From showrunner Jeremy Carver, the TV series Doom Patrol (available to stream at www.DCUniverse.com) follows a team of uniquely quirky and downright odd superheroes who have all suffered a horrible accident that’s given them abilities, leaving them more anti hero than anti-hero, as they work together to find their purpose while investigating weird phenomena. After bringing together Robotman, aka Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), Negative Man, aka Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), Elasti-Woman, aka Rita Farr (April Bowlby), and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), mad scientist Niles Caulder, aka The Chief (Timothy Dalton), mysteriously disappears and Cyborg, the part man/part machine that’s known as Vic Stone (Joivan Wade), presents them with a mission that will force them to face their own fears, if they are to succeed.
While at the Warner Bros. portion of the TCA Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actor Joivan Wade about being a part of a weird and wacky superhero show, having a donkey and a cockroach as co-stars, why he feels it’s a huge responsibility to bring Cyborg to life, what he’s drawing from for his performance, the family dynamic, working in Doom Manor, doing a lot of his own stunts, having comic book characters Danny the Street and the Beard Hunter this season, the coolest day on set, and how he only learns what’s coming next when he gets the scripts, each week. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: When this came your way, did you know that this would very much not be your typical superhero show?
JOIVAN WADE: When I first had the conversation with Greg [Berlanti] and Jeremy [Carver] about the show, they explained to me that this wasn’t gonna be like The CW and the Arrow-verse, but that this is gonna be a whole new DC Universe, and what we could expect with the higher production quality. He told me that we were essentially going to do this as 15 one-hour movies. I had no idea how weird and wacky it was gonna be because of the characters you were gonna come across, and that’s what I love about this show. You’re like, “Oh, it’s another superhero show,” but it’s not. It’s like nothing that you’ve seen before. You haven’t seen a superhero show like this because this is not a superhero show. It’s a support team, and not just a bunch of superheroes. Vic is the only seasoned superhero who’s actually out there fighting crime. Everyone else is anti hero. They don’t want to be heroes. I had no idea how wacky it was gonna be, but they made it clear, from the start, what the ambitions were for it. After seeing what we’ve managed to pull off, it’s a dream.
At what point, along the way, did they tell you that you were going to have co-stars that included a donkey and a cockroach?
WADE: That was not given to us until we saw the scripts. We knew that it was gonna be loosely based on the Grant Morrison edition, as opposed to the Gerard Way edition, but at the same time, we didn’t know what characters they were gonna pull out. You’ll get to see Danny the Street and the Beard Hunter, who’s one of my favorite characters. There’s some awesome stuff with him. But we didn’t know what was gonna happen until we got those episodes. We’re still currently shooting now, and I can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen in Episode 12. I have no idea who we’re gonna come across, or what it’s gonna be like, but I’m really excited for it.
When those crazy moves happen and you find yourself in the middle of an insane scene, what goes through your head?
WADE: I just go with it. Some real crazy stuff happens when we come across Danny the Street, and Negative Man says to Vic, “Just ride the wave, Vic. Ride the wave.” It’s crazy! I’m experiencing all of these crazy characters and things that are happening, but so is Vic. He’s like, “What is this?! I’ve never experienced any of this.” It’s a whole new world for him to experience, and we get to go on that journey together.
Cyborg is such a cool character. What’s it like to get to bring a character like this to life, and to get to represent a character like this for kids who haven’t seen someone like this before?
WADE: It’s a huge opportunity for me to be able to portray something so historic. I see Cyborg as probably the most iconic African American superhero within all of the comic worlds. There’s such a responsibility for that. Even getting a bit deeper is the fact that this is an African American superhero, and kids can look at this character and see themselves. Obviously, we’ve had Ray Fisher’s version in Justice League, but it’s different when you’re in a series and you get to live with this character throughout. The kids can look and say, “Oh, I can be him. I want to be like Cyborg. I want to be like Vic.” It’s a responsibility, and I’m looking forward to taking that journey and displaying that. I just want to do him justice for the fans, and I hope they really enjoy it.
With as popular as comic book TV shows and movies are, do you have any friends and family who are very excited that you’re playing this character?
WADE: Everyone. I’m a huge comic book fan and fanatic, and so are my cousins. It was great because I was able to really break down the character with them and say, “Just out of interest, what do you want to see? What would you like to see in a live-action version of Cyborg?” I can then take those elements, along with elements from the comic books. What’s been nice is that I’ve had the opportunity to go from the Cyborg: Rebirth comics, to Teen Titans, to Vic Stone in Young Justice, to Ray Fisher in Justice League, and say, “Okay, I don’t have to take any of this, but I can draw from exactly what I want because I have all of this as a canvas to be able to build out this version of the character.” It’s a much earlier version of Vic. He’s far off the sight of the Justice League, and he’s only just becoming used to what this whole thing is. At the same time, when you see Cyborg in the Justice League, he’s not out there fighting crime, willy-nilly. He’s called upon to do that. With this version, he’s out there in Detroit, saving lives. It’s great to work out what this is and to make it my own.
Was it also fun to get to play the family dynamic, with his dad still trying to tell him what to do?
WADE: Yeah. He’s a young man, and we worked really hard on not losing the fact that he has this confidence in being Cyborg and Vic Stone, but at the same time, he’s a young man. He used to be a high school football jock. We want to show that side, but we also want to just see him be a young African American man living and growing up. His relationship with his dad is beautiful. It’s a real character arc for Cyborg, throughout the series. What he learns about his father and what he learns about himself is something that I feel like the fans are really gonna enjoy.
So much of the superhero side of the other characters is CGI, but for Cyborg, it’s mostly practical. What’s that like?
WADE: It’s amazing. We have a phenomenal costume designer, L.J., or Laura Jean [Shannon], who created the first Iron Man costume. When I heard that I was gonna get to work with her, I was like, “This is amazing!” She really took my input, in terms of what this version would look like. We looked at specific comics imagery that we wanted to imitate and go for. When I first put on the costume and the headpiece is when I really realized, “Yo, I’m Cyborg.” Everything is practical, from the rubber gasket glued to my face every morning with magnets inside to the actual supersuit that’s assembled. My arm and my robotic hands are all practical. That’s all a part of the experience for me, and it’s been phenomenal. We have these jokes about when everyone else is gonna get their supersuit.
I absolutely love this cast, which is comprised of such an interesting and very different group of people. What’s it like to get to work with these actors?
WADE: It’s amazing! Everyone is like a family. I came on in Episode 2, after they had a few weeks of shooting already. I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna come in and have to try to get into this family that’s already been made,” but it was straight in. Vic Stone coming into the Doom Patrol was just like Joivan coming into this cast. Everyone made me feel extremely welcome, from the jump, and I learn so much from them, every day. Everyone is phenomenal. They’re seasoned pros. Alan [Tudyk] is a absolute beast with his character work. Brendan Fraser and Timothy Dalton are amazing. And then, there’s Diane [Guerrero], April [Bowlby] and Matt [Bomer], and Riley [Shanahan] and [Matthew Zuk], who are within the suits. It’s a dream come true, to be quite frank. I pinch myself, every day, getting the opportunity to be able to be a part of history.
It seems like Doom Manor is pretty cool, too.
WADE: Doom Manor is crazy! You have the Xavier Institute within X-Men, but Doom Manor is an actual building. It’s a real house that we use, and it’s massive. It really allows us to play in the space and feel like, “Okay, this is real.” When it comes to superhero shows and CGI, there’s a lot of green screen, but with this show, we’ve done maybe 5% green screen and 95% of it is all practical, on set and on location. That really allows you to bring out your best performance because you’re able to work with what we have, physically.
And these characters also go outside and are not in hiding, which is also fun.
WADE: Yes, and that develops throughout the series. We’re gonna get to see more and more and more of that, and not just going outside, but going outside into places that are fantastical. The fantastical and the sci-fi elements are one of the biggest things that attracted me to this show, along with the fact that you don’t know what to expect, in each episode. As a viewer, it’s gonna be the same experience that we have, as actors, when we get these scripts. We’re so excited to see what’s gonna happen, each week. We’ve got Danny the Street, a transgender street that can teleport anywhere. We’ve got the Beard Hunter, who consumes part of your beard, and is able to be in your head and consume your power. There’s so much with these characters, in this world, that it’s never gonna get boring because there’s something new, every single time. It’s phenomenal.
You talked about being a fan of comics. What was your first introduction to them? What made you start reading comics?
WADE: The first comic I read was a Spider-Man comic, and my introduction to it was through my family. My cousins are a lot older than me, and they’ve been huge comic book fans, from the jump. As a young boy, you aspire to being a superhero, and that’s the closest feeling you can get to that. Comic books bring that element, especially during those times when there weren’t as many TV shows or movies, and it was just the comics. And then, off the back of that, once you see something that’s live-action, it’s just so much more exciting because you’ve lived in that comic world and now you get to see it played out in live-action. I can’t wait for people to see this because it’s gonna be a great ride for everyone.
Have you tried, before this, to get in on one of these comic book shows or movies?
WADE: Oh, yeah! I specifically wanted to play a superhero, so I messaged my managers and said, “Guys, I really want to do something superhero. Cyborg has been taken because of Justice League, so what other African American superheroes are there?” I’d heard about Miles Morales, so I was like, “Maybe I could play him,” but they were only doing an animated version. I’ve always wanted to play a superhero. It was just about figuring out which one I could actually play. And so, when I found out that they were doing this, with another version of Cyborg and as a series, where you’d get to live with the character for 15 hours and see that journey and understand who he is, which we haven’t really gotten to do within the versions that you’ve seen so far, it was just an amazing opportunity and a dream come true.
What do you like most about Vic Stone, aka Cyborg, and what has been the biggest challenge in figuring him out?
WADE: What I’ve enjoyed most is the fact that he’s just so normal. You often get superheroes where you don’t really get to play with their personas, but he’s very real. If you take away the eyepiece, the mask and the body, nothing really changes. He’s still a young man who’s sarcastic, witty and cocksure, regardless of whether he’s Cyborg or not. I’ve really enjoyed being able to bring elements of just being a young African American man. The complexities come from, what does he think about this or that? This is his software that he’s working with. He can control any computer in the universe. He has superhuman strength. He has the ability to change and cybernetically move certain pieces into different gadgets. I can’t wait for you guys to see the canon. The canon is absolutely phenomenal. There are so many different gadgets and elements that you’ll see, throughout the series. The journey of him being Cyborg is the most complex thing because he doesn’t even know what’s real. At the end of the day, he’s programmed, and when you program a computer, you can put anything in there that you want. You can make them believe anything that you want that computer to believe because you program it, and he’s essentially a computer. And so, working out what’s real and what’s not, what he does and doesn’t believe, and which thoughts are his own and which aren’t, is the real journey of the whole thing, throughout the series.
When you’re on a show like this, that deals with visual effects and an ensemble cast, I would imagine that there are long days and days that don’t always go how you hope they will. Does it ever get old, or is being a superhero always cool?
WADE: I just remind myself of how ridiculously cool it is. That’s gonna happen on any set that you’re on. As an actor, you’re doing 16- or 17-hour days, and it can be very strenuous on the body, especially with this character. I do a lot of my own stunts and I have to be in shape for the character, so my workout regime with my PT, along with the long hours of training, can get to be a lot. But at same time, it’s all for this end product. You can’t help but see the finish line and see what we’re creating in this package that everyone is gonna enjoy. I will sacrifice myself, all day, every day, to give the fans what they want and to have a show that everyone can enjoy.
Are there ever stunts that they don’t let you do, that you wish they’d let you do, yourself?
WADE: Yes, there is. The biggest thing is that I wanted to do all of my fight scenes. I only really don’t do the things that could potentially break my neck or really injure me, to the point where I wouldn’t be able to be at work the next day, so I’m okay with that. My stunt double is amazing, but I get to do a lot. They allow me to do so much, from being on my own wires to doing all of the combat myself, which is really cool. It’s awesome. I just don’t do the dangerous stuff that I don’t really wanna do anyway because I wanna live.
Vic seems like a pretty level guy. Are there things that get him upset?
WADE: I think his father gets him upset. The relationship between Vic and Silas is a back-and-forth. It’s one of his biggest Achilles heels. It’s an annoyance that we get to build out, to see what that is and why that is. But Vic is a very level-headed guy. He understands that he has to play a certain role within the team. Knowing that Niles is gone and they need to find him, he is the only one that has the experience to make that happen. The biggest battles he has are within himself, to be quite frank. That journey of discovering who he is and what this whole thing is, is probably the most exciting part.
What does he think of the rest of this team that he’s ended up with?
WADE: At the start, he thinks the same as everyone else, which is, “What the hell is going on here? Who are you? What is this band of circus freaks that can’t pull themselves together?” And as time goes on, he falls in love with this group of people. They are a reflection of him. Everyone within this team has all gone through tragic accidents that have resulted in them being who they are and what they are. That’s something he relates to with the Doom Patrol. Down the line, he’ll fall in love with this team of people and they’ll become his family.
It’s nice that there are so many layers to these characters, and it feels like there’s so much to peel away while you keep digging into them, because that allows for great story.
WADE: Yep. Everyone has an origin story and their battle that they’re going through. We have a collective journey that we’re on, and we have our individual journeys. We’re in this crazy world, where we don’t know what can happen. There are so many different layers, and every episode is a new opportunity to discover something that you haven’t seen before. It’s definitely gonna take you for a ride, and you’re gonna be glued. This is its own thing, and you’ve gotta take it for what it is. Remove every preconceived idea that you might have for a superhero show. It’s not that. It’s something different, and it’s great.
Has there been a coolest day on set?
WADE: For me, probably when Danny the Street was built. It’s a whole set that was built, and how the whole thing worked was crazy. Danny the Street was probably the wildest experience, and it’s one of the craziest episodes, too. What’s so great is that everyone can relate to someone. There are young kids who can relate to Vic, and there are older men who can relate to Timothy, and then there’s April and Brendan. Everyone will be able to attach themselves and relate and connect emotionally to one of the characters, as they pull you on their journey.
Since you only have a few episodes left to shoot for this season, have you had any conversations yet about how things will wrap up?
WADE: I have no idea, but that’s what’s fun. We don’t know what happens in the next episode that we shoot. We’ve finished up on Episode10, and we’re about to shoot Episode 11, when I get back to work, next week. And then, I don’t know what happens in Episode 12. I don’t know what happens in Episode 13. I have no idea. It’s fun to play in that world because you’re playing in the moment. When new things come and you don’t know what’s gonna happen, you just live within that space, and that’s beautiful.
Doom Patrol is available to stream at www.DCUniverse.com.