Swamp Thing gets a modern era upgrade with a new original series premiering today on the DC Universe subscription service. The series sees Crystal Reed (Gotham, Teen Wolf) as CDC investigator Abby Arcane who returns to her home town of Marais, Louisiana as a mysterious swamp-born illness has begun to plague the town. Soon after her arrival she meets biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean) who might be able to help her get the answers that she sneaks, until he disappears and is rearisen as the Swamp Thing (Derek Mears).
Swamp Thing Executive Producer Mark Verheiden is no stranger to the DC Universe on television — in fact, he was there for the early seasons of the first show that brought this wave of comic book TV, Smallville, penning such fan-favorite episodes as “X-Ray,” “Rogue,” “Heat,” and “Perry.”
With Swamp Thing launching this week we had the privilege of talking with Verheiden about this new project which left us wanting more after seeing the first two episodes. You can find and enjoy that interview below.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: What was the goal that you and your production partners set out to hit when you put together the series?
MARK VERHEIDEN: When Gary Dauberman and James Wan and I got together, we wanted to do a show that was steeped in horror, but also one that captured the emotional and, for lack of a better word, romantic connection between Abby Arcane and Swamp Thing.
So, our goal was to create this supernatural world where awful things can happen, but in some ways, also beautiful things can happen. And a world where an Abby Arcane could come in and meet our friend Swamp Thing and realize that the creature she may have first imagined to be a monster is, in fact, something far, far more complex than that, and in some ways, far more intriguing than that. It started out looking at it, in a way, as sort of Abby Arcane’s story, with Swamp Thing as the man that she met as Alec Holland then becoming the creature, and how does she find a way to try to help him, but then ultimately, what roles does that open up for both of them emotionally? Because of his supernatural connection to the Green, and the role of plants, and all of that great stuff.
Are there any intentional parallels between that and maybe Maria Sunderland viewing Abby as a monster and people not trusting Alec Holland when he first shows up?
I think so, because Abby, even though she grew up in the small town of Marais where we set the show, she left when she was 17 under very dark circumstances which we explore as the series goes on.
She returns as an outsider. She returns as someone who left, was never supposed to come back, and now has come back under very uncertain circumstances because of the disease that’s plaguing the town. Alec Holland is the same thing, an outsider. In a way, they remain outsiders in a way as the show goes on, trying to find their own path in Marais while also trying to find a way for Abby especially to to help Alec – Swamp Thing – but also to help the people of the town. But what’s been released from the swamp is a supernatural force that becomes an overpowering thing that creates horrific situations that she has to deal with, and Swamp Thing has to deal with, as the season goes on.
Was there ever a temptation to give Abby the white hair?
Look, it’s certainly something that was discussed, and I would say ‘never say never’ to that.
A few years ago you also wrote for the Constantine TV series. If that series that continued, were there ever any talks of bringing Swamp Thing onto the show?
I don’t recall that.
Obviously, we read a lot of Swamp Thing books to read up on Constantine, but I don’t recall thinking that was really in the cards.
Constantine was an awesome experience for me, but I’m not sure we thought that would really be something we could do. But you’re asking the wrong guy!
Which era of the Swamp Thing comics is recommended reading for the people who end up liking the show?
Well, I would read the first the first series by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, because those are amazingly well done and Bernie Wrightson is a masterful artist. Those are just great books, and they create the world.
For me, the run by Alan Moore which lasted five years or so, maybe six, with Steve Bissette and John Totleben and some other artists is the one that after I had more or less left comics for a while, they drew me back in with the emotional depth and richness of those stories, which still hold up amazingly well today. They just really compelled me back in the day, so I would recommend those early stories, and then there are great stories all through Swamp Thing’s run, frankly. I’m struggling to keep up because I’ve been so busy on the show [that] I haven’t read the most recent ones.
They just keep going, and the stories stay very interesting, and I think true, in a way, to the complexity that was created back in the book by Len and Bernie but also by by Alan Moore, that sort of emotional complexity that the stories took on.
There are some great DC characters like Madame Xanadu and Daniel Cassidy (Blue Devil) that will be seeing on the show. Can you talk about the series’ take on those characters and what we can expect from them?
Well, Xanadu when we first meet her, she appears to be sort of just a backroom psychic. But without giving away too much, as the season goes on, you’ll realize there is a depth to her that’s considerably more than we realized, and also connection to Abby Arcane that’s considerably more than you may have first thought. Abby Arcane has a very dark history in Marais and Madame Xanadu is part of that, so we’ll learn more about that.
Daniel Cassidy… he’s really fun. Ian Ziering is amazing. He’s a man that’s been trapped in Marais for various supernatural reasons, and as the series goes on, we’ll find out why that happened and what his role is in Marais, and I think it takes us in some sort of unexpected places with him as well.
On the subject of Abby’s past with Marais, is there any chance that this might involve her famous father?
We are aware of her father. But in Season 1, we’re really doing more of an origin story for Swamp Thing, and a story about Swamp Thing and Abby’s… their relationship, to some extent. How it goes from her affection for Alec Holland to, I think, even a greater respect in some ways for Swamp Thing. So I think, in a world of Swamp Thing, there would be much time to explore all sorts of facets of the Swamp Thing world. There’s [hundreds of] issues of that book. So I think that’s a long way of saying “anything is possible.”
Now, when you first started writing movies and TV based on comics, did you ever think the genre would dominate movies and TV as they do today?
What’s happened is, is the world of technology has gotten to a point where you can do what you couldn’t do back then, and make it look real. The effects and the costumes and all the things that make superhero books or comic book character books so cool, they’re now able to recreate, and they weren’t really able to do that very well until last 20 years with the creation of computer generated effects. But aside from that, I think an entire audience has grown up now on those books. 30 years ago, the audience that was basically programming television and making movies may not have had the same respect for comics that the audience does now. The audience now grew up with them, grew up loving them, and is more than happy to see costumed characters on screen. That was not true 30 years ago.
On that note, is there a particular moment in the pilot that just really just wowed you to be able to see it on screen?
There’s a moment in the middle where we do an autopsy on a unfortunate victim of this terrible plant flu that’s going around Marais, that is a inspired combination. And congratulations to Len Wiseman, who directed and really put that sequence together. [It] really combined practical effects, computer generated effects, everything else… music, lighting… to make a really fun, horrific scene.
It’s a combination of all those things coming together. When you see the first raw version of it, you go, ‘oh, that’s cool’. Then you see it completely done, and you go ‘you know, that’s really cool.’ So I think that sequence in particular was one where you go like, ‘wow, we can really do something cool here because we have the tools. And we have ambition, and we have the desire.’ And we have Fractured FX doing practical effects and wonderful CG house CoSA doing the CG work together to make an amazing team. So very cool.
Is there anything else that you can say to people who are thinking of watching the show?
Please, watch, because there are surprises coming and you’ll never quite know where this show is going. Keep your eyes peeled!
Photos and more coverage of Swamp Thing can be found here at KSiteTV; be sure to follow our Swamp Thing-related Twitter feed @SwampThingTV for more on the show! Subscribe to DC Universe to check it out; you can see a teaser below.