‘Pennyworth’ Creator On DC Drama’s Move From Epix To HBO Max: “Platforms Matter” – Deadline


Bruno Heller (Gotham, Rome) has a funny way — quite literally — of describing the move of Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman’s Butler from Epix to HBO Max.

First, imagine you’re in a grocery store and on the hunt for, ahem, something tasty to enjoy. “Years ago, people had very few choices. Now it’s much more like a supermarket,” explains Heller, who created the DC drama that stars Jack Bannon in the title role. “I don’t mean to be crass about this, but you’re on a shelf and where you are on the shelf becomes very important in a way that it wasn’t before. So platforms matter. We are just very excited to be in the center aisle, in the middle of shelf, next to the cornflakes instead of up there with the maple honey granola with soy granules in it. All of those cereals have an audience, but you get a bigger audience if you’re next to the Frosted Flakes.”

Starting Oct. 6, the Warner Bros. TV-produced Pennyworth will begin a whole new chapter on HBO Max, where Heller is hoping the new Origin of Batman’s Butler subtitle will attract a fresh (and with any luck, bigger) audience. “The beauty of the DC canon is that pretty much everyone has has a smattering of knowledge about it,” said Heller. “But there are several steps from name recognition to eyeballs on the screen. I think HBO Max was right. Visibility and clarity is everything … though I wish it could have been ‘the butler that changed America’ because I always like that in book titles.” 

Pennyworth‘s move was not surprising. The drama was originally sold to MGM-owned Epix months before WBTV parent WarnerMedia announced plans to launch its own streaming service, which became HBO Max. Since then DC titles like Harley Quinn and Titans migrated to the platform, which has also developed an extensive slate of high-profile series such as Peacemaker, Green Lantern and an Amanda Waller spinoff with Viola Davis.

For those who aren’t familiar with the origin story, Alfred Pennyworth is a former British SAS soldier who forms a security company in 1960s London and goes to work with young billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and his wife Martha (Emma Paetz) before they become Bruce Wayne’s parents. Season three of the thriller begins after a five-year time jump: the civil war is over, and a cultural revolution has changed the world for better or worse – ushering in a new age of super heroes and supervillains. But don’t expect a bunch of familiar faces from the DC world to suddenly populate Pennyworth’s inner circle.

“You’re getting premonitions and presaging of those characters,” explains Heller. “This is very much Alfred’s story. It’s the parents’ story. The world is getting ready for the entry of those superheroes and super villains. You’re seeing the origin stories of how that world came to be rather than those characters themselves.” 

One thing that won’t change is the extreme likability of Pennyworth‘s star. “He’s sort of handsome caricature of himself. He has a relaxed and easy command, not like an officer, but like a sergeant you hope you’d have in Vietnam or wherever,” explains Heller. “I find myself sometimes with him, and it’s ridiculous ’cause I’m an ancient old geezer with a white beard, but I’ll look at him and say like, ‘well, what do you think, dad?’ He’s just so very charismatic. He just has that easy relaxed way with everyone around him. And if he says it’s going to be alright, it’s going to be all right.”

The ten-episode drama series is executive produced by Heller, Matthew Patnick, Danny Cannon and John Stephens. It also stars Paloma Faith, Ryan Fletcher, Dorothy Atkinson, Ramon Tikaram, Harriet Slater and Simon Manyonda and is produced in the UK at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden.

The first two seasons of Pennyworth are also streaming on HBO Max.


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