We recently had the chance to speak with Titans showrunner Greg Walker ahead of the premiere of the second season of the DC Universe series. He explained that more than simply seeing the heroes become better allies with one another, the show is also going to dig into the things about them as a collective that, in the past, have torn them all apart.
In its first season, DC Universe’s Titans introduced us to new incarnations of its titular, classic heroes who existed in an interestingly mismatched space, just in terms of their overall tone. The show was dark and clearly the byproduct of Warner Bros.’ still-extant fondness for Zack Snyder’s Murderverse aesthetic, but it was also unabashed in its comic book-ness, which many live-action comics adaptations tend not to be.
It wasn’t until the end of the season that the team finally began to come together and get a sense that they might be stronger working as a unit. And, in the first glimpses we’ve had of the second season, it seems as everyone’s still getting used to each another. Showrunner Greg Walker — whose previous producing work includes Smallville — told us what to expect from Titans’ second outing.
Gizmodo: Season one saw the team gradually coming together as the audience got bits and pieces of their backstories to understand who these incarnations of the characters are. But now that we’ve really gotten a sense of the core Titans, how’s this season going to keep expanding them?
Greg Walker: By getting into sins of the past, for sure. Every family has its struggles with unresolved issues that hang out like a cancer in their collective memory. A lot of it has to do with issues that came up during the previous incarnation of the Titans which we’ve hinted at, but not fully explored. Bringing the Titans back together in the way that Dick has in San Francisco resurfaces a lot of old difficulties the team had in the past that they were trying to forget about.
Gizmodo: Can you say a bit more about how the past factors into this season without spoiling?
Walker: I mean it’s really not a spoiler to say that the original incarnation of the Titans was their attempt to stop being sidekicks and establishing their identities as independent heroes. In different ways, each of them felt like they needed to escape the shadows of their respective mentors. They needed to figure out their own identities away from Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman.
What Dick and Donna built originally, the first group of Titans, it wasn’t really a team the way we think of them.
It was a kickass, fun-loving, group of crimefighting ex-sidekicks who ran into their own issues as a unit that they weren’t prepared for. There were things that broke the Titans up and none of the original members have confronted that, which is really what we wanted to explore this season.
Gizmodo: With Hawk and Dove and Donna hanging around, and Superboy and Aqualad about to make their debuts, Titans is just becoming large in terms of its cast and scale, you know? You’ve still got Trigon in the mix, but hey, now Deathstroke and his kids are popping up, and there’s still all this business with Starfire being an amnesiac alien.
Walker: It’s like a clown car.
Gizmodo: It is, though. With all of that in mind, how did you go about balancing just the sheer scope of everything. How do you keep all these plates spinning?
Walker: [Laughing] You know. With abject terror every day. There are so many characters and at one point we actually had a board with everyone’s headshots in the writers’ room just to help us keep things straight. One day I looked at how many people we had and asked myself, “What have we done?”
I thought that maybe, just maybe we were doing too much. It was a challenge, but in the end, I really liked it, because we’ve got such a talented cast that makes you want to give them all a chance to shine. I wanted to tell a story that’s centered on family and explores how hard it is to keep a family from falling apart when it’s been pushed to its limits.
Gizmodo: Is Bruce’s presence going to shake up the Titans?
Walker: Here’s my line about Bruce Wayne. He’s awesome at being Batman and terrible at being Bruce Wayne. As he’s gotten older, he’s gained an appreciation for the fact that your relationships to other people are really what matter in life and he wants to repair the broken dynamic he had with Dick.
But he’s underskilled in that area. He has to figure out how to do it. Iain Glen brings a vulnerability and a strength to his performance that’s really amazing and graceful. That’s the space I was most interested in getting into as a writer, because I feel like there hasn’t been a ton of work done in that area especially in the live-action space.
Gizmodo: Let’s shift gears and talk Starfire. When you really take a second to look at the whole of Anna Diop’s Starfire, you can see how much of her comics counterpart’s personality is there, but just presented in a way that fits into Titans’ world. The fur coat and the minidress were wild, but, like, Starfire’s always been a provocative dresser.
With that in mind, why do you think so many people had such an intensely negative reaction to Titans’ Starfire just based on her aesthetics, and let’s be honest, her race?
Walker: Honestly? I don’t know. It was hugely hurtful, especially because what Anna brought to her performance was just so good. She’s a trooper, but I felt horrible because there were some people who didn’t want to accept what she brought to the table.
From a certain perspective, you can look at the fandom’s response as a weird kind of love for the comics character, but it ignores the unique dimensionality Anna brings to the screen, which is a shame, because it’s one of the show’s strengths. People are entitled to their own opinions and social media often amplifies people’s intense emotions, but I’m really hoping that people stick around to see where we’re taking Starfire this season.
Gizmodo: We’ve seen some of the early promotional material and Anna’s got a new hairstyle — is that going to factor into how Starfire continues to change this season?
Walker: Well, we were interested in seeing Starfire evolve aesthetically and emotionally, you know? Now that she’s been on Earth for a while, the early identity grab she had for the ‘70s look and the bigger hair, it’s settled somewhat into something a bit more modern because she understands modern-day humans better than she did before.
She still has her own sense of style, but she understands how to better blend in without drawing too much attention to herself. She’s still trying to make sense of who she is and who Earthlings are, but we’re going to see a lot more of how her larger story specifically exists off-planet and is going to have much larger consequences that none of the Titans are really prepared to deal with yet.
Titans’ second season begins airing on DC universe on September 7 in the U.S., and will likely arrive on Australian Netflix sometime after the conclusion of the season.