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P
Pa
May 5, 2021

Josh Duhamel: I got into acting to do things that are completely implausible

Sports

P
Pa
May 5, 2021

Watching superhero films, we often don’t see the impact of violent scenes — and the heroic characters seem indestructible. But that’s not the case with new Netflix drama Jupiter’s Legacy — and that’s one of the reasons the project appealed to North Dakota-born Josh Duhamel, who plays Sheldon Sampson, aka The Utopian.

“That drove me crazy about these types of movies before, that you never see the aftermath of these giant battles and all the people that probably died just in collateral,” elaborates the charismatic 48-year-old actor.

“But in Jupiter’s Legacy, you see some of that stuff — these guys bleed, these guys die if they don’t overtake the enemy, and so they are mortal. And I think that makes the stakes a little higher. When they lose a brother or sister, they feel that — and it takes a little bit of time to heal. So that, to me, was great.”

The epic eight-part series is based on graphic novels by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, and follows the world’s first generation of superheroes. After they gained their powers in the 1930s, the six original and most powerful formed an organisation called The Union of Justice.

Now, having been keeping the world safe for nearly a century, they are looking to their children to continue the legacy. But this causes tension; while the young superheroes are hungry to prove their worth, they struggle to live up to their parents’ legendary public reputations.

We learn that Sheldon is the world’s greatest hero and the storied leader of The Union of Justice — and he insists that superheroes in The Union abide by a system of checks and balances called The Code.

The idea is that the heroes only use their powers in the service of others; they don’t govern, and they never kill. But, in the past 90 years, things have changed, and Sheldon doesn’t understand the world we live in anymore — or his own family, for that matter.

Former model Duhamel — who made his acting debut on US soap All My Children — admits that previously he has never been “super-excited” to do any kind of a superhero genre, because it’s been done so many times in so many ways.

“But this felt more like a family drama saga than it did a superhero show,” continues the star, who’s also known for the Transformers films, and rom-com Safe Haven. “It’s more of a psychological take on it.”

Another original and fresh element of Jupiter’s Legacy is that it spans decades, exploring two different timelines. “That was one of the things I really loved about this whole story — the fact I got to go from the 1930s to present time,” reflects father-of-one Duhamel (he has a son, Axl, with ex-wife Fergie, the American singer who was a member of hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas).

“There’s a vulnerability, there’s an aspirational enthusiasm that this younger version of Sheldon has. And then to go to the present day and see what those 90 years have done, how does he wear that? What sort of new problems have arisen, and how does that affect you?”

He had “never seen a superhero who is ageing, or on the tail end of his superhero career”, he adds. “It felt fresh, it felt new. I loved the whole family dysfunction, and how the younger generation doesn’t necessarily agree with the old.”

It goes without saying that this show is an action-packed watch. Discussing particularly memorable stunts, Duhamel recalls a scene where Sheldon is punching Blackstar — the supervillain of the show, played by Tyler Mane. It led to him spraining his finger, which he says took three months to heal.

“There’s one [stunt] where I busted through this railing at the Supermax prison and landed down — that was when I most felt like an actual superhero,” he follows, excitedly. “It’s not like a big gigantic stunt or anything, but it felt like he could just rip through this thing and just sort of float down on to the ground and then go fight the dude. That took some wire work.

“It’s fun to do that stuff. It’s kind of why I got into this business, to be able to fly around and do things that are completely implausible.”

Ask Duhamel what the biggest challenge of this series was, and the answer is a no-brainer. As cool as his costume looks, he confides the superhero suits are difficult to stay comfortable in, because they’re ‘very suppressive’.

“They’re constantly squeezing in on you, so you always find yourself sort of stretching it out and trying to give yourself some room. That took the most getting used to — that and all the hair and the beard and the prosthetics. It was a lot of work every day.

“But it was funny to see what that felt like… Once you get into that stuff, you automatically feel like you’re older and wiser and your voice lowers a little. There’s a weird thing that happens when you get into all that hair and make-up, and you start to look like you’re 90 years old.” Jupiter’s Legacy launches on Netflix on Friday, May 7.