When you make a show about Superman's grandfather, the comparisons between the two characters are inevitable. But Krypton star Cameron Cuffe insists that the series, which has been picked up by E4, is more than just a prequel, and that Superman and his ancestor Seg-El have far less in common than you might think. Bustle spoke to the actor to find out more about the superhero show that's set to defy all your expectations.
"Making a prequel says that there is an endpoint to it, whereas we’re very clear that we’re not, we’re doing something different," Cuffe tells me. "I think that was the aspect of the challenge that was interesting [...] we weren’t afraid to break the rules. And that’s one thing I’d say to viewers coming in — it’s not the show you expect it to be."
So how does it differ then? Well, while Superman is your classic superhero — costume and all — saving unsuspecting ordinary people from supernatural threats, over on his home planet Krypton, where the show is set, the boundaries between good and evil aren't quite so distinct.
"It’s not the kind of superhero show that you will have seen before," Cuffe explains. "The superhero genre has been around long enough that we can start to play with the formula a bit, we can start to play with expectations. In our show there are no real heroes and villains. No one’s putting on a mask and fighting crime. Everyone exists in really complex shades of grey. So lofty ideals like good and evil are all a matter of perspective."
This isn't your neat, all loose ends tied up-style series either. If you're a viewer that prefers your fantasy with a dose of reality, you'll enjoy the fact that, according to Cuffe, win or lose, characters in the show rarely get to escape the consequences of their actions.
"In a lot of superhero TV shows all the toys get put back in the box at the end of the episode because the villain’s been beaten and the next week they can start again," he says. "In our show, if the characters lose a battle they have to deal with the ramifications of losing that battle, and even if they win, there is a cost. At the end of every episode, there is a massive status quo shift and people are going to see that pretty quickly."
And that's just the start of the real-world parallels. One of the major themes in the series is that of class, and the fickle nature of life at the top of the social food chain. Seg-El's family are stripped of their name and its associated status, and forced to live in the slums of Kandor. It's something that colours the whole story, whether through Romeo and Juliet-style forbidden love affairs, or with Seg's attempts to rewrite his family history.
For Cuffe exploring these issues was one of the most "interesting aspects of the job." He tells me: "It’s fun and exciting, and presents a world that’s so different from our own, but part of the role of great science fiction is to hold a mirror up to our society. Great science fiction isn’t about aliens and robots, it’s about us, how we communicate with each other, it’s about our nature."
Seg's rejection from Krypton society forms one of the major differences between his character and that of his grandson Clark Kent. Cuffe explains: "[Seg] is immensely different as a hero. Superman is a mythological type character who has these immense powers and feels a responsibility to share them with the world. Seg comes from a completely different place in terms of his mentality. He doesn’t have these powers. He’s grown up in a much harsher environment than Clark Kent had the benefit of growing up in a loving nurturing environment with parents who taught him about things like power and responsibility. All Seg has received from the place he grow up in is betrayal. So he has a chip on his shoulder."
So far so dissimilar, but Cuffe does feel the two characters share at least some family resemblance — their desire to protect their loved ones and stop evil.
"He does have that hero part, he believes passionately in right and wrong, and there are people in his life that he cares about," Cuffe says. "So when we meet him there is a selfishness to him but it’s also a drive to keep those people in his life safe. So he does have a lot in common with Superman. But I would say the main difference is that Seg is more of an Indiana Jones-type figure, so he’s thinking more with his wit than his fists."
While the series has already aired Stateside, with fans now looking forward to Season 2, UK fans of the Krypton comic book series have been waiting patiently since the series started in the U.S. back in March to be able to watch the episodes. As a Brit, Cuffe is especially excited to see how home audiences will take to the show, but isn't sure quite what to expect of their reaction.
"I don’t know [what they will think]. I’m really excited to see. Obviously the show is filmed in Belfast, the vast majority of people who worked on it are British or Irish, and in many ways it’s a different kind of who from what people might expect from all the American TV shows. So I think it will be interesting to see, but the honest answer is I don’t know."
Luckily he doesn't have too long to wait.
Krypton airs at 9 p.m. on Sunday on E4