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The Powerless Cast Breaks Down What to Expect From NBC’s Superhero Comedy

The Powerless Cast Breaks Down What to Expect From NBC’s Superhero Comedy

We’re living in the golden age of superhero movies and TV shows. There is no denying that fact (and what a time to be alive!). NBC tried to get into the comic book game a few seasons ago with short-lived Constantine –we’re still not over that cancelation, by the way –and the network is trying again this season with DC Comics comedy Powerless. This time, NBC got it right.

The hilarious and original workplace comedy stars Vanessa Hudgens as Emily, who recently moved to Charm City to work at Wayne Security to help invent gadgets that will help normal people survive in a world where superheroes and villains constantly interrupt daily life. The series finds its stories in the crazy inventions that Emily and her coworkers come up with, their crazy yet lovable goof boss Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk), cousin to, yes, that Bruce Wayne over in Gotham, and generally being a normal person living in a world of superheroes and supervillains.

But don’t expect Powerless to suddenly start crossing over with any of The CW’s DC Comics shows, or any of the big DC movies.

“Our show is its own freestanding thing,” Hudgens told Nerdist on set. “It means we don’t have to try and be anything else. We don’t have to rely on all the other characters that people are really familiar with on television right now. It’s a brand new take on this kind of genre. It always follows around the superheroes and you never get to follow around the normal people who are just trying to do their jobs. It’s a different tone and completely different subject. It’s not which supervillain do they have to kill this week, it’s what paperwork do we have to finish and who is trying to mess everything up?”

Charm City, created for Powerless, is home to some of the lesser known DC Comics characters.

“We have Crimson Fox and Jack O’Lantern who are kind of our main superhero and villain in Charm City,” Hudgens said. “Jack O’Lantern is always terrorizing the town of Charm City. But we’ve got a few fun, random ones. I think the thing that is really funny about our show is that in Charm City, it’s kind of like the B-List superheroes and supervillains. You’ll never see Batman arrive. But there’s a few interesting comic characters.”

Tudyk’s character originally had no connection to Bruce Wayne, but now the showrunners decided that he’s a cousin to the iconic figure, that lets the show play around with more jokes and references that comic fanboys will love.

POWERLESS -- "Wayne or Lose" Episode 102 -- Pictured: Alan Tudyk as Van -- (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

“Now that he’s a Wayne, it brings in all of that; it brings in the family and he’s immediately linked to Batman, he wants to go to Gotham,” Tudyk said. “He looks up to Bruce.”

Besides references, Powerless won’t be hosting cameos to any of the “big seven” DC Comics superheroes.

“A lot of it is making sure we protect the integrity of the whole DC universe,” Danny Pudi, who plays top engineer Teddy, said. “We don’t want to promise or over-deliver characters. We’re not Metropolis, so we’re not going to be referencing Bruce Wayne the whole time. There’s a lot of Justice League Europe references so far.”

The cast all loves seeing what kind of wacky inventions they get to play with in each episode. “My favorite one so far is the rumbrella, because I was just using it to save my grandma,” Ron Funches, who plays cheerful employee Ron, said. “I think that’s real cute. I think that’s one of the finest parts of the show, just using weird gadgets and different special effects. This is a fun job but sometimes there’s fire.”

“Our products work, but they’re not necessarily the most practical things in the world,” Hudgens said with a laugh. “You use them but it’s just that carrying them around would be taxing.”

Besides the “rumbrella,” an umbrella that protects you from falling debris, viewers will see a “wearbag,” a giant suit you wear over your clothes to protect you from any collateral damage. Both inventions are big, heavy and generally cause you more stress than if you didn’t use them.

“There always seems to be a major drawback to the inventions,” Christina Kirk, who plays cynical employee Jackie, said.

While the inventions are a fun aspect to the show, it’s really the relationships between all the characters and their daily struggles that come with living in a world of superheroes that makes Powerless so unique.

Powerless NBC 2

“Emily is very positive and very optimistic. I don’t think anything can change that because that is truly who she is,” Hudgens said. “She really believes that she can change the world and she wants to. She wants to motivate people into doing the same. But being around superheroes and supervillains, getting used to the damage that they cause, getting used to having the worst boss ever it definitely is taxing on Emily but she stays chipper.”

She continued, “Our personal life tends to go down in the office. That’s where we talk about it. Like my character ends up dating a henchman which is just a casual thing that happens in Charm City. There have been a couple of gags that have been quite interesting, I’ll say. Odd body parts. And that’s all I will say.”

Most of the comedy is scripted, but with a cast of comedians, improv while filming is expected and welcomed.

“Yeah, everybody does their own little bits [of improv] here and there,” Hudgens said. “I feel like Alan does the most. He comes onto set and starts rambling off different lines that he’s created and they’re always great. Everyone really does, though.”

“They’ve been great about letting me do that,” Tudyk said. “The scripts are very funny so there isn’t a lot of changing what’s there. They deliver really good scripts. But you can always come up with two or three of those [punchlines]. I sing two songs in an episode, one of them was one they wrote me and the other one, I didn’t learn. I never have done that as an actor and I don’t know what came over me, but I came in with three or four songs I wrote. I’m not a good guitar player so it naturally lends itself to comedy.”

What are you most excited to see from Powerless? Tweet me @SydneyBucksbaum!

Images: NBC

Powerless airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

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