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April 2, 2015

‘Olympus’ premieres tonight on SyFy, Nick Willing talks plot and expecations


Tariq Kyle / Hypable

Syfy’s newest original drama, Olympus, premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m., and we’ve got an exclusive interview with show creator Nick Willing to help give you the inside scoop before this incredible drama airs.

You’re in for a treat tonight on the Syfy channel if you’re planning on tuning into Olympus, and we hope you are! The show is an incredible, fresh take on ancient Greek mythology, and if you love action and adventure, you will love Olympus.

Don’t know what’s going on? Don’t worry! We sat down with the show creator Nick Willing and he helped explain the entire concept of the show while also giving us some great information on what we can expect this season.

How did you come up with the idea for ‘Olympus’?

Well, it’s one of my personal obsessions since I was three years old — the ancient Greeks. I didn’t figure out why until I was old enough to understand psychology, and the interesting thing about ancient Greeks is their religion, their mythology, even their plays are a way of expressing the human mind. The gods, their stories are archetypes that live inside us. Gods are ways of expressing the things that drive us.

So, in other words, they’re absolutely perfect for dramatization. One of the things I’m intrigued by is something I’ve never seen done before: The Greek tragedies brought to television. Here are the greatest stories ever told in drama, perhaps the first and most visceral of all soap operas and we’ve never tried bringing them to television. That was my plan — what if we made a show set in ancient Greece that was exactly like the ancient Greeks intended but was as modern and hard hitting as Tarantino meets Guillermo del Toro. That’s what we’re doing, we’re doing something fast, twisted, filled with surprises, just as those original dramas were.

For those who don’t know what ‘Olympus’ is about, can you explain what they’ll be tuning into?

Olympus is a story of a young man, a hero, who was brought up in hiding. He didn’t think he’d ever know why until his mother was brutally murdered and in his search to discover why she was murdered and why he was brought up in hiding he discovers that it was because he has, inside of him, an extraordinary power. A sort of secret weapon, a riddle of the gods that when unlocked will open the doors to Olympus and grant him the immortal power of the gods.

This is the story of that young man’s quest, what [the riddle] is and how to unlock the door and become an immortal god. Now, unfortunately, almost everyone else in the show — the King of Athens, Minos the most powerful king in the civilized world, the Oracle of Gaia and many others — all want the same thing. They need him alive but under their power and influence so he could take them to the doors of Olympus.

At the end of the show he does indeed go to the doors of Olympus and he discovers what it is to be an immortal god.

That’s a huge spoiler! But I guess the show is more about the journey, isn’t it?

Interestingly, it’s not a spoiler because it’s a riddle [that lets him into Olympus], so one of the interesting things about this journey is that in solving this riddle you come to find out there’s a bunch of other stuff. Like, for instance, what is the nature of the character and the character of others? We explore what it is to be human — betrayal, greed, passion, love — all of the things expressed through the riddle.

The pilot hits the ground running and starts in the middle of a bunch of drama. Were you worried about confusing viewers when they tune in tonight?

One of the things having worked a lot in science fiction and fantasy is that I know the audience is filled with incredibly smart people who love complex stories, riddles, twists and turns. But what else they love, more than anything, is the cosmology of different worlds.

They love the mythologies that are spun around science fiction and science fantasy stories. And I think that’s because they’ve got these sort of chess player minds, so in order to really live in that world, you really have to have sophisticated, complex screenplays that live on different levels. It should be enjoyed, experienced, and felt more than anything else.

It does hit the ground running in that you have to watch the first thirty seconds to really get the most out of the show. One of the things that I think is that if you come in late, you’re going to miss the great moments. It continues on in that fashion all the way through the series; it gets faster and faster and more twisted and more extraordinary and complex. We’re introduced not only to what the gods mean and who they are, but what world they live in, what they are, and why they’re here.

One of the things we set up in the beginning is that Hero has this huge riddle inside of him that could unlock the door to Olympus. We will eventually find out, but he doesn’t know what that is. He cannot sleep with a woman and bear a child or he will lose that gift, in the same way that his father passed the gift onto him. Interestingly, the woman who he is most crazy about is the Oracle of Gaia, and she can’t sleep with anyone or she will lose the gift of second sight. So you have this incredibly electric relationship between two people who can never actually fulfill their greatest passion.

It’s a long-winded way of answering your question, but I think the information is fed to our audience in a way our audience really enjoys. They love plot detail and mythology and understanding different houses and kings.

What comparisons would you hold against ‘Olympus’?

I tried to make a show that was like no other show out there, but I realized as soon as you make a fantasy show and put it in an arcane time, people will compare it to other shows because people like to make comparisons. But I’ll let you know my secret: My touchstones for this show were Pan’s LabyrinthPulp Fiction, and The Prisoner. I wanted to get as far away from things like [Game of Thrones] as possible because I wanted to create a show that was more surprising and unexpected on television.

It starts fast, it does have twists and turns in the first episode, but let me tell you that as you get on throughout the season, by episode 10 and 11 it will be mind-blowingly different from anything you’ve seen. It takes a while to get that extreme and we’re always trying to push the envelope as it goes. What it’s doing is setting up the audience for a very big finale where we sort of answer the riddle to the meaning of life itself.

Is there anything you wanted fans to know about the show or any closing remarks you have for those tuning in tonight?

Yeah, I think the other thing that people will be interested in knowing is that it’s got more visual effects shot than any other show made for television. 70% of this show was shot in virtual environments so we can design the world that eventually becomes part of the story. They should feel realistic, but they’re heightened enough to make you feel like you’re in another world.

The other great enjoyment people have had watching the show is that the visual quality of it is so extraordinary looking. We have 55 different virtual environments built and apart from all the creatures and monsters and gods you’ll encounter this season, there will always be these extraordinary worlds, too. I think science fiction fans will find it fascinating and eye-catching.

And the last thing I’ll leave off with is that a lot of shows start with a big bang on episode 1 and then just levels out, but this show keeps going. Episode 2 has more effects than episode 1, and it just keeps going like that. I wanted the whole season to be an exceptional jewel. This is the first time I’ve made a whole series. I’ve made on a ton of shows like Tin Man, and Alice in WonderlandNeverland, and bunch of shows for SyFy, but this is the first time I’ve made a series. I wanted it to be an exceptional thing, so we’ve worked incredibly hard.