Interview: Chatting With The Cape Maker, Creator Thomas Wheeler


The Cape sees its series premiere with a two-hour event on Sunday, January 9.

The show, which sees an ordinary man who has taken a unique approach to fighting back after corruption has taken his family and his life away from him, stars David Lyons as the title hero, The Cape. Also starring in the show is fan favorite Summer Glau as the mysterious Orwell, with Keith David as the criminal showman Max Malini, and James Frain as the very sneaky Peter Fleming.

In many ways, The Cape is a comic book brought to life, and you’ll be able to read an advance review here on shortly.

We were very fortunate in that the show’s creator, Tom Wheeler, was able to take the time to speak with about the show and what we have to expect from it in the future. As you’ll see, or perhaps have even read on his Orwell Is Watching producers’ blog, Wheeler has a large vision for the show and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what people will enjoy seeing.

Enjoy the interview. If you like it, please don’t reproduce it in full on other sites; instead just place a link to Small excerpts are fine. Our questions below are printed bold; Wheeler’s answers are not. Once you’ve read the interview come and talk about it on our Cape forum!

CapeCAPESITE.NET: From seeing the first two episodes, The Cape felt like it was paced and framed like a comic book. Was that intentional?

TOM WHEELER: The answer is yes. We wanted to find a middle ground between something that wouldn’t be so stylized that it took you out of it, but felt heightened, and with where we’re getting to with the colors and lights, I think it feels like a good balance between reality and a heightened pulp world. We had to be very careful about how it would feel. In a comic, you accept certain things. People wear costumes, people wear masks, and in terms of how we dealt with it when we’re actually showing it on screen, we needed to be careful, and just make sure that things were lit properly. We have some great DP’s, and Simon West and Deran Sarafian did a wonderful job, I think, of trying to straddle reality and the comic book of it all.

I’m a life-long comic book fan. The way I think about this show is that it is a sort of costumed crime drama. The comics I always loved as a kid were the grounded street-level super-heroes. I love sci-fi, but I really loved Daredevil, or Batman, or the guys that were more crime-related, and people kind of taking on an identity for a cause.

I remember you mentioned Power Man & Iron Fist at Comic-Con.

Yeah. I loved Iron Fist, and I loved his backstory. I loved that recent run that Matt Fraction wrote. I just thought that was great. The whole contest, the competition…. there’s a similar sort of vibe, and the dynamic between those characters was always great.

So it’s more of a pulp comic book kind of world that we’re going for.

Are the interstitial titles that start scenes meant to be hints as to what is coming later in the episode?

In writing the pilot, I just started to do them, just as a fun little chapter aspect to the story, to give a little thematic flavor of what’s to come, and it sort of just stuck. It felt a little bit graphic-novelish. I also feel that there’s a challenge with how many commercial breaks you have in a show, that it doesn’t hurt to frame things a little bit.

Orwell TarotThere was a pretty significant scene with Orwell that appeared to be cut from what was shown at Comic-Con. Does that mean she might take a different direction?

I can’t recall what that scene might be… [laughs] You learn and you make different choices, and I’m not going to weigh in on what the significance of that missing beat might be. How about I leave it at that?

What sets Orwell apart from DC Comics’ Oracle or Smallvilles Watchtower?

We will certainly see that she is a real mystery box. If anything, I would compare her to our Wolverine. She’s a mercenary princess, and initially, the reporter willing to get out there, but I would put her much more in the category of an Alias [Sydney Bristow] type of character as we’ll use her more and more, and also, we’ll get much more into her past, and her history, and for her future… things will change in this show.

Cape MaskIn Episode 2 the costume now has a mask. Was it always the intention to wait for the second episode for that to happen?

In some cases, my learning experiences I want to be Vince Faraday’s learning experiences, because I think the superhero learning his way along is kind of great fun. There was an initial design that was without the mask, as you see in the pilot, but there’s something iconic about the mask, and there was, to me, a missing aspect of the look.

There was actually a really elegant dovetail with story and where I wanted the character to go in his look that worked out very well, which was in that second hour, where Vince didn’t have the cape. And so, there was a very nice marriage of story need and where I wanted the character to go in terms of look. He’s seeing his son on building tops… there were situations where sometimes just a cowl won’t cut it. You need to be a little bit more disguised in some of these situations. And have you ever tried to handle your peripheral vision with just a cowl? There were certain impracticalities starting to weigh in.

I’m really, really happy with how he looks with the mask. It gives a lot more dimension to his look.

A lot of TV in recent years has made an effort to avoid costumed superheroes, but The Cape seems to embrace that. Did you think there was a void in that area?

I did. I understand why that was the case, because it’s challenging to embed that reality, but to me it’s synonymous with a superhero. We are absolutely leading the charge with that, and to me, that’s what a comic book is. It’s heightened. It’s costumed with masks and larger than life villains, and desperate heroes, so costumes play a role in all of that.

Heroes had a lot of “stunt casting” of actors who’d been in previous superhero TV and movie productions. Is any of that kind of stunt casting planned for The Cape, and is there any chance we’ll even be seeing anyone who had been on Heroes?

They had a wonderful cast, so I would never say no to something like that. Our approach – and we’ve, knock on wood, been incredibly lucky so far – with the high-quality cast that we have in our regular cast group, and in our guest cast – is that we don’t approach it as “what’s the biggest name we can get?” But we certainly go after the very best actors that we can get, and a lot of times, those are the same thing. We have Mena Suvari coming up. We have Elliott Gould coming up. We have Thomas Kretschmann who is fantastic.

There are some really fun, interesting actors, and what I’m hoping for, and what seems to be happening, is we’re doing a lot of work on the writing side to make sure the scripts are fun, and with characters that are fun to play, that are different, with strong dialogue. It seems to be working. It’s bringing in a really wonderful group of actors.

Vinnie Jones ScalesCan you talk about your regular cast, and did you end up casting anyone who was exactly who you had in mind when you first developed the characters?

Vinnie as Scales for sure. That was one of those “pinch me” serendipity things. Risa Bramon Garcia, our casting director, she’s just a legend. She’s wonderful. And she had been like “so, Scales. Who do you see?” I was like, “Well…” I never imagined I would get Vinnie Jones. I said “You know, Vinnie Jones would be my dream, to get him.” And then I kind of forgot about it, because you throw these things out, and you sort through, ultimately, who will play it, and you don’t always get your first choice. And then I was at the offices of Berman-Braun, and someone came up and said “Vinnie Jones is in the next room.” And that scared the hell out of me, because I wasn’t prepared for that. But he was into it. He is so larger than life himself. We are making great use of him as Scales, and to have him as one of our real lynchpin villains is great. We re-introduce Scales in a couple episodes and give him a great re-introduction, and we’ll see a lot more of him as we go along.

Is that the “Scales on a Train” episode?

That is “Scales on a Train.”

David Lyons CapeAnd can you talk about the other members of the cast?

Again, I feel super blessed with this group. With [Vince Faraday] – we were searching high and low. People bring different energies to super-hero stuff. Some folks would come in and really play the hands-on-hips, profile-shot superhero thing, where I would go, “What have we done? This is going to be a disaster.” We couldn’t find Vince Faraday, and then we saw David on tape. He was in Australia, but we just saw him doing this scene with Orwell from the first hour. He was so committed, and so grounded, and so believable. You just root for him. He’s really smart, and he’s been the glue that allows us to go to these crazy places, and I think he’ll still bring audiences along because he’s so wonderful. We’re super lucky, and I think he’s going to be a huge, huge star.

Summer – I was a huge Summer Glau fan. From Terminator and Joss’s stuff, and all that. Again, that was one of those things… she walked in, I didn’t know she was coming in for Orwell to talk about Orwell, and me and one of the other producers were like, “Summer Glau’s here!” It was this really cool moment, and she was the best Orwell we saw, for sure. She’s great, and gorgeous, and just brought all of the ass-kicking we would hope that Orwell would have.

Keith David CapeIn a similar vein, Keith David was somebody that I had in the back of my mind for Max for a while. We saw some wonderful Max Malinis. It was a part that a lot of really outstanding actors wanted to play, but I felt strongly that Keith could bring both the outsized personality and the theatricality, as well as the danger, because Max needs both. He needs to be able to pivot from the showman to “I’ll kill you” very quickly, and he also needed to be someone that could convincingly smack around David Lyons and be in control of this crew, and I thought he married those elements so well. I was so happy when we got him.

James Frain I had worked with on an ABC show called Empire. I had been a fan of his for years and years. He’s a friend and is brilliant, as his work in True Blood and Tron [have shown]… he’s a really great actor to have on the show. He’s terrific, and we have a lot of plans for him.

These are all great people. They’re so great to work with.

What can you tell us about the episodes beyond the 2-part premiere?

James Frain CapeStay tuned for Vinnie Jones and David Lyons battling it out on top of a speeding train. We have a big two-parter we’re in the middle of shooting right now that rolls out. Tonally, we’re getting into really gothic, scary territory, which I love. I love that the show can swing back. The Mena Suvari episode where she plays Dice is almost tipping into sci-fi a little bit, but again, this is a non-supernatural show, but we sort of flirt and push the envelope in some ways.

In the next episode, you’ll see a lot of the dark history of the cape coming into clearer focus. Every episode is its own world. We try to give these villains rich histories and motives, and all the while, Vince is trying to get back to his family, so I think that the occasional viewer can drop in and have this great ride, and for those who are watching over and over, change will happen. Things will develop, and I think it would be wrong to assume anything is set in stone, because there will be big, big changes by Episode 13. Seismic changes in the show, and the direction of the characters. And if you’re really paying attention, you’ll see little signs of a much bigger mythology at play here.

In your opinion, why should people tune in on Sunday night and on Mondays thereafter?

We’re trying something here that I don’t think has been done on TV in a long time. I don’t think there’s anything like it on TV right now. I think even for the non-comic book fan, there’s an escapism to it that is, I think, a really gratifying journey. There are real emotions and real stakes. We’re giving this as much groundedness as we can. I think the dual ideas of escapist fantasy that you still can relate to, emotionally, and this time, where things seem a little out of our control perhaps, this is a good ride. I hope people give us a shot.

Thanks again to Thomas Wheeler for taking the time to do this interview. The Cape premieres Sunday, January 9 on ABC! You can find images, trailers, spoilers and more here at, and again, you are all invited to join us on our forum!

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2 Responses to “ Interview: Chatting With The Cape Maker, Creator Thomas Wheeler”

  1. Raissa says:

    Great interview!

  2. Carol says:

    Fantastic interview! Especially appreciated the wonderful comments Wheeler made about his friend, the wonderful James Frain.
    Can’t wait for this show!

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