DC Comics fans have had the pleasure (and occasionally the pain) of getting to know The Batman (and Bruce Wayne) through plenty of on-screen adventures. We’ve even gotten to know his sidekick Robin and his butler, Alfred. But we haven’t seen much from members of the Wayne family. That’s mostly because Bruce’s parents are dead (spoilers). In Powerless, however, Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One) has been tasked with embodying a new type of Wayne — Van Wayne, the head of an office where a team of inventors effort to craft ideas that shield regular folk from the hazards that come from living in a world of superheroes. Think Bruce absent the heroic impulses, but he’s not all bad.
In our recent conversation with Tudyk, we discussed his character’s growing rapport with his co-workers, why the insurance business wasn’t for Van, why Arrow’s exercise routine might distress his neighbors, and why Van mustn’t find out Bruce Wayne’s darkest secret.
For your character, and just for you as an actor, what was it about the insurance company elements from the previous stab at this that just didn’t work in comparison to what you’re dealing with now?
Well, it came from the writers as far as what the challenges were with that premise. By the end of our first pass at the pilot, it set up my character as opposed to Vanessa’s [Hudgens] so we were on either side. Every storyline was going to be “How do these two tangle today?” and one of the main points of contention is if you’re going to be in an insurance company that either green lights or turns down insurance claims, that was a constant episode subject that just didn’t have room to grow.
I’d also imagine there’s a little more room for comedy when you’re not saying no to insurance claims as opposed to creating gadgets that can shield people, etc.
Yeah, that. Exactly. That war can only be funny for so long. Whereas, the way it is now, we’re on episode eight, we are shooting episode eight currently, and they’ve had a great time in writing stories and writing different scripts. We’ve been having a lot of fun playing with them. My character doesn’t just square off with Vanessa’s. They’ve had a chance to put different characters together and the one we’re shooting right now Danny Pudi, Ron Funches, Jennie Pierson and I are all sort of together in one storyline and the last one was Ron and I. Vanessa and I — it has room to grow.
We’re not always at odds. We’re working together. We’re this office living in this world and [laughs.] a lot of times, the victim of the super and it’s not just self-inflicted frustration.
Was the appeal of doing an office comedy — of which there aren’t as many as there used to be — what brought you to Powerless, or was it just a combination of that and also doing something in the superhero realm?
I think it was that, [working] within the superhero realm. Because, it’s such high stakes and it’s also fun to see that side of it. That isn’t shown. There’s not just a lack of office comedies, there’s a lack of [superhero comedy] stories that — a lack of shows — I don’t know of any, do you?
Not really, I mean Deadpool is really the first kind of comic book thing that went, even a little bit, toward humor.
Right. You know, I have seen pilots that kind of play off of The Tick.
Oh, yes. I forgot about that.
Yeah, as a framework where you’re in the world with the not-so-supers and they’re the second class — B-class supers. It was also done by Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog. A villain who’s moist, that’s his only thing… he’s moist.
This is more… I also thought of, like in Arrow. Who’s the guy who lives next door? “He’s always working out with weights. What is going on? All I hear is clanking of weights and he’s up all night. What’s happening over there? You see what he takes to the cleaners? What’s all that leather?” Those people who are on the outside, there’s just a lot of opportunity for humor. That’s what I was drawn to.