A couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to talk to actor and producer Bruce Boxleitner. Bruce is someone I have long admired for his acting performances in shows such as Babylon 5 and of course Tron and the new Tron Legacy series, which has been airing on Disney XD in the USA, and will be coming to the UK next month.
During the interview I talked mostly with Bruce about his new project called Lantern City, which is going to be a science fiction, human drama with a very strong steampunk vibe to it.
SFP: When did you first become involved with Lantern City?
Bruce Boxleitner: This is something that’s been going on for probably six months. I did not say anything about it, because we were going through writers. Another writer had attempted to start this, but we conceived this thing way earlier, months and months ago. It was my young [Creative] partner Trevor Crafts who brought this… We’d worked on this little pilot that we didn’t sell, that we’re still trying to sell. It’s sort of a comedy.
Anyway, this young man had a lot of energy. A lot of savvy. He was very tech savvy. He’s a young producer trying to make his mark.
I’ve been coming to a point in my career and life right now where I am sitting around waiting to maybe do a guest spot, or get an audition for a guest spot on somebody else’s TV series. It’s frankly, I’m not saying its drying up for me, but I am not working like I used to. So I started thinking about other avenues in this business.
So when we came upon this thing, I knew that genre-wise I have got a very good name within the science fiction and fantasy genre. So we were going around and round talking about this Lantern City.
I’m going “Lantern City – I love the name of it,” and was thinking that steampunk, that’s something that I’ve always been interested in. I always see them at the conventions, and have seen the various versions that television has done, where they’re dancing around a bit, but never really doing it full on.
We got to brainstorming one night. It was about nine hours we sat with this storyline. This was before we hired this other writer. [Trevor] has had this initial kernel, and I took it from there.
It was the most creative time I’ve had in recent years, thinking up this story and the possibilities of this story. Eventually we didn’t use this first writer who we had met with for this, but Trevor knew this guy named Matthew Daley, and Matthew has delivered… a tremendously deep, with rich story with rich characters – the very things, which I experienced with Babylon 5. I mean I’ve done so many television series, I think what I brought to it was that its very much like a saga like Babylon 5, but lets brings things to the way we shoot things today.
I just think that with a steampunk world. I didn’t know a lot about it, but I know what I like, and what I visually like. I’m excited by this, because its a world that I believe a mainstream television audience, worldwide, does not know anything of. They may have heard the word, and may have seen it, but its still basically a cultish type of thing – a sub genre in the science fiction world; a Victorian futurism, if you will, and its got a lot of people loving it, but its still very much not in the mainstream.
So thinking of it as a television producer, you’ve got to find something to tell your story that’s going to be different. That’s very hard to do nowadays, wouldn’t you agree?
SFP: It is because I notice in television, You’ve got to find something that comes out, which is a great idea and then there will be about a thousand copies.
Bruce Boxleitner: This hasn’t happened with this yet.
Steampunk has been introduced in some films. I think League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen had some good set pieces and some good ideas based on the graphic novels, but it didn’t turn out to be a great groundbreaking movie.
SFP: It deviated to much from the graphic novels…
Bruce Boxleitner: Yes, I just think it was lousy movie making. [laughs]
I’m sorry, Its not good. I mean Sean Connery, one of my great cinema heroes, tried to get his name taken off it. He was not happy with it, and I’d follow him anywhere.
We’re very early in the process [of making Lantern City]. We’ve got a website up (www.lanterncitytv.com), then we went to Comic Con and that’s when we decided… actually I let it out on Twitterverse. A week or two earlier I hinted at it because I always have fans asking what’s coming up next and I had nothing to tell them, other than I’m doing Tron Uprising, which we’re very proud of and promoting still, but something of my own, I had nothing to point to.
Basically with this I am shooting very high with this. I’m excited about the script. I’m excited about the idea. Also, I think it’s a very innovative approach in television having something which is also co-developed by the fans.
The steampunk community has jumped at this. We’ve had such a reaction. especially [at Comic Con] and then it went all over the place. We had so many people – especially in the maker community of steampunk, prop makers and costuming, all that sort of things that we want to encourage to come to us with their designs and stuff and innovations that they have.
We’ve got a couple of people signed. Tom Willeford, who is very big in the steampunk community here in the states, and I can’t imagine what you have in the UK there… Oh my god.
We’ve even had some of the authors respond. I think they’re ready for it, too. I think its time has finally come in a way, whether it’s us that do it or somebody else. I think there is something about the steampunk world, stories can be told.
You can hear much more of what Bruce Boxleitner had to say about Lantern City as well as Tron: Legacy and Babylon 5 in the full version of this interview, which will air tomorrow on the SFP-NOW Podcast, which is available through Scifipulse radio at: www.blogtalkradio.com/scifipulse.
To learn more about the characters of Lantern City and join the forums head on over to: www.lanterncitytv.com
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By Ian M. Cullen