Interview: Adi Shankar on Castlevania season 2

With Halloween season in full swing, Netflix has recently released the second season of Castlevania, the hit video game adaptation from show runner Adi Shankar. The first season centred on Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last vampire hunter from the disgraced Belmont clan who’s trying to save an Eastern European city from the wrath of Dracula, with the help of spell-caster Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso) and Dracula’s son, Alucard (James Callis).

The first season gained a huge fan following, and it was quickly announced that there would be a second season, featuring an eight episode run compared to the first season’s four. Recently Nicola had a chance to speak to showrunner Adi Shankar about the second season of the show, as well as working with Netflix and his Assassin Creed project.

So how did you first get involved with Netflix and the Castlevania adaptation?

AS: When I was growing up in Hong Kong, I would watch a lot of anime as it’s one of the things that was always on TV and it was usually adult-oriented. But it was never in English, so it was generally like in Japanese with Cantonese subtitles. So, I grew up loving the aesthetics and it was only later that I actually got to watch some of the things and figure out what they actually where about.

In 2015 I was getting ready to leave Hollywood, it felt like the industry and the ecosystem was on the decline or something was up, and was not really representative of what the audience wanted, and at least that’s what I perceived at the time. And I made a list of two or three things that I wanted to do and two or three things I wanted to accomplish before I vanished into the ether forever and one of them was a really dark, hard R take on The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers because that is how I saw the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when I was a kid watching the show, I saw it as a show about high school kids who were being weaponized by an alien to fight other aliens. So I made the short and it got 18 million views in like a day – it was really insane! We got to the point where CNN was covering it, and then Netflix reached out to me on Twitter and said, “Hey can you come in for a meeting?” I went to this meeting, and literally, as a by-product of a meeting literally two days later Castlevania was born.

Were you blown away by the fans response to the first season? As you don’t get very many R rated animated shows

AS: Yeah, oh very much so. And that was actually the pitch to Netflix, it wasn’t just… Oh, hey, I wanna do Castlevania this way. It was like, Well, there’s this whole genre that exists in other regions, and for whatever reason, animation is seen as cartoons for adults, that are comedies. What’s interesting about animation over there (in Hong Kong), is that it exists across genres – animation isn’t a genre it’s an aesthetic. It’s kind of like superhero movies, you’re like okay that’s not really a genre, but that is a type of World, that is maybe a narrative aesthetic or maybe there’s some thematic common thread between superhero movies, but they’re all very different. Like the Hulk and Spider-Man and Venom and Wolverine could not be more different.

Definitely! So, you recently teased a new character for season 2 called Hector? Is there anything you can tell us about him?

AS: You know what’s cool and what I like about Hector, is that he’s a human. In a show about vampires and vampire armies and monsters and demons and stuff, it was cool to have another human here, but this time he’s more of like an anti-hero. And he’s actually the star of his own game – Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, so it’s kind of a deep cut, for some fans.

Moving on to your bootleg videos, Your Dirty Laundry Punisher video was absolutely brilliant, what was it like bringing Thomas Jane back as the Punisher?

AS: He’s just a really, really great guy – a really nice guy, like a true artist.

What did you think of Marvel and Netflix’s take on The Punisher with Jon Bernthal?

AS: That’s a great question, I believe last year or a year before it at New York comic con, on their panel they talked about how Dirty Laundry inspired the new Punisher series – it was super cool and super flattering. I actually haven’t seen the Punisher series, I haven’t seen the Venom movie and I literally had to be forced to watch the Power Rangers movie…And I’m not saying that I have a problem with any of these things, or that they were bad, it’s just I think maybe I just have too close of a connection to some of these brands now and I just kind of tune out when they come around.

So you’ve also produced a film that I think it’s growing out for a sequel – Dredd. What would you love to see if there was ever a second film?

AS: Honestly, I don’t know! I haven’t actually thought about this in so long because I’m just so focused on Castlevania and growing that World. And then in November, we’re gonna be announcing another exciting video game adaptation that should get people pretty jazzed.

Yeah, I saw a picture from Zelda on your Facebook recently!

AS: No comment! All will be revealed very soon…

I know you’re currently working on an Assassin’s Creed series, are you a big fan of those games and how’s it coming along?

AS: Oh hell yeah! And what I really like about Assassin’s Creed, more than even the game mechanics, is the world that they’ve built – Assassins Creed is its own cinematic gaming universe

Definitely yes, some of the cut scenes are just fantastic! There’s just so much history to it as well and a lot of story to pick from. So it’s just a great universe I think to bring to life.

AS: There’s so much to pick from, and it’s like Assassin’s Creed the movie created its own MCU in a lot of ways

Definitely, because you’ve got all those different time periods to pick and choose from as well.

AS: Yeah! Kind of similar to the MCU, ’cause there’s definitely the grounded aspect of with some of the early games, but like the MCU, The Guardians of the Galaxy opened up so many possibilities. It’s so interesting, because Marvel is basically Star Wars in a lot of ways. The Marvel Universe basically the Star Wars Universe that just starts on Earth and expands outwards. Once we get into like Galactus and his heralds, the Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, it gets pretty deep in the cosmic realm.

What would you say about the whole Marvel versus DC thing? You just talked a lot about the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe…

AS: Well, I don’t really lean towards one or another – they’re so different and there’s very little similarity between the two. You take DC’s most interesting character and in a lot of ways it’s Batman, so you the throw Batman into the Marvel universe and he’s really not that interesting of a character anymore.

I believe you’ve got to look at both of these worlds and understand their worlds in two contexts: there’s the micro-context and the macro context. So on a micro level, you can kind of evaluate the characters against each other – who are more interesting. Captain America or Batman – who’s more interesting? Arsenal or Spider-Man? Who’s a deeper villain, the Ridler or Thanos? But once you’ve looked at the micro and just look at it from the macro level storytime perspective, in my opinion DC doesn’t work together as a cohesive cinematic universe in the same way that Marvel does. It just never has. It’s why the DC Universe has been rebooted 50 or 70 times. There’s always a crisis on infinite Earths that causes everything to like reshuffle or reshift. But marvel doesn’t have to do that and never has had to do that because there’s a streamline continuity there.

Now, those are two vastly different approaches to the story telling and I’m not saying one’s better than the other… In fact, in a lot of ways, I favoured the DC approach more than I favour the Marvel approach because the DC approach lends itself in kind of reinterpretation every so often, whereas the Marvel universe is very, very stuck on its own continuity. The Marvel universe is like this evolving canvas, whereas the DC Universe is like iconography that needs to be remixed constantly.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

AS: Yeah, Bodied comes out a week after Castlevania. It’s a battle rap film I produced with Eminem and it’ll be available in cinemas on the 2nd November, but at the end of November it’ll be available Worldwide on YouTube Premium.

Castlevania season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.

Nicola Austin

Lover of all things Marvel, DC, Game of Thrones, Disney, Pokemon and Studio Ghibli. Favourite superhero is Ms Marvel closely followed by Spider-Man.

Nicola Austin has 1435 posts and counting. See all posts by Nicola Austin

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