When Gotham alum Crystal Reed got the part of Abby Arcane in DC Universe’s new Swamp Thing series, she became “obsessed” with the world of Swamp Thing and its man-within-a-monster theme.
Based on the Swamp Thing comic book character created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the live-action Swamp Thing series will debut May 31. And according to writer Gary Dauberman, who worked with Mark Verheiden on the show, the series will be “hard R” rated and took inspiration from the landmark Alan Moore comic book run.
The Swamp Thing show features Abby Arcane as a CDC doctor who goes with biologist Alec Holland to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana, to investigate a mysterious swamp-born virus, working with biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean). Eventually, Alec’s character morphs with a giant swamp-monster to become Swamp Thing, who’s played by Friday the 13th alum Derek Mears.
In the role of Abby Arcane, Reed is returning to the DC Universe, since she recently played Sofia Falcone on Fox's Gotham. Newsarama talked to Reed to find out more about her transformation into a Swamp Thing fan, how Abby’s story provides the “heartbeat” for the show, and what readers can expect from the darker style promised for Swamp Thing.
Newsarama: Crystal, how much did you know about Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane before you got the part?
Crystal Reed: I didn’t know much about Swamp Thing in general, but I started reading all of Alan Moore’s run, and I became very quickly obsessed with the world and the language and the tone, and with Abby too.
That was my jumping-off point.
Then I met with the creators and the director of the show, and that helped me really hone in on her character and her natural instincts, and then we went from there.
And then, at some point, you have to get to set and live in the world, which I did. And everything happened from there.
Nrama: We’ve seen a trailer for the series, and it definitely has a horror flavor to it. They’re not backing away from that element.
Reed: Yeah, it’s definitely a horror show. I’m excited about that. We’re pushing the limits in terms of tone, which makes me really happy, because I think that’s really fun and will hopefully shock some people.
Nrama: You mentioned Alan Moore, and we’ve already heard that his run in particular is informing the direction of the live action show. Despite you saying it’s a “horror show,” are they sticking with the deeper mythology behind it — the involvement of living things the world over?
Reed: Yes, there’s a much deeper mythology. And it’s one that touches upon the world we live in today — the environment, and change, and acceptance. I think acceptance is a huge part of this show. I mean, there’s a theme of seeing what is seemingly quite ugly on the outside, but seeing the beautiful part behind all that.
Nrama: Fans of the comic books know Abby’s role in the mythology, but is her character a central part of the show? The synopsis of the story seems to focus on her as a scientist, but also on her facing demons from her past as she investigates an epidemic in her hometown.
Reed: Yeah, she is the central heartbeat behind the story. Abby is a woman who’s had a pretty tough childhood, who left to make something of herself. And she kind of found solace in medicine and science, because it’s exact and she can measure it quite easily. And that was good for her.
But she’s always been haunted by the things that happened in her past. And I think that never went away.
So she comes back to Marais, Louisiana, and tries to work all that out. And we get to see her do it.
Nrama: We’ve seen some photographs of the Swamp Thing look being used in the live action show. What’s it been like working with that character on set? I mean, assuming there isn’t much CG work on him.
Reed: He’s entirely practical. There was no CGI. He was always there with me, every single day, on set in costume. And that was so important and amazing for me, to be able to have that.
And Derek Mears, who’s the guy behind the suit, is brilliant and he really gave so much to me to be able to play off of. I think he gives a really great performance. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see that.
Nrama: Fans of DC characters will already have seen you on Gotham. Did that experience inform your decision to work on this show, or maybe opened doors for you?
Reed: I’m not sure. One could say that DC, I don’t know, liked my work in Gotham. I have no idea.
But it was definitely something that wasn’t just handed to me, at all. I had to fight for it.
Nrama: Of course, Swamp Thing is a whole new animal, being for a streaming service as opposed to network TV.
Reed: [With Swamp Thing], it really does feel like we’re making something that is fresh and unique and not like anything else out there.