The Kids of Syfy’s DEADLY CLASS Survive Season One
By Pauline Perenack
Deadly Class recently concluded its first season on Syfy, gaining both traction, and a lot of fans, over the course of its freshman run.
Helped out by the sudden explosion of popularity of one of the stars, Lana Condor, Deadly Class set out to create a completely different experience, by faithfully following the graphic novel it is based on, to the point of bringing in actual animations from the comics to help move the story along. At the end of the season, the kids had become a family of sorts, and potentially have lost one of their own, leaving viewers with a massive cliffhanger.
ScreenSpy Magazine sat down with the cast and crew at WonderCon to get their thoughts on everything from the trippy Vegas episode, to their favorite scenes, to their off screen Dungeons and Dragons habit. We spoke with stars Benjamin Wadsworth, Luke Tennie, Maria Gabrielle de Faria, Taylor Hickson, Liam James, and executive producer/co-showrunner Miles Orion Feldsott.
Family played a big role in the lives of Kings Dominion. Talk about how the concept of family changed your character.
Taylor Hickson – I think that’s why my character Petra was so guarded and defensive. She had this broody wall up all the time and it’s because she feels she can’t trust. She grew up in a cult, and it’s hard. Her mother is dead, and she had nobody. She came to the school looking for some kind of home and that’s kind of what she’s always going for, but she doesn’t know what’s best because she’s so damaged.
Miles Orion Feldsott, EP/Co-Showrunner – I think if you read the comic books, you see that family is a major through line for all the characters in terms of making them who they are. And most of them come from these very traumatic backstories, and then they are faced with the choice of what type of person they’re going to become after they’ve gone through this trauma. We tried to remain very faithful to that when we created the show and make sure we told those animated backstories, and really showed you where they came from and why they were making the kind of decisions they were making, whether you agreed or disagreed with what they were doing on camera.
T – A lot of broken homes. So I think the real family they find is each other, which is cliché, but it’s true.
M – Well said Taylor.
T – Thanks!
Where did the animated backstory idea from come? Was that a Rick [Remender] thing?
M – I actually think that came from one of the first dinners we had with the Russo brothers. And I think actually it was a joke pitch originally, the idea of 2D animation, and then it got folded into this idea of a device we were going to use every episode. But that kind of happened organically from that original dinner we had 3 or 4 years ago. It’s been awhile now. And it was always kind of this thing where we didn’t know how it was going to turn out. We hope it’s amazing – we really love how it ended up turning out, but it was always a huge gamble because so much of the show was going to be reliant on this, so we were like, if the animation doesn’t work, people are going to hit that, and check out. We were very, very lucky that it all came together.
What has been the most exciting scene to recreate from the comic?
M – Oh man, there’s so many in the acid episode that are amazing. The most fun I think I had on set was watching the Marcus shit because…
T – Yeah, that was definitely number one for me.
M – Because just watching Ben’s face, but then also watching Rick’s face, the juxtaposition of those two are really amazing.
T – Ben was so mad. He was so mad. He was so cold. Covered in shit. So awesome. So great.
M – He just put a nice video on Instagram that I shot of him getting the diarrhea applied to him. That perfectly encapsulates his experience on this show.
What was your favorite Petra storyline this season?
T – Favorite moment? I keep repeating this because it’s true, but the threesome, obviously. It was so fun. I think just the memories attached to making it. It was so fun. Liam was running around in his underwear, and we called him Captain Underwear. We were all loopy. We were shooting late. We were all exhausted, so we were all running around in our underwear playing different characters and harassing crew members. It was great.
Who would win in a battle royale out of everybody in the show?
T – I mean, I think the obvious answer would be Sia, but a couple of the characters with their wits might be able to cheat death.
M – I was going to say a faceoff between Marcus and Master Lin. Marcus has those crazy hobo powers. He’s a real survivor.
T – He knows how to cheat death.
M – He’s a survivor.
Who would win in a fight between you two?
Maria Gabriela de Faria – For real?
M – I fought a bigger kid when I was in school because he was pulling my brother.
So you’re calling him scrawny?
M – What?
We’ll keep going.
Benjamin Wadsworth – Want to arm wrestle?
M – You’re going to win. Stop it. Be normal.
Who do you hope to have more screen time with in season two?
B – Man. That’s so hard. I love them all. Probably Benedict Wong.
M – Benedict, and David Zayas. El Alma del Diablo. We had a couple of scenes together, but I want more.
So he survives.
B – Well, he was pointing a gun at us at the end of the season so, maybe.
M – I believe he’s very much alive.
B – Could be a very weird season two break.
The show deals with a lot of sensitive topics, suicide, bipolarism – what preparation did you take to prepare for these topics and scenes?
M– For me, it was really nerve-wracking to know that I had to portray that part of Maria, being bipolar, so I did a lot of research about it and then I had to take all of that and try to find it within myself, which is a very dark place to go to. But it turned out to be pretty easy because nowadays I believe we all live with a society of fears and the sensation that you don’t belong, so it was very cathartic for me. What about you?
B – I think it makes it easier whenever you’re on a project you really like. You just really have to say the words that are on the page. But when it comes to making art, it’s always very subjective and it can be messy and weird, and it can start conversations, but I think that’s the point. I’m happy to put time into the role to get something across.
What was it like filming the Vegas episode?
M – Awesome.
B – It was the most fun ever.
M – We were really expecting it. Like we were really looking forward to that episode.
B – Yeah. It just gave us so much freedom as actors to act as maniacal as we could. Especially me. I got to act like I was on seven hits of acid. Pretty much not blinking. They put in contacts the size of my eye.
M – And they hurt. I remember you saying that they were uncomfortable.
B – They hurt, but it was a lot of fun, because when we were in scenes with extras, I could just walk past them and they’d be really weirded out by me, and I like making people uncomfortable sometimes.
If you got to have a scene with frozen head Chico, what would you want to happen?
B – Frozen head?
M – Yeah, frozen head Chico.
B – Yeah, that was the answer. Sorry. Probably give it to Maria.
M – No! She wants nothing to do with the head.
B – Throw it away. Give it back to his dad. What do you do with a frozen head?
Well, Fuckface had some fun with him.
M – Yeah. Deep conversations with him. Like, I would ask him, why are you so mean, and a bully, and awful. And I would kick him.
B – He’s got daddy issues.
M – Definitely.
So how much training do you guys have to do for the fight scenes? Especially you Maria, with your fans and full makeup.
M – We don’t have all that much time with TV, but the time we have, we use it. We would rehearse those fighting sequences in between takes so every free moment that we had, we would go out to rehearse the stunts so we could make sure that it was perfect. And also, over the weekends, we would rehearse with them so a lot, but most of it depended on how much work we did at home. So we had to literally take the work home. Learn the lines, the scenes, but you’d also be in front of the mirror [practicing]. It was something special.
B – Yeah, I didn’t really get that much free time because I was working every single day, so whenever it came to my fight scenes, I learned them on the day, but they weren’t as complex as Lana and Maria’s fight scenes.
In the show, since it’s about assassins, you think of physical enemies, but there was also intangible enemies. What would your character’s biggest enemy be? Intangible or physical?
M – For Maria, I think her biggest enemy is her head. She lives in constant fear and she has these movies in her head that tell her the wrong things. And she believes them and acts on them, so that’s her biggest enemy. Her head.
B – Probably the intangible ones because Marcus is highly depressive and he seems to be pretty familiar with getting hurt physically. Probably just his head. Probably going back on that tower one day.
Last question. I know you guys played D&D between shots.
B – Every week.
Except for the girls. They were out dancing.
M – We were out pole dancing.
What were your classes you would give everyone on the show?
B – Oh man, I mean, Billy was a half elf, named Jizzledim. Uh, I don’t know. What would I give Marcus… I’m not super familiar with D&D, it was my first time playing. I personally played a sorcerer. I was Joaquin Phoenix Sorcerer.
What would you give Maria?
M – I had one. I never got to do it, but I was a half cat because I’m a crazy cat lady so they gave me a half human, half cat. I’m interested to see what that character would do.
So, filming the Vegas episode…
Luke Tennie – Y’all like that one? That’s cool. So did we. That was fantastic. Late nights with friends, a lot of art, which is why I like my job, and I didn’t sign up for this job because it’s fun, but I have so much fun doing it. Which is really cool, so for me, shooting it was fantastic and it’s one of the best experiences of my young life. I’m very grateful.
Who do you think would win in a battle royale out of everyone on the show?
L – Everybody?
We could do just students.
L – That’ll help out. Um, I’d go Sia. She’s a tough student for a reason. She’s valedictorian, or, on track to be valedictorian for a reason and it’s because she kicks butt.
Your character decided to sit out the last episode. What effect does this have on his character after the fact?
L – I think the consequences on his friends are quite clear. Having an extra man, even for a lookout, would have solved for so many of the problems. Maybe all of them. But, nope, look what happened. They got ambushed. And I think the consequences for Willie are clear too. You can’t unmeet people. He’s found a home. He’s found a family he’s responsible to whether he leaves them behind or not. So it’s going to hurt to find out that any of them are hurt. Possibly Lex, which I’m pretty sure he had a soft spot for.
What are you hoping for for season two?
L – Hoping to get one! That’d be nice. But I’m hoping that we get to maintain the comedic edge of the show because I think it’s…what’s cool about the graphic novel if you read it, is, it’s a really dark story, but you flip the pages and it’s so colorful and all that, that you know from episode five. I hope that it’s only funny because the valleys got deeper, and the mountains got higher so that the darkness they go through is more extreme and we have more laughs because of that.
How has the fan interaction been since the show started?
L – It’s been poppin’. I’m really lucky I get to be on this show, and I’m glad they thought my best was enough to be a part of the team, and from what I’ve seen on Instagram and Twitter, the fans of the show are fan, fans. Fan is short for fanatic, and they are. They watch this show, and they’re really passionate about these characters, whether they’ve read the comics or not. So, they want the best for us. A lot of times, comic books fans are viewed as the worst fans ever, but they want you to be amazing. No one wants you to suck, you know? So that’s really cool if you think of it that way, but our fans are really receptive and positive.
Who was cooler, Henry Rollins or French Stewart?
L – I never got to work with French Stewart or Henry Rollins, but, the only one I got to meet was Henry Rollins so it was cool to meet him, but I haven’t met French, so I can’t really answer that for you.
What do you think it would take for Willie to move past the pacifist role and take action?
L – Hopefully, I think it would take the information that all his friends went to raid a house and got ambushed by crazy hillbillies, and he turns around and goes back and is ready to fight for the people he cares about. That’s what I hope it would take. But, right now, I don’t know. Because I saw the line get greyer earlier in the season where he pushed Chico. That’s violent. Why did he justify that?
Can we get a quick Denzel?
L – [Laughs] I will say that Alonzo from Training Day heavily inspired that first scene between Willie and Marcus in the car, but, nah, I’m an actor. I gotta work on that. Thanks though.
So how do you think you’d fair in a battle royale with everybody?
Liam James – Well, I think I could definitely take Luke, that’ll be easy. Take him out first. I don’t know, man, that’s going to be a tough one. He’s going to have to rely on his friends a lot. By himself, I don’t know how well he’d do. Cut people with his ‘hawk or something.
So what did you think of filming the Vegas episode?
L – Oooo. That was something special, you know. It didn’t really hit me until we were about to start filming it because that’s like the biggest thing in all of the comic books for Billy is that whole scene and yeah, it was, not to sound corny, but it was kind of like spiritual, in the way people talk about drug trips, like this kind of transcendent, weird time for the character and for my evolution of the character that he becomes kind of a different person after that. And even though he’s the sober one there, he’s had the same kind of crazy trip that it changes you. It changes your DNA when you go through something like that. The kind of trauma he went through there. Filming it was really special. We really became a family at that point I think because it’s halfway through the season. We’d all really gotten to know each other at that point and lucky for me, we didn’t have to do that right off the bat or anything. That was really special to be able to do that that way.
You bring a lot of comedic levity to a very dark show.
L – Thank you, I’m glad you think so. It was supposed to be that.
How did you balance the comedic and dark aspects in your character?
L – Yeah. Um, well I think I got very lucky with the writing and I just try to go and be as free as possible. I think to just have as much fun as I could when I can because, as suffocating as the school can be for these kids, it also reaches inside yourself to be as free as possible, because you try to counteract all that. So for the character, I think life seems very short for him at this point, and I think he’s trying to love, laugh, feel all his feelings as quickly as possible, because I don’t think he feels he has long to live.
We already talked about Vegas, but there were a lot of crazy scenes in the season. What was your favorite?
L – Well that’s definitely one of my favorite episodes for sure. I think shooting the threesome with Jack and Taylor was something else. My first threesome scene. First of the show so far. I don’t know how many more are going to happen. We were all running around in our underwear. They’re like, we have all these modesty contracts where they come over and put a parka on you right away and try to make us feel all comfortable and we’re all just like, rip them off and start running around the set, so we had a lot of fun.
I feel like you end up in your underwear a lot on that show.
L – [Laughs] Yeah, any opportunity they can, they… and it’s always his tighty whities, you know? They won’t go naked, they don’t want to keep him clothed, but it’s like tighty whities and like socks, so it’s funny.
Who was cooler, French Stewart, or Henry Rollins?
L – Oh, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Uh, both so cool in their own right. They came in and made these fully realized characters in like, five seconds. I don’t know how they did it. We got lucky enough that they cared about our characters in developing them, they developed them before they were even written. And I think they’re both immense talents, and they both need to come back for season two. You guys hear that? Both you guys.
Tell us a little about your D&D character.
L – Well. He’s a half-elf thief named Jizzledim. His dad was an elf. His mom was human. And his dad left him at a young age. This is all just lore I’ve been creating because we actually play D&D on the weekends between shooting, which I hope we get back to when we start shooting season two. He’s very stealthy. He dies a lot. He gets knocked unconscious a lot in our campaigns. He’s one of the guys who runs in and just gets killed right away and everyone else just doesn’t want to revive him cuz they don’t want to waste their time. He’s got no special powers or anything like that.
Have you ever played with Brian Posehn?
L – No, we haven’t. Does he play?
He’s got a podcast.
L – Oh my gosh, he doesn’t tell me that. He’s just like, leave me alone kid. We’ll have to get him in as a guest for one time.
If your character could have a scene with any of the others you haven’t been able to work with, who would it be? Or what would be the most interesting?
L – I think it’d be interesting to see Billy with Brandie because I think that they’re both so outspoken. Even though he’s white, she’d still hate him. She’s like, the one white guy I don’t like…