Kevin Smith And Chris Wood On Masters Of The Universe: Revelation Part 2’s Legendary Influences – Exclusive Interview
After Netflix dropped Part 1 of “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” fans have been clamoring for more of the show. Well, He-Man/Prince Adam actor Chris Wood and showrunner Kevin Smith are here to give the people what they want: Part 2 of the series. Fans may know Kevin Smith from producing and acting as Silent Bob in projects like “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Dogma.” He’s even played himself on more than one occasion on shows like “The Mindy Project” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” However, his biggest character to date might be his endless supply of nerdy hockey jerseys.
Meanwhile, Chris Wood is well known for his stint in “The Vampire Diaries” universe as the dastardly and morally defunct Kai Parker and his work alongside his now-wife Melissa Benoist as Mon-El in “Supergirl.” With both a superhero and a supervillain past, it’s no surprise that he would go on to take the heroic role of Prince Adam and his slightly chaotic (yet well-intentioned) alter ego, He-Man.
Both Wood and Smith are playing in Mattel’s sandbox with their animated versions of the decades-old toys, but who could ask for a better duo? Once Smith added on Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela and Mark Hamill as Skeletor, the show immediately reached iconic status.
During an exclusive interview with Looper, Kevin Smith and Chris Wood dished on Part 2 of “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” what it was like working with the show’s iconic actors and working together again after a couple of “Supergirl” run-ins.
Mark Hamill: From lightsabers to Skeletor
[Kevin Smith initially begins the conversation on his own]
You’re a known “Star Wars” fan. What was it like working with Mark Hamill as the voice of Skeletor? Is he someone you wanted right away when you knew Alan [Oppenheimer] wasn’t going to be doing it, or did that sort of come out organically through auditions or his own expressed interest?
Kevin Smith: That was one of the first conversations we had about the “Masters of the Universe,” was who would play Skeletor. Resoundingly, everybody leaned towards Mark. Mark, aside from, of course, being Luke Skywalker of our childhood, has been the best Joker for the last 30 years running. He’s a wonderful voice artist. As somebody I’ve known now for years personally, he’s just a fount of information — one of the most interesting cats you’ll ever meet. He’s well-rounded on subjects across the board, including old performers, old voiceover performers, and old actors — which he was able to pull in for the Skeletor that he put together.
I’ve worked with him before, on “Jay and Silent Bob Strike back” in 2001, and I got to have a lightsaber fight with him there. This was wonderful watching him play Skeletor and playing with him. But nothing’s going to top the lightsaber fight. He kicked my ass. But still, it was pretty damn magical. So lovely to step up with him to the microphone as he takes on another iconic role and makes it his own. For generations, most people have known the great Alan Oppenheimer [as] Skeletor. For this, it was like, well, passing the torch over here. We kept Alan involved. He was our Moss-Man, amongst a few other voices. But it felt like the right decision.
That seemed to be the thing that excited people the most when we announced the show, and we announced that Mark was going to be playing Skeletor. They’re like, “Holy crap!” In the first five episodes, the way the story is constructed, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of Skeletor. There’s not a lot of scenery-chewing for Mark to do. In the back five, though, it’s just the Mark Hamill show — episode after episode of some of his most scenery-chewing performance. It was wonderful as always to get to work with a childhood hero and let him be somebody else’s childhood nightmare, so to speak.
Sarah Michelle Gellar's pop culture legacy
Sarah Michelle Gellar is such an integral part of this story as Teela, and it’s great because she doesn’t take on a whole lot of roles anymore. What was the process like, getting her on board, and what has it been like to work with her as well?
Kevin Smith: She’s bliss. I didn’t work with her prior to this. Of course, I’m way familiar with her work. She’s a pop culture icon — has been for decades now, thanks to “Buffy,” thanks to playing Daphne in “Scooby-Doo.”
We did a little wrap party before the first half of Part 1 aired. While we were out there chit-chatting at the party, I was like, “This is so nice. We finally got to work together.” She’s like, “Well, I auditioned for ‘Mallrats’ back in 1995.” I was like, “What?” She was like, “Yeah. I was a kid. I was still doing soap operas in New York. I auditioned to be Trish the Dish.” She’s going, “But I was way too young.” She was like, “I was actually 16 years old.”
I was like, “Oh, my God. I could’ve had Buffy in our movie? Oh, man.” She was the first person that came up when we were talking about Teela. Most of the writers room, Ted Biaselli, our producer, Rob over at Mattel, Rob David, all of these people are hardcore “Buffy” people. I have nothing but respect for “Buffy,” but I was not an ardent watcher and stuff, but loved her performances in many other things. So I was down like a clown with the idea of Sarah.
Working with her was lovely. She’s so real, you know what I’m saying? She’s more mom than anything else. She’s constantly on mom duty. We would have to stop sessions because she had to go pick up kids, and not like “my people are picking up kids.” She’s a hands-on mom. So really cool, man, that she’s such a well-rounded person. Gives you a great performance, but you expect that because she’s been doing it for years. It’s so nice that she’s an actual human being that you can relate to and stuff. I like her. She’s one of my new favorite people.
Chris Wood's supernatural dalliances
[Chris Wood joined the call during the previous answer.] Hi, Chris.
Chris Wood: Hi. […] Kevin, you look great, dude. Look at those horns.
Kevin Smith: I almost wore my black hat, and I’m so glad I didn’t, because we would’ve looked…
Chris Wood: How embarrassing would that be?
Kevin Smith: We would’ve looked so coordinated if we were like, “Here we are. Back in black for the second half of ‘Masters of the Universe.'” Somebody’s got to vary it up. So I’ll go horny, if you will.
Chris Wood: Looks good. It looks good.
Kevin Smith: Excellent to hear.
[Chris,] Do you want to answer what it was like for you to work with Sarah Michelle Gellar?
Chris Wood: Largely invisible. I think the first time we really spoke was during the first round of Comic-Con press.
We had sort of acted off of each other in going in and rerecording moments in scenes. But we hadn’t gotten a chance to meet up. Pandemic was a large part of that. I know there were dreams of the cast getting more in-person sessions. But the world has been pretty bonkers, right?
[Chris], You’ve played powerful roles before like the superhero Mon-El in “Supergirl” and the villain Kai in the TVD Universe. Did either of those roles help you take on this one? What did you learn from those projects that you brought with you to He-Man?
Chris Wood: I do think being in a supernatural universe probably helped a little bit, being around Superman himself and seeing what that vibe is like. I think that probably plays into it. But I think, more than anything, for me, it was just growing up playing with my cousin’s toy set. I’ve just been practicing my whole life, basically.
Defining a villain
Kevin, I love the muddled dichotomy between heroes and villains, both in the first part of the season, but especially in this one. Without giving too much away, what has it been like hammering out the details and nuances of each season’s villains? Has the work from creators like Stan Lee and George Lucas inspired you in your role as showrunner and story editor?
Kevin Smith: Absolutely. We told one big story, and it’s been split up to two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. But we were telling this ten-episode story arc that took us into interesting places with the characters. We’re playing with toys, essentially. We’re all adults playing with toys, and these toys have been around for damn near 40 years at this point. The beautiful thing is, when Mattel created them, they created these lush backstories and intricate relationships — which you got to then explore and take apart and put through a modern prism. All of that just seemed super appetizing to me.
In a world where we’re going to stay very close or adhere to the sourced material, you get to unearth things that people who call themselves fans didn’t even know. People are like, “You guys made up that orb thing?” I’m like, “No, that comes from Mattel. That’s deep cuts.” In the second half of the season, there’s a moment where Adam calls down the power without the sword and becomes Savage He-Man, and that came from the very first drawing of He-Man, before they defined him. He was a total barbarian with a shield and an ax. So we get to play with the characterizations, but we’re playing deep cuts with toys.
Kevin Smith's showrunner duties
Kevin Smith: To put it in the parlance of if you were going over to somebody’s house to play with their MO-2 figures, you’re playing with their figures — their rules. You can’t come in there and be like, “We’re doing this. We’re doing this. We’re doing this.” It all has to make sense to the person who owns those toys. In this case, people that own the toys [have] been telling Netflix everything we had to do had to make sense with them. They were cool about letting us take risks with the characters, particularly in the first half, because they knew by the second half, our job [was] to create problems and fix those problems.
I’ve never showrun before. I’ve made movies, but that’s telling one story over the span of a month. Showrunning, this was 18 months to almost two years, and learning what the job was. Because I had writers, and they’d hand me these wonderful scripts, and we’d get notes from Netflix and Mattel. I’d pass on the notes, and they’d do another draft. I was like, “This job’s easy.” Then the next round of notes, I went to give it to the writers, and they’re like, “Oh, no. No, you do these.” I’m like, “What? Me? I’m not going to rewrite these writes.” But that becomes part of the job and stuff.
So it went on and on, and it was always these wonderful gifts, re-gifts of here’s an animation package. Here’s the first previs. Here’s a breakdown, the storyboards. You’d forget about it because you were doing other things, and then every three days, somebody would send you this gorgeous parcel of artwork where you’re like, “Oh, man. We’re making a very cool cartoon.” Up until that point, it’s just words written about what Eternia could be and what He-Man could be.
Borrowing the Marvel Method
Kevin Smith: Once they start sending you artwork, once you start sitting down with the actors and hearing those characters come to life, it suddenly becomes this insanely gratifying experience that’s protracted. It’s spread out, like when they say that Sting has sex, it takes a long time. The artist, The Police lead singer. Same thing here. What a protracted, joyful experience it was.
Even having written the dialogue and not knowing what it would sound like, and then you get Woody [Chris Wood] in front of the mic, and suddenly you hear Prince Adam, and then you hear He-Man. It’s the same kid — same guy doing both voices. Once you have that, suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, this is such a collaborative effort.”
In movies, it generally lives and dies by me as the writer-director, as the auteur, if you will. But in this field, in this milieu, I’m one of many artisans that came together and made this really powerful stew. To that degree, it is a bit like Marvel Method in as much as everybody brings their best to it. We were a lot more heavily scripted than the Marvel Method goes. But you know your own strength, and then you hand off to others who are far stronger than you at better things. That’s how the process went.
The legacy of He-Man
Chris, has it been nerve wracking or stressful at all to reprise such a beloved role? What have been the highlights and the challenges in taking on He-Man? Where do you hope his character goes in the future?
Chris Wood: Yeah, that’s a good question. Obviously, any time you’re taking on something that’s so ingrained in our collective consciousness as fans and has such a passionate fan base, of course, there’s a little bit of nerves, like, “Oh, God, I hope I don’t disappoint people.”
But I think once you get going, at least, for me, I’m able to divorce myself from the expectation part and just focus on the fun of it all. With these characters, you’re literally playing with toys and embodying these figures that we all know so well. I think getting to disappear into that frees you a bit from worrying about the result, which I don’t think anyone does their best work … I don’t think any athlete or painter is like, “When I think about the product I’m trying to make at the end, I’m going to do my best.” So it’s good to try to forget that.
Honestly, it comes back the most when we’re about to launch it, when it first came out, and then now, as Part 2 is coming out, because you just want to make people happy. We really have enjoyed the process, and I love the show so much that I think, if anything, it’s just nerves — that releasing it into the world, because you just want people to take the joy that you put into it. But you can’t help that. So that is also fraying, too. But yeah, saying “I have the power” the first time, I think, was no easy task.
Kevin Smith: To borrow from another franchise, ‘With great power comes something something.’
Chris Wood: [Jokingly] Something. Somebody said something after that. I don’t remember what it was.
[Jokingly] I think he had webs coming out of his hands? [Laughs]
Kevin Smith: Yeah.
Chris Wood: [Jokingly] It must’ve been Sting.
Kevin Smith: [Laughs] Yes. Kids are familiar with Sting, right? I’m not out of touch, right?
Chris Wood: Tantric He-Man. Yeah.
Kevin Smith: Tantric He-Man.
From super director to showrunner
Kevin, you actually directed two episodes of “Supergirl” that Chris starred in. Was he someone you had in mind when you decided to do “Masters of the Universe: Revelation?” What was it like for the both of you working on that project and then again on this one year later?
Kevin Smith: I’ve loved working with Chris. He’s so adorable. He’s legit funny. I think you get a writer with him when you get a performer as well. I mean, number one, he’s incredibly easy to look at. Just ask Supergirl that. [Chris laughs.] But that’s the thing. A lot of people in this business look good, and then there’s really nothing going on underneath. Chris is incredibly smart. He’s a really good writer. I’ve read scripts that he’s written. He’s a really good writer, man. He’s a filmmaker. He just hasn’t quite made his film yet. He hasn’t sewn his testimony. But he absolutely will.
Kevin Smith: Pep talk connoisseur
Kevin Smith: What you get with him as a performer is you also get somebody who’s coming up with lines that enhance the story. Some people can ad-lib on a set, and it makes the crew laugh, but that’s useless for the story. In the moment, there’s some levity. But I can’t use any of that footage. Chris was able to ad-lib within scenes within the story, and then that becomes absolutely useful.
He’s got natural charm. I told him early on. I was like, “You should play Fletch.” That was years ago, but I love the series of books by Gregory Mcdonald. And the character, as described in the book, is Chris. He’s insanely good-looking. He’s wily like Bugs Bunny and the most clever guy in the room. You’re always going to undercut him because he’s too pretty to be that smart. But he’s the full package. That’s the thing. He’s beautiful to look at, and he’s smart. Irritating-
Chris Wood: Thanks, Kevin.
He’s blushing, folks!
Kevin Smith: Most of us have one or the other. But he’s got both.
Chris Wood: Thank you, Kevin. We ought to do this more often. My weekly pep talk.
Kevin Smith: It’s true. It’s true, man. He’s got the goods. I wish that I told stories that needed pretty people. If I had a TV show or a feature, like a Marvel movie, he would be the first person I’d call. But I make movies about schlubs, and Chris is a great actor, but nobody [is] buying him as a schlub or a loser. We cast him as He-Man, for heaven’s sakes. He’s a hero.
Another holiday special?
Is there a character or storyline from the original “Masters of the Universe” that either of you would love the show to put a spin on as the series continues?
Chris Wood: I think there’s a lot. Right, Kevin?
Kevin Smith: Yeah. It’s crazy. We’ve played with a lot of the toys, but [there are] some big figures we haven’t touched. Hordak.
Chris Wood: Yeah. I was going to say some of which will be teased, too, in part 2, look into the future of the show. But yeah. Cross those fingers.
Kevin Smith: [Laughs] If The show has a future. But yes, Hordak would be amazing. I know, of course, every “Masters of the Universe” fan is like, “What about She-Ra?” That remains a hope down the road. They’re owned by two different companies, so it’s not that easy. But hope springs eternal, particularly in Eternia. That would be fun. That’d be fun to bring those characters back together, particularly if we got to do a Christmas special. That’d be neat.
Chris Wood: Oh, my God. Yes. Please. Hamill’s quite familiar with Christmas specials, so he’s ready. You know he’s ready.
I wonder what you’d have to pay Mark Hamill to get him to agree to do another Christmas special. [Laughs.]
Chris Wood: I think he’d do it for free. He loves Christmas.
Kevin Smith: Well, especially if it’s voiceover. He could do it from his house.
Chris Wood: Yeah. Probably should.
Saying goodbye to Supergirl
Chris, you appeared on the “Supergirl” finale that recently aired. What was it like getting to work with Melissa [Benoist] again and being there to say goodbye to both of your characters? Were you happy with where Mon-El and both Supergirl ended up in their respective journeys?
Chris Wood: It’s always good to revisit the spandex. I always say it’s humbling. [Laughs.] It reminds you to take care of yourself. No, it was good to get back, more than anything just to … All the original cast came back, and just getting to all be together one more time was pretty cool. A lot of those people are some of my closest friends outside of just being friendly on set. So getting to all be together again to put that thing to bed was terrific. Obviously, getting to work with my wife one final time as she put her show to rest, that was obviously icing on the cake. Yeah, it was good. I think those ships are so hard to land. I mean, “Flash” is about to try to do it. I think after you’ve done so many seasons, with especially these 24-episode series, I mean, that’s a lot of hours of storytelling. I don’t envy the people who have to figure out how to bring that to a close. But, hopefully, everyone enjoyed it. I had fun making it, I guess, is the answer.
I cried a lot, but it was really good.
Chris Wood: Good. I hope it was good crying.
Part 2 of “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” is now streaming on Netflix.