From showrunner Jeremy Carver, the TV series Doom Patrol (available to stream at 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 (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 executive producer Jeremy Carver about getting this show off the ground rather quickly, assembling this incredibly talented cast, designing the supersuits, just how many of Crazy Jane’s 64 personalities we’ll get to see throughout the season, the biggest production challenges, the threat for this season, having a donkey and a supervillain-in-the-making cockroach in your cast, and having a plan for Season 2.
Collider: This show is weird and quirky and funny. Did you know, right away, exactly what kind of tone you wanted to bring to it, or what that something that you really had to figure out?
JEREMY CARVER: Well, I had to figure it out rather quickly. The show came together quickly, so it was just about reading the comics, and then bringing my own sensibility to it, as well. The tone presented itself, in that I’m a big fan of absurdity playing against pathos, and like humor that comes from pain. As crazy and bizarre as things get, I want to make it all feel grounded, at the same time. So, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to work with this world, and bring what I bring to it.
You said it came together quickly. How quickly, and how challenging was this to get together?
CARVER: It was pretty quickly. We started working on it in May, and we were shooting in August, which is pretty fast to go from zero to shooting. It was never crazy because of wonderful people working on the show, but it was a very, very big project that required a lot of manpower. But, I’m very happy with what we ended up with.
Were there anything, along the way, either with the casting or the production itself, that made you worry you might not get everything together, in time to start shooting?
CARVER: There were a couple of things. We had to have meetings with people, when the script wasn’t even finished yet. You can have the greatest meeting in the world, but people still want to see a script, and that goes across the board, from cast to department heads. So, there was a lot of me doing a song and dance of what it was going to be, while at the same, I was figuring out what it was. And then, there was a really super tight deadline, when it came to designing the supersuits, particularly the Cyborg suit. When we decided to have Cyborg enter in Episode 2, as opposed to Episode 1, they gave us a really tight deadline, in which we had to have not just Episode 1 written, but Episode 2 written, as well, so that they could pull off what was an incredibly complicated process to get that supersuit together. That was one of the unexpected moments of tension for me.
What was it like to put this amazing cast together?
CARVER: Amongst the other executives producers that I work with is Greg Berlanti, and I don’t know how to describe him as anything other than a beast, when it came to this. He was just unrelenting that the script find itself into the right hands to really get a cast that he felt could make this project shine, on this particular service. And for me, I’ve admired so many of these people from afar, for so long, that it’s a pinch me moment, getting to work with them.
Were there any that were the only person you thought of for a specific role, or did you have to figure out who could play these characters?
CARVER: Many of them were the only people. We had April [Bowlby], and she was in the Titans iteration of Doom Patrol. I just loved her so much from that performance that she was a no-brainer. And then, we started talking about Timothy Dalton, and Brendan Fraser, and Diane Guerrero, who I loved in Orange is the New Black. We saw Diane on a self-tape, for this role. Sometimes you have a person in mind, and sometimes a person does something where you can’t think of anybody else, once they show you what they do. For example, with the role of Jane, not everybody is willing to throw themselves into a role like that. It’s an incredibly emotional role to be playing. You need to have a willingness to let it all hang out, and when someone like Diane comes in and does that, you can’t help but be moved and blown away.
With a character like that, who has 64 personalities, do you know what all 64 of the personalities are, or do you just know some of them and you’ll come up with others, along the way?
CARVER: There are some established personalities that are in the comics, and we give a nod to them, throughout the season, in different ways. But, 64 personalities is a lot. Can I sit here today and name all 64? No. We need to leave ourselves room. That way, in Season 5, when we needed to get out of a sunken tunnel, or when we need a personality that can do something for us, like have a drill bit for a head, we need to leave room for that. Most of the personalities are there for a specific purpose. That’s what I find so moving about the character. Everybody is protecting this inner core. We really go to great lengths to carefully and respectfully lay out the real story behind Jane this season.
Do you have a count on the amount of personalities that we’ll see this season?
CARVER: You’re gonna see them in different iterations, but maybe between 15 and 20. That’s a guess. The season is still going. Some take the spotlight a little more than others, but even the ones that you might see a little bit, most of them get their moment in the sun, as it were.
What are the biggest production challenges, in doing a show like this and making what you have look great?
CARVER: Like any production, the challenges are time and money, when it comes down to it. There are sometimes limitations with where you’re shooting. We shoot in Atlanta, so we might call for a location that doesn’t exist, and then, you have to make the decision about whether you want to spend the money on building a specific thing. Most of the time, this season, the answer has been yes, and we’ve been very fortunate, that way. Some of the challenge comes from the fact that a lot of Doom Patrol is a wacky world that isn’t necessarily of this world. It goes to a lot of different, heightened realities, and unreality, so we have to build things that are a little bit out of people’s comfort zones. Doing that on what is essentially a week to week production process is a challenge. It takes being really organized, and having a really, really super creative and aggressive production design department, which we do, and a crew that’s ready for anything. Some of the most beautiful stuff in the pilot is the airplane stuff and the airplane crash. That’s not all CG. It’s a combination of CG and stuff that we built, and it came together wonderfully well. It’s giving people enough time to do what they need, which means, on the writing and producing end, we have to have our act together, so that everyone has the appropriate amount of time to pull off what we’re hoping they can pull off.
How far ahead have you thought about the story? Do you have an overall five-year plan, or do you just have an idea of what Season 2 would be?
CARVER: I think we have a notion through Season 2. There are far-reaching things that we’d like to achieve and hit, but I can’t honestly sit here today and tell you, “This is my five-year plan.” It’s been a wild ride of a first season, and it’s been dipping into different variations of Doom Patrol, as they’ve existed, over the different eras. We’re trying to do not just a superhero show, but a very, very, character driven superhero show, so the structure of our show is a little bit different than other shows that people might expect to be seeing. So, the focus has been mostly on Season 1, for right now.
And it doesn’t sound like you had a lot of time to be planning things out, all that far ahead.
CARVER: Yeah, that’s true. I’m also a guy who, when I get an idea, I shove it in the “for later” folder. I can’t dwell on it too much, right now, because we’ve had a fairly short runway to this show and we had to just focus on what we’re doing now, the best we can do it.
What can you say about where the danger and the threat of this season is coming from?
CARVER: The threat starts to present itself more clearly in Episode 2, with Mr. Nobody, who’s a character that’s known for his ability to drive people insane. As much as this season is about finding The Chief, ultimately, it’s a season about finding themselves. The dangers lie in the dark corners of yourself, particularly with these people. We spend a lot of time going back to their respective eras and uncovering even more of their pasts, or origin stories. These were not the greatest people, before they started living in Doom Manor, and Mr. Nobody is not your typical supervillain, in that he doesn’t want to take over the world. Mr. Nobody has a very specific want, which will become more and more clear, as the season progresses. But many times, our characters will find the greatest adversary is themselves, from episode to episode.
How difficult was it to make a donkey part of the story? Did you ever wish you could get rid of the donkey, or was it a cooperative donkey?
CARVER: No one ever said that we couldn’t [have the donkey], so we all just went for it. And once we started doing the donkey, the donkey was the most important thing in the world. I wanted to hug this donkey and bring it home. The writing staff embraced the concept of it and ran with it, making it even better. We had the donkey on set, and we digitally built a donkey. We actually had two real donkeys. I can’t remember if it was the sister or brother, but we had a back-up donkey, and then we had the CGI donkey, which we do all kinds of crazy things with. So, it was really about embracing the spirit of the Grant Morrison run of the comics, which was very much an inspiration, for particularly Season 1 of Doom Patrol.
Will we see more things like that, that just are completely crazy and out of place?
CARVER: Yes. In Episode 2, there’s the introduction of a Doom’s Day prophet-in-the-making cockroach. I would keep a very close eye on him because he just might be supervillain-in-the-making. And you’ll start to see a cast of other bizarre things, such as types of animals that are slowly but surely forming into something that perhaps will be revealed later.
Could you ever have imagined, at any point in your career, that you would have a cockroach as a character on a TV series?
CARVER: Yes, I’ve tried before and I was always thrown out of the room. This time, we finally got it through, and it’s an absolute delight. There’s a real message behind Doom Patrol, in terms of taking back that power that is being different, and feeling different from others, but there’s also a zaniness and absurdity to it, as well, and you have to pay service to both. Ezekiel, the cockroach, falls squarely into that category.
Is there ever anything that feels too crazy, or is it just about figuring out how to make it work?
CARVER: There are a lot of things that feel a little bit too crazy, I’ll be honest with you. You have to have that balance. As long as the characters remain true to themselves, I think you can get away with almost anything. There was a pretty good training ground with that, from my time working on Supernatural. We have wholly different characters that I think can more than shoulder that. We aspire to have a little bit of weirdness in every episode.
Doom Patrol is available to stream at DCUniverse.com on February 15th.