Cloak & Dagger Writer & Director Interview With Marvel TV's Jeph Loeb

Jeph Loeb has done it all. He’s a writer of all trades and a producer, but he is most known for his work in the sci-fi and comic book realms. He has worked on Smallville, Heroes, Lost, and Teen Wolf. Since 2010, Loeb has been the Executive Vice President of Marvel Television. His next project is the upcoming Freeform series Cloak & Dagger. Gina Prince-Bythewood is an American film director and screenwriter. She is most known for her work on Disappearing Acts, The Secret Life of Bees, and Beyond the Lights. She will be directing the pilot of Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger. Joe Pokaski is a writer and television producer most known for his work on Heroes. He has also written a number of Marvel comics. He will be writing for Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger. Cloak & Dagger premieres on Freeform on June 7, 2018.

Screen Rant and other journalist had a chance to talk with Jeph, Gina, and Joe on Press Day, where we discussed how the show tackles real world topics, what drew them to develop and produce Cloak & Dagger, and how do they approach each show in order to make each one different and unique.

Q: This show, I really enjoyed the real world subjects in a gritty realistic way even though this is the Marvel universe. Just in the first few episodes there was the shooting of a teenage, sexual assault, addiction.  So can we talk about bringing those stories to life in the current climate. Did real world events help shape stories?

Jeph: We've always felt at Marvel that the best stories we do are the ones that take the things going on out there, put them through the Marvel prism, and then have them come out as some people might see as a superhero genre show.  But if you come away from this and that's all you get, and good for you. As long as you enjoyed the show. But if you come out of it and you have a sense of that the world out there is a complicated place, particularly for young people, particularly for young people who are now so socially, economically, politically active. Their phones are 24 hours news all the time.  And to see how they themselves become heroes in our world by standing up when others are told to sit down. And if you get that out of it, then good for us. Good for us for telling that kind of story and making you have, as we like to say, the feels.

Gina: But also there was a, I mean, that's what attracted me to, was to be able to tell this grounded story within the universe. I mean it started with the look of the show and being authentic, but also the casting of two real teenagers. I have two boys, two teen boys and they will call B.S. in a minute. So we wanted to make sure, given that we were dealing with these real world problems, and did not want to romanticize anything at all, but to stay true and be authentic.  And it started with the script and us all being on the same page in the kind of story of we wanted to tell.

Q: The show has the real world edges, that I don't know that people are going to expect from a formerly primarily family oriented network and even a Marvel show.  So tell me about that freedom that you've been given. Kind of be real and go to dark places when you feel it’s right in this kind of context.

Joe: I think Marvel and Freeform should be applauded. Every time I wrote something kind of dark and edgy. I half expect a call being like, “Now you've gone too far.” And every single time there was like, “That was great. That felt real. That felt grounded.” So y’know I think we live in a world where police do look at people different from each other. We do live in a world where women walking home from the ballet aren't safe. So I think we wanted to tell the story of the world the way it is. And then present these two characters who are going to change it as best they can.

Q: In Marvel comics itself, Cloak and Dagger have always been fairly supporting characters.  Not a lot of stories with them as the stars. So this feels like a lot of new territory in a lot of ways. What kind of potential did you all see in these characters that they could be the vehicle to tell Marvel superhero stories that we haven’t seen before?

Joe: I think television, for me at least, it's all about relationships. If you look at any of the best shows. It’s great relationships at the center. And Tandy and Tyrone, for me since I started reading them in grade school, had been one of the most interesting relationships in comic books. There's no hero and there's no sidekick. They both need each other. They're both equals. And I think if you want to make a show for 100 episodes, that characters are great and characters have to be perfect, but they're really putting a relationship like that at the center. It felt like a grand no brainer and that's why I think it really works for like the long format of television.

Q: Can you talk about the visual, the different landscapes that require a different type of visual template. Creating that and making them work together and keeping the audience oriented when you need them and disoriented when you need them.

Gina: Are you talking in terms of the darkness and the hope and things like that? It's interesting. It's an interesting thing to come to TV and knowing that you don't have the budget of some of the big Marvel films, but knowing the audience expectation is you still have to look as good as those. And so how do you do that? For us, it made sense to be as grounded as possible. Even with the effects as well. A lot of things real without effects are in-camera. Props to Olivia and Aubrey who did their own stunts. Because they just changed it. You get to see Aubrey slam into, you know, a crypt. And in terms of the effects of a hope and Tandy being able to do that in-camera and creating an interesting look. Tammy Riker, our D.P. for the pilot, you know, was incredible in helping create that, and it just felt right when we started putting it together. But it all starts with how can we be real and authentic. And that was really the mantra.

Q: Marvel does a really good job at making their television shows all seem different. Was there any pitfalls that you guys wanted to avoid from not making it seem like anything else?

Jeph: We try to make each of the shows feel different. Sometimes it's something as significant as being in a different city, but oftentimes it's just the vision that the showrunner has. In this particular case, the director of the pilot. It's important to us because it's in the same kind of way that if you read Marvel comics and you went down to the stand, you would know that Ms. Marvel is different from the Avengers, which is different from Cloak and Dagger, which is different from Daredevil.  And it's because the creative people that are telling those stories have a different vision as to what that's going to be. And it's really our job to support people like Joe and Gina and make them feel like the show, and that's how I see my role as producer, is to make sure that they have the things that they need in order to tell the story the way they want to. To feel supported.

Joe: I think for Cloak and Dagger. I think we had talked early on about being a Sundance coming-of-age movie about a two damaged souls. And my friend Misha actually turned me on to Beyond the Lights and I watched that. I'm like, “This is it! This is it!” And then I remember Gina was talking about a movie called Like Crazy. And just that, that feel. I hadn't seen him in superhero fiction before.  So it was exciting to kind of just step a little bit out of our comfort zone and do it.

Q: What was the potential (unintelligible)

Jeph: Look, it's something that we talk about. A large time, it has to do with scheduling. In a way that you're asking a different question that gets me in trouble to say. “Hashtag it's all connected.” But it is. It is all connected in the very basic sense of this is the world that we're living in. One of the things that Marvel is very proud about is we don't have made up cities, we don’t have a fictional kind of world or police force or anything else like that. There's what we try to stay within the lanes of what feels like a real show, and that we carry that from show to show. And that, you know, there'll be Easter Eggs and there'll be little things along the way. I think if you’ve watched the pilot, or even seen the trailer, you know Roxxon plays a very big part in that. Roxxon on is a very big entity in any Marvel property that you're using. And Roxxon only exists in the MCU, so you have to thereby go, it is all connected simply because that's one of the very significant points that happen between them.

Q: I'm a big fan of superheroes. And I know you have Silver and Black coming up.  Is there any update on that?

Gina: The update is we’re really counting on the script. It all starts with the script. Gotta have a great script.  So we want to make sure that’s right before we jump in.

Q: When you guys started out, the nation wasn't talking about all the issues that you're including in the show and then all of a sudden they were.  Did that change anything for you as far as your approach when you realize, “Oh, not only are people paying attention to these kinds of things now. A young audience is paying attention to this.”

Jeph: We blame Joe for what’s wrong with this country.  He was writing about it and making it happen.

Joe: These things have always been happening. I think people now just have phones. And people in the news are now being forced to pay attention to cover them as real stories instead of ignore them.  It's the more we can talk about things like this, some more, we can kind of shine light where there hasn't been light shown before.

Gina: And also it's not just about- the show creating characters that an audience can empathize with because when you empathize with them, you can feel what they're feeling.  And I think that's one of the issues now for when you watch stuff up on the news it’s just stuff happening to them. Opposed to feeling what it really means to lose a son or to have somebody you love addicted to drugs. And so again, being able to put that within characters that we hope the  audience falls in love with is how we can help change things.

Jeph: But it's also important to us, at all times, that it doesn't feel like we just got on the soap box and decided to, “Okay, here's our version of what we think the world would be.” Our feeling about that is you can watch the news and get that. But if you're watching Cloak and Dagger on Freeform, on June Seventh, two-hour premier, you know, it's our hope that you're also entertained and that you fall in love with these characters and that you want to come back week after week so that we can tell 100 more stories. It's a shame that the stories that we're telling are not going to solve the problems of the world. We wished we could have that kind of ability. But as Joe said, the more you talk about them the better it is.

Q: What was it like building the world around Cloak and Dagger? Because they're not comic book characters that come with a huge supporting cast and a huge cast of villains. So, obviously you get a lot of new characters in this. What was that like?

Joe: It's kind of freeing to be honest. I mean, I've worked on some established properties where you're like, “No, you have to do this” or “how do we deal with this?”  Now, like I said before, you have Tandy and Tyrone, you have this beautiful relationship. And a power set that are kind of emotional, you know, it is a weapon when you need it. And it is the place to go somewhere else when you want to run away. It was really freeing to be able to kind of reinvent Brigid O’Reilly to some degree. To be able to reinvent Father Delgado. It felt like you could start and kind of not let canon get any way.

Q: Thank you!

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