One of the hottest series previewed at the Television Critics’Association is Pennyworth, coming to EPIX this summer.
EPIX sent Monsters and Critics a first-look first teaser trailer for the highly anticipated series Pennyworth created by Gotham showrunners Bruno Heller (Rome) and Danny Cannon.
Heller and Cannon have gone back in time to swinging ’60s London, the era of the Profumo Affair and the emergence of mod styles and the infamous gangsters, the Krays.
Gotham visually delivered a grittier, dirtier version of New York, and now Heller and Cannon have similarly set forth a period-accurate setting, sound, and feel of ’60s London with ambitious cinematography lensing and top-notch production design.
It’s a beautifully shot and dressed series. (Monsters and Critics viewed the premiere during the Television Critics’ Association)
Jack Bannon inhabits the role of a vital young and competent Alfred Pennyworth, who would in later years become the aide-de-camp to Bruce Wayne, who we all know as Batman.
What happens in Pennyworth?
Attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Heller and Cannon both spoke at length about the series and have created a rich backstory with a cracking cast particularly highlighted by a femme fatale played by Paloma Faith.
Her character is Bet Sykes, perhaps named as a brilliant subconscious alliterative tweak on the famous Oliver Twist villain Bill Sikes?
Maybe not. But that Sikes name does evoke villainous memories and Ms. Paloma just flat out chews the scenery with her ballsy performance of a murderous henchwoman from the North of England.
Bet tests the SAS-training of our titular character Pennyworth. She’s the ticket and compliments Bannon’s earnest performance as Alfred when he was a sexy beast.
The series will connect the dots between the affluent Wayne Family and the father of Bruce Wayne to Pennyworth, now embroiled in the middle of an upper-crusty veil of malfeasance running amuck in olde London… thanks to a bad character named Lord Harwood (Jason Flemyng).
Who is Pennyworth?
Hailing from the DC Universe of characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon) is a middle-class kid who has finished his SAS service to his country. He is clever, charismatic, considerate and adept at the art of self defense and giving it back ten-fold when needed.
Pennyworth is also entrepreneurial and he creates a security company staffed with many of his British SAS service mates, catching the attention of young American billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), who is Bruce Wayne’s father.
By the end of his career, he became a fixture of Wayne Manor and the handiest of manservants to Bruce Wayne. The classic ’60s version of Alfred was played by Alan Napier on the Batman TV show. Other actors to play Alfred included Michael Gough (Batman), Michael Caine (Batman Begins) and Jeremy Irons (Justice League).
What Heller and Cannon had to say at the TCA
At the Television Critics Association, Heller was asked what he was bringing to the Alfred mythology that was new, while still paying respect to the additional details that Michael Caine’s performance of Alfred added to the lore.
“Well, this is the really the origin story of that Pennyworth character. And we owe a debt to Michael Caine for making him an SAS soldier in the first place. And it’s really the chance to make him the center of a story and explain that journey. How did he get from being a young SAS soldier to being a butler in America? And it also gives us a chance to create a real world around him, a world in England that fits the whole DC universe…What’s happened is Jack and these guys here have created a world as we’re going. So, it’s surprising to all of us the depth and range that you can go to with this character.”
As for Pennyworth ultimately becoming supplicant and a bit of a servant to Batman, Heller said: “Well, as you say, in that last iteration of the Batman myth, he’s a sidekick. In his own life, he’s not a sidekick, and that’s one of those fascinating things about taking a story from a different angle.”
As for London in the ’60s, this setting was as important as the casting of the actors to play the key roles to both Heller and Cannon.
Danny Cannon said:
“We’re [Heller and Cannon] both British. We’re both from London. I don’t think there’s a better period in London than the early ’60s. I mean it’s after the war, before things change for good. You could see the change in the air. Things were happening, culturally, artistically, that — it was an inspiring time I think that English people always revisit. So, to say that that was the foundations of which we were starting with and then making it 13 degrees more DC, 13 degrees darker just then it really came alive for us.”
Who is in the cast of Pennyworth?
Jack Bannon is Alfred Pennyworth, Ben Aldridge is Thomas Wayne, recording artist Paloma Faith is Bet Sykes, and Jason Flemyng is Lord Harwood.
Add to the mix Ryan Fletcher as Dave Boy, Hainsley Lloyd Bennett as Bazza, Emma Paetz as Martha Kane and HUGE Easter Egg for the fans of Bruno Heller’s Rome series on HBO, as Atia of the Julii is back! Polly Walker plays Bet’s sister, Peggy Sykes.
Watch on EPIX. Get the channel or get the app.
Pennyworth is coming in June 2019 (no date set as of yet) in 10 one-hour episodes on EPIX.