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August 04, 2011

‘Misfits’: An imported black comedy in orange jumpsuits

Posted in: TV

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"Misfits" cast members Iwan Rheon, Robert Sheehan, Antonia Thomas, Lauren Socha and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. (Hulu)

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"Misfits" follows a group of young people who have to complete community service after committing a crime. But a freak lightning storm endows them with superpowers. (Hulu)

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Iwan Rheon plays Simon, who discovers he can become invisible, in "Misfits." (Hulu)

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Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, whose character Curtis can turn back time, and Antonia Thomas, whose character Alisha can seduce anyone she touches, in a scene from "Misfits." (Hulu)

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Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Robert Sheehan in a scene from "Misfits." (Hulu)

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Iwan Rheon as Simon and Robert Sheehan as Nathan in a scene from "Misfits." (Hulu)

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Iwan Rheon as Simon and Robert Sheehan as Nathan in a scene from "Misfits." (Hulu)

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"Misfits" cast members Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Robert Sheehan, Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon. (Hulu)

The protagonists in “Misfits” don’t fit the costumed crusader mold — most of your traditional superheroes don’t wear orange jumpsuits and their service to the public isn’t court-mandated. The British television series follows a group of young offenders who get caught in a freak electrical storm that gives them superpowers, including invisibility, time manipulation and telepathic eavesdropping. The BAFTA-winning TV series has crossed the pond, too, and American viewers are tuning in via Hulu; “Misfits” tops the online streaming service’s most-watched videos list with each week’s episode. Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark chatted with one of the show’s stars, Robert Sheehan, whose credits include “Season of the Witch” and “Cherrybomb.”

NC: Can you tell us a little about your character, Nathan, in “Misfits”? Is he a bit of a smart aleck?

RS: He’s smart aleck-y indeed. Quick-witted and quite sartorial. … He’s very much the [twit] of the group, and the one that is most intolerable to be around for long periods of time, but he very much likes to act the clown when he’s in company, and ends up irritating people to no end. And that is how the character is kind of introduced into the world.

NC: Although the kids in the show have superpowers, it seems like they’re not really the superhero type. What was it like to play sort of an anti-hero?

RS: I was just glad that we weren’t all standing around being very solemn every week. Because we’ve all seen that, done that, and it’s quite boring now. So I like that fact that it’s an entirely new take on it — to make a world surreal and real all at the same time, as “Misfits” did quite successfully, I think. So the anti-hero thing was great, because it was duty for comedy and duty for drama. The thing about the whole superhero thing in “Misfits” is that the writer, Howard Overman, who has a very strange and warped brain — he said that every episode, everything about “Misfits” had to work even if the superpower wasn’t there. So the show has to work on a dramatic level, without the fact that they had superpowers. The fact that they had superpowers is almost a hook. It’s what gives the opportunity for adventures. And then the drama very much takes over.

NC: There are some pretty dark, adult themes. It’s not really a show for kids.

RS: It’s probably not advised, but it won’t be the end of the world if your kid sees it. … It’s a real black comedy which didn’t talk down to people or patronize anyone. It was very fast-paced and very good, and I think it’s very much a drama before it’s a comedy. Even though all the situations in the show were very absurd, the stress was to react to these things as you would do in real life, and not just for the comedy of it, because that’s not funny. It struck a good tone. It’s very black and funny, but quite dramatic at the same time.

NC: Do you think the show translates well for Americans?

RS: I don’t think there’s much of a difference between American and U.K. sense of humor, in all honesty. I think we translate very well back and forth, you know? British people and Irish people, which I am, we love, I love a lot of American comedies, and I think American people love a lot of British comedy, and I don’t think there’s really any kind of cultural barrier there when it comes to TV, because if TV is good, it will translate. If TV is good, it will be watched by people no matter where they’re from. … I was recently in Sicily, and I was mobbed by Italian teenagers on the street.

NC: I understand you’re not coming back to the show?

RS: This year, it just clashed with other jobs, with other stuff that was going on. It was a choice between do a third series and do other stuff, and yeah, I was ready to go off and do something else. Because, I mean, I started when I was very young, and I’ve done a few bits here and there, and I’ve always jumped around. I’ve always felt like the rolling stone who gathers no moss when it comes to this work. I thought two years, two good years of the show? Brilliant. Now I’m ready to do something else.

NC: So coming up you have a children’s movie?

RS: It’s a film for the BBC and ABC called “The Borrowers.” It’s a new adaptation of “The Borrowers,” and it’s for Christmas. … I’m playing one of the small people. I’m playing kind of an attempt at a James Dean-style Borrower who’s a bit of an indignant little [twit] who thinks that he’s stylish because he found a leather jacket on an action doll, and he put it on and so he thinks he’s cool. And he has a little motorbike, a little Borrower motorbike. It’s good. It’s myself, and Christopher Eccleston and Stephen Fry and Sharon Horgan and Aisling Loftus and Victoria Wood, the British comedian.

NC: And a play at The Old Vic?

RS: The play is going to take me from mid-August until late November. It’s called “The Playboy of the Western World.” It’s an Irish play, and it was written in the early 20th century, 1907, by John Millington Synge. It’s going to be great. It’s a classic Irish play. It’s one of the most beautiful plays ever written, in my opinion. It’s going to be lovely to do that now in The Old Vic for 11 weeks.

–Noelene Clark


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