NEW YORK, Dec. 13 (UPI) — Actor Jack Bannon said the news today is “scarily similar” to the Pennyworth scripts showrunner Bruno Heller has been writing.
Pennyworth Season 2 — set to begin on EPIX on Sunday — takes place in a dystopian, alternate 1960s England where fascists have taken over the government and civil war is tearing the country apart.
The second season was filmed and will premiere during the coronavirus pandemic, a chaotic era when unemployment, political division, rising crime and social unrest are creating a milieu of misery for many around the world.
“[Heller] keeps writing these things, and then it’s almost like it happens in real life,” Bannon told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
“It’s almost like he is a prophet who is dictating what’s going to happen, so I’d quite like him to write about a nice, peaceful world where everyone gets on, but, of course, that’s not really interesting for television.”
Returning to make the new episodes was a different experience for the cast, since the world-building of Season 1 has set up a sandbox in which the stars can now play.
“There were aspects of it that were fresh and exciting, but it is great being able to go back. It’s like slipping into a nice old winter coat that you are familiar with and you can hit the ground running,” Bannon said of Season 2.
The critically acclaimed action-drama casts Bannon as British former special forces soldier Alfred Pennyworth.
According to DC Comics mythology, Alfred will grow old and become the butler/protector of the orphaned Bruce Wayne, aka Batman.
For now, though, Alfie is a roguish nightclub owner who teams up with the American No Name League agents Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and Martha Kane (Emma Paetz) to take down the Raven Society, which has supplanted the U.K. government.
“Season 1, Alfie was very much trying to build a business, but, really, he was doing stuff for other people,” Bannon said. “He realized that you can’t necessarily do that. You’ll run out of resources and you need to, especially in wartime, protect those closest to you before you’re even able to do anything for anybody else.”
He acknowledged Alfie might seem selfish and cold.
“Not necessarily in a bad way — just to survive,” the actor said. “Storytelling-wise, Alfred is in it a lot, obviously, logistically and people come in and out of his vicinity and interact with him. The way he deals with other people is vastly different than Season 1.”
Alfie remains the quick-witted charmer viewers adore, Bannon said.
“He still has that kind of cheeky, chappy sort of grin thing to him. He has little one-liners, but he is much more reserved and his main goal really is to get the money, get to America and start fresh,” he said.
The actor is enjoying the physical challenges of the role and, while he has a stunt double, he tries to do as much as he can on his own.
“I relish it, and there’s a lot more action this year in terms of fighting, because we are at war, so it’s been a lot of fun, that side of it,” Bannon said.
He admitted with a laugh that when he first heard Pennyworth would be an origins story for a British valet, he thought it sounded “a bit rubbish.”
“But it is so much more than that and has so much atmosphere and personality,” Bannon said. “Still, my favorite thing is when people say to me, ‘I watched the show! It was fantastic. I didn’t expect that at all.’ That’s my favorite thing about it — surprising people.”
Aldridge said in a separate Zoom interview that the show remains unpredictable for the cast, too.
“I love that about it. I never know where it is headed,” Aldridge said. “I’m never quite sure what Bruno is going to do with Thomas and Martha or the other characters, and that keeps us all on our toes.”
Season 2 finds Thomas fully recovered from a gunshot wound, promoted to section chief and sent back to London to work on behalf of U.S. interests as Great Britain implodes.
“He’s playing against his own morals the entire season. He’s seduced by power,” Aldridge said. “He’s very internally conflicted.”
And that is thrilling for an actor to play, he added.
“There’s never a scene in which Thomas Wayne is not going through a huge decision that has high stakes,” he said. “There’s always high drama, high conflict. There is never a dull moment playing him. He never walks into a room calm and collected. There is always something that happens or he walks in kind of with explosive energy.”
As a Brit playing an American, Aldridge based his Thomas on Cary Grant and other 1950s Hollywood screen icons.
“Part of being an actor then was crafting a unique voice like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy,” he said. “We were bringing it back to a classic, upper-class East Coast American sound. That developed from watching the old films and watching those actors. Trying to steal from them, basically.”
Production on Season 2 was a third of the way complete when it was shut down in March for five months because of the pandemic.
“We watched with bated breath for when we might return,” Bannon said.
“Along with all the terrible things happening in the world, it kind of felt it paled in significance, but we always knew that we would be back and when we did, we would be ready and we had a great team who drew up some fantastic guidelines to keep everybody safe and ensure that we could carry on.”
The show co-stars Paloma Faith, Polly Walker, Jason Flemyng, James Purefoy and Anna Chancellor.