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March 30, 2015

Nick Willing On SyFy’s New Olympus


Tony Tellado / SciFi Talk

Nick Willing and SyFy have successfully teamed before in Alice, Tin Man and Neverland. He dives into the world of fantasy once more this time with Greek Mythology in Olympus. The series starts on April 2nd.

Tony Tellado: I have always loved Greek Mythology and I guess it really was my introduction to Comic Book Heroes and Heroines. So I was interested in Olympus right away. Why tackle this interesting but challenging project ?

Nick Willing: The Greeks understood what makes us tick… what drives human behavior. That’s why their religion – what we now call mythology – is still one of the best ways to understand and describe the human psyche. Even the word psyche gets its name from the Greek God of the Soul – Psyche… So my thought was this: can we use the Greek tragedies, the beginning of all modern drama, to explore who we are today? Can we better describe greed, betrayal, love, cowardice, jealousy, all the universal emotions which drive us, in the world of Sophocles, Aristotle and Socrates?

Tony Tellado: Right away I hooked into Hero and his backstory. Describe where he is when the series starts and please do mention Tom York.

Nick Willing: Hero was brought up in hiding. Why? He discovers that his mother was trying to protect him… but it didn’t work. She was brutally murdered and in his attempt to find out why, he discovers something else – that the thing she was trying to protect him from is actually living inside him, a riddle which promises to unlock the doors to Olympus and turn mortal man into an immortal god… but it’s a riddle that’s also guarded by a dark, terrifying beast – Chronos the god of time. Tom York, the exceptional actor who play Hero, takes the character from fresh faced innocent to world weary assassin. He is both captivating, empathetic and ruthless… Gladiator and ingenue in one.

Tony Tellado: Sonya Cassidy’s Oracle is fascinating to me. Is her abilty a blessing or a curse?

Nick Willing: The Oracle of Gaia’s gift depends on her being a virgin. She can look into men and women’s souls, understand their darkest fears or greatest passions, help them solve the mysteries of love but can never experience love herself. Which makes her gift a curse, particularly when she falls in love with Hero. Sonya is a unique actress. She makes Oracle feel grounded even when her head is in the clouds. Oracle has the toughest lines – twisted and tortured – but Sonya makes them feel magical and mysterious.

Tony Tellado: What I like about the series is that characters have their own agendas. Talk about bring that aspect to the series.

Nick Willing: It seems to me that life is what happens when people with opposing agendas try to cooperate. Drama is our way of showing how we can survive this and get what we want. Every character in Olympus has their own agenda but I chose to make this their secret. As the audience discovers the secret, they discover the character’s true agenda. Both are often a huge surprise. The one exception to this is Hero because Hero represents us – the audience – the innocent – negotiating this world for the first time.

Tony Tellado: Another intriguing aspect is the Riddle and Medea’s almost “Moby Dick” obsession with it. Is this something that will resonate through out the series.

Nick Willing: The promise of the Lexicon – the immortal power of the Gods – is our way of exposing the difference between what we want – our dreams and fantasies – and the reality of what makes us human. The first is what drives us every day – the second the sad truth we must eventually come to terms with. Medea needs this power to put right a terrible wrong – and it becomes an obsession because it’s the only way she can live with the terrible things she’s done. Every character in our show wants the Lexicon for a different reason, all valid, and the more who die trying to attain it, the more alluring it becomes to those still on the trail.

Tony Tellado: So far having only seen episode one the Cyclops had a new spin that was so cool. No Spoilers here. Looking forward to Kronos too. Talk about the creature design.

Nick Willing: We wanted to put a new spin on the creatures – Gods and Monsters – so that audiences can feel them afresh for the first time. I tried to find a way to express their power – what ever that is – in their design. So Chronos – the God of time – has become a visual representation of time itself – he moves so fast that he needs to make a huge effort to live in the same time as humans. That effort twists his features.

Tony Tellado: Your use of green screen rivals what Amanda Tapping and her partners did on the ground breaking Sancutary (It was cool for her to direct for you too) The enviorments had me using the pause button throughout the first episode. Talk about the decision to use green screen and the challenges.

Nick Willing: Designing new worlds is my personal obsession. My goal was to make the environments of Olympus as unique and surprising as the creatures and stories that inhabit them. But I needed to keep one foot firmly rooted in reality. We have designed 52 completely unique fantasy environment which will be rolled out over the course of the show. I’m hoping that audiences will be as intrigued by these as by everything else. But there’s more – the environments also hold part of the key to unlocking the riddle of Olympus… look carefully and you may be able to solve it yourself.

Tony Tellado: Lastly, I totally admired what you did with Alice and Tin Man. Those outside the box versions still resonate with me. Is this an approach you always like to use and kind not rely on the conventional ?

Nick Willing: Classic stories are made stronger when they are constantly redefined and reinvented. I learnt that as a kid when I went to see Rigoletto set in a modern gangster’s den. Suddenly the story came alive for me even more. I try to make the visual storytelling of a movie as much part of its appeal as anything else. In the case of Olympus i was trying to express the world the ancient greeks imagined – that Homer and Aristotle wrote about – but with modern tools. But the other common thread running through all my adaptations is that they’re psychological – they all explore our dreams.

Thanks to the SyFy Channel and Thunderbird TV. Look for Olympus on April 2nd on SyFy and SuperChannel