From the moment that Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop was announced, fans of the original anime wanted to know what showrunner André Nemec could possibly bring to the classic story that wasn’t already baked into the source material. Rather than simply wondering, Gizmodo asked Nemec directly.
When we recently sat down with Nemec for a conversation about his take on Cowboy Bebop, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles director explained how looking to Shinichiro Watanabe’s work helped guide him through the process of distilling the show’s characters into their most elemental forms. “For me, it became about taking out the characters, and really drawing down deeper through a forensic analysis of who they were in the anime,” Nemec told Gizmodo. “And then once really arriving at sort of the core idea of who each one of these characters…was then figuring out the narrative story structure to tell sort of a very classic tale.”
Nemec explained that, while the Bebop gang is always prone to making the worst possible decisions, he wanted to make viewers understand why Jet, Faye, and Spike do the dumb things they do. Because so much of Cowboy Bebop’s protagonists’ personalities are well-defined in the anime, Nemec felt confident that taking cues from the source material was the right direction. But when it came to figuring out what the new show’s various tones would be and how it would vacillate between them, Nemex says he struggled. “Tone was really hard,” he said. “Finding that tone, not just in the character storytelling, but throughout the entire series, and filming, and editing process. The tone of banter and humour, some silliness, but also at the same time, deep emotional underpinnings of pain, and strong pulpy action sequences, and then laying jazz underneath all of it.”
Comedy emerges as one of the modes Cowboy Bebop is most comfortable in as the series goes on, and Nemec described how he and the rest of the show’s creative team took care to make sure that Spike and other characters always walked a fine line between being jokey archetypes and real people. Spike is basically a surly teenager in the same way that Jet’s an exasperated father figure, and Faye’s an annoying kid sister type, Nemec said, and being one another’s found family is the key to understanding the live-action series.
“When you look at it, it is a family story,” Nemec said. “It’s a disparate family of broken toys, and they’re coming together in order to bond, and to find some solace in the pain of their existences in the families that they couldn’t have with the new family that they now want to form themselves into together.”
Cowboy Bebop is now streaming on Netflix.