If you're looking for a superhero team made up of some of the best, most generous and selfless people in the world, then Doom Patrol is not for you. DC Universe's delightfully wacky and offbeat team of weirdos is the most unlikely group of heroes you've ever seen. Brought together by the Chief (Timothy Dalton), each member of the unwilling group has been "saved" from certain death or unexplainable circumstances, resulting in unintended consequences, abilities or existences. And the Doom Patrol's newest recruit is Robotman (Brendan Fraser).
Formerly known as Cliff Steele, an arrogant, philandering, hard-talking racecar driver who now is just a human brain inside a giant metal robot body, Robotman is learning how to accept his new reality slowly, but surely. A tragic accident costs him his body, his family and his entire life, and that's where Doom Patrol picks up.
"It's just such great, unique source material and all the more reason to explore that," Fraser says of what makes this new series a must-watch. "This is a band of misfits who are social outcasts who really don't belong in the world at large. And they don't necessarily want to better themselves. They're not crimefighters. They're not squeaky clean. They're not looking to sign on with the Justice League anytime soon. They're not antiheroes, but they are ‘anti hero’ in a lot of ways."
When it comes to his character, Fraser calls Cliff Steele a "textbook narcissist."
"He's a daredevil by trade as a racecar driver, which he crashes and kills his wife and daughter," he says. "A bad thing happened for Cliff. I don't know if he earned what happened to him, but it does become his hubris. He wasn't such a stellar human, but he has another obscure long shot at being a better person. Through the trajectory of the season, we'll see that he makes incremental changes and he actually becomes a better human as a robot than he was a human as a human who drove robotic vehicles."
He laughs, then adds, "He was wrapped up in an engine before he became one, which is ironic! I really love that sort of a bookending structure for my character. He's irascible and he's cranky. He's got issues with authority."
One of the best dynamics fans will see on Doom Patrol is that of Robotman's unexpected rivalry with Cyborg (Joivan Wade), who makes his DC Universe debut here rather than on Titans as some fans may have expected.
"He does not like Cyborg," Fraser says with a sardonic laugh. "I don't even know why he doesn't like Cyborg. It might have something to do with him looking like a lawnmower and Cyborg looks like an iPhone."
When told that maybe Robotman is insecure that there's only room for one robotic member of the team, Fraser shouts, "Yeah!" and laughs again.
"But think about it: Cyborg is more programmable through his father," Fraser adds. "Cliff is more of an analog anvil, bash, get-it-done, steampunk lookin' hunk of junk that will get you there. It might not be pretty, but it will get the job done. He can't be hacked. Cyborg is vulnerable in ways. So, there's that new and old debate, and they make a good pair. They don't get along at all, but that's usually the beginning of the best friendships."
Adding that it's "pretty fun to watch" the back-and-forth of Robotman and Cyborg, Fraser's favorite part is "the fluid ways that they disrespect each other."
"The writing is so fantastic," he says. "I get asked so much, how do I play the part when I'm not actually there on set?" (Fraser is only voicing the character. The man underneath the metal suit is actually Riley Shanahan, but fans will see Fraser as the human form of Cliff Steel in flashbacks.)
"Truthfully, everyone has to do the same thing because it takes a team to make all of these characters happen," Fraser says of the partnership required to bring Robotman to life. "Between the practicality of the suit of armor, an actor, a stunt man wearing the mech suit—it's an elaborate costume. It's micro-designed. The performance that you give through that has to almost be like mask work in a way. You have to believe what's behind it."
Because "you don't see it articulated with facial expressions," Fraser and Shanahan have developed an unspoken dynamic to make sure the voice and actions match.
" and I have something in common—we were trained at the same college in Seattle some 20-odd years apart," Fraser says with another laugh. "We had some of the same instructors. I'd like to credit whatever we took out of that conservatory training as the reason why we can kind of think similarly about how to do the part without actually having to get on the phone and discuss it."
Again, Fraser brings it back to the writing. "It's all there on the page, for each character," he says. "There's no tip of the spear with this team. Everyone, over the course of the season, will definitely have their moment to carry the flag, and you'll learn more about them. There's a do-si-do pairing that goes on for everyone and the worlds that they're able to inhabit because the rulebook got tossed out the window when Grant Morrison got a hold of the material."
Calling the first season "dark and unflinching," Fraser is impressed with how showrunner Jeremy Carver was able to adapt the comic books for DC Universe.
"Jeremy has been valiant in maintaining that spirit with this show," he says. "Many of the major story beats and images are lifted right from the books. Whole tableau images are created for this show lifted straight from the world of the books, the look and design of the characters. It's a real 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach and I'm really happy for it."
While Fraser admits that he "straight up" hasn't watched "all or many" of the major DC films and shows, he did love Batman and Superman comic books when he was a kid.
"I had a big, thick anthology when I was eight of Superman, like an abridged version that I got,” he remembers. “My mom gave it to me in London when we lived in Europe. My favorite was when Superman went to Bizarro World—that stuff twisted my head and got my attention in the best way possible. I realized that's the spirit of what we're doing with Doom Patrol. We can go anywhere and the rules are what we make of them. And believe me, it does!"
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