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Exclusive Interview: Robyn Hood’s Director X and Chris Roberts at Fan Expo

robyn hood director x chris roberts interview fan expo

The TV Watercooler had the opportunity to chat with Director X and Chris Roberts about their new project, Robyn Hood, at Fan Expo last week. The new Canadian series is set to premiere on Wednesday, September 27, on Global TV stars Jessye Romeo (Pennyworth) and is a modernized re-imagining of the classic legend where Robyn, a young activist and rapper, and her anti-authoritarian masked hip-hop band battle the corrupt elite in the fictional city of New Nottingham.

Learn about how this collaboration between famed Canadian music video director, Julien Christian Lutz aka Director X, and Orphan Black writer Chris Roberts came about, their favourite iterations of Robin Hood, and some of the controversy surrounding the series in the conversation below.

How did this concept come about?

Director X: Eight or nine years ago, I was in London shooting a music video for Little Mix and it kind of just hit me! A modern-day Robin Hood. It just really felt like a no-brainer. Then I partnered with a friend of mine at Luti Media, who are one of the producers of the show, and they brought in different people to [help] build it out as best as we could.

Someone said, “What if Robin was with a Y?” We made her a girl, and they were a band. We kept on developing it from there and then I went to Corus Entertainment and pitched it. They said, “We like this! Get your team together.”

Chris Roberts joined in from there. We had been in some rooms together and we just really saw eye to eye on a lot of things with our nerdy backgrounds. We’re talking about Star Wars and its prequels, and guys like Chris Hedges. I know most of you don’t know that reference, but he [Chris Roberts] understood the reference!

That’s how he got it!

Exactly. So, we just really saw eye to eye on all these levels, not just things we liked, but even story and structure and the really deep nerd stuff about storytelling. It really worked well for us.

How did you manage to weave in the folklore and modernize it? It’s not just the names but also the setting.

Chris Roberts: I’ve been a huge fan of Robin Hood. I started with the Kevin Costner film (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), and then went backwards to Errol Flynn (The Adventures of Robin Hood)and then even the original stories.

Director X: Did you do Rocket Robin Hood?

Chris: Oh, I did. Rocket Robin Hood. Do you want me to sing the song?

Director X: [Laughs]

Chris: We decided that if we were going to do this, then we were going to do this right. We went back to the original lore, the original legend. The original storybook by Howard Pyle, who compiled [the traditional ballads] in the late 1800s. And that’s the kind of version of Robin Hood that everybody kind of knows.

Director X: We sometimes even went back to the history.

Chris: We went back to the history, back to the actual Kings and Queens involved in Robin Hood. Prince John was a real prince, who did become the King of England. And of course, King Richard. We decided that we wanted to incorporate these figures, and not just their names, but their personalities and stories into this new updated version of Robin Hood.

We approached it from a very, sort of, humble place. This is nearly a thousand years of legends. These stories have been going on since the 1300s, and we are adding one more link in that chain. But we’re not taking and reworking it into a whole new thing. This is about honouring the original legend while also doing something new.

It’s still quite a universal theme – was that a lot easier to adapt?

Chris: I think so, but I think part of the reason it’s a universal theme is because of Robin Hood. You know, we’ve had Robin Hood in our culture for so long and its influence on so many of our contemporary heroes. You can trace them back to the origin of Robin Hood. It’s kind of a prototype in that way.

I feel like the folk hero, the little guy who sticks up for the other little guys, the normal person, who sort of picks up the sword, or picks up the bow and decides to fight for what’s right – that’s a universal story. It’s going to be in pretty much every culture. You can trace it back in almost any story.

But I do think that it’s a specific mythology that people are so tuned in to and it’s something that we all kind of grew up with. It’s something that you have to be careful with.

It also has a famous love story. What can you tease about Robyn’s love life? In the pilot, there’s some chemistry between her and John Little, but then there’s also Marian?

Chris: This is obviously a slightly new twist!

Director X: Well, Robin Hood and Little John normally don’t have a love story.

Chris: Yeah, it’s not [usually] romantic in that sense… Although I haven’t seen every movie!

Director X: [Laughs] Being that Robin is now a girl [Robyn], it led to some storylines that we can do.

Chris: There were initial discussions on whether Marian should be a man. Should we sort of keep this? But you know, we really wanted to take this and bring this into a world that people recognize. We wanted to honour that. So, we’re happy, to be honest, these actors have such an amazing chemistry together. So, that was easy to make it work. They’re just so fantastic on screen. They just sizzle!

Female-driven genre shows have always flourished in Canada. Chris, you’ve even worked on Mary Kills People and Orphan Black. We’ve also had Lost Girl, Wynonna Earp, and Bitten. One could assume we were a lot more progressive but some of the reaction on social media about Robyn Hood hasn’t been so kind.

Director X: This is where I’m kind of split because I think this is more of a reaction to the recent turn of Hollywood and television. Back in the day with Orphan Black, Lost Girl, and Wynonna Earp, it was just kind of a normal thing in TV and science fiction. Like with Ripley from Alien or Buffy. It’s shifted. [Some would say] it’s become very forced. I don’t know why they came to nerd culture and said, “You guys need female leads!” when we’ve always had female leads.

But now there’s a kneejerk [reaction] where they see a female lead and they think it’s going to be a preachy show.

I grew up with Star Trek where an episode would look at both sides and be very balanced. I think we’ve lost of a lot of that in the culture. It’s all very one-sided [now]. Our show is not a preachy show. I mean, you’ve seen the pilot, right?

Definitely. I always like to watch something rather than make an assumption. Would that be your message here? To watch the show before jumping to a conclusion? Or do you even want them watching?

Director X: Of course! These are our brothers and sisters in nerdom! We all come from that place. Robyn is akin to our Sarah Connor or Buffy. We’re in those similar worlds that have a female lead.

Chris: I mean, I was at Fan Expo yesterday with my son and completely nerding out. I got Gates McFadden’s autograph because I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched it with my mom. We both loved Dr. Crusher. We never thought anything of it. It was never a “thing.” We didn’t even have the terms for it like “Is this progressive?” It was just, this is cool. This is a woman in space doing awesome space stuff.

Now I feel like, in a weird way, the things that we grew up with and that were completely normal to us have become politicized. We never approached this project as something where we have to convince people this or tell them that or make them eat their vegetables!

It’s Robin Hood. It has never been about that! It’s about action and adventure. It’s about sticking up for the little guy, having fun, tweaking the nose of the rich, and getting away with it and having a good time.

When it came to music videos, there were programs to help creatives like yourself back in the day like VideoFACT and MuchFACT. Is that still around for young creators?

Director X: It’s not really around as much. There are different ways. Most people now just have to thug it out. Luckily cameras are way better, cheaper, and smaller. You can make some good stuff with just some drive. TikTok and Instagram are places to be seen. It’s a new game!

You directed Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland’s “Give It to Me” video. They are working on a new song together. Have they reached out to you to direct the video yet?

Director X:  Not yet! Let’s see if they give me a call!

Who is your favourite Robin Hood of all time?

Chris: That’s a tough one. I mean, personally, I think I’ve got to go with Errol Flynn. Classic. I felt like he started it all. I know there were other Robin Hoods in film before that, but I’m a big old movies buff, and that’s the one that I certainly gravitate toward.

Director X: I’m going to shout out Rocket Robin Hood! A seminal memory from my childhood.

Robyn Hood premieres on Wednesday, September 27, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Global and will also stream on the Global TV app and on STACKTV.


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