Harry Shum Jr., clockwise from left, Beth Riesgraf, Hartley Sawyer and Abby Miller in "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Hartley Sawyer, left, Abby Miller, Harry Shum Jr. and Beth Riesgraf in "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Hartley Sawyer and Harry Shum Jr. are shown in the monitor on the set of "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Joel Gretsch and Abby Miller in "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Harry Shum Jr. and crew members on the set of "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Donald Murphy and Amy Berg on the set of "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
Beth Riesgraf, left, Harry Shum Jr., Abby Miller and Hartley Sawyer in "Caper." (Elle Schneider / Geek & Sundry)Link
When being a superhero doesn’t pay the bills, a crime-fighting team turns to more roguish tactics in “Caper,” a new Web series out next month.
Hero Complex readers get a first look at the trailer for “Caper” (watch it below), coming in February from Felicia Day’s multimedia company and YouTube network Geek & Sundry.
“Caper” is the brainchild of writer and producer Amy Berg, known for her work on “Eureka,” “Person of Interest” and “Leverage,” and Mike Sizemore, who wrote the stage adaptation of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” The Web series centers on a group of friends whose superheroics fall short of paying the rent. The motley misfits decide to plan a heist — with some good-guy caveats, of course. Nobody is to get hurt, and only those who deserve it will be robbed.
The series combines live-action and animation, using motion comics for scenes in which the heroes don their costumes.
Directed by Donald Murphy, who has served as assistant director on dozens of films including “The Town” and “No Country for Old Men,” the Web series stars Abby Miller (“Justified”), Harry Shum Jr. (“Glee”), Beth Riesgraf (“Leverage”) and Hartley Sawyer (“Glory Daze”) as the superheroes-turned-criminals.
Joel Gretsch (“V,” “The 4400″) is a series regular. Other guest stars remain to be announced.
“Caper” is the first in Geek & Sundry’s slate of original shows set for release 2014, Day said. “Fun, compelling and well-written scripted series have always held a special place in my heart, and certainly something that delights our community as well.”
Hero Complex caught up with co-creator and executive producer Berg to talk about the series, as well as actress Miller, who plays Penny Blue, a.k.a. “The Machine,” the brains of the heist operation in “Caper.”
Hero Complex: A superhero caper is a really fun genre mashup. Can you tell us a little about the origins of “Caper”? Where did this idea come from?
Amy Berg: As a fan, I’m a science fiction buff. As a writer, crime shows are my bread and butter. Mashing up those genres was, for me, the best of all possible worlds. I wrote this show with my pal Mike Sizemore, who’s a writer based out of London. He has similar instincts, being a huge fan of movies like “Kelly’s Heroes” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” We wanted to tackle the superhero mythos in a way that hasn’t been seen before. We got to talking about the current economic climate and how it’d affect the alter egos of a team of superheroes. The idea that they might turn to a life of crime to make ends meet made us laugh… and became the genesis of the idea for Caper.
HC: What does co-creator Sizemore bring to the project?
AB: Mike is one of my best friends and an excellent writer. He brought a lot of great ideas to the page. We wrote the project together and then I went off and produced it through my company Bergopolis Inc. with the help of my longtime collaborator, Pete Dress.
HC: Can you talk a little about casting and the actors you’re working with? Why did your cast members stand out?
AB: This project in particular was about embracing a guerrilla filmmaking spirit, so I only wanted people who were going to bring a positive attitude along with their talent. Most of the people both in front and behind the camera are friends of mine. Colleagues on television shows I’d previously written and/or produced. I’d worked with Beth on “Leverage,” and bringing her on was a no-brainer. Abby Miller was a guest star in a pilot I created last year for TNT, and we clicked immediately. When this project came together, she and Beth were my first phone calls. Hartley Sawyer was the only actor we found through auditions, because we were in need of a very specific look. What he brought to the project was nothing short of awesome. Harry Shum Jr. is an amazing young actor with a great outlook and terrific work ethic. Within a few minutes of the four of them being in a room together, I knew we had something special. We’ve also got some big name guest stars in this series. Everyone I asked said yes. That still blows me away.
HC: Abby, what drew you to this role? How did you become involved with this project?
Abby Miller: Amy Berg. She is the reason I came on board. I had worked with Amy earlier last year on a pilot and fell in love with that woman. She’s great, she is fearless and she is also a whole lot of fun. I personally met Mike (Sizemore) and Felicia Day a few months later, not even knowing anything about the project, and that sealed the deal. They are all exceptionally driven individuals. Knowing that this was a production of Geek & Sundry, who has been breaking new ground in digital entertainment, was the cherry on top.
HC: Can you talk a little about working with your castmates and about show runners Mike and Amy?
AM: I really enjoyed Beth and Harry, Hartley… eh. I KID! Everyone was incredible. I feel so lucky! It was an immediate thing with all of us. To have a great script and talented crew, and a great show runner team in Amy and Mike was a blessing. Geek & Sundry provided us with amazing support from start to finish, and was a perfect network to what we wanted to create in “Caper.”
HC: Amy, why a digital series? What about the medium serves your vision for the show? How is the process different from working for TV?
AB: Creative freedom. I can’t give you a straighter answer than that. I’ve been a part of projects that were slowly degraded by network and studio interference or by show runners who were stepping on feet and getting in their own way. This was the first project I’ve put together where I’m actually the owner of the content as well as its shepherd: the show runner and the studio head. There was no fighting for creative control. It was a liberating experience.
Also, conceptually, superheroes are difficult to do well in a series setting. They work well in feature films, but that’s because audiences see those movies for the spectacle. In television, maintaining viewership is all about investment in character. It’s hard to invest in characters who are literally superhuman. They couldn’t be any more different than us. The alter ego angle in “Caper” affords us the opportunity to have our cake and eat it too. By embracing the superhero side using animation and the alter ego side using live action, we get both the spectacle and the investment. Going digital was the best medium with which to do that.
HC: Abby, how is working on a web series different from what you’ve done for film and TV? Is the pace different? Do you enjoy working in this medium?
AM: I very much enjoy working in this medium! I had shot another digital series a little over a year ago, the second season of “The Booth at the End,” but it was a much quicker process, they shot me out in two days. And I only worked with Xander [Berkeley]. This took place, on and off, over several months, many cast members and crew… it felt very much like TV, a little family. It was so enjoyable. I miss it. It’s apparent that digital series is growing year after year, with Hollywood giving more attention to it. The talent and creativity in this space is undeniable.
HC: Can you tell us a little about your character? Why is Penny “The Machine”?
AM: Penny is an incredibly intelligent young woman, from a small town, who moves to the big city and takes a job with a billionaire entrepreneur to build an orbital spacesuit. Unfortunately he has other plans for the suit. So Penny steals the suit and the patents and teams up with three new friends to start using the suit for good. Penny inherits the name because of her suit… therein lies her power.
HC: How does she fit into the team?
AM: She is the brains of the operation. Penny thinks through everything. And she always has (or at least desperately wants) a plan before taking action. Dagr, Alexia and Luke of course provide differentiating powers, views and sensibilities to what superheroism represents to them, and what it represents to their community. As the show focuses more on the “human” dynamic of a superhero ensemble, the characters are as layered as they come, and as a result end up making some interesting decisions leading up to the heist.
HC: You played prostitute Ellen May in “Justified” and plain-Jane Theresa in “The Booth at the End.” It seems like brilliant Penny is quite different from either of those characters. Is there anything you’re able to bring from those experiences to this project? Is there a role that particularly prepared you for this one?
AM: Not really! This role was a unique one. Very different from Ellen May and Theresa. Honestly, the biggest gift Amy and Mike could have given me was Penny. She was just fun. Light, effortless. They (Donald Murphy, our fearless director, included) just encouraged me to play and see what happens. I am such a believer in the “everything happens for a reason” mentality and really feel, if anything, Ellen May and Theresa prepared me in just giving me confidence in what I was capable of doing. All the hard work leading up to Penny. And then the letting go and relaxing into something… it was all there.
HC: Amy, are there any superhero films/series that served as inspiration for “Caper”? Any heist films?
AB: I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but there’s actually a scene in “Caper” with our four heroes talking about their inspirations. It was derived from an actual conversation Mike and I had that inspired the idea for “Caper” in the first place. Guess you’ll just have to tune in to find out.
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