deadly class trailer

If you’ve seen the commercials for SYFY’s new series Deadly Class, in which young misfits are trained to be assassins in a school called King’s Dominion, then you’ve probably already determined that this show is going to be ca-razy (in the best way ever). But beyond the switchblades and the characters’ devilishly deceptive private school uniforms, the show—derived from writer Rick Remender and artist Wesley Craig’s comic book series of the same name—seeks to confront resonating themes of morality, antiestablishment, and mental health that present a conflict among the characters in this 1987-set narrative.

The series also boasts a large young cast of mostly newcomers who take on the roles of diverse youth living on the fringes of society who must fight Battle Royale-style for the acceptance of headmaster Master Lin (Benedict Wong). The story is told through lead character Marcus Lopez (Benjamin Wadsworth), who’s half Nicaraguan, as he enters King’s Dominion after living on the street for two years.

Here are 10 things we learned from the Vancouver set.

At its core, Deadly Class is a coming-of-age tale that’s set in a dark landscape.

Though it has an unusual premise, Deadly Class is ultimately about youth trying to find themselves while being pushed to the margins during tumultuous times,” showrunner Miles Orion Feldsott explains.The theme that I’m most interested in exploring is the ungarnished truth of that time in our lives when we’re teenagers, how messy it is and how difficult it is to evolve into an adult person, and everything that ties into that. All the kind of self-exploration that you do with yourself, our characters are doing in a very heightened world.”

Each character will have their unique backstory told using 2D animation.

In the midst of the ass-kicking and general badassery, you’ll learn who each of the students at King’s Dominion were before they became violent assassins, much of which is not delved into in the comics. Best of all, their stories will be revealed through awesome animation by Titmouse in the same style as the comic books. That means, you’ll learn more about how Marcus became homeless, the truth about Southern Belle Brandy Lynn (Siobhan Williams), how Maria Salazar (María Gabriela de Faría) became a member of the Soto Vatos cartel, nonviolent Willie (Luke Tennie), how Says Kuroki (Lana Candor) became a force to be reckoned with, punk rocker Billy (Liam James), and Chico (Michel Duval), who’s also a part of the Soto Vatos. The added narrative is something that Duval, who plays an antagonist, is especially excited about as it makes for more well-rounded characters: “Instead of just making Chico a villain, he’s a human being. [I ask]: What drove him to this school? What makes him be who he is? At the end of the day, everyone in this school is a broken kid. They don’t want this for a life. They’re no more than 20 years old and they’re doing horrific things just to win approval.”

Though the main characters are divided into culturally segregated cliques, they do not rely on stereotypical narratives.

This is something Feldsott and Remender, who’s also a creator/executive producer on the show, was very conscious about as they further explored the characters for the series. They wanted to be truthful but also not resort to stereotypes. “I think most of us went to a high school where there was some type of segregation or cliques,” Feldsott reveals. “That exists in the world of Deadly Class. It just so happened to be the cartel, the Yakuza, the IRA, the CRA, and the Russian kids. What’s cool about Deadly Class is that while we do mine a certain amount of story from the clash of the cliques, we also mine the story from the other side: you can find that you’re much closer to the person from this other clique because they love the same music or the same movies that you do as opposed to the person in your clique that you have actually nothing in common with. That is certainly something that I found existed in high school where you find these uncommon connections.”

King’s Dominion was established to empower the oppressed.

Unlike the “Amblin ‘80s,” as Feldsott calls the trend of middle America 80s films like E.T., Deadly Class will bring to the forefront the stories of the kids whose lives weren’t shown as much on the big screen then—the poor, the mentally and morally conflicted, and those who were left behind in the Reagan era landscape. “I think that Rick wanted to take the characters and the friends that he had growing up, that he knew intimately, and make them the heroes of this story. So, he wanted the punk kids, the metal kids, the hip-hop kids to be front and center in this story. That’s a version of the 80s that you don’t get to see very often.” Wong adds that this political period was heightened by serious mental health cutbacks that affected parents and their children no longer able to receive care, and many people who became homeless which in turn contributed to the unchecked rage reflected in the series. “The repercussions of 1980s U.S. reverberates through the whole show,” he says. “The mental health cutbacks led to people wandering the streets, and Marcus’ parents were killed by someone that was left on the streets and homeless.” Wadsworth explains, “A suicidal schizophrenic jumped off a building and flattened his parents. He blames Reagan and plans to assassinate him.” In enters Master Lin and King’s Dominion. “We bring Marcus, someone who’s been an outsider, into our school. Master Lin is embedded in the school’s ideology to empower the oppressed to take on their oppressors.”

Marcus and Maria suffer from mental illness and cope with it in very different ways.

The mental health crisis is primarily a backdrop to the story, but it also affects both Marcus and Maria. Not only were Marcus’ parents killed by someone suffering from mental illness, Marcus (and Wadsworth) is afflicted by it as well. “Marcus is depressive. I am as well. He’s okay with talking about his mental health and how he thinks his friends are doing,” Wadsworth says. Trouble is, though, that is seen as a weakness at King’s Dominion where only the strong—both physically and mentally—survive. But it comes harder and harder for Marcus, who’s prides himself on telling the truth, to conceal it. “It comes out in violent tendencies, bad coping strategies like cigarettes. He’s a chain smoker. What he also does to cope is journal. That’s really important to him. It helps him a lot.”

Unlike Marcus, Maria is less open about her struggles with mental illness, which is something to which de Faría can relate. “She’s bipolar and deals with anxiety. She thinks that if people find out that she has this mental health issue, they will see that as a weakness and it will be used against her. So she’s trying to cover it all the time,” the actress reveals. “I love that we tackle these things because I feel like everybody deals with their own amount of anxiety and fear these days and we don’t talk about it. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for so long and I’ve caught myself lying to my friends because I don’t’ want them to know that I’m having a panic attack or anxiety. After starting playing Maria, I’ve been more open and willing to tell the truth because it’s important that we acknowledge the situations that we go through in life.”

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