DCN Visits NYCC: Interviews DC Comics ‘American Alien’ Writer Max Landis With Cast Of ‘Dirk Gently’

by Sharna Jahangir
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This October, at New York’s Comic-Con, DCN had some wicked fun! The playful, witty cast of Dirk Gently discussed their newest season and their work with Max Landis. They all sound greatly fond of him, certainly applauding his writing and talents. At the end of the cast’s questions, Max Landis spoke with DCN to tell us what inspires him to write such trying and melancholy underdog tales as we saw in the brilliant, cathartic DC Comic series, American Alien, which featured the struggle and growth of New 52’s Clark Kent into becoming Superman.

Lois Lane: You want to do something small? C’mon Clark…

Do something BIG.

Q: This sort of genre, this detective but also sci-fi, how do you think this sort of genre helps improve society, any benefits that the show [morally] comes with? 

(Left to right: Fiona Dourif, Elijah Wood, Arvind Ethan David (Producer), Hannah Marker, Jad Eshete, Samuel Barnett, Max Landis, Mpho Koaho)

Samuel Barnett: Without getting political, we are living in times that feel more chaotic. And I think the nature of the show [Dirk Gently] is that the universe is chaos, but ultimately everything passes and everything somehow comes together, and everything is connecting. I think it [this genre] is a beautiful reminder with things being so polarized at the moment that we are actually all connected and all the same ultimately. And I think it’s a very human show. I think that’s what people plug into.

Elijah Wood: Beautifully said. Yeah, and there is so many genre elements within the context of the storytelling, it is also ultimately character driven. All of the characters present, even the “supposed” heroes are flawed, and I think that is something really beautiful, is that they’re all related. Ever Dirk Gently, even our strongest character is flawed and you can kind of relate to. It’s a group of misfits trying to do good.

Q: I like your beautiful chemistry, and I see it between your cast and I see it on the show too. How do you think that impacts the way the script is written?

Hannah Marks: I would love to say that Max took from our personalities but I don’t think so. Max has got a vision that he’s had for years and years and years somewhere in that crazy brain of his so I think he intentionally divides the people that have chemistry. He’s like “I don’t want you guys together!” And he picks the people you would never expect in a million years. He’s going to put those two characters together. As much as I would love to work with [only] Jade.

Jade Eshete: Right! “Hey! Can I have a scene with Hannah now?”

Q: [To  Fiona Dourif and Mpho Koaho] How does your relationship develop with Ken [in season 2], what route does it take?

Fiona Dourif: Well…watch season 2 of Dirk Gently on BBC News. [She laughs] You know, finding a connection with Ken is the dragging force behind everything I do in season 2. It’s a testament to Max Landis, there is an emotional light built into all the plotlines so there is a human reason why I do everything that I do in season 2.

Mpho Koaho: The progression of Ken is not because of Ken. It is taken a lot of Ken to do almost anything by himself. The kid is just a different guy: hermit, scared, all these things and Bart gives him a reason. It’s like “oh, somebody likes me?” Do you know what I mean? That was Ken’s mentality, especially when he had the chance to walk away when she gave him the option to leave. He came back. […] So that’s enough for Ken, I’ve got a friend now!  You know, that’s purpose.

Q: Detective and Supernatural genres bring so much to the table, but what do you think putting them together brings to people, as a heart of the story? 

Mpho Koaho: I think relationships do that. Bart, Ken, and Bart. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? Maybe it looks weird at first, you know, the girl trying to kill everybody and then this sweet boy [comes in] but where it goes though?

Who wouldn’t want that? Dirk and Todd have their own thing and then you add the rowdy three, everyone has the development to their relationship to their extent, so if you take that away, where is the human element to it? People need to connect. Everything is connected. People want to relate to somebody, there are so many characters on the show, somebody is going to see someone they know! They’re close to. And the relationships influence, because you finally connect with a person and somebody cares for this person.

Q: Do you feel the relationship has romantic potential? 

MK: No. That’s not this show. We don’t do that on this show. And I’m not talking about how Bart’s not a stone-cold fox. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think that’s why we participate on our show, I think we do a great job separating all that [romance]. We don’t ship.

FD: We have a surprising amount of anti-tropes. There is some sex in Dirk Gently season 2 and we have two lead gay characters, which is really nice. I think its refreshing and fantastic the lead female characters are not their clothes off, and it never comes up. It’s not even a plot point that I don’t have a boyfriend.

The cast talks about Max’s writing, he puts his passion into building strong, meaningful bonds.

Q: I read your comic, American Alien, brilliant series, Dirk Gently too. It deals with a lot of identities. What drives you to write stories about people who are underdogs mastering their demons?

Max Landis: So everything I write is about…do you want the real answer?

Yes, the real answer.

Max Landis: Basically, everything I write, if you look at my work, is about an outsider who is unhappy and frustrated with their life. Then discovering a secret talent that allows them to connect with other people and that then causes trouble. And either they engage with their identity and change their behavior as a hero, OR they refuse and use their talent in a bad way and that causes chaos. So that’s American Alien, Chronicle, Victor Frankenstein, Mr. Right, American Ultra, everything I do is that.

And that’s because I was a lonely kid who’s kind of…spent a lot of my time as a jerk. And blaming other people, and felt very lonely and alone and weird. I couldn’t connect with other people. And then I started to become a writer and through that, I have been forced to engage with ideas about myself and other people that have caused me to grow. And that started when I was 23 and is still in process. But you can SEE. If you track my scripts, my development personally is right alongside them. In a way that’s really upsetting, that I didn’t realize until my girlfriend pointed it out to me. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Even in like my movies, the movie I wrote first was Mr. Right (that got made later), and Mr. Right is Marth, Anna Kendrick is a sociopath. She is a demented crazy person who can’t connect with other people who then meets another sociopath and instead of it helping or curing her, she just goes “ok, I’m gonna murder people.”

And that’s her arc. “yeah good!” But then if you look at Chronicle, Andrew finally makes friends and then goes “f*** you, you guys don’t know me!” And dies. So now, being crazy is fine, being crazy maybe causes problems, and then you look at American Ultra or Victor Frankenstein, which both features friendships, one of which is a romance once of which is a friendship, where characters find the salvation of each other. And that’s where it goes from there.

Max Landis, creator, and writer of Dirk Gently, author of American Alien! Check out season 2 of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, where supernatural meets great detectives!

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