that conversation, which I'm really excited about.
AH: I think as Ian said, the whole spectrum, regardless of how powerful a person is, doesn't mean that they are invulnerable. In the case of this show, someone who doesn't have powers. Hutch comes across as one of the most grounded and powerful characters simply because he knows who he is and he doesn't rely on those powers to make him anything more than he is because he doesn't want them. And he's got the power rod, but he is happy with his lot in life. Well, he's not happy with his lot in life, but he doesn't care about the power side of things. Because he's like, “Let any of them come at me, I'm good for it.” Whereas Brandon, as Ian was saying as well, has all of this power and yet he's crippled by it because no matter what he does, he's not going to be good enough for his father. His power's not going to match his father. It's not going to meet his father's expectations. You’ve got his relationship with Chloe—there's a wonderful line in our scene together partway through episode one, the dinner scene, where you really see the polar opposites of the characters. Chloe is drunk and presumably a little bit drugged up and Brandon's there quietly sipping a beer and he's the one that goes out to placate her. And he says a line, it's like, “You're just jealous he chose me instead of you.” And Chloe’s like, “I'm not jealous, why would I want any of that?” So even though you're in these supposed positions of power, most of these people are powerless. And I think what’s so interesting about it is because there's no right or wrong answer and there's no definitive good or bad. That gray area they're talking about is what makes the show so interesting. They're all humans.
EK: You just sparked something. I never even thought of it. It's amazing how we're coming into revelations at this round table. But to your point, how they're actually powerless, it makes me think again, how with every character, and how we as human beings, create our own or have put upon us psychological prisons, boxes we feel put into by other people or, or by our upbringing, by the legacy that we try to live up to. You just kind of give me a eureka moment.
IQ: Yeah. Like power perpetuates control.
The Michigan Daily: As you guys touched upon, you all have a bit of your own struggles in the show and a lot of your characters have very strong beliefs and values that differ from one another. Do you resonate with any of those specific beliefs and values in real life?
AH: Yeah, for sure. Brandon, Chloe, and Hutch are all people with extremely strong belief systems and there's a real similarity between all of them. I will speak to Brandon and then let these guys chip in on theirs. Brandon is a fiercely loyal person, and he loves his family deeply, and those are qualities that I certainly recognize in myself and could imbue into the character quite easily because they were the things I could connect with. You don't necessarily connect with super speed or strength and the ability to fly, but as we keep on coming back to, the human elements of the characters are what makes the show so, so interesting to watch and so much more than just your run-of-the-mill superhero show.
IQ: I definitely agree with the loyalty factor. Hutch doesn't have a very large circle of people, but the people that are close to him are in his life forever and he is extremely loyal to them. I also think we definitely share a little bit of the counterculture nature of things. We're definitely challengers. I really resonate and I think Hutch would resonate with Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies. I don't know if you guys recently saw Trial of the Chicago Seven, but he’s a “going to a protest in a bathrobe and a cup of coffee” kind of guy. Just like life's kind of a party and it's not to be taken too seriously. And I think that's why he's so against this sort of rigidity and controlling nature of the Union: it doesn't seem to make anybody any happier.
EK: I think this is why Chloe’s attracted to Mr. Hutch over there: he is counterculture and against all that. He doesn't subscribe to the capes that they use, he’s not about the disguise, the masks that we put on. He's about the soul. He's about what's real. I think that's so refreshing for her because she's in that Hollywood world where it's all very superficial. A big thing that I also relate to with her is real love for her family. In Chloe's case, she has a deep burning love for her brother, a protective love. She's all love for her family or her parents, even though there's issues there. There’s factors, I do recognize that. She's just devastatingly loyal.
And I think that because of those qualities, that's what makes her push herself to try to numb her pain because of what's going on with her family—drinking, drugs, alcohol, all this stuff. It's a way to stifle it, push it down, push it down. But in a way, it only heightens it for her. It doesn't do the job cause she’s just going deeper into this hole; she's kind of a mess. But it comes from a place of pain and that's what I think is so beautiful about the story: you look at these symbols of perfection, these symbols of worship with these heroes. And then you look at the human qualities, what makes them human beings, real people.
Galaxy Radio: I wanted to switch topics and talk about the production of the show, specifically your costumes and what they were like.
AH: It was all real. The only CGI aspects are when people are flying or some explosions are going on and, and you can't do those things practically, but the costumes are a hundred percent legit. We have a fantastic costume designer called Lizz Wolf who just knocked it out of the park with these costumes. Everyone had a body scan taken of their physique, which was then sent over to a specialist studio, which then created these muscle suits, which would go underneath the exoskeletons of the suits. And then they make the capes and boots and gloves. And it was a very, very lengthy process. The actual production was delayed because certain super suits weren't finished by the time they needed to be for filming. So that was why we got a little bit more time in bootcamp, I think. But the costumes were absolutely incredible. My real muscles aren't quite that big, but I'm also glad because the kind of diet I would need to have to maintain that would be astronomically larger than it is at the moment. I don't like eating a sickening amount of food.
EK: No, I'm telling you the real deal here. Okay. Andrew was in the gym shredded. Okay. I'm talking shredded. It's impressive. He's being very modest and humble. And Ian too, they both… In the middle of the scene, you find yourself zoning out and, hey, snap out of it!
AH: You lose your lines because of the abs.
IQ: He says he doesn't like eating, but he was racking up plates.
EK: Ian and I didn't partake in this whole experience with exoskeletons and the scannings and whatnot, cause again, our characters aren't about that life, with capes and suits. And honestly, if I was wearing a suit, it probably would have felt wrong, because it just doesn't mesh with Chloe's outlook and everything. It would've felt like I was going against her whole being. But the fashion was super cool because she is a model. So it was like, high fashion brands, oh my goodness! Fighting in that stuff was really cool. And the second you put on the outfits, and as soon as I had to put on the Chloe wig, I felt like I transformed immediately. My walk was different, my voice changed… It was just cool. That stuff really helps in bringing it to life. But Ian had some awesome pieces. You got to talk about those pants.
IQ: Oh yeah, man. That was really dope. They called them my Hutch pants. They looked like camo pants with Adidas track stripes, but they're actually Renaissance paintings. It’s really crazy when you get a closer look at them. They're really awesome. So Lizz and I were talking—as soon as I come on, or get hired on a job, the first thing I do is I ask the designers to see their research because they've been doing it a lot longer than I have, and it helps me understand the world a little bit better. And Lizz Wolf is phenomenal, by the way. And she shows me all of her research of these like thrift store hippies—not hippies, but like hipsters, and counter-cultural people and revolutionaries and how they're wearing all this mismatched clothing. And the whole point of that was, she says in this world where these superheroes have a uniform, we want to have the anti-establishment wear completely indescribable, you-don't-know-where-that-came-from, kind of clothing as a sort of F-you to the establishment. So the Utopian has his cool uniform in his cool suit. And I've got these pants with a shirt and I got a shark tooth necklace, or a hot pink Hawaiian shirt. And I got this phallic weapon. Yeah, yeah. This is my superhero uniform. The moment I was dressed in all of it, I was like, “Oh, I'm a straight-up punk rock star. Let's rock and roll.”
AH: Sex on legs.
IQ: Yeah. Actually, in my first heist in the episode where you meet me, Andrew was originally in that. And it was hilarious. It was a hundred-mile-an-hour winds and it's storming outside and Lizz goes, “Oh no, the super suits can't get wet.” And we went, “What?” So we're doing this scene and when it's not raining, Andrew and Josh would go out. And then when it started raining, they'd send me out. So I’d finish the scene and hair and makeup was just trying to keep that mohawk up and not just like down in my face the whole time. It was hilarious.
AH: A droopy mohawk would have looked great though.
EK: I will say—us girls, fashion is pain, and wearing those high fashions was a bit tricky. Like high, high heels.
AH: They were high, man.
EK: And you're doing kicks in the street, it’s rainy, there's puddles there. That was a whole thing. I think you ladies know what I'm talking about. It's tricky, but it's all a part of the process. And it's fun.
Amp: In the show, the Utopian is obviously very idealistic, symbolic of the kind of black and white morality, and all of the other characters present a counterpoint to that black and white reality of some kind. And I was wondering how that factored in to the way you played your characters.
AH: For me, it shaped how I played Brandon in terms of it being very similar to Josh’s point of view, or the Utopian’s point of view, rather. And it’s only what happens within the show that actually changes Brandon's point of view because, despite the fact that his father is constantly berating him and telling him he's not good enough, and that he's not going to be able to become the next Utopian, whether that's spoken or inferred through his actions or whatever…. None of that actually affects the way that Brandon still feels about things. He still wants to be that and still wants to achieve that. And that's pretty cut from the same cloth, with that in mind. But as I said, circumstances start to change Brandon and start to evolve in his opinion of the Code and what he thinks the Code needs to be in and should be.
IQ: I think for me, I'm just constantly trying to challenge the Utopian and expose to him his own hypocrisy regarding the Code and how he's not even able to live up to it every step of the way. I think he has his black and white morality, but he still doesn't seem to be able to live a perfect life, like the rest of us. If my dad and his dad were such good friends, where’s he been at all this time? I'm a grown man. You know what I mean? Where have you been for family? How come nobody, how come none of your Union knows about me?
EK: For me, I feel like that's an excellent dichotomy because you've got black and white. Like what's the stuff in the middle? For me, with what he represents as the Utopian to Chloe, it’s someone getting too caught up in trying to be a symbol, and she's too human for him and he can't handle it. And then you have him represent—we're going to get Shakespearean with it—order, and she represents disorder, chaos. But there's so much more to that. Like why is she chaotic? Why does she punch a dude through a wall? She gets used by people and people that she thinks are actually trying to get to know her, or maybe want to connect with her, but really they're just trying to get through her to get to the Union and you start to get to her father. So that's what motivates that move to punch a dude through the wall, which, if we're going to look at it in a black and white lens, is a wrong thing to do. I don’t condone that; however, the gray mattering between that is: what causes that? What is the pain behind that? Behind the circumstances, the decisions that we make, it can't be so cut and dry. There's so much in between to unpack. And that's what's so interesting because you have those stark contrasts, but what the show does is delving into, what's the stuff in the middle? What's that? What makes these characters tick? What's their kryptonite? What are their vices? As we all handle our own baggage, I'm trying to navigate that.
AH: That was a great punch though.
IQ: Solid cross.