Collectables are fittingly the first item on the agenda when Josh Duhamel videos in to chat with Supanova about new Netflix superhero series Jupiter’s Legacy.
“I had an Optimus Prime signed by [voice actor] Peter Cullen, this collector’s item… [my son] just kept begging me to open it and play with it. And finally, I was like, ‘Okay, you know what? Fine. Go for it,’” Duhamel begins with a hint of regret in his voice
“And of course now, it’s in a pile with the action figures.”
As a big pop culture fan himself, the US actor jumped at the chance to star as Sheldon Sampson aka The Utopian in the TV adaptation of the beloved graphic novel from Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Surprisingly though, it was the more grounded elements of the story surrounding a dysfunctional family that really appealed to Duhamel.
“This felt like more of a family drama, a modern tragedy in some ways,” he tells.
“And it really examined the psychology behind what it would be like to be in the shoes of a superhero. And I love it. It has all the stuff that I think people are going to want, but then it really delves into the dysfunction and the regret and the resentment and the expectation that comes with being somebody burdened with this stuff.”
The premise of the series is that the world’s first generation of superheroes, after fighting crime for nearly a century, are looking to their children to continue their legacy – but they’re nowhere near ready. As such tensions are high when we meet Sheldon Sampson in episode one of Jupiter’s Legacy.
“My character is aspirational and ambitious – he was his whole life. In the origin story that we kind of flash back and forth from, he looks back on his life and realises that he may not have affected the change that he’d hoped for.
“And he’s lived strictly by this code, which, for so long, worked. Now it’s not working so much anymore. People are starting to question that and he has to sort of rethink, reimagine how to go forward. One of his greatest regrets is that he is now trying to pass this torch onto his kids and his daughter wants nothing to do with it. And his son doesn’t seem to be able to live up to the expectations, these unrealistic expectations that I put on him.
“And so he’s realising that he wasn’t as present of a father as he probably should have been. And I think that there’s a cautionary tale in there, for me, anyway, about raising a kid and making sure that at the end of the day, when it’s all over, what do you have if you don’t have a tight, well-connected family?”
Being able to play a different variation of the character through flashbacks was “a dream come true” for Duhamel.
“I get to play a guy in his 30s when the whole world is in front of him, a guy who loses his mind after he sees his father jump off this building. He has these crazy visions, which leads them to this island which, ultimately, gives him these powers.
“And then you get to see 90 years later, after having seen and done everything, this world-weary, sort of tired, old veteran, who is now kind of questioning and wondering if everything he’s worked so hard for was even worth it.
“I put the beard and the wig and the suit and the cape and all that on, and I just felt, I felt really powerful in it, obviously, because you’re wearing a muscle suit, but you also have these prosthetics and this old beard. I looked like Zeus or Moses or Santa Claus or something. And it immediately makes you feel like you’ve seen everything and you’ve done everything. And it helped me sort of get into that space.”
For Duhamel, the pressure of taking on such a bold role from a cult classic was eased by the fact that he’s the first to play the character.
“So they can’t compare me to anybody, which is good,” he says, “but Netflix was really, really good about making sure that we brought to life and expanded on what was already on the page and what was written by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. And I think that they really, they really put a lot of effort into bringing this thing to life and giving it as much dimension and colour as they could. And it helped us tremendously. And I’m excited for people to see it.”
LEAD IMAGE: Josh Duhamel as The Utopian in ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’. Pic by Adam Rose via Netflix