Exclusive Interview: Enter The 'Castlevania' Universe with Adi Shankar, Series Showrunner

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Recently, Castlevania showrunner Adi Shankar revealed on Instagram the season 2 poster of the animation series that debuted in 2017 with great reviews, much to the delight of the fans of the video games the show is based on. This, and the fact that even before Netflix dropped season one, a second season was already confirmed -- is all the more reason to get excited for the coming of the next season this October. There's no official word from the streaming giant (yet) if we're going to get a third season, but from the anticipation of season 2 and the strength of the Castlevania fanbase, we're keeping our hopes up.

 

... And here’s the Season 2 poster.

A post shared by Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe (@bootleguniverse) on

The video game inspired series on Netflix follows Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage of The Hobbit), the last surviving member of the Belmont clan, known superslayers of vampires. Trevor tries to save the humans from extinction at the hand of Dracula (voiced by Graham McTavish, who also stars in The Hobbit trilogy), and in the second season, he doesn't face the beasts and other sinister forces alone.

It's still a pretty long wait until October 26th when the second season drops on Netflix, so a chat with Castlevania's Executive Producer is the next best thing to get deeper into the gothic world of Dracula and the Belmonts in medieval Eastern Europe. Read below highlights of our exclusive interview with showrunner Adi Shankar.

Adi Shankar

Adi Shankar: Okay, start asking me questions, I want to answer everything! Everything.

Question: From the first season up to the second season, the look of Castlevania is kind of anime, but also it gets the look from Castlevania III [video game] from the cartridge game. Was that something you wanted, how Trevor [Belmont] looked from the video game, and the sprites?

Adi: Yes. To give you a little more depth in that answer, I grew up in Hong Kong, between Hong Kong and Singapore, and I was born in India. And when I was a kid, on TV, there'd be like anime, and it was never subtitled. And so I never knew what anyone was saying and get really mad and I would ask people what was going on, and they wouldn't tell me. I was like, you know what? Again, I was a little kid, like six. I was like, you know what? I'm gonna grow up one day and make my own. So the whole thing, the whole goal, was to take those sprites, but then kind of reverse engineer them into the anime vibe. But with a few tweaks, right? Like Trevor, I was like, you know who was really cool? Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy. It was a little bit of Squall Leonhart in there, you know what I mean?

Question: With these things you create -- like Power Rangers, Dredd, The Punisher [all from Shankar's Bootleg Universe], and now Castlevania, where do these things come from? Are these things you grew up with?

Yeah, that's exactly it.

For the second season, what was the goal and what did you want to bring out?

I wanted to make you cry.

How about from the video games? What did you want to pull out from there this time?

Just that, make people cry. At the last two episodes.

Sypha, Trevor Belmont, and Alucard in Castlevania Season 1
[Photo: Netflix]

Why only four episodes for the first season? You left us hanging there, we were craving for more.

Yeah! It was a few things. One, defnitely the craving for more. Two, it was also hard, like at that point in time I literally had a career in Hollywood, I was making normal movies, normal people movies. Then I would make these fan films, then I made a fan film that got a lot of attention--the Power Rangers one, right? And people in Hollywood were like, this guy's lost his mind! And also, at that point, don't forget, if you look this up, I was wearing face paint everywhere I went. Right? So I'm walking with face paint, I'm making fan films that I'm dropping on the internet, I'm getting crazy interviews. People were like, what's wrong with this guy? He's lost his mind. I'm like, I'm quitting, I'm out.

And then Netflix tweeted at me. So, I come in for this meeting, and I shut down my whole thing--I was going to graduate school. Because I figured, I should go to graduate school, because that's what normal people do and normal people seemed happy. And I'm like, there's something wrong with me, I keep on making these dark stories... And my family friends are always like, [in an Indian accent] "But we can't watch anything he makes! Why is it violent? Why does everybody have to die?" And so, I go into this meeting. And Netflix was super dope, they're super cool. They were basically like, "What do you want to do? What would you want to make?" And I'm sitting there, going like, "Well, I don't want to work in live action right now. You know what? Maybe it's time to make that anime." Because that's what I wanted to do at that point in time, right? So that Power Rangers short literally led to Castlevania coming out.

And now the show did well, it was a hit, and now we're here talking about season two. But back when this happened, this was 2015. Adult animation not in comedy? That didn't exist. There was no one even working in this field! So it was like, how do you even find people? How do you put together a production process? Then on top of that, I'm like, "No 3D! It's gonna be hand drawn!" And then people were like, this guy's out of his mind, right?

There have been live action adaptations of Castlevania. In your opinion, which medium is better -- a live action or an animation one?

It's a complicated question, and here's why. Hollywood as it used to exist is movie star driven, right? So the whole thing was like, you can only make a Castlevania movie if you have like -- at this point in time, it was like get Channing Tatum. And I'm like, to do what? What is he doing in this movie? It was like 2012 when Channing Tatum was a big star and brands weren't a thing. So I don't think the machine understood at that point in time that Castlevania is a big brand, right? So let's appeal to the fan base versus alienating the fan base and try to go after new people that won't care. To answer your question, no, I don't think a live action version of Castlevania is going to fly. This is only the second season so I hope I'm not coming off as super arrogant as again, we've only been greenlit for two seasons.

Oh, no season three yet?

No, not yet. There's some fake news going on around that but we've only been really greenlit for two seasons. But we're not doing the 'Lost' thing. We're not making it up as we go along. There is a plan here, and the idea is to make a definitive adaptation here, so could a one-off film come out and work? Yeah, maybe. But at the same time, Castlevania is dope because it's a story about family. It's about the legacy of the Belmonts, and it's also about this father-son dynamic between Alucard and Dracula, so it's a story about family. And I feel that family dynamics, stories that are deep and emotionally rich in dynamics, are better served in this longer narrative format than these one-off films. And if someone tries to make a live action Castlevania series, they just couldn't.

Dracula (voiced by Graham McTavish)
[Photo: Netflix]

What are the challenges in making an animated series that's speficially for a mature, adult audience?

Well now the challenge really is making it done. It's just getting it done. The hurdles in the past -- adults don't like cartoons. False. The challenges that I had been facing I feel like we've crossed that bridge and those are over.

So you think this is because of the model of Netflix -- it's not Hollywood nor is it ratings based. Is this the game changer for you?

Yes. It's a game changer for me, specifically. You hit the nail on the head. I feel like I'm perceived as like... I have no idea how I'm perceived, actually. I have no idea. But I wasn't perceived as this blockbuster guy. Right? But what I feel the internet did, the internet made it all about the niche, all about being specific to an audience, and then all of a sudden I think I became a little more valuable because, oh, this guy really knows how to talk to nerds! 'Cause he's a nerd! That's basically what happened right? Before that, "Get that nerd out of here."

Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage)
[Photo: Netflix]

You cast Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont. What about Richard makes him the perfect Trevor for you?

It was just his voice work. It was his voice work, yeah.  He was very believable in the role. I wish I have a better anecdote to tell you... I can tell you that James Callis originally auditioned for Trevor. Now he's Alucard. In fact, he wasn't even in consideration for Alucard, right? But the way he did his Trevor audition was exactly how he voices Alucard, which is really funny. So if you imagine Trevor's lines done like Alucard, that was his thing. And actually, that made me realize the answer to your question. Another challenge in making this is getting the tone right. Because when you go to most Americans, "we're making a cartoon for adults," they're like [in an exaggerated voice] "Alucard! Put down your weapon!" And you're like, "Whoah, hold up. Pretend we're like in a real scene, like acting for real. Lose the goofy laugh, too." You know? We have amazing actors on the show, but you know, it's because we need to.

What's your next idea for you next project?

I defnitely want to do something with wrestling, hundred percent. I have an idea. Warren Ellis and I have teamed up on another show, which is gonna blow people's minds, because it's something that everyone knows, but I can't tell you about it yet. So that's gonna be tight. And November 2nd, Eminem and I teamed up on a film, that one's coming out. And Netflix was nice enough to let me write, direct, my own show. So I'm trying to finish that while I'm in the midst of all this craziness.

Eight new episodes of Castlevania will be available starting October 26 on Netflix.

 

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