'Swamp Thing' Showrunner Mark Verheiden Says Cutting Episodes Didn't Change the Season [Interview]
Swamp Thing is not Mark Verheiden’s first comic book adaptation. He wrote the screenplay for Timecop, based on his own comic, and the screenplay for The Mask. He also wrote for Daredevil on Netflix. Now he is running DC Universe’s Swamp Thing alongside Gary Dauberman.
Verheiden spoke with /Film by phone this week. Swamp Thing was originally going to run 13 episodes but the last three were cut. He addressed that and the development of the streaming series in our interview. Swamp Thing premieres today.
You’ve adapted comic books for film and television. How did you approach Swamp Thing?
I think we approached Swamp Thing with a great deal of respect for the original creation by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, but I think Gary and I and James Wan and the Atomic Monster folks also very much appreciated what Alan Moore and Steve Bissette did a little bit later in the run. So we approached it wanting to find that tone to it and then to find a way to adapt that to television and play around a little bit with the mythology but not an enormous amount, but just find an interesting way in. I think bottom line was trying to be very respectful of the original books which I think we all just love. In my case, Swamp Thing, the Alan Moore books, kind of got me back into comics after being out of them for a while, so they were a huge influence on me.
Even the Alan Moore run was some time ago. Was there also an aspect of modernizing Swamp Thing?
A little bit of that, and also being mindful of where we’re at in the world in terms of ecological issues. Also where we are in the world in terms of how the economy is affecting small towns like the town of Marais in our universe. We wanted to make sure it felt like we were set in this century and so incorporating some of the themes that have come out since those books were issued, but really trying to hold onto that eerie sense of Southern Gothic that I think the Alan Moore run especially had, that really strange feeling you got from that world that he created with Swamp Thing and Abby and all the other characters around them. There’s that feel of the Southern Gothic that really animated us and we really wanted to try to capture in this show, but in a modern world setting. It’s not period. It’s set in modern day but it’s sort of a town out of time regardless, the Marais of our world. One of those bypassed towns, when the freeway went by it 25 years ago so they don’t get a lot of visitors.
Swamp Thing always has a component of an environmental message with pollution. Is it possible to address issues as current as climate change through Swamp Thing?
I think it’s all on the table. In the first season, we address the very specific issues that have befallen the swamp that surrounds Marais, but I think as we go forward, we can certainly explore other aspects of it along with the supernatural, which is the other aspect that gets unleashed basically in the first season of the show. The terrible ecological damage that’s been done to the swamp has created imbalance. That imbalance has a supernatural component in this swamp. So that’s come out and is causing all sorts of havoc in Marais among our various cast members.
Was Andy Bean mainly cast for the pilot?
Andy’s in the pilot but surprisingly enough, he is in other episodes in ways that I think are a little unexpected, but perhaps expected if you’ve read some of the other books. He obviously is big in the pilot. What was great about Andy was he gave us a real anchor for the relationship to develop between Abby and Swamp Thing as we go forward. Andy gave us that root. Oh wait, this is a guy we like and like to deal with, a guy that Abby could really like. But it’s interesting as we go forward because the story of the first season to some extent is the origin of Swamp Thing. Part of the origin of Swamp Thing is dealing with what he is become. It’s not a character that changes back and forth, becomes Alec Holland and then becomes Swamp Thing. So how he emotionally deals with that is a big part of season one as well.
Does Derek as Swamp Thing get to have dramatic and character scenes also?
Oh, absolutely. The building relationship between Abby and Swamp Thing is really the core of what this season’s about. It’s a very hairy romance to some extent. One thing I like to say about it is she fell in like with Alec Holland. As we go forward, she begins to sort of fall in a sense of love with Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing is what Alec Holland had but he now has a greater range of perceptions because of what he’s experiencing now that he’s become Swamp Thing and become one with the swamp. These are all aspects to explore as we go forward through the season.
Can Swamp Thing talk?
Yes. You will see him become quite verbal and he is, as we first meet him he is trying to even understand what is going on with himself. I think as we go forward, he begins to have more of an understanding and he’s able to articulate that. So he is a verbal Swamp Thing and goes through a lot of changes as we go through the season.
Did James Wan help design any of the creatures?
James was very, very involved in designing Swamp Thing. There are some others that I won’t get into that are in season one as well. Definitely intimately involved with defining the Swamp Thing suit. We went with a place called FracturedFX which is run by Justin Raleigh who’s done practical effects for James’s other films. They knocked it out of the park. They just created an amazing suit for Derek to wear. We all worked on it but James’s vision of it was what we started with.
What was that input he had that Swamp Thing has to be this?
Again, it goes back to being true to the look from the books. I think our Swamp Thing is a little darker maybe than some of the cinematic versions that have come before, a little more intense. However, I will say just in the sense of where makeup and things have gone since the films and old TV show, the improvements they’re able to do, Justin Raleigh was able to make an incredible suit that maybe wasn’t even possible 40 years ago. It just conveys all the emotion you want to convey. Derek is able to act through it which is great. Act through it not only facially but within his body. It gave us everything we wanted, but basically I think we really wanted to get something as true to the books as we could get.
We understand you lost three episodes. What won’t we get to see at the end of season one?
You’ll see a lot of what we planned. Some of it would have been surprises regardless. It is an origin story. It is about the character Swamp Thing coming to terms with himself and it’s a love story about Abby figuring out how they can fit together in that world. So look forward to seeing that relationship bloom, change and be tested and challenged, all sorts of stuff like that in season one.
Does episode 10 still reach the point you intended to reach in 13?
Yes, I think so.
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