‘The Tick’ Cast and Crew on Season 2 and Its Wide-Open Storytelling Possibilities
The Amazon Prime original series The Tick exists in a world where superheroes have been real for decades and a strange man in a blue suit with antennae, aka The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz), along with his sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman), an accountant learning to overcome his own issues, must save the world from supervillains. With The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) doing his best to continue to terrorize and bring his plan to fruition, The Tick and Arthur can use all the help they can get – whether it’s from Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry), Overkill (Scott Speiser) or a talking dog named Midnight – to defeat evil.
At the press day for the second half of the season (which is now streaming at Amazon Prime), Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Peter Serafinowicz and Griffin Newman, as well as show creator Ben Edlund and executive producer Barry Josephson, to talk about getting another crack at The Tick, why they wanted to try again and what made Amazon Prime the right home, releasing the first season in two halves, making the crazy moments on the show work, why being a superhero isn’t easy, the challenges and complications of doing a TV series like this, and the wide open possibilities for Season 2 (which has already been picked up).
Collider: First of all, congratulations on the Season 2 pick-up for The Tick!
ALL: Thank you!
BEN EDLUND: Setting out, achieving a second season was one of the goals ‘cause that’s not what we did, the last time. We made it!
Ben, could you ever have imagined that you’d be here again, having already done the show once before and getting a whole new crack at it?
EDLUND: It’s pretty amazing! For me now, this is the third time this has been carried away from the comic book and into television, and that’s weird. That makes me obsessive, or something. But this one was [Barry’s] fault. Barry came and was very insistent that I consider the possibility that we do it again, four years ago.
Barry, what brought that on?
BARRY JOSEPHSON: You know, to be really honest, all producers want to keep their careers going, especially when they have two young kids and a wife. I had worked on Men in Black, when I was a studio executive, and optioned the comic. I’m a comic freak and in comic book stores, all too often. I don’t want them ever to go away, and neither can newsstands. It just hit me, one day, when I was thinking about things I’d like to work on. There’s things you do that you have to do because it’s part of your work, and there’s things you really enjoy doing. I really enjoyed getting to know Ben and I really enjoyed making this show for Fox, way early in the curve. It was way before Marvel and DC really lifted off with this new wave. But now, having made some VFX projects, I realized that it would be a great time to try to do The Tick again. Plus, comedically, I thought it would be a great time to do it. So, I found Ben at his work.
EDLUND: I was gainfully employed. I had a job.
JOSEPHSON: I had just thought about doing The Tick again, as live-action, so I went to Ben and asked him to do it. He, of course, turned me down because he was busy and didn’t think it could be done. But then, he circled back and called me and said, “I’ve had a moment to think about this, and I think it could be done.” That’s where the collaboration began. One of the problems with the first time was that this show needs to be one person’s voice. Other people can write for it, but it really needs to be the creator’s voice. I thought now was a great time for Ben to step in and do it, and I couldn’t go to anybody else. I said, “Let’s try to do this. I’ll support you in every way possible.”
Ben, what was it that got you to circle back to it, after saying no?
EDLUND: The combination of realizing that we were in the middle of such a startling profusion of superhero properties that it really was a time that was asking for comment or investigation, or something to play with that, so it was a perfect time to do it. Also, visually speaking, the things we weren’t able to achieve 15 years ago, it was clear we’d be able to have a different take on that stuff. So, I came back because I started to see it. I used to argue with it. I’d be like, “You can’t do it because you’d have to do it this way. You can’t do it because it would have to cost more money than people have. You can’t do it because it would have to be serious and funny, at the same time, and there would have to be blood. There would have to be life and death. You can’t do it because The Tick can’t live in a universe with life and death.” And then, I realized that all of those things could co-exist in a very weird, interesting way. I’ve done a lot of genre work and a lot of writing, and I’m not always sure what we’re doing here, which is good. It’s an exploration into theme.
JOSEPHSON: Whether it was the comic book or the animated show or even what we did for Fox, it always made me laugh. It was comedy, and that didn’t really exist in the universe, when we got together four years ago. There was no comedy version of this. I just felt like we could be that show. The thing that we struggled with was that we’d been in a situation where Fox wasn’t ready for this show, so we had to figure out where we could go that would accept [Ben’s] vision for this show. Thankfully, there’s cable content and streaming content and places to go, and a lot of places were interested in hearing what Ben had on his mind. The support that Amazon gave him, to make this version of the show, was great.
Did you guys know that you’d be releasing the first season in two halves?
JOSEPHSON: No, we didn’t.
EDLUND: Ultimately, we saw it as two halves. The amount of time between the two halves is something that didn’t necessarily serve them, structurally, because it put a lot of emphasis on the break. We’re at a time when format is very, very interesting and very exploratory, and this was one way of going.
JOSEPHSON: Had we known it was going to be this kind of a gap, we might have created a time jump for the break, but the way people stream things now, you don’t necessarily need that. The Crown picks up where it left off last season and it works, although it’s gonna jump to a whole other place next season. Had we known there was going to be a gap this long, we might have changed it slightly, but I think it works. You pick up in a really good spot, going into the second half.
EDLUND: The truth of things is that we’re now at the point where everyone, from this point forward, will be catching up, if they choose to join us, so it’s just a library situation, like everything else we’re used to now.
JOSEPHSON: Ironically, we did break it up pretty well. The Tick is itching to get going, and he gets going.
EDLUND: And we split it right down the middle, with six and six, so that we’d be even.
Peter and Griffin, because there are some wild and crazy things that happen on this show, were there any moments where you just weren’t sure how you were going to make it work?
NEWMAN: Almost everything in almost every single scene, there would be some detail that seemed impossible, one way or another.
SERAFINOWICZ: Even if it was something as simple as continuing to supply oxygen to my body in the suit.
NEWMAN: The amount of trouble-shooting that went into how Tick sits in a car, you have no idea. There are a thousand angles to it. When we got the episode for the book reading event, half of the dialogue in the episode was from the dog. It wasn’t just that we had a talking dog, he had a solid 15 pages of dialogue and they needed a real performance out of it.
SERAFINOWICZ: And the guy who plays the dog is the guy who voiced The Tick on the cartoon, Townsend Coleman.
NEWMAN: The best compliment I get on the show is when people go, “It looks like it was a lot of fun to make,” because it was so difficult. I’m very proud of the show and was happy to work that hard on it, but it takes a lot of effort to make it feel that breezy. The idea is to have all of these crazy elements seem natural, but it involves a lot of technical precision, from everybody.
SERAFINOWICZ: Things that you would never, ever think of were difficult. When we were in Harlem, we had all kinds of practical problems with the weather and how to move in our suits without things dropping off. And then, we had this thing where somebody started playing the drums and just would not stop until somebody went up and paid them off.
NEWMAN: It was essentially an extortion racket. They saw a film crew out the window and held them hostage.
SERAFINOWICZ: That drummer got paid off, and then another drummer started.
NEWMAN: So, if a scene with the two of us standing on the corner is that difficult, when you get to the script with the dog in it, you just go, “I don’t know how we’re gonna do anything!” We work with great people, so you just hope it will all come together.
So, being a superhero isn’t as easy as people think?
NEWMAN: No! People think it’s so easy, but it’s tricky. And then, working comedy into that is tricky. It’s very tricky comedy. The malleability of the universe and when the comedy comes from us playing with our surroundings, rather than against the surroundings, there’s no status quo on this show. It’s not just that every episode has new locations, new characters and new technical complexities, but the comedy comes from very different places.
SERAFINOWICZ: There’s a tone that we have to fit the comedy into. If it becomes too silly and you don’t care about the world and the characters, than everything is lost, really. It is a comedy and we have to be funny, but it’s within these parameters.
NEWMAN: It never gets boring.
What has most surprised you about playing these characters?
NEWMAN: I thought, going into it, the difficult thing would be maintaining that level of nervous energy, all the time. It takes a lot of energy to be that nervous and to exude that, every take, but then, the real nerves end up being exhausting. The thing that was more difficult for me, which I was not expecting, was how much bravery I had to play. He is making these strong decisions, even when he’s scared to stand up and do the right thing and follow through on it. It’s a weird thing to try to get across an energy that’s ephemeral. I’m constantly struggling with how to make this guy heroic, in the moments he needs to be, without doing an impression of a hero. I don’t want to do John Wayne. I want to figure out what Arthur’s heroism is, which is tough.
SERAFINOWICZ: There were a lot of unexpected things. The thing that was surprising is that you think of the hairs on your arms as useless, but they tell you where things are, they tell you how close people are, and they detect little changes in the air. When you don’t have that, it’s a weird thing. It makes you more clumsy and it makes you feel more vulnerable, so you have to make yourself feel more aware of what’s going on.
There are some really fun moments in these episodes, with Overkill and Midnight and some of the other characters. What are the biggest challenges in doing a show like this, where you have so many characters who all have their own complications?
EDLUND: To me, that’s the fun. We’ve made a lot of different things, but this is a show that has every bell and whistle. We had a fight coordinator, wire work, green screen, dogs, and all of it. It was very complicated.
JOSEPHSON: We had puppeteers who operated the eye of a boat. We had puppeteers who operated antennae.
EDLUND: We had puppeteers, all over the place! You couldn’t throw a dog without hitting a puppeteer.
JOSEPHSON: Everything Ben created, and especially the talking dog, was just one more thing.
EDLUND: It was one more pain in the ass!
JOSEPHSON: It would be wrong to clamp down on how inventive Ben is. This show does have some really interesting surprises, and twists and turns, and it’s a very challenging show to produce. In our return episode, there were all sorts of challenges, just in that one episode, with flight, special effects, and size ratios that had to be figured out on the day.
EDLUND: We thought we were taking it easy on that one, but that was not easy, at all.
JOSEPHSON: It was a head-scratcher for everybody, at every turn, no matter how well we prepared for it. But, I love it! We have choreography. Maria Torres, who did Enchanted, did all of The Terror’s minions, and they move with really good, swift efficiency. That really enhanced The Terror’s character and how he demands things of people. It’s definitely challenging, but it gives you something, episode to episode, that’s interesting eye candy that I believe the genre demands. The better movies are like that.
EDLUND: We should have the most fun. That’s our hope. That’s what we came for. A talking dog was very important to me. I started talking about that, very early on.
When you throw all of that into Season 1, where you do go for Season 2?
EDLUND: There are so many places to go! It’s wide open. We’re pretty excited.
Griffin, does everything you went through for Season 1 make you that much more excited for Season 2, or are you scared about what they’ll come up with next?
NEWMAN: The second season will take place exclusively on a beach in Cabo, and it’s just The Tick and Arthur reading books. It’s an extended vacation sequence. No. That’s part of the fun of it!
The Tick is available to stream at Amazon Prime.