The Runaways television show makes some bold choices when adapting the story for television. Some characters are lost in the transition, other characters were invented for the show, and a few characters seem to go through a major personality change. Geoffrey Wilder of the Pride on Runaways, for example, is a far cry from his comic book counterpart. According to actor Ryan Sands, his character isn't without hesitation when it comes to the violent acts the Pride is required to perform. If any member of the Pride is going to defect, Geoffrey is the most likely candidate.
"Nobody's twirling any mustaches or is all about world domination," Sands says, speaking over the phone before the show's premiere. "Geoffrey has made decisions to better his family."
The Runaways comic posed a simple question: "What would you do if your parents were supervillains?" When six teenagers, including de facto leader Alex Wilder, discover that their parents may truly be evil, they dedicate their lives to saving the world from the very people who raised them. Their parents make up the Pride, which is a mysterious organization with a penchant for ritual sacrifice. Alex's father Geoffrey has been a member of this group for over a decade at the beginning of the series, but he and his wife Catherine will soon have to face their own son and answer for their choices. Sands explains that Geoffrey wasn't forced to join The Pride, but he wasn't fully informed about what membership would require.
"When he first got himself into the Pride, he didn't realize what exactly he was getting into," Sands says.
The Pride is all about family, Geoffrey, in the early episodes of Runaways, is someone who is starting to suspect that being there for your family is about more than just self-preservation. Meanwhile, the Geoffrey of the comics seems to have little, if any, moral center. He's willing to let innocent people die in the name of the Pride, and he even personally commits a gruesome murder before the end of the first issue. He certainly doesn't appear to feel the guilt that Sands' performance portrays.
Still, it was the source material that first excited Sands about the series. The actor confesses that his "comic book reading subsided around the early '90s," but says that he got swept back into the art form upon cracking open Volume One of Runaways.
"I first started reading it to get familiar with it, to see what the world looked like, but I kept reading it because I dug it," Sands says. "The way that the characters related to each other, they spoke to each other, the issues that they had ... It was novel."
Sands reveals that even during the initial audition process, he was taken aback by the show's surprisingly empathetic approach to Geoffrey.
"I had an idea of what to expect, and that [came from] Geoffrey's character in the comic, and that is not really the Geoffrey that we see [in the show]," he says. "That first volume of the Runaways was really Runaways-centric, we didn't spend a lot of time with The Pride."
Every member of the Pride — each set of Runaways parents — gets fleshed out in the transition from comic book to television show. But in the comics, Geoffrey already stands out. In an organization that included mad scientists, time travelers, mystics, aliens, and mutants, Wilder is special for what he is not. He's not a supervillain by any means, simply a man who has risen to the top by his own means. In the comics, Alex's dad is a kingpin who maintains an iron grip over Los Angeles. However, the show reimagines Geoffrey as a man whose criminal past is behind him, and is instead a successful businessman married to a high-profile lawyer. And Geoffrey may not be as loyal to The Pride as his comic counterpart.
While Geoffrey's story in the comics goes to a lot of unpredictable spots in the first two volumes, Sands tells Bustle that the show is still "far from that point in the comics where Geoffrey [takes a dark turn]," referring to the end of Volume 2 of the Runaways comics in which [SPOILER ALERT] time travel puts the Runaways in the line of fire of a younger Geoffrey, resulting in one Runaway ending up dead by his hands.
The show may yet turn this father into the most dangerous member of The Pride, but so far the show seems to be more interested in taking a look at how he can be both a dedicated father and a villain. Sands calls that dichotomy the "best part about playing Geoffrey."
Part of the beauty of bringing a comic book character to the screen is the opportunity to explore complexities that aren't present in the comics, and there is no better example of that in Runaways than a man who has been developed into the embodiment of what it means to wrestle with the ghosts of your past, the reality of your present, and the promise of your own future all at the same time.
Geoffrey Wilder may not be a good man — and even Ryan Sands has no illusions about that — but there may still be hope for this tortured soul in the Runaways show.