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Strange Appeal: How Doom Patrol Got its All-Star Cast

Strange Appeal: How Doom Patrol Got its All-Star Cast

By Sydney Bucksbaum Thursday, February 21st, 2019

From Matt Bomer to Timothy Dalton to Brendan Fraser, the cast of DC Universe's latest series is incredible. Here's how it all came together.

Doom Patrol may be the second live-action series to launch on DC Universe, but it's already poised to be one of the most original superhero series on any streaming service or network. With an all-star cast that includes Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Alan Tudyk, Diane Guerrero and more, this is going to be unlike any hero team-up you've ever seen before because of how un-heroic they all are.

"This is about a group of misfits," shares executive producer Sarah Schechter. "These are all characters that would maybe be like the sideshow or some sidekick. It’s all these sidekicks and all these strange characters that don't fit in in the world coming together. I love your unlikely hero and that is that is certainly the case here."

Executive producer Jeremy Carver reveals that while there are a lot of problems that the Doom Patrol needs to solve over the course of the first season, the show is really "about finding themselves."

"It’s about these five disparate individuals overcoming their own sense of otherness and self-loathing in some cases, really beginning to face why they're here, what has happened to them and what they're going to do about it," Carver reveals. "There's a real journey of self-discovery that’s happening over the course of the season amongst all the zaniness. It's not always a journey that ends with a bow wrapped around it, not everything is going to have a happy ending."

Doom Patrol begins when race car driver Cliff Steele (Fraser) wakes up from a crash to realize his body was injured so badly that Dr. Niles Caulder (Dalton) could only save him by putting his brain into a metal robot. Things only get weirder from there as Robotman meets the other members of Caulder’s household who couldn't care less about coming together to form a team to save the world.

"The idea of being a team doesn't even enter their consciousness," Carver says. "They don't even consider themselves the Doom Patrol for most of the season. That's not who they are. They do encounter another Doom Patrol, or another early iteration of the Doom Patrol, but our main characters have a lot of coming to terms with who they are and who they were before they can really take any formative steps to becoming anything close to a team."

When it came to creating this hilarious and very meta series, Schechter says that "casting is everything."

"We knew that it could work, but now I forget that that's not Brendan in the suit and that Matt is not underneath those bandages," Schechter says. "Alan is like a literal two-dimensional character! We have cockroaches and farting donkeys and all these absolutely bananas things, but we keep it emotionally grounded and I think that was the hardest move to land with this team."

Because some members of the Doom Patrol were introduced in an earlier episode on Titans, the groundwork for building out the cast for the Doom Patrol series was already laid out.

"April was actually in the Titans Doom Patrol episode and she was just so fantastic. The idea of finding anyone else just seemed impossible, so she was really the first person we cast," Schechter says. "And then we set out, as we always do, by casting everything at once. Matt was someone that we were really excited about, and the character’s gay, and we're excited about the idea of a gay actor playing the character."

Schechter considers herself a "big fan" of Bomer’s and said that part of the fun in casting him in the role of Larry Trainor was that he had never done a show like this before.

"But also, you're talking about this handsome leading man," she says of the former pilot turned reluctant hero. "Who would have the right stuff? It's Matt Bomer. He’s so charming and good-looking—a leading man—and for him to be that character felt so right."

When it came to casting Cliff aka Robotman, "Brendan really understood him," according to Schechter.

"I mean, it's a weird script, and if you look at everything that Brendan has done throughout his career, from School Ties to George of the Jungle, that's the range of Robotman," she adds. "He's a NASCAR driver in the ’80s and has a tattoo on his ass. It's really silly, but there's also so much pathos and darkness and torture, and he's guilt-ridden, so to find an actor that can do all of those things and pull off the mullet and pull off the heartbreak is not easy. Brendan has so much sensitivity as a human being and he brings that to the character in such a marvelous way."

Getting a former James Bond like Dalton was the cherry on top.

"For the Chief, we needed someone with a real gravitas," Schechter says. "We were really lucky. The Chief could be like this nefarious mustache-twirling, ‘What is he up to?’ You need to feel like our other characters totally care about him and would go to the ends of the earth for him, but maybe shouldn’t trust him. We needed Timothy, who can ground that and pull that off."

While there is already so much to pull from the comics for Doom Patrol, the showrunners decided to go even deeper with Larry on the series. Bomer's version of the iconic hero deals a lot with his own internalized homophobia and how he thinks his powers are a punishment for being gay.

"There's so much about these people and who they are now, feeling different," Carver says. "It was just interesting to me to have at least one of our characters who always felt different in a way and never really got to come to grips with it before he became yet even something else different. One of the more moving arcs of season one is watching Larry reconnect with who he was and actually reconnect in ways that will be seen in the show with his old life and his old lover, and watching him play that out with an honesty and a new appreciation for what was, what could have been and how that helps him to move forward with who he is now."

Carver teases that "it's a very emotional story" and ties in with his mission to "keep digging into these characters, who they were and what they're all about and not just living in the present."

"It's such a heartbreaking story," Schechter says of Larry's past and present of struggling with his sexuality. "It’s set in the 1950s, but I think it'll resonate for audiences today because, unfortunately, I don't think it's a story that only exists in the past. It’s his journey to self-acceptance and challenging what masculinity is and how narrow that definition is and what does it mean to be macho, what does it mean to fit in and what does it mean to try to harness our own internal powers and capabilities."

Schechter calls Larry's story "really beautiful," and it's all thanks to Bomer. "Matt does such incredible work this season," she says. "To find an actor that can do all that and that you also buy as Top Gun, it's not easy. So, the list was just Matt."

When it came to finding the unique and odd tone that Doom Patrol introduces so perfectly in the first episode, Carver went straight to the Grant Morrison run of comics.

"I did not know about Doom Patrol before I came on," Carver admits. "Grant Morrison was the craziest and most heartfelt entry into this team. Seeing the liberties that were taken with it in tone, feel and style, it really touched so many things that I like, this idea of so much springing from pain."

Once he found the tone, Carver explains that the rest of the script just fell into place.

"The idea is that we can go anywhere and do anything and feel the highs and the lows, we can be high drama and we can be rather absurd drama," he says. "Sometimes it feels like we're walking on a bit of a tightrope in the things that we're balancing. But the idea with the first two episodes has been very much to lay down a marker for what we wanted to keep achieving episode after episode."

Something that is sure to surprise viewers is how Carver decided to structure the series, by making Tudyk's villain, Mr. Nobody, the narrator, with all his witty, sarcastic and hilarious thoughts serving as the backbone of the whole show.

"That’s Jeremy and his sense of humor for sure," Schechter says. "That was something that he and [producer] Greg [Berlanti] spent a lot of time talking about specifically. There are so many other superhero shows that that have been made and this is a different kind of show."

Because Carver wasn't a passionate fan of comic books growing up, he brings a new perspective to the genre.

"This is his attitude. He finds ways to poke fun of it, to acknowledge the situation that we all find ourselves in," Schechter says. "I think it's really a stroke of genius. Villains drive plot so often, so it's nice to have not just the innocent bystander talk about what happened. To get that insight was a real stroke of genius."

Carver adds that making Mr. Nobody the narrator "added yet another wrinkle" to the show.

"I was hoping to pull off someone taking a delicious delight of telling a story where nothing was quite as it seems—an unreliable narrator who has very strong impressions of where this is going to end," he says. "You are forced to put yourself at his mercy to tell you what's what. I don't have a fancy-dancey way of saying that it just felt like the right thing to do."

And he reveals that "it was an enormous challenge."

"It was basically throwing down the biggest possible challenge I could have for myself, adding that element to it," he says with a big laugh. "It was a series of trial and error to be completely honest with you. And it wasn't until I hit across that first line of the show, when he’s groaning at the idea of more superheroes, that the voice really started to form itself in my head terms of everything that was meta about it."


Catch new episodes of Doom Patrol every Friday on DC Universe. Click here to subscribe now.

Sydney Bucksbaum covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, and writes about Superman every month in her column, "Super Here For..." Follow her on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.