The superhero office sitcom Powerless premieres next year but the cast and creator stopped by San Diego Comic-Con to promote the debut of the pilot. Starring Vanessa Hudgens, the show follows the life of coworkers in an insurance company that have to deal with the fall-out of superhero related incidents. No one has powers but the show seeks to bring a new perspective to the DC television universe that audiences will connect to. Hudgens was joined at the convention by her co-stars Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and the show’s creator Ben Queen to provide details on what to expect when the show airs on NBC.
- Hudgens had been entertaining the idea of joining a television show but wanted to do something similar to shows she loved like NBC’s comedies Parks and Recreation and The Office. “It’s going to be something that I would like to watch which means I should probably do it,” she shared about joining Powerless, the workspace comedy that takes place in the DC superhero world.
- The show takes the spotlight away from superheroes who usually leave a whole lot of destruction in their wake. Hudgens was interested in how Powerless takes the perspective of the everyman who has to deal with what happens afterwards. “We get to be the people picking up after them because we work for an insurance company,” she said of the ensemble cast who grapple with their identity living in a world where there are people who are other than human. She added, “ We’re trying to find our strengths as a person living in a world full of these people who are bigger than life which makes you feel even smaller.”
- Playing Emily, the head of claims in the superhero incident agency, is a departure for Hudgens from her previous roles in feature films that surprisingly didn’t start out that way. Her read of the character inspired the showrunner to reimagine Emily from her original draft persona. “My character was way more timid, very observant, kinda meek and we did our table read and I think they thought, ‘Why are we making her play this character when she feels like this other part of her? The feisty side, the side that’s got a bit more grit and balls.’ I love her because she’s standing for the fact that you don’t need superpowers to be a powerful person.”
Danny Pudi plays Emily’s best friend and coworker Teddy. Pudi joked, “He has no powers…yet. He’s looking for the powers within himself.” He’ the office fun guy who’s inspired by Emily to lock down where he sees himself going in this new crazy world where they’re the ones who have to clean up the mess. He actually was a recruiter for an insurance company and had experienced a lot of what makes Teddy the kid at the office.
- It wasn’t difficult for Pudi to distinguish Teddy from Abed. At the core he thinks Abed is way more intelligent than Teddy. “Teddy’s more my level. Abed knows what to say or what to do in many instances. Teddy doesn’t really know what to say other than just be there for Emily. It’s a small moment but it’s a very clear moment of humanity that I think is very different from Abed.”
- Comedian Ron Funches feels at home playing the relatable little people who are affected by the existence of superheroes and how they deal with that change structurally in society. “I like that it does it in a comedic way. It’s not like ‘We’re getting crushed! Oh, no, I still gotta get to work even though this happened.’ It’s really fun.” he said about being in the same universe as The Flash and Superman.
- “My name is Ron and I play Ron and he’s the IT guy; he’s different from all the IT guys and not necessarily surly or tries to make people feel stupid.” Funches shared on his more endearing than jaded character. “He’s more of a sweetheart. It’s me basically. I’ve always wanted to see superheroes so to me they’re just like big celebrities. I feel like the role of the viewer”. While the rest of the cast is ho-hum about it, he’s like what a fanboy would be like if all of a sudden superheroes really happened.
- The show’s ensemble includes not only a strong female lead but reflects an average real life workspace where there isn’t just one person of color. “That’s what I loved about it. I’m always a firm believer of just getting the funniest people for the job but also at the same time representing the community as a whole. You get sick of those shows where they’re based in New York or based in other places and you see like one black person–that’s ridiculous. I feel like (the production) went out of their way to find the funniest people and it just so happens that we make a nice little rainbow.”
- The cast includes such a wide range of talent, creator Ben Queen revealed that these were the right people they wanted to take on this journey, “We went after them hard. We wanted people who you could love and care about and get behind. When Vanessa became available that locked everything together in our cast. Danny Pudi–we were lucky to get him,” he said.