Interview: Tom Wheeler From ‘The Cape’

We had the chance to chat with The Cape‘s Creator and Executive Producer Tom Wheeler. Check out what he had to say below!

In looking at the longevity of the superhero-based series like The Cape, where does the focus need to be beyond superpowers and saving the day?

Tom Wheeler: Well I think that’s kind of the – that’s sort of the key. That’s a key question.

One of the things that I wanted to establish was even though, you know, our guy would wear a mask and it was going to – we were going to sort of tackle this whole idea of kind of costumed superheroes, I also didn’t necessarily want it to be super powered.

Now The Cape does some extraordinary things and obviously we will push the envelope in kind of, you know, science and what is conceivable.

But it’s also, you know, it’s also going to be sort of limited in what characters can actually do.

I prefer that because I feel that will bring us deeper into our characters. And there’s a fugitive aspect to this story about a guy trying to get home.

But we tackle it in a pretty realistic way. It’s not sort of just we set up the premise and then he just goes and sort of punches bad guys in the head.

I mean I kind of approach these things as a novelist. And I think – and the material that I’m most drawn to whether it’s, you know, growing up with Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, I mean I tend to tackle these things with a sort of lot of ambition and scope. But I think they have to start from a very intimate emotional stakes place.

So what launches The Cape into existence is this struggle to get back to his family and to send a message to his son.

What will keep him as The Cape as we go along will, you know, we’ll approach very realistically.

I mean his family is going through the loss of a father and husband. He’s going through this struggle of this decision he’s made to protect his family to keep his identity a secret.

And we – that’s a – it’s brutal on them both. And we sort of deal with that and at the same time things will change in the course of the series.

And even though there is an adventure of the week aspect there is still for those who will tune in every week there are undercurrents of change and developments that will sometimes subtly and then sometimes quite suddenly change and reverse course.

So I have big plans for, you know, The Cape, the character of The Cape who The Cape is, the mythology of The Cape, the mythology of these characters like Max Malini and Orwell.

And I also, you know, love to sort of dig deeper into Palm City and the history of Palm City.

For instance the digital comic that we’re doing which Michael Gaydos is doing the art for and is just doing this beautiful job, that comic book is not just sort of drawing our characters like drawing our actors. That’s actually the comic book that Trip, the son reads in the show.

So it’s sort of a second Cape mythology within the show for those who want to get a better feel for this world and the rules.

And so I think it’s maintained to sort of, you know, give you a completely long-winded answer.

I mean I just I think it’s the emotional stakes that have to be constantly sort of serviced and then refreshed as we go along.

And are there any plans for like a parallel story line perhaps online to like to go along with The Cape?

Tom Wheeler: Well it’s one of the things we’re trying to do with the comic. And I like – I really think this show in particular has a lot of opportunities in sort of the digital world in comic books.

We’re actually putting up Orwell is watching as an actual blog. So you can follow Orwell’s blogs so, you know, there’s a connection to what’s going on.

In those blogs will be clues to, you know, new bad guys and new villains and storylines that we’re dealing with.

And I just think the – it’s a really, you know, it’s a learning – it’s just a – one of the most fun and sort of challenging aspects is how many – you know, how can we tell these stories? And through which different venue just to give it that, you know, satisfying for the audience.

But yes, we’re pursuing all those sort of different ways to make it feel Palm City is a living breathing place and people can access it through different areas.

I love that part of it. I’m totally into that and I’m very sort of, you know, we’re actively dealing with it every day and how we can bring the audience further into this – into the show.

With so much crossover among writers in Hollywood and comic books do you envision working with any sort of known comic book talent on the show?

Tom Wheeler: Oh I would love to, yes absolutely. And a lot of these guys that I mentioned are really damn busy, you know? I mean I’m – I think I, you know, was thrown out some calls to some of these guys, it was like they’re doing quite well, you know, writing their ten books.

But yes, anytime Ed Brubaker wants to give me a call or any of the other, there’s some wonderful, wonderful writers and some of my favorite writers are writing comics right now.

And I have a lot of respect for what they do And so yes definitely. And I think some of their agents were called earlier on in this process.

How are we going to bring in people who maybe are not so into comics?

Tom Wheeler: It’s – that’s a great question and one that I think, you know, is sort of addressed within the show. And it also has to deal with the regular guy in extraordinary circumstances aspect to the story and the wish fulfillment aspects of the story.

But more specifically, you know, there’s a whole side of this story that yes, we’ll have some larger than life villains and wonderful actors will play them, but there’s a Palm City, you know, real people living their lives part of this story.

For instance Vince’s wife Dana who is just played terrifically by Jennifer Ferrin, you know, she’s a single mom now suddenly who has been forced to move to a scarier part of town who is now responsible, you know, the sole breadwinner for her family who is, you know, kind of now plunging into Palm City as a public defender and coming up face to face with sort of the corruption and the stuff that’s going on.

There is a really sort of romantic angle to, you know, this woman who sort of lost the love of her life and but The Cape is now in her life.

And I – it’s we – you know, we’re – she’s wrestling with like how long, you know, how long do I mourn and what does that mean and when is it appropriate to move on with my life?

I think all of these sort of aspects to this story just ground us and ground it all the more because I do – I think you can tell a story that embraces, you know, 7-years-olds and 70-year-olds and people that are fans of comics and people that are not into comics through stakes that are real and emotions that are real.

And so I I’m sensitive to that. And I think the story itself and my influences do, you know, they go beyond – I mean some of my favorites whether it’s sort of Philip K. Dick or HP Lovecraft, I mean there’s sort of – I mean what I love about The Cape is we’re – you know, we tell one story that deals with something that is the cutting edge, mostly sort of high tech sort of dangers and things we fear in this world and sort of feels like a story that’s sort of tipping into science fiction.

And then the story we’re telling now or shooting right now is a really sort of Gothic creepy sort of wonderfully scary kind of story.

And I’m just continuing to sort of, you know, feel out like where we can go. And so I think there’s influences and story influences that are pretty embracing to all audiences.

You started talking about the character of Dana. And it made me think you’ve got a pretty extensive male cast, sort of a boy’s club. But then you have these two female characters. And, you know, at least one of which looks like she’s going to be very strong female lead. And I wonder not being a woman yourself what is your inspiration and how do you approach writing a lead female character?

Tom Wheeler: I have a wife who is very vocal about how I approach my characters and how I deal with them and how I write my woman characters.

We have some wonderful writers on staff Tony Graphia from Battlestar and Sarah Connor and (Christine Rohm) and some really wonderful female voices and just some wonderful writers in general.

And we I think, I mean one of my favorite storylines really is this Dana storyline. And she’s going – and not I mean suffice to say we have huge plans for Summer Glau who plays Orwell.

But Dana has really sort of taken hold as a real, just when you see her you root for her.

Her story is very heroic without having all the sort of superhero trappings. Her story is just as heroic and her journey in some ways is just as dangerous and just as compelling.

And I just look forward to really continuing to sort of complicate their lives in a very loving way. But it’s I think you – I think people will be surprised where it goes. And but yes I think we have a really strong female villain.

Mena Suvari comes in as this character Dice. So we’re, you know, we’re reaching out to female audiences. And I think our characters will – I think their stories will be really compelling.

I have a question about Vince Faraday because obviously you’ve been growing up with all these superheroes and now you had the chance to create your own. And you’ve cast David Lyons who I watched when he was in ER. And I was wondering what was it about David that you saw in the superhero that you’ve obviously been dreaming of creating? And what can you tell us about David’s betrayal and Vince himself?

Tom Wheeler: Sure I’d be happy to. One of the real challenges I mean when we got into this was that real question was, you know, people – some actors come in and they, you know, they play the superhero.

You know, they got the fists on the hips and they do the whole profile and you’re kind of going oh geez, what have I done and this is going to be lame.

And there was something – we said David actually on tape because he was in Australia. And, you know, we had seen some good actors and but it was – but we had for certain not found Vince.

And there was something about David who is not only really super, just compelling in his look, but beside that he was only one that – well he was the only one that convinced me.

You know, he was the only one that his conviction and his sincerity immediately brought the scenes to a place where you can only sort of hope they go.

And he continues to do that. I mean the awesome thing about him is his total commitment.

And through him we’re able to go through these crazy worlds and these experiences and meet these characters but he never as an actor ever loses sight of what it’s about, why he’s doing this.

And so I really think he’s – we just couldn’t have a better sort of just kind of hero to sort of put this on his shoulders. And his – and he’s also just like physically – I mean this first day, you know, he was running around with the gun and doing all this detective stuff. And you were also like damn, he’s like a really good action hero guy. I mean he just – that stuff just comes so naturally to him.

I think we’re slowly killing him with everything we’re putting him through and beating – you know, having to fight (Vinnie Jones) on top of a train and everything else.

I mean it’s – I’m hoping he’s okay at the end of this. But he is just like 1000%. And really you just again, there’s a vulnerability and a conviction and a reality that just put him – that there was no question in our mind.

How far in advance have you planned the story? Do you know the end of season one? Do you know the end of season two? And what – where is – do you know exactly where it’s going or are you still…

Tom Wheeler: I know – I do have – I mean I came in with a plan that has relatively – you know, it had held pretty well I got to say.

Sometimes you end up getting to the same place through a totally different avenue which I kind of love. I love that sort of discovery part.

And obviously the writers on staff here, you know, they have taken it on as their own of course. And so they, you know, we’ve all together come up with some great, you know, great stuff.

But yes I have a – I know where this season will end. Those scripts aren’t written yet. But and as for season two I have some very strong ideas of the threads that would go through season two and a couple of options of how I want to end a season two.

And then and it – what you always wrestle with are these sort of even longer term plans where you, you know, there’s a kind of what if and you go well in three, you know, four years.

And inevitably that stuff tends to move up. But there’s some really exciting – there’s some really exciting stuff and places that I would like it to go and that give it a little bit more of an epic scope.

But yes we’ll see how this sort of initial run goes. But I would love, you know, I would love for it to go on and on because there’s a lot of – there’s a groove and a rhythm I would love to find that I just think would be terrific.

And what I really initially want to do is just create this very, you know, rich, rogue gallery with these really cool actors so that people can in a very fun we anticipate who’s coming back.

And so I kind of will look forward to sort of revisiting some of these characters that we’ve already established.

So we all know that when we’re dealing with a hero they’re only as interesting as their villains. What can you tell us about some of the villains we might see this season on the show?

Tom Wheeler: Well we are super fortunate to have a – kind of two regular villains. I mean I’d say they’re sort of the – they’re kind of polar opposites.

But James Frain, you know, who plays this billionaire, Peter Fleming who is a – he’s this corporate titan. He’s this sort of industrialist who has chosen Palm City for these sort of charter private policing programs.

But he’s got his, you know, finger in a lot of pies all around the world. And he really seems to be using Palm City as a stepping stone for a real experiment. And that becomes sort of clear as things unfold.

But he moonlights as this sort of psychopath terrorist. He’s a real – he’s this character of chess, this sort of dual identity that he has who is sort of a killer and a master strategist and really kind of – more embracing those kind of comic book, you know, comic book larger than life figures.

We have Vinny Jones who plays this mobster named Scales. I mean he doesn’t like to be called Scales, the character doesn’t. But he is this really brutal crime lord.

He actually – he and Peter Fleming don’t always get along so well but they’re the two sort of initial kind of, you know, villain forces that The Cape has to contend with.

But we quickly start bringing in some other characters. For instance early into the series we meet this character from Max Malini’s past as we tell a story that really has a lot to do with the history and the mythology of the physical Cape itself that the Cape uses. And we – it just suggests that they Cape has a darker history than we might realize.

And this character played by Thomas Kretchman comes to town to reclaim what he feels is his. And he’s a great villain.

And like all the villains we try to give them a real drive and a real, you know, I think in some ways the best villains are the ones that are, you know, they’re the heroes in their story these villains.

I mean I feel the best ones are motivated from a relatable place in some ways. So we tend to kind of – we’ve gotten in a little bit of a pattern sort of introducing our bad guy first.

And, you know, we told Scales origin story in a recent episode. And there’s like I said Mena Suvari will come in as a – this mysterious and dangerous woman called Dice who has a real grudge against Peter Fleming with good reason.

And they Cape gets embroiled in this sort of almost romantic triangle, you know, as this woman sort of torn between these two very different figures.

So it’s always just sort of character first and find the most interesting story. Although in Episode 2 this character Kane who is a poisoner for a – this group that we introduce called the Tarot. He’s a pretty straightforward bad guy. He’s just pretty awful. And he’s really he’s a great deal of fun. So that’s just a sampling of what’s to come.

Tell us a little bit about Summer Glau who will be on the show and tell us a bit about Orwell?

Tom Wheeler: She is wonderful and she is amazing. Well we – yes I was – it was another kind of moment where I was saying like I don’t know, The Cape just seem to have this lucky energy around it because, you know, summer – we had been searching and searching for Orwell and just one day in like the casting office I didn’t even realize I mean and Summer walked in.

And a friend of mine I was working on the show with, you know, from Berman, Braun, I mean we were both like that Summer Glau’s here. What’s – Summer Glau is here.

So she was just great. She was fantastic and obviously perfect for the role. And we, you know, hired her immediately and she will not disappoint.

She is just terrific. And the – and the character of Orwell is one of my favorites because she’s sort of this mystery box. She’s this – there’s a lot in her background sort of to be revealed.

She is this almost an alias like character. She plays a lot of different characters. She’s, uses a lot of different disguises. She’s a woman that’s been on the run for a long time and is really a pretty mercenary.

I mean she sees herself as a, you know, a revolutionary in a police state. I mean she’s really quite military in her thinking.

She’s a sort of glamorous military person but she – she’s pretty hard-core. And that creates a lot of tension with The Cape who was not a corrupt cop and was actually a pretty, you know, pretty straightforward kind of family guy and although there were aspects of his past that hinted some darkness as well.

But she’s a – Summer is just doing terrific. There’s big plans for her character. She is – she’s not just sort of behind the computer all the time. I mean we really, she’s like I said, she’s sort of out there and quite in the thick of it. And yes we’re very lucky to have her.


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  1. Wow that was quite the interview. It was tough to follow some of it, but I learned a lot about the show. I was interested before, but this interview definitely has piqued my curiosity. I am going to program it into my DVR schedule and see how it goes. I think I saw a short trailer on it, and it looked good. Got my fingers crossed that it is nothing like the show Heroes.

  2. Yeah I’m intrigued too. I’ll definitely check out the pilot, but because of Heroes I don’t have overly high expectations. Hopefully I’m wrong!

  3. Though I’m not quite as optimistic about this one lasting, my boyfriend and I are really excited about it. It’s something that my seven year stepson and three year old daughter [who are superhero obsessed], will sit down and watch with us. This show is going to be superhero-rating powered though – if the writers didn’t want that, the promo shot above was a mistake! I like how blogs are sort of going hand in hand with new shows today [The Good Wife, The Event]. Great interview!