How Masters of the Universe: Revelation Updates He-Man for 2021

How Masters of the Universe: Revelation Updates He-Man for 2021
Orko (Griffin Newman), Andra (Tiffany Smith), Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Roboto (Justin Long), and Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) on Masters of the Universe: Revelation. (Image: Netflix)

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Masters of the Universe show is that “He-Man” isn’t in the title. The original ‘80s cartoon was called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and this new Netflix version was named Masters of the Universe: Revelation. That’s not because He-Man isn’t in it — of course, he is — but it speaks to how the Kevin Smith-led series will be more team orientated than it originally was and more inclusive for 2021.

Last month, Gizmodo spoke with Revelation showrunner and executive producer Kevin Smith about his new coffee table book, Secret Stash, and snuck in a few Masters of the Universe questions. We asked him if making a show about, and starring, someone that’s so hyper-masculine he literally has two man-names posed any challenges in a more inclusive, understanding society. “Good news about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” Smith said. “Yes, of course, He-Man was [the] main character, but every episode it was He -Man and the Masters of the Universe. It was a team-oriented show that was not just He-Man.”

He continued, “You got Teela, you got your Man-at-Arms, you got your Orko, you got your Cringer, your Sorceress. So they were always fairly widely cast in terms of gender. One of your top villains was Evil-Lyn. He-Man is the Sorceress’ champion technically — he serves the Sorceress and the power of Grayskull. Teela was there to protect him as Adam and of course, doesn’t know that he’s He-Man and whatnot. So we didn’t feel going in like, ‘Oh, man. Now we got to explain what these cats did in the ‘80s.’ They actually did a pretty good job of explaining it themselves or making it at least boy and girl friendly.”

He-Man (Chris Wood) with Sorceress (Susan Eisenberg). (Image: Netflix) He-Man (Chris Wood) with Sorceress (Susan Eisenberg). (Image: Netflix)

Smith obviously had thought about this a lot and realised while the gender representation was actually pretty good, especially for the early ‘80s, it wasn’t 100% on the up and up in other areas. “Now the difference is it was an awfully white show back then and that’s something we felt like we needed to update a bit,” Smith said. “Masters of the Universe had one black character in Clamp Champ, who naturally evolved in our show as well. But we felt like we were able to diversify the world of Masters of the Universe a bit more than the original was.”

One of the main ways they did that, according to Smith, was to give more prominence Andra, a Black character in Revelation. In the larger mythology of Masters of the Universe, Andra wasn’t super famous — she doesn’t even get her own link on the Wiki page. She was also white in the original series, something that’s already causing certain areas of fandom — you know the ones — to cry foul. But Smith and the team have given the character a massive, important role this time around. She’s voiced by Tiffany Smith who is a woman of colour and identifies as multiracial, an important distinction with all the discussions in recent years about white actors voicing animated characters of colour.

“She’s our way into the show for the people who don’t know the show,” Smith said. “In the show itself, she’s the one that’s kind of outside of the previous mythology a little bit… She represents the wide-eyed wonder of the audience in as much as she’s the character that has not dealt with the mythology of Eternia. She’s never met He-Man or Skeletor or been to Castle Grayskull. She’s just somebody who lives on Planet Eternia outside of Eternos. So, by way of our story, she’s our audience’s eyes into that world. She reacts with the same amount of wonder that we hope our audience reacts with as they watch the show. So, there are moments like that where we get to diversify more than they did in the ‘80s.”

Masters of the Universe: Revelation debuts on Netflix July 23 and we’ll have more on it soon.