Yes Or No: Austin James Talks Casting For "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?"

Mon, March 20th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

TV/Film
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

Every comic book fan has their own special superhero residing in their mind. It seems that every fan has spent at least a few moments pondering their big super powered creation, the one that would rock the world if only the dream could become reality. Some creators, such as the founding fathers of Image Comics, have parlayed these dreams into multi-million dollar business ventures. But it's time for you, the average comic book fan, to take it to the next level and become that superhero, with Sci-Fi Channel's "Who Wants To Be a Superhero?" The show is set to launch this spring, but audition tapes are still being accepted-that's right, AUDITION tapes. To learn more about the show, which will feature 11 finalists over six one-hour episodes, CBR News caught up with Casting Producer Austen James.

CBR: Austen, thanks for taking time to talk with us-I know you're busy sorting through a deluge of tapes. Let's start at the beginning: what's this show all about?

James: "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" is produced by Nash Entertainment, for the Sci-Fi Channel, and it's going to be six week series, with Stan Lee. Stan Lee is looking for the next big superhero: this is the real thing. He's not doing the show for the fun of it, he's looking for the next great superhero character and will be writing a comic book based on this character, and we'll also be doing a Sci-Fi movie featuring the character. This is about more than just winning: this is about immortality. With Stan Lee, this could go on forever: he created Spider-Man, X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and many others. He's a legend. There's a lot on the line for these people competing.

Thus far, the show has been compared to "American Idol," except involving superheroics. Is that a fair comparison?

Sure. It's a little different in so far as that Stan Lee is looking for more than you'd expect. Finalists will be living with Stan Lee for two weeks, in a secret location, and he'll stay with these people, having superhero type competitions and challenges to see if they've got what it takes. It's not about who is the fastest or strongest. Stan's looking for people with superhero type qualities. It's not just the costume or the idea: it's about the person embodying the ideals of a superhero.

So it's a bit more like "The Real World With Stan Lee?"

I don't know about that but I understand why you say it.

Tell us about the casting process: I hear you've had a lot of entries.

It's been great. We're seeing a full range of people and characters and we're blown away by the creativity & dedication of fans so far. We're meeting people primarily in the Los Angeles area but if you have a great character, we'll take people from all over the country. It's a hilarious experience and some of these concepts we see are amazing. Some of them are better than anything I've ever seen in film or television or even in comic books themselves! Some are really funny too.

Are there any William Hung type superheroes?

[laughs] Certainly. We've had some of those. Insane Man is one that comes to mind.

Insane Man? Seriously?

Yeah. The superhero is named Insane Man and you can let your imagination take it from there.

You mentioned that the winning contestant will be featured in a Sci-Fi movie. So if Insane Man wins, will the creator star as Insane Man?

They'll have that chance, and if it works out, who knows. They can't guarantee it, because they're not sure what they'll come up with, but at the very least, the winning character will be featured in the movie.

And you're still taking applications…till when?

We're taking them till the first week of April, but things are moving quickly, so the sooner, the better. You can find all the information on our website and it's really important, that when people send in their tapes, we get to know the real person as well. The alter ego of the superhero should be the real person. We want to know the people and know if they possess, on both small and big levels, the attributes of a superhero, such as kindness, passion, selflessness, etc. in their lives. Something that transcends normal expectations: something to make them stand out to Stan Lee. That's what drives superheroes: they're driven by a greater force than just fighting crime, because they are motivated by something bigger. That's evident in all of Stan's creations. So I really encourage people to have that in their submission: a strong cause or passion that really drives them. Are they heroes in their real lives? If so, tell us why.

Stan Lee, at the "Spider-Man 2" Premiere
Let's talk about Stan Lee: he's a huge name in comics. How'd he get involved with the show?

He wants to see what kind of great people are out there. He wants to let others use their creativity as well. He believes this will be a very fun and rewarding project to be involved in.

If the show is successful, would you ever consider super-villain or super-team incarnations of the show?

Sci-Fi is very excited about this show and who knows, it could segue way into a lot of different areas. Given the response we've had so far, that's a real possibility.

A lot of our readers may read all this and want to enter, but could you give all the CBR fans a head's up on some things not to do in audition tapes?

The thing is, people spend so much time on their superhero character that they sometimes don't let us get to know them. We want to know who they are first and then will deal with them as a superhero. We love superheroes that are well thought out, with great costumes, histories and powers, but we want people to also focus on what makes the real them special. They may be a school teacher, a fireman or a soccer mom, but there are things about them that Stan Lee is intrigued by. There may be a fireman whose children think he's a superhero, and in very important ways, he is, and wants to do our show for his kids. We want to know about that. Those kinds of things are what people should remember to include. Just because they have a boring job, like being an accountant, don't think it won't be interesting to us: it is.

With this search for the inner hero, what kind of challenges will Stan put finalists through, in order to find out what's inside?

It's going to be diverse, and I can't give you too many details, other than to say we welcome everyone to try out, young and old. You don't have to look like a superhero. We're not looking for stuntmen. We're open to all ages, 21 and up. Stan Lee has some interesting things up his sleeve and should make for some fun and exciting television. People can also call us with any other questions they may have.

 
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