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'Powers' Liberates Its Cast

A 'difficult' pilot falls further into limbo, but absolutely will not die


Khary Payton

Actor Khary Payton.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

When your network has passed on the pilot you spent months and years putting into place, saying it won't work without extensive rewrites and unbudgeted reshoots, and you've started losing your cast to other projects that seem to actually have a future, anyone else might decide that the time has come to shelve your dream project and write it off as a learning experience.

But not Brian Michael Bendis and the folks behind the comic-book-to-TV-series adaptation of Powers, the graphic novel created by Bendis and Michael Oeming about an ex-superhero-turned cop. It's the only TV show pilot that seems to have its own superpower, the ability to withstand turns of fate that would kill any other project in Hollywood and still hold its chiseled chin high.

Or maybe Powers, the series, is the pilot project equivalent of the Black Knight, losing programming slots, cast members, and chunks of its script and scenes already in the can, but still blustering indomitably, "It's a flesh wound. Have at you!"

A Hot Pilot Concept

Powers was one of the most promising and intriguing pilots announced last year. The network, FX, was enthusiastic. But the delivery of the pilot seemed to make everyone realize this the concept behind Powers was tougher to convert into excellent television than anyone had realized.

That's what FX President John Landgraf meant when he called it "as difficult an adaptation as I've ever worked on." When FX didn't immediately green-light Powers, it was in the hope that it could be made better.

But finally a few weeks ago the female lead, Lucy Punch, went ahead and allowed herself to be cast in a new pilot project at Fox.

Now, star Khary Payton, who plays Kutter in the pilot, has told Comic Book Resources that the whole cast of Powers, which includes Jason Patric and Charles S. Dutton, has been "released," meaning their free to go to other projects without respect to their commitment to the Powers pilot -- while still insisting, as everyone associated with the project does, that Powers is far from dead.

Freeing the Cast

Payton, whose voice is familiar from Teen Titans and who's appeared in indy films like Latter Days and The Legend of Awesomest Maximus, shouts his love for Powers from the rooftops even as he reveals the production's latest twist.

"The thing is that it's so cool. It's SO cool! I love it. I love Powers," Payton told CBR. "I love Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming. Those guys are -- I honestly think they just cast me in it so that I'd go buy all their comic books. I have no time for my three-year-old anymore. I'm reading Brian Bendis and putting Michael's picture on my wall."

"But they're amazing, and there really is a commitment. The higher ups want to do this so badly because they know it's going to be the coolest thing on television. But it's hard. It's a hard concept, I think, to get. And they had to step back and start over again. From what I hear, the plan is still moving forward."

"Unfortunately, we -- all of the actors -- got released. They're literally starting over. They want to do it again. And fortunately and unfortunately, I'm doing another show, and I still hope beyond hope that I can be a part of Powers. But I'm happy to be working. But things are happening with Powers absolutely. There are scripts being turned out. They just want more material to hear that they're getting it right."

What's Its Future

Where is the project now? It may not be dead, but it sounds like it might be in limbo. "This project is not dead," FX told CBR. "It is still to be determined if we'll move forward with reshoots on the pilot. There is currently no timetable on when to move forward."

A complete revamp of the pilot, with some or all new actors and partial or complete rewriting of the pilot, is extreme, but not unprecedented. After all, that's kind of what happened at a certain NBC show in 1965 -- and the result of that rewrite and recasting was one of the most influential genre series of all time.

Half a century later the television landscape is impossibly different, of course, and a superhero cop show isn't the same thing as exploring space in the starship Enterprise. But given the amount of faith that everyone involved seems to have in the idea of Powers as a televised drama, there's every reason to hope that in another year or two we'll finally get to see a series version of this exciting and fertile concept.

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