The NBC comedy series Powerless is set in a world where humanity must cope with the collateral damage of superheroes and supervillains while Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, specializes in inventing and marketing products that make defenseless bystanders feel a little safer. Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) is the new Director of Research & Development for a team that she must convince to live up to their full potential, under a boss, Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), who’s just looking to leave Charm City behind to join Bruce Wayne in Gotham.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Alan Tudyk talked about what originally attracted him to Powerless, the show’s evolution, getting to play a character that’s the black sheep of the Wayne family, what Van really thinks of Bruce, whether Van would like his own superpowers, and how impressed he is with the show’s leading lady, Vanessa Hudgens. He also talked about the likelihood that he’ll return for Wreck-It Ralph 2, even though he hasn’t done any voice work on it yet, whether he’d do the third season of Young Justice, and just how much he’s enjoying making the web series Con Man.
Collider: How did you come to this project? And since this was a bit different show when you originally signed on, what was the appeal of it for you?
ALAN TUDYK: It was getting to explore the other side of superheroes, in a comedy. I loved the idea of a superhero or a villain coming in and causing what we know as bad traffic. There’s a season for snow, but then there’s a season for snow villains, which is a different season, altogether. It’s the normalizing of extraordinary beings and seeing them through the eyes of just regular folks, and it being a comedy. The outcome is meant to be funny.
With as busy as you are now, with a web series, animated movies and TV shows, and you’re a part of Star Wars, did you ever hesitate about signing on for another TV series, or was this just too irresistible?
TUDYK: I didn’t hesitate. I love doing series. I haven’t done many. I like getting to develop a character over time. And I love doing comedies. It was an easy decision. I can stay home. I love doing movies and traveling all over the world. With Star Wars, we went to the Maldives and Jordan, and I lived in London for six months, which was incredible. But I like living in my house with my wife, also. That’s pretty great. We just got married, so I’m really loving it. She doesn’t want to get on a plane, every three weeks, and fly 12 or 14 hours to come see me. Although, that was pretty romantic, too. We just got married.
This show had a little bit of a shake-up with the setting and characters, and you ended up becoming a Wayne. What was your reaction when you found out about that and how the show would be going in a different direction?
TUDYK: I was excited! It immediately puts my character in the superhero world without making me a superhero, or even aware that I’m in the superhero world. I, previously, was a rich kid of an insurance company. Although that was fun to play, this makes me a spoiled rich kid, growing up, who is in the Wayne Industries. He has a place that he wants to go, that is exciting. He wants to go to Gotham. My other character didn’t want to do anything. He just wanted to sit back and play golf. Now, he has ambition, even though he doesn’t want to put in the work to do it. It added a really fun dimension to the character and opened up a lot more possibilities for storylines.
Do you think Van Wayne idolizes Bruce, or do you think he believes he’d be better than Bruce, if given the chance?
TUDYK: I think he idolizes Bruce. If he realized how much Bruce has to work, he definitely would not be interested in taking that position. Van has a strained relationship with his parents. I keep trying to slip in a line that he was raised by the gardeners. He wasn’t just raised by the help. It was specifically the gardeners. Maybe that could be something he’d be jealous of, or think that he’d want that part of Bruce Wayne’s life. So far, he hasn’t expressed a grudge.
Do you think he secretly wishes he had superpowers, or does he prefer his power to come from success in business?
TUDYK: Oh, my god, he’d love a superpower! I think he’d love it. Absolutely! He could just kick back. He’d be famous. Superheroes are famous. So many doors would open for him. It would be less work. If you’re super strong, you don’t have to go to the gym because you’re just super strong. He’d love getting results without having to put in the work.
What does Charm City represent to Van, and why does Gotham City seem so much more appealing to him?
TUDYK: Gotham is the big city. I think of Gotham like New York City. It’s sexy and famous. It’s where things happen. Charm City is not New York. It is very not New York. And the superheroes that live there are not Batman or Superman. They’re Crimson Fox. She’s good and all. She’s great. But, those other guys are A-list stars. Those are the biggies. He just wants to be where the action is, and imagines himself a star of that world, too. If he made it there, he thinks he’d fit right in.
The cast of Powerless is all very funny and you have some funny interactions with each other, but Vanessa Hudgens was the most inexperienced with comedy, coming into this show. How has she been to work with? Did she just jump right in, and is she game for anything?
TUDYK: She is game for anything. I knew Vanessa, just through her being a famous person. I’m older, so I didn’t watch High School Musical. I’d seen her in some movies, but she’s always the bad girl, so I just assumed that’s who she was. But she’s so bubbly and fun, and she’s definitely up for anything when it comes to the comedy. We went to karaoke. I’m not keen, so much, on karaoke, but it was a full-on aerobic dance concert in this place, with Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and all of the cast members. I couldn’t keep up. She’s fun. She’s a blast to have around. I feel very lucky to have her as our leading lady.