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Costume dramas are certainly nothing new to Ben Daniels, having immersed himself into the world of the British Royals as Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon on The Crown, but Jupiter’s Legacy, and its world of spandex-clad superheroes, brings that notion to a whole new level.
The British born Daniels launched his career on the stage, where he found himself nominated for one award after another, taking home the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2001 for Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Eight years later he made the move to Broadway. But he’s another of the actors in this cast that has pretty consistently shifted media, in his case stage appearances alternating with films (21 to date, including playing General Antoc Merrick in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and television (guest appearances and starring roles on Cutting It and Law & Order: UK.)
WHO IS BRAINWAVE?
NAME: Walter Sampson
ALTER EGO: Brainwave
POWERS AND ABILITIES: Flight; acute psychic powers to destroy the mind; can survive as far into space as satellites go.
NEED TO KNOW: Founding member of The Union and Sheldon’s older brother. He has his own ideas about how superheroes should conduct themselves, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
Den of Geek: Any interesting story about being cast on this?
Ben Daniels: I was shooting The Crown, and I was in the middle of a field where I hardly had any reception on my phone. My agent called and said, “You’ve been offered this Netflix series called Jupiter’s Legacy, based on the comics. I’m sending the scripts over.” I couldn’t download them, because I didn’t have enough juice. But my Kindle, as they often do, could connect, so I bought all the comics, and I read them on a tiny little gray scale Kindle, and was completely sucked into that world. I had the entire day to sit there in my trailer and just read. I just loved them.
Then that night, I read the script. So even before I spoke to Steven DeKnight, I had a Zoom meeting set up with him. It wasn’t Zoom then, it was Skype.
Right. The old days.
The old days, the charming old days. So even before I met with him, I knew that I knew that I was in. I just loved the world, I loved the characters, and I loved Walter. What a great character he is.
The journey he’s on is just incredible.
The kind of journey he goes on is just huge. I loved that. If you’re going to do something for possibly a few years—we never know—It’s you want it to be as gnarly and gritty and complex and intricate as it can be, so you can unpick that over a period of time if you need to.
Walter has an amazing arc, what attracted you most?
What fascinates me is that the family drama happening before we go into spandex is so full and rich. You can just mine it like any other drama that you do that hasn’t got flying and fighting or whatever it might be.
Do you think that’s why it works so well?
Despite the powers, they’re all very human. It has a vibe to me of ancient Greek theater, where the stories were about the same families and were intertwined. There are battles and gods walk the Earth with mortals. All the stories are about the frailty of the human condition under this inescapable hand of fate.
How would you describe Walter?
Walter is a mass of insecurities that manifest in very different ways before he gets his super power and then later on in life. But I think it’s all linked to that insecurity. Once I’d unlocked that, it meant that I could push apart, even further, those two different personalities and then link them with this insecurity. When he’s a younger man, he’s this highly sensitive person and finds it hard to process emotion. He’s swamped by it and has been the butt of family jokes since he was a kid and he’s resented it. There’s that famous saying: “show me the boy at seven, and I will show you the man.”
But Walter is a lot of things, but I think his insecurity manifests in different ways and underlies who he is as a person. Walter’s long game is dogged and tenacious.
Let’s talk spandex. How exciting is it to don the costume?
Those costumes are phenomenal, but I was thinking about it this morning. Do you know how they’re built? I got cast just before Christmas and at the beginning of 2019, I went for my first body scan at Pinewood, I was over here, where you stand in various shapes, and you’re in a kind of a tunnel of cameras. They scan you in 3D…I got scanned and then a couple of months later I had to go for my first fitting with Lizz Wolf, our brilliant costume designer. Whenever I did a fitting, I would literally fly backwards and forwards from somewhere, so I was always in a state of jet lag whenever I went in.
The first thing I saw were these little maquettes of all of us standing there in our underwear, that they then sculpted on musculature in clay. Then I had my first fitting. You put on an underlayer, a base layer. Then on top of that is the muscle suit, which is another layer of thick, thick spandex with latex muscles carved, 3D workings, wherever they want to bulk you up. Then on top of that goes the really, really tight spandex skin. Then on top of that goes your cape or belts or whatever. So it’s a lot.
It takes about seven months to build a suit. It gets changed the more we worked out, because we all have personal trainers, so they had to take things in or let things out, or recarve the muscles, or give us bigger butts in my case. But then you have it on they are phenomenal. You feel so unbelievably powerful, and so much of your work is done for you at that point.
No doubt you’ve dealt with this sort of thing with The Crown, but are you prepared for the public scrutiny, especially online, that comes with being on a show like this?
I worked with a theater director when I was just starting out and it just applies so brilliantly to that question. We were about to open the play. He went, “In [seat] J13, someone will be having the most transformative experience and the time of their life. In J12, they’ve lost the will to live. There is nothing you can do about that. Just do what you do, and have a reason for doing what you’re doing. That’s what you listen to.” That’s always stuck with me. You just can’t please everyone. You can please some people, but some people are always going to hate what you do. It’s like life, really. There will always be a J12 and a J13.
Jupiter’s Legacy premieres on Netflix on May 7. Read more about the series in our special edition magazine!