Geoff Johns & More Bring GREEN LANTERN to the Small Screen

GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS Interview

Friday night at WonderCon, fans were thrilled to see the world premier of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the direct-to-DVD feature where newly-recruited Lantern Arisia hears stories of the Corps as her new teammates prepare for the coming of Krona, a cosmic villain who has found a way to escape an anti-matter universe and invade our reality. [Click here for our review of Emerald Knights] The next morning, a roundtable discussion was held with the creative team of Alan Burnett, Andrea Romano, Bruce Timm, Geoff Johns, and actor Wade Williams.

Geoff Johns expressed that Green Lantern projects will definitely stand out from other superhero films, both animated and live-action. "My hope is to really bring Green Lantern to the mainstream. It's not just a superhero, it's really sci fi. It's a little bit Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I keep thinking about the movie The Last Starfighter. And it's got that great core about overcoming fear. You're chosen because there's something inside of you. I think that's very inspiring. I like the vastness of it. It's not about the ring, it's about people wearing the ring. You can do a story on Earth or a story in space. I always liked the Cantina scene in Star Wars and things like the Green Lantern Corps group scenes, it's like imagine the Cantina but with so many more aliens and they're wearing green cop uniforms."

Concerning his story in Emerald Knights, Johns said, "I really wanted to explore the relationship between Abin Sur and Sinestro. I created in the comic books a friendship and mutual respect between the two. I think it adds another level to Hal wearing [Abin Sur's] ring. Immediately, Sinestro thinks, 'you're not as good as Abin Sur.' The one Green Lantern he respected more than others is dead and replaced by an Earthman, this guy from a primitive race where they're born on their planet and they die on their planet. It's embarrassing. So I think it adds even more to that complex relationship between Hal and Sinestro."

On the difference of comic book writing and animated scripts, Johns added, "Someone else has to break the script down into shots, I'm not going to direct it like I direct a comic. So that's easier. But you have to adjust to budget and cast limitations."

Despite these limitations, Burnett remarked that, "We like to take the stories from the comics when we can. In this movie, we took short stories and were able to expand them, which was good. In a lot of features, we have to take stories that are twelve issues and really only adapt four or five of them in the time we have."

While the main story of Emerald Knights is the Corps preparing to go to war against Krona, most of the feature focuses on "stories from the trenches" with many different writers contributing. Organizing this was a challenge for Alan Burnett. "I was dealing with writers in New York and writers in Los Angeles and Dave Gibbons traveling around the world. But I think it works. It has a progression, it starts with the first Green Lanterns. You then get the way that they're trained with Kilowog. Then with Laira and Mogo, you get more personal, individual stories. And then you get Geoff Johns' story which hints at the Blackest Night. So there's a definite flow to them leading through the Green Lantern history. And I'm happy with it. It's the busiest DVD we've done. I mean, usually when you write these features, you keep it compact for the animators. But this one has different worlds and different characters in each world. And there are lots of explosions!

"My part," Burnett continued, "was the bookends and the connecting material [featuring Krona]. It made the most sense since I was supervising the scripts. I wrote that with Todd Casey, who was a staff writer at Warner Bros. and is now at Marvel. Geoff Johns also had some ideas we included for the opening about the sun erupting and making a doorway into the anti-matter universe."

Bruce Timm also wanted to emphasize that Emerald Knights is its own entity, not a prelude to the upcoming Green Lantern animated series.

"The animated series is going to be its own separate thing, it won't directly connect to Emerald Knights or the movie. It'll expand on the whole universe. We've been looking to do a CGI series for a long time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for it. Partly because of the CGI in the new movie which we all know is going to be a big hit. And because it's not set on Earth. I'm not a fan of CGI that tries to trick you into think it's real, I like when its stylized. So setting this in space, making it very stylized, should be very fun."

On the casting, Andrea Romano explained, "When we get ready to cast something, everyone throws out their ideas of who could be fun. It could be me going through TV Guide or a list I keep of actors we weren't able to work with before. And we create a list of order to approach the actors in. And we have to be careful because we may have five options for Hal and five for Arisia and casting from one list means you need to make sure your initial choices on the other list would match with the other person well. Unfortunately, there are some actors who we can't use. And particularly, film actors have the most trouble because what they do is so small. Stage actors such as Wade Williams seem to translate better into this field because they're used to being larger than life. You can see someone act and know they're a good actor, but that doesn't mean they're going to be good as a voice."

"I love characters with an arc," Wade Williams explained, "where they seem evil or nasty but you learn that there's more to them, that there's a good core. Deegan trains the Green Lanterns who are actually green and who don't yet understand what the ring means, what its power means and what wearing it means. You can move mountains and save planets. He won't let them die but he won't be nice when he's training either."

On improvising, Williams said, "I stick with the script. I focus on theater acting when I do voice-over work, so I trust the text. You can lose focus if you do too much research outside of the script and try to bring in too many things that you've learned but that don't actually have to do with this focused story. The writers have spent more time on this than I have anyway. And Andrea inspires me to do things I never would have thought of, reading on my own. On interpretation, I go with my instinct. I don't make choices, I let it happen to me. It feels more honest that way. If they like it, I keep going, if they feel I should do it differently, it's my job as an actor to do it."

And are there any thoughts on who might voice Larfleeze if he were brought into an animated feature in the future?

"I know he sounds like a Muppet, but I don't know which one," Johns admitted.

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