NYCC: "Reprisal" is Hulu's Exciting and Stylish New Series

Photo: Zimbio

"Reprisal" is a new Hulu drama with a femme fatal lead and neo-noir flair. The show made its presence known at New York Comic Con this month to premiere the first episode. The overall vibe of the screening was cozy, as the cast and crew sat in the middle of the room to watch with the rest of the fans in attendance. The pilot introduces a stylish world of gangs, mysteries, 1950's hot rods and burlesque houses, 1960's bikers, 1970's muscle cars, with the lead character Katherine Harlow / Doris Quinn (portrayed by Abigail Spencer) at the center of all the commotion.

Executive producer Josh Corbin gave an insight into developing the overall look of the show. "For me  it's creating a world that is era ambiguous. We don't know exactly where or why these elements exist. The show is about these characters reckoning with their past, chasing down their past, dealing with the sins of their past. We wanted to create a world [where] we don't know exactly where we are or when we are, and finding a fun way to let that play into the themes of the show. On top of that, we had a lot of fun. We draw upon all different sorts of aspects and eras of twentieth century pop culture. Thematically it works and we had a good time."

Finding the right direction for bringing the characters to life in a borderline surreal world such as this requires careful consideration from the lead actors. Abigail Spencer says that following Corbin's lead was important as well as pilot director Jonathan Van Tulleken. "They laid out the tone, the look, everything else, and I was a part of the painting. It is a large world and a lot of the characters don't cross until a certain point in the storytelling. We have a lot of conversations and you do a lot of experimenting because we want to be inspired by film noir, femme fatale, but we're also trying to do something new. That's what we're trying to create together and it's really inspiring because not a lot of people get this opportunity on television."

Renowned character actor David Dastmalchian is also part of the cast as Johnson, a member of the gang lead by Joel Kelly (portrayed by Rodrigo Santoro). Dastmalchian was drawn to the project because of the quality of the script. "I felt like the script was just dripping too. When I first got the script and I read it, I freaked out. I never read anything like this before and I know there's never been anything on television like this before. I said to Josh when I first got to meet him, 'This feels like David Lynch's driving a hot rod and Quentin Tarantino's driving and they're about to crash into each other and it's freaking amazing!' I'm thankful these guys wanted me in this wonderful cast along for the ride."

The show also shows a potential to draw in a younger demographic with talent like Mena Massoud and Madison Davenport. Massoud plays Ethan Hart, a young, newer addition to the gang with a type of brooding sensitivity reminiscent of James Dean. "I am very lucky because I think I have the easiest job adjusting to the world because the audience sees everything for the first time like Ethan does. I get to go on set and portray these emotions that I feel in real life which is like, 'What the hell is going on here? What the hell is this?' It's a fun ride. It's an amazing world that Josh and Jonathan have created and I'm just grateful to be a part of it."

Gilbert Owuor plays Bash Branningan. "To talk about the opposite end of the spectrum compared to where Ethan comes into the world, the sets and the locations they chose and the sets they built, wrapping your head around what living in a place like this day to day would do was really helpful. Just the dirt and the grime, the harshness of it, what would it be to live in this place Day to day, year to year, just trying to make something of your life? Fighting against that really helped me find where the character was from."

Madison Davenport portrays Meredith, a burlesque dancer at the club run by Joel's gang. "The setting, the costumes, let me tell you it's really easy to be Meredith once you're sucked into that corset. That really makes things really real. The writing is so solid, the sets, everything, you feel like you're there and then once you get all into your character, your hair, your make-up, your costume, you're there."

"The world is very specific but..." begins Rodrigo Santoro. "I was blown away when I read the pilot the first time because there's so much humanity. It was just on the page. Yes, the world is amazing, it's new, we don't know what time it is, what is going on, but at the end of the day we're engaged with the characters. They're human and complex. Being in this world gave us a lot of freedom to play with it."

Davenport's first notable introduction involves an extensive dance sequence for a single take and involves her getting on and off different stages while executing precise choreography and removing various items of clothing. "It was a oner so I was basically doing the dance but so was the camera operator. It was like we were doing this lovely waltz and he was going backwards with the camera." Director Jonathan Van Tulleken chimes in from his seat in the audience to say that this particular sequence was shot thirteen times and that the take lasts for one minute and forty seconds. "Every article of clothing that came off had to go back on," adds Davenport. "But it was so much fun! Once you're in that groove, it feels like you're in a time vortex and it doesn't feel like a minute and forty seconds."

Spencer shares how her opinion of the show has shifted from the time that she was making it to now watching the finished product with an audience. "Actually just watching it now and watching it with you all, we've really been selling this as a revenge story. I just watched it and [now] I think this might be a redemption story. I think that's the interesting thing for all of the characters. You really see everyone just trying to find where their future is going, to right a wrong. I think this is going towards redemption because when something like that happens to you, when you are so broken, the strongest thing that you can do is rebuild yourself and try and change the future. I really think that that's the underlying path and it's cool because that is such a human element but placed in this hyperreal, fantastical world."

Santoro's character Joel displays an interesting juxtaposition in the pilot episode, from the ruthlessness of a gang leader to the softness of a doting father of a young daughter. "When we meet Joel now it's a very interesting place, torn between two opposite directions. He's actually trying to maintain order and peace in this violent, lawless world while trying to raise his seven-year-old daughter. It's such a contrast and he's learning to be a father while he has to deal with... I don't want to spoil anything but he's done some really interesting things in his past. He's got a massive internal battle which will evolve in the episodes. It's very challenging for me. He's nothing like me, I'm definitely nothing like that. It's such a blessing, the opportunity to play him."

"Reprisal" will premiere on Hulu on December 6.

Watch the New York Comic Con panel for "Reprisal" here:


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