One of the highlights at Space City Con this year was the cast and crew of the new series More Than Human.
Now, I briefly talked about this amazing cast and crew during my video blog “Six Awesome things about Space City Con” but now I want to take the time to tell you more about this show, the cast, and the amazing things about it.
More than human started out as a web series, with short ten minute episodes. After finding some popularity, and a successful Kickstarter campaign, the production team at Fanboy Filmmakers, and director Carlos Tovar, fleshed the show out into a longer series, making a 22 minute pilot and second episode. Production for the remainder of the first season begins in March. Those who backed the show via Kickstarter will have a chance to watch the completely finished episode 1 via a password-protected link.
The Pilot Episode
At Space City Con, we were treated with the chance to screen the pilot episode of this show. The plot is very simple, but intriguing. Five high school friends are living their lives, facing typical teenage woes: school pressure, cheerleading, after-school jobs, sports, abusive parents. One of the boys, who’s working at the a laboratory, steals a sample of the serum they’re working on, sharing it with his friends.
Within days of taking the serum, the teenagers start exhibiting super powers: the ability to manipulate earth, telekinesis, mind control, super strength, and the ability to throw lightning. The powers are not instantly understood, the teenagers have to learn by trial-and-error how to manipulate the world around them with the fantastic powers. Visually, the powers are represented by a deep purple: the scenes where powers are used have some deep purple images.
The show’s villain, Dr. James Worthington runs the lab and designed the serum is a sympathetic villain. He seeks to find the stolen vial of serum. He’s working on the serum to save his comatose daughter, and when the vial is stolen, his employers, the ones who presumably funded the research, demand that he work to recover the stolen property.
So, yes… the show’s heroes are teenagers who did something they shouldn’t have: they stole from a lab. Admittedly, the experiment seems shady: genetic manipulation. The teens then drank the stolen serum, caving into peer pressure, and developed super powers. And certainly the kids will have some trouble because of it, Dr. Worthington seems to be a formidable villain and at least one of the teenagers seems to regret ingesting the serum.
The theft and ingestion of the serum puts the heroes in the wrong, to a point. Should they have done it? No. But, they are going to pay a price for their bad behavior: they have an enemy hunting them down.
However, the serum gives the kids a chance to better themselves. Though the five teens are friends before developing super powers, they all seem to be struggling with different problems in teenage life. They struggle to get good grades, to fit in with their peers, to get into a good shape. One of them even has problems with an abusive parent. Each teen has something in their life that could be improved upon by having super powers.
After my screening of More than Human, I had the chance to talk with the creator, Carlos Tovar and several of the cast members: Joe Grisaffi, who plays Doctor Worthington, Sadie Brook, who plays Morgan, the cheerleader with mind control, Rowland Sauls who portrays Eli, a kid with electricity, and Scott Anthony Chase, who portrays Bryce the strong kid.
Carlos Tovar used purple because it’s a color of royalty. And it’s a derivative of Red for blood, and that feeds into things later in the show. It was filmed with very little budget, using a lot of local Houston landmarks: including LonestarCollege, a local community college. The successful Kickstarter campaign helped pull the effects artists, composers, and post-production team. High school scenes filmed at Houston ISD Law Enforcement for Criminal Justice school schools. This school allowed them to shoot inexpensively, and has a smaller set-up, which allowed the set to look fuller with less extras. Series editor John de Jesus also edited the recently released film, Ghost Team One.
The show was inspired, in part, by the television show Heroes. Carlos has worked in television production for years, but always wanted to do his own original content. He loved Heroes Season One, but was not as happy with later seasons. He also drew from Teen Titans and general comic book heroes. He liked the ongoing mythology and deep storytelling. He is also inspired by the band M83, the video Midnight city:
He wanted to do a Teen superhero story, and live action, not animated. This is not a comedy, it’s a drama, with teenagers. He cast real teenagers in the roles. As the tone gets more serious. Telekinesis was an important power to have: the narrator, Lindsey, played by Alexandra Mauro, is the group’s leader: she is poised to go through struggles independently to emerge as a strong leader. This can be seen from production stills: Lindsey is the character the others flank.
The cast is a well-mixed group. The teenagers are not all cookie-cutter variety: they come from a variety of backgrounds and social situations. The teenage actors themselves have a small amount of creative control on their characters. They get the script first, read through it, and send back notes about their characters.
The teens each had some individual challenges in their roles: specific scenes that were a challenge, emotions they had a hard time portraying, the things that were different from themselves and their characters. Rowland had a hard time putting himself in the place of the abusive situation with his character’s father. Sadie, who plays Morgan, was worried about portraying organic emotions with her own on-screen father’s difficulties. Scott, who plays Bryce, felt the most difficult part was pretending he had the super strength.
All of the teens manage to make it work.
Carlos explained that the syrum was a water and gelatin mixture. This seems to be the most difficult part that the actors have encountered thus far. All the kids proclaimed it “disgusting!” and “Gross!” it was goopy, thick, with a chemical aftertaste: watered. They had to endure shooting twenty-ish shots of drinking the serum, without a ‘yuck face.’ The first character filmed drinking it was Eli, and Rowland explained “it does NOT taste like cough syrup.”
The hardest part of the show for Joe Grisaffi was “working with these ‘horrible teenagers’.” Of course, this was said with a grin and a smile. He loved them all, actually. Joe was excited that he got to say the line: name the show “More Than Human!” Rowland’s favorite pieces were filming the eye rolls. Carlos jokes that Rowland has a wide variety of eye roll: each is “distinctive and full of meaning.” The cast jokes around with each other, but it is very evident that they have a good relationship with one another and work well with each other. It is that kind of good relationship between cast members that makes a show. Firefly and Serenity were great, in part, because the cast members had a real friendship with each other. There is a sense of that from the teenagers, adult cast and crew of More than Human.
Each actor has their own source of inspiration. Morgan has a good family, she’s a cheerleader, outgoing, spunky, happy, much like Sadie. Rowland pulls his inspiration in the moment, he wants each scene to be genuine, real in the moment. Scott can relate to his character, but thinks he is a little shyer than Bryce. He feels like he can relate to his character, and has enjoyed getting to know it. Joe happens to be an evil scientist, so he drew from his own inspiration. Doctor Worthington does not start bad, he’s doing the right thing, for the right reasons, but takes the ‘wrong path’ as his actions are instigated by a thief.
Carlos explains that his inspiration for Worthington was Magneto, a villain doing the right thing, for the right reasons, but using wrong methods. His cause, his end game, is more important than anything else.
The show interests me. It excites me. I’m curious to see where it goes.