‘Misfits’: An imported black comedy in orange jumpsuits

Aug. 04, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.
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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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Comments


14 Responses to ‘Misfits’: An imported black comedy in orange jumpsuits

  1. skepperson says:

    Robert Sheehan as Nathan is largely the reason The Misfits has me hooked. His engaging performance has him on my list of actors to watch.

  2. Flora says:

    I love the show, can't get enough of it. Sad to see Sheehan go but my favorite part of the show is Howard Overman's writing, so I am looking forward to Series 3 of Misfits.

    Can we get interviews with Overman and the rest of the cast?

  3. Jazz. says:

    I will slowly and painfully die when they bring this into the US.

  4. Knockerboy says:

    I have watched every episode, and to call it an "imported black comedy," is not justified. The acting is really well done, considering it is on a way more mature theme than "High school musical." I welcome a 3rd, 4th, 7th season. There is many directions this show can take, its like Teen titans, we just have not put teenagers/youth to the screen or as in-depth as this show has done. It sure takes the breath away from the days of Degrassi Junior high. But that is just my view.

  5. walt kovacs says:

    sheehan left cuz of the borrowers and a play? no huge hollywood productions???

    geez

    nathan was the reason the show became such a huge hit

    dont get me wrong…the stories are good, the acting is good..even the low budget cgi is good…but the nathan character was brilliant

    and overman has been clear….he owns the show…not itc….and he will not allow a us remake

    this is a brit take on the uniquely american concept of the super hero…wont work in the us

  6. fiddle says:

    Misfits is gaining a lot of popularity here in the US– people are watching it through Hulu/ online. American's love dark comedies ; it's already "working" in the US. It's a refreshing concept of the super hero– and the ladies are already swooning over Robert Sheehan. He was a great dynamic to the bunch but I'm looking forward to what Overman has up his sleeve next. Don't be such shit bags about what will or will not make us laugh or intrigue us.

  7. lololee24 says:

    This show is the best, I mean it's a really great dark comedy show with heart, and that's what I love about it. Robert Sheehan brought a comic relief to the show, he nucleus that holds that show together. He was my favorite character on the show and I can only hope, that he is replaced by someone who will, carve out their own unique brand to the show. I don't want to see a Robert Sheehan copycat, that would not fair well for the future of the show, and it will turn away viewers.
    There is talk of the show being remade for American consumption, I hope not. I think the best road to take would be to import the show AS-IS to America instead of ruining a good thing, like every other imported show from the UK. Being human may have good ratings for the psy-fi channel but the show itself is a bust. The UK version has the perfect combination of drama and comedy, The actors are perfect in their assigned roles, and their not only great looking but their so talented. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the American cast. The Office (US) is great but it's a different brand of humor, it's more dry and less edgy. Skins was a bust because MTV attempted to exploit the more salacious side of the story instead of finding a balance. But MTV has become a network absent of morals, integrity, talent, and instead has decided to sell it's soul to the devil for a mere quick bucks. MTV has lost it's way.
    I'm an American but I love UK shows, I love British humor, and I see no reason to change that just to accommodate the American audience. Comedy is Comedy, it's universal and either you get the joke or you don't. British humor shouldn't be tampered with, it's funny as is.

  8. lololee24 says:

    This show is the best, I mean it's a really great dark comedy show with heart, and that's what I love about it. Robert Sheehan brought a comic relief to the show, he nucleus that holds that show together. He was my favorite character on the show and I can only hope, that he is replaced by someone who will, carve out their own unique brand to the show. I don't want to see a Robert Sheehan copycat, that would not fair well for the future of the show, and it will turn away viewers.

  9. Somethingfun says:

    I am an american and I love this show. Seen both season 1 and 2 and am really excited for season 3. I'm a new fan, but have been getting into some stuff from across the pond and like Robert said, good tv is good tv. Misfits is great and really fun tv. I love the american version of shameless. I've tried to watch it in the brit version, but need subtitles.

  10. jules says:

    I'm afraid this show is too smart and have a lot of sarcastic humor for US…will you get the point of it? :P
    "High school musical " O_O Are u F***ing kidding me?!!
    Its more for youngsters than for teens…university welcome)))))

  11. Danny says:

    I'm really worried for the new season, the character of Nathan was the best part of the show. His sense of humor. You can't just take those lines and that sense of humor and force it on another character. I'm very nervous…….I think he was very silly for leaving the show to be honest.

  12. DivineMrsM says:

    I'm in the UK and I can tell you that the new guy (Rudy, played by Joseph Gilgun) is very good and very funny. I too was worried about the loss of Robert Sheehan, but the show is bigger than the one character and is just as good. You're going to love it I'm sure!

  13. Kristen says:

    It cracks me up how everyone thinks Americans don't like black comedy–some of you people are pretty damn arrogant. Didn't we give you the Cohen brothers? Come on–show some respect.

  14. Timothy Rebertz says:

    I just wish this show didn't have to end…..

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