Things are looking pretty dark in Gotham, but a new hero is ready to rise up to the challenge. Jay Lycurgo is the newest cast member on HBO Max’s Titans and the first actor to play Tim Drake in live action…that is, if Tim’s stint as the third Robin isn’t over before it begins. Last week’s shocking episode ended with Tim getting gunned down by the Scarecrow, leaving the hero’s ultimate fate uncertain. To help us make sense of this unexpected twist, we recently hopped on the phone with Lycurgo, who opened up about his love for Tim Drake, let us know whether he’s ready to be Robin, and shared the big secret he’s been keeping from the showrunners.
Since 1989, Tim Drake has been hugely popular with DC fans. You’re the first actor to portray him in live action. How does that feel?
It's great that we finally get a live-action Tim Drake. I've been learning all about Tim, and I understand why people love him so much. He's an awesome kid, and I think he's a role model for all kids. We all wish we could be like him. It feels awesome, it really does.
I knew I wanted to play a superhero, but to play someone as iconic as Robin is just everything. And to play someone that is as highly respected as Tim Drake is even more of a blessing. I think there's loving your job, but there's also respecting who the character is and just seeing his own individuality, his genius, and his desire for being a hero. It's just really inspiring and fun.
When you were offered the role, how did the producers describe Tim's character to you?
A streetwise kid. It wasn't anything too specific, and I just went with my impulses about how I wanted to do the scenes that were sent to me. The Tim Drake we have now and what he turned out to be during my process wasn’t the Tim Drake that I did in the audition tapes. There was a very different version.
You’re also in the upcoming Matt Reeves Batman film. Lots of sharp-eyed fans spotted you in the trailer. Did that ever come up while you were filming Titans?
No, nobody knew. It was like an unspoken thing. I did The Batman a year before I even got a tape for Titans. So, I did that and kind of got a little buzz on social media when the trailer came out. And then Titans came and for a while it was like, “Do they know?” I don't even know if I actually ever said anything to our producer Greg Walker. I still don't even know if he knows. (laughs) Greg, if you don't know already, I'm in Batman.
You had been filming Titans for some time before your casting was announced. How hard was it to keep things a secret?
It was okay because I was away from home. If I was around my friends and my family, then it would’ve been so much harder. But in Canada nothing was going on, and for a while no one even knew I was there. I was kind of just keeping it to myself.
This is so funny, right? I remember there was one day, I was outside the CN Tower and I took a selfie because I was bored. I captioned it “Drake's house.” It was maybe like two days before the announcement, but in my head, I was thinking of Drake the rapper. But then people started to go, “Oh, my god! He's telling everyone that he's Tim Drake!” It was only then that I realized it was a double meaning!
Tim is different from Dick and Jason because he has surviving family…at least for now. Can you describe Tim's relationship with his parents and his cousin?
I just think it's so wholesome. There are some amazing and beautiful scenes. All of us, the actors, we got on really well. There are some beautiful scenes that we see with them, just seeing the family bonds that they have and the loyalty. There's no bullcrap within it. That's what's so nice—it's such a different dynamic. It brings a new dynamic to Titans because there's no personal revenge story. It's just, we love each other as a family and we are going to get through everything as a family.
Tim put all of his cards on the table during last week’s episode, “Home,” telling Dick that he was ready to be the new Robin. What was going through his head during this pivotal meeting?
There's a huge enthusiasm that he brings, and I always like to think about what is really going on. I think there is a bit of fear and doubt that this might not work out. It's really like a chess game or poker.
Director Larnell Stovall and I were talking about it. Geniuses are confident, and Tim knows for a fact that this is all true. The nervousness of it is waiting for Dick to be like, “Okay cool, you got me.” What Tim doesn't expect is for Dick to lie, which is such a shame. Dick is such a role model for Tim, and it's like, “This guy's kind of being a bit of a jerk.” It is not what Tim expects, so he just keeps pushing and pushing. By the end of the episode, it gets him in trouble.
Let’s talk about the end of the episode. Tim runs into Scarecrow and he freezes up a little bit. How did the director tell you to play that scene? What was Tim thinking?
Once Tim sees that gun, the reality kicks in. Before then it's like, “Okay, I'm going to be a detective, because I'm so good at what I do and everything's going to be fine. I am a hero at heart.” But once it gets to the dirty of it and he sees the gun, it's like, “Okay, I'm going to die.”
I think there's a feeling of, “I am really unsafe right now and what do I do?” Because Tim at this point in the story doesn't have his training and doesn't have his quick impulses. He can only do what a normal sixteen-year-old would do—freeze. Larnell and I spoke a lot about that.
Things are not looking so great for Tim after he’s shot. How worried should we be for this week’s episode?
I wouldn't worry about him. I think Tim's just got to work out what has happened to him and what the steps are going forward. Now that that reality has hit, it's a matter of deciding whether he goes on with this journey or stops. I think going forward, it is scary. I'd be scared for him, but also know that he's a smart boy and he can work it out.
This is a big year for Tim Drake, because in addition to appearing in live action for the first time, there was a story published recently where Tim decides to explore his sexual identity, asking a male friend out on a date. You briefly celebrated this move on Twitter and we’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
I've got to say, it's incredible. From the bottom of my heart, it is incredible to see someone as iconic as Robin be bisexual. It's not done a lot, but it just shows that things are changing. I'm all for it, and it's just nice that apart from having a biracial Robin, he's also someone that is comfortable with his sexuality. I love that fans can now have someone like that to look up to.
Titans Season 3 is now streaming on HBO Max. Look for new episodes every Thursday! Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.