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Interview with Mario Van Peebles of "Superstition"
on Syfy 10/12/17
Moderator: Sylvia Desrochers
12, 2017 2:00 pm CT
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Superstition press
conference call. During the presentation, all participants
will be in a listen only mode. Afterwards, we will conduct a
question and answer session. At that time, if you have a
question, please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your
If at any time during the conference you
need to reach an operator, please press star 0. As a
reminder, this conference is being recorded Thursday,
October 12, 2017.
I would now like to turn the
conference over to Sylvia Desrochers. Please go ahead,
Sylvia Desrochers: Hi, everyone. And welcome
to the Superstition call with Mario Van Peebles. We're so
happy to have you here today and excited to bring the show
Mario is not only the star of the show of
Superstition, but also an executive producer, director and
writer on the show. So he wears many hats. And he's actually
taking a break from directing today to join us for this
Before I hand it off to Mario, I want to share
some recent news. Syfy just announced that the first episode
of Superstition will now premiere tomorrow, Friday the 13th,
on Syfy's YouTube channel, other digital platforms and on
demand at syfy.com.
The TV premiere remains on
Friday, October 20, on the Syfy channel. So now, I believe,
we are ready for the first question. And I'll hand it off to
Mario Van Peebles: All right. I'm ready for
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, if you
would like to register a question, please press the 1
followed by the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three
tone prompt acknowledge your request.
question has been answered and you would like to withdraw
your registration, please press the 1 followed by the 3. If
you're using a speakerphone, please lift your handset before
entering your request. One moment please for the first
Our first question comes from the line of
Jamie Ruby with SciFi Vision. Please proceed with your
Jamie Ruby: Hi. Thanks for talking to us
Mario Van Peebles: Hi, Jamie.
Ruby: Hi. So I want to know - how hard is it to kind of do
all these things at once, to direct and write? And it looks
like some of them even you did the same episode, you know,
being in and writing and everything. So how much harder is
that than just picking one?
Mario Van Peebles: Yes.
That's a good question. I think part of it is that when you
grow up - if you grow up on a family farm, you learn a
little bit about feeding the chickens, plowing the north 40,
taking care of the horses. It's all sort of part of the Zen
And, you know, when you grow up with
Melvin Van Peebles - or Melvin Van Movies, my dad, you know,
and you're an independent filmmaker, you learn as a kid to
take care of the cables, to be a PA, to be an editor, to do
all those things.
And it's all part of the Zen of,
you know, independent filmmaking in that you kind of need to
know it all. And I didn't really realize until later on as
an adult that those were sort of carved up into different
sections because it was all part of the family filmmaking
So I kind of grew up doing it and being pretty
fluid. And I saw my dad do it if you think back to when my
dad did Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1971 that
became the top grossing independent hit of that year.
And I grew up seeing him do it. He was acting in it. He
wrote it. He produced it. He worked on the music with a new
group called Earth, Wind and Fire. And so I kind of grew up,
oh, that's what filmmaking is. Gee, I didn't know any
And my family is kind of like the Jacksons
without the talent. You know, we just get in there and we're
scrappy. And we make it happen. And then 20 years later,
almost to the month after 1971 and 1991, I directed and
acted in my first feature, which was New Jack City.
So I guess I grew up with it and it feels very organic to
me. And I think sometimes as a filmmaker/director, I mean,
as an actor/director, it's easier to actually direct other
actors because you kind of give them what you want to get.
So you create a climate where they can do their best
work and you sort of, you know, you have a different bedside
manner if you're not only a doctor but you're also a
So I think it allows me to talk with them,
you know, and speak the language and really get in there and
mix it up. So it's actually something that I grew up with.
Jamie Ruby: Great. Thank you so much.
Peebles: You're welcome.
Operator: Our next question
comes from the line of Tony Tellado with Sci-Fi Talk. Please
proceed with your question.
Tony Tellado: Hi, Mario.
It's great to talk to you, man. I've been an admirer of your
work in front...
Mario Van Peebles: Thank you.
Tony Tellado: ...and behind the camera, too.
Mario Van Peebles: You're not even a relative of mine so
that's good of you. Good. Give me a smart one then.
Tony Tellado: Well, I'll tell you first of all, I mean, I'm
all about diversity this year. And I'm totally loving, you
know, the cast and how it's all set up. It's great.
As far as the mythology of the show, did you do some
research along with your writing partner to kind of come up
with a certain type of mythology that you wanted to use on
Mario Van Peebles: Yes, well, it was
really - this has been a collaborative effort. So it was
Barry Gordon and Justin and Chris and Joel, you know, and
really looking at it saying this is, you know, sort of an
And the world is getting
more diverse. America is getting more diverse. And we kind
of kicked around and laughed about - first of all sort of
the American South is sort of this very rich sort of
setting, sort of this fictional town of La Rochelle that has
this sort of American Gothic kind of quality.
had so many - because, you know, America is a melting pot.
And, you know, you take a place by America, and you take,
you know, Italian immigrants and Africans who maybe didn't
come voluntarily and Native Americans and Asians and Jews
from Europe. And you put us all together and you do get
But out of those sparks you get great art and
great music. And so out of America you get jazz and rock and
roll and hip hop and gospel and all this great music and all
this texture. And that's because you've got all these folks
in this sort of cultural human melting pot. And we thought
the New South really reflects that.
Republicans and Democrats and climate change deniers. And,
you know, especially a place like New Orleans and around
there, you get all kind of people who voted for the
president. People who didn't. All kind of folks. And you get
sparks and you get friction. And it's exciting.
we thought this is a very exciting diverse America that we
wanted to show. And I think part of the other thing we
kicked around was this notion that, you know, what would the
Obamas really be like when the cameras go off?
know, if you took a family that was a pretty tight family,
had a lot of love, smart family, when the cameras go off, if
they had to deal with infernals and demons and fight the
forces outside, what would that family look and feel and
sound like? And that became sort of something we kicked
about as well.
So it was a number of things, but the
notion of seeing America like you don't traditionally see
us, all of us, and all our flavors and that on both sides of
the equation, the "human and infernal side," you'd see all
flavors, all colors, all choices.
Awesome. No, I'm totally digging that. And, yes, a setting
in the South is perfect. I mean, literally, superstition,
you know, is really part of the fabric of the South. So it's
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. And again, because,
you know, you get so many different demographics that come
live there who have their own sort of old country
superstitions as well as how that melting pot, if you will,
evolves and becomes the fabric of America.
Tellado: Yes. Absolutely. I'll get back in line. Love the
Mario Van Peebles: Thank you, sir. Oh,
I'm glad, man. That's good to hear.
next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with The
TV Megasite. Please proceed with your question.
Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, Mario, this is Suzanne. How are you?
Mario Van Peebles: Hi, Suzanne.
Yes. I'm a big of yours from way back. I'm older so probably
older than most people on the line so. I grew up in the 70s.
Mario Van Peebles: Cool. A 70s baby, love that.
Suzanne Lanoue: So I remember all your TV shows and love New
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. Sonny Spoon, yes.
Suzanne Lanoue: And I remember you on
All My Children. I loved it when you were on All My Children
Mario Van Peebles: Right. Yes. I've had a
little run at this. Well, Clint Eastwood said to me once
during Heartbreak Ridge. He said, you know, you can't be
flavor of the month for 30 years. So if you hang in there,
you're doing something right.
Suzanne Lanoue: That's
right. That's right, he started out on, if I recall
correctly, he started out on TV, like, Gunsmoke or something
like that. It was one of those old shows.
Peebles: Yes, that's right. Yes, yes, he'd been doing it for
a while. Yes, yes. What's your question, dear?
Suzanne Lanoue: Sorry. I enjoyed the first episode and my
question is sort of based on sort of the ending of the first
episode. Are we going to see more of your character in the
show or are you going to be like a kind of Obi-Wan type of
character? Can you give us any details?
Peebles: Oh, okay. Yes, well in the town of La Rochelle, you
know, and in Superstition all things are possible. So, you
know, I think I'll have to do like our president does and
just something big is going to happen and you'll see when.
And Mexico is going to pay for it.
That's right. Well, at least yours didn't sound like a
Mario Van Peebles: More to come. Yes, no, no,
no, no, okay. All I can say is I've been sworn to secrecy
and they tell me I'd have to kill myself if I told you. More
things happen and I think that I have to leave it at that
otherwise they'd zap me.
Suzanne Lanoue: I
Mario Van Peebles: But some big things
come up and, yes, so it's, like, in the land of La Rochelle
a lot of things happen that you go, oh.
Lanoue: All right, okay. Sure.
Mario Van Peebles: But
the fun of the show, I think, to me, is that, you know,
hopefully it works on a number of levels. And one level is
that it is a bit of mind bender and that it hopefully, you
know, it's fun. It's entertaining. It's fun to watch.
But I think it also hopefully provokes a little thought.
And that's one of the things, I always think there are three
loves in life. Love what you do. And I love the field I'm
Love and enjoy the folks you do it with. And many
of these people I've worked with, including my daughter
Morgana, who plays Garvey. So it's been bring your daughter
to work day for the last four months.
Mario Van Peebles: And then love what you
say with your work. And if you get those three to line up,
you know, love what you do, love who you do it and love what
you say with your work, then you are rich no matter what the
And in this particular case, a lot of
what the show has to say at its core, I really enjoy. I like
that the infernals, which would be, you know, the bad guys
if you will, are coming now more than ever to put us human
beings in check because of our recklessness and how we've
sort of not cared for the planet.
And so that the
notion of, you know, which end of the telescope you look
through, and who then is the bad guy if they're coming to do
that. And Isaac, you know, has sort of been charged to some
degree with keeping, and his family, with keeping the
balance. And it's a tricky one because there's no all good
or no all bad in this show and you have to discern a little
bit, you know.
Suzanne Lanoue: Well, great. I look
forward to seeing the rest of the episodes and getting to
know the mythology because I was really interested in that.
Mario Van Peebles: Oh, yes, yes. And it comes out. And,
again, a lot of it is steeped in things that you can Google
and look up and are usually based in some sort of real
American mythology that goes way back. And that's part of
the fun of doing this is it's really a discovery for us, all
of us, that way.
Suzanne Lanoue: Oh, great. Thank
Operator: Our next question comes from the line
of Mike Hughes with TV America. Please proceed with your
Mike Hughes: Hey, thanks. I was starting to
think about this.
Mario Van Peebles: Mike, you've got
a good Indian.
Mike Hughes: Okay. Very cool. Everyone
in your family does, too, yes. Hey, I've been thinking about
this concept that a kid grows up in a family business, goes
away for a long time, then comes back to the family business
and his dad is hesitant about bringing him back.
it kind of seems like the story of your life in little ways.
In some ways that's pretty fun.
Mario Van Peebles:
Yes, that's great. That's an acute observation in that some
ways, yes. You know, Mark Twain has a great forward where he
says all my life my father was an idiot and at 21 he was a
And when I wanted to go off and get into film
and do all that, I went to sit down with my dad and my dad
sort of said, okay, so we're going to make you a star. And I
said, well, yes, actually. He said good. He drew a little
star on a piece of paper and he handed it to me.
then he said, here's my free advice. Early to bed, early to
rise, work like hell and advertise and that was it.
And so I went off and, you know, I wasn't happy with that.
But I went off and I got into theater. I did a lot of plays
in New York. And then I got a break in a film called Cotton
Club directed by Coppola.
And people I would later
work with were in the film, including Nicolas Cage. And
slowly, you know, got out to LA and started to work my way
up. And then I got my own TV show called Sonny Spoon.
And Heartbreak Ridge and started directing New Jack
City, et cetera, et cetera. And I looked back later on and
was really glad that my dad had, you know, sort of that
thing of do it yourself, man.
Do it yourself and
because you can't - everyone loves to, you know, every kid
has an innate understanding of playing make believe. And we
all love to, you know, play make believe.
doesn't mean you're going to make a living as an actor or
filmmaker. It doesn't mean you'll be able to monetize it. I
think if everyone could do what they love, you would have a
lot more food tasters and porn stars. But we're not all cut
out for that.
So as much as I would love to, you
know, do those, you know, that's not what everybody's cut
out to do. So it was really good to have to fight my way up
a little bit. Having the last name Van Peebles didn't hurt.
Oh, sometimes it did. But most times it didn't.
so in a way, yes, then I circled back. I was in the family
business, circled back. My dad sort of said do it yourself.
But by the time I really started rocking and rolling, I was
able to connect with him.
And we were on a movie
called Panther about the Black Panthers. And New Jack City,
which was, you know, the biggest winner hit of that year.
And then I did Posse.
And then I went off to do a
movie on the Black Panther party, which is a tricky movie
politically to get done. And my dad wrote it. We produced it
And he looked at me said, son. He said, I
am so amazed that we get to work together in this lifetime
and that you're courageous. And you have the heart to do
films that are not always easy to do, but films that really
say something. And whether people like them or not, they'll
remember them when they see them.
And that became
part of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do films and
television that have something to say. That entertain you,
yes, but hopefully have a little nutritional value.
So there are parallels to that and I suppose that to some
degree in Superstition I am now playing the dad. But
secretly, I want my son back. I want to work with him. This
is a dream come true.
Mike Hughes: That's cool. Okay.
Thanks a lot.
Mario Van Peebles: Yes, man. Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from
the line of Natasha Williams with The Nerd Element. Please
proceed with your question.
Natasha Williams: Hello,
Mario. How are you doing?
Mario Van Peebles: Good,
Natasha. I'm good.
Natasha Williams: Okay. So what
were you looking for when you were casting for the roles of
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. What I wanted was a
cast that I felt - that felt smart. That felt like people
that you'd want to have a drink with and that at the core
felt like people that you would laugh and hug and that are
in essence positive and happy to be who they are.
what do I mean by that? There are certain people that you
feel from them that they enjoy being themselves. And I
wanted a family that one, you believed was a family that
could overcome issues that families often face.
at the core of the show it's like life for me. I wanted the
family to feel like they were multicultural. That within the
dynamic of our American family, you know, you could feel
that, you know, at times my wife could be, you know, more
the Michelle Obama mode. But at night, you know, when she's
got to get into her full set of, you know, mystic side,
other things come out and other sides come out.
wanted people who had a duality. People who were
multicultural. People who could speak other languages.
People who could laugh at self.
And people who were
bilingual. And I don't just mean bilingual in terms of
language, but even bilingual in terms of socio-economic
divide. That they could talk to the brother or sister in the
street or the brother and sister in the trailer park. But
they could also talk to someone at the White House, kind of
like that Kipling poem.
You know, talk with the
crowds nor lose your virtue. Walk with the kings nor lose
the common touch. If neither loving friends nor foes can
hurt you, and if all men count with you but none too much,
if you can feel the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of
distance run, yours is the world and everything in it, which
is more, you'll be a man, my son, or a woman.
wanted folks who kind of got the joke of life. I felt like
if we're going to do this in the long haul, I want the
(funnest), best, smartest, you know, family that I can get.
And that's what we went after. And we found them. And it's
been a ride.
And as we go on, it just becomes more
and more that way. Not to mention the fact that some of them
are legitimately my family. It's been great.
Williams: Yes. I saw that your daughter has a part of the
show as Garvey. I was, like, oh, my gosh. That's so awesome.
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. That's pretty cool.
Natasha Williams: Thank you. I enjoyed the show.
Mario Van Peebles: Oh, I'm glad. I'm glad. I'm glad. Yes,
she's a smart cookie. She's at Columbia. She's taking a
semester off to do the show.
And, you know, she's old
enough to get her own place. And I said, honey, you've got
money. You don't have to live with dad. And she said, nope,
I want to live with you dad.
And so we've been
playing house. And she's vegan. And she's trying to keep me
healthy. So we have our little vegetarian meals and we work
out together at the gym. And it's been fun. It's been bring
your daughter to work week for a couple of months and it's
Natasha Williams: That's awesome. Thank you.
Mario Van Peebles: Yes.
Operator: Our next
question comes from the line of Alex Elias with Starry
Constellation Magazine. Please proceed with your question.
Mario Van Peebles: Hey, Alex.
Alex Elias: Hi,
Mario. How are you? Thank you so much for talking with us.
Mario Van Peebles: You got it.
Alex Elias: So I
would like to know, are the Hastings just ordinary people
that belong to a family whose lineage comes with the
responsibility to protect the town from infernals or does
each member of the family have a special skill or ability
that makes them more suited than anyone else to perform this
duty of protection?
Mario Van Peebles: Oh, man. How
can I tell you that? That's the question you're supposed to
ask. That's why you watch the next one, Alex. Come on, man.
Alex Elias: I could ask you another question.
Mario Van Peebles: No, that's a great question. Stay with
that. I think you find out over time that we're all
individually suited but collectively the sum of our parts.
The sum of the family, the family together is greater than
the sum of our parts.
And, you know, as we link up
and really work together more, it's not just that the four
of us are four. It becomes, there's a power in our unity.
And that's also something that I wanted to show here that I
think there's a power in unity and family.
And let me
just go through this real quick. I'll just take you through
this. This has to do a little bit with soul maturity. And
this is something that I feel I wanted Isaac to have, the
character I play.
If you have a baby, it cries when
it's wet. It cries when it's hungry. And it's aware of its
own physicality. Okay? Because now it's suddenly out in the
world and it gets cold and hungry and wet, okay?
it cries when those things arise. Now as the baby gets
older, it becomes more aware of, oh, I've got brothers and
sisters. I've got mom and dad. Now it realizes, gee, if dad
is unemployed, if mom is sick, it can't be happy because now
it's affected by the family.
So that's the next
circle, right? So it realizes, I can't really be solid if
I've got no home, if we got, you know, no job and no means.
And so now the baby said, oh, I've got to care about the
And now the baby realizes, wait a minute. But
now but say my people, okay, so in other words if the
socioeconomic or racial group I'm born into is downtrodden
and unemployed and getting kicked across the border, then
we're all in trouble again and we're getting arrested by the
police. Or whatever it is, whatever we're dealing with, I
can't be healthy without understanding it.
just me. It's not just my family. It's all people. It's all
And then he goes, okay, now he matures a
little more and says now I've got kids. But I'm sending my
kid to school with that Asian kid and that Black kid and
that Jewish kid and that Chinese kid. I'm sending them to
school so I've got to worry about the whole human family.
And then it goes bigger than that and say, well, what
are we eating? Are we eating polluted food? Are we eating
chemicals? I got to worry about the mineral kingdom and the
And the more you grow as a soul,
unless you get stopped along the way, the more you realize
we're all interconnected and that it's not just about the
web of your own biological family.
And I did Roots.
And one of the things on Roots was we got our racial makeup
done. So, you know, the 23andMe or ancestry, whatever those
are. And my pie chart, like everyone's pie chart, is really
I've got, you know, I've got African blood
from West Africa. I've got a lot of European blood, English,
British, French, and I've got some Native American blood.
And as you understand the story of the Hastings, we are
really all Americans. And so as you'll find out with Isaac
-- and I can tell you this -- he's got some heavyweight
European blood and African blood. And so the human family is
part of his family. And that's the bigger understanding.
So Dr. King would say, we either need to learn as
brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. I add to
that, we learn to live together as brothers and sisters in
harmony now with nature, not just with each other, or we
perish together as fools.
And so in future episodes,
one infernal comes through and says, God's not listening to
you all anymore because you all are messed up. That's why
we're sending you this crazy weather.
things in here that make you go, wow, it's not just about
Black and white and poor and rich getting along. We've got
to get right with Mother Nature.
You know, there's
certain laws. The law of gravity, the law of climate change
that say you've got - it doesn't matter if you deny them or
not. If you deny gravity, it don't care. If you step off a
building, your ass will fall down.
And so some of the
things we deal with in Superstition deal with a common
denominator of the human family, not just the Hastings
family. And that's, I think, when it gets exciting and
really broadens us out. That's my hope.
Got you. I had actually meant supernatural abilities. But
that, I think, more than covers everything.
Peebles: Yes. Well, see, some of those come into it to, but
I can't tell you that yet. So we'll see.
I hear you.
Mario Van Peebles: Okay, brother.
Alex Elias: Thank you.
Mario Van Peebles: All right.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jorge
Solis with Villain Media. Please proceed with your question.
Jorge Solis: Hello?
Mario Van Peebles: Jorge,
((Spanish Spoken 0:24:43)). Hi.
((Spanish Spoken 0:24:48)). When you sit in the director's
chair, such as in New Jack City and Baadasssss, how does
that experience help you direct the pilot for Superstition?
Mario Van Peebles: Oh, good question. Well, you know,
I've had the honor and the - I've directed a lot and I've
often done it with my own money. And I think when you do
things with the family dough and suddenly your dad's going,
hey, you better not go over, you know, I'm shot. So then
It gives you a different set of consciousness
about the whole thing because, you know, as my dad would say
when I was growing up, he said, look son, some dads might
teach you to play ball. Hopefully, I can teach you how to
own the team, how to understand the business side of show
And so I went to Columbia. And he pushed me
to get a degree in economics which I did. And later on
realized that speaking the language of finance freed me up
as an artist. So now I realized, oh, well, if I can make
this in this many days and save this money over here, then I
can use it for the ending and not be sort of - not be
reactive artistically without understanding the business
part of the show.
And so I think that experience, the
experience I've had early on directing film, but also
theater and also TV and I started out doing - my first
directing job was my own show, Sonny Spoon, back when
Brandon Tartikoff was over at NBC and I was working with
And so I directed that show. And
then I directed Jump Street with Johnny Depp and Wiseguy
with Ken Wahl. And then I directed New Jack City. So I got a
lot of experience.
But one of the things that I also
think is very helpful is to keep pushing the envelope. So
when I'm not directing film - I just did a new film coming
out called Armed. It's a thriller that takes place, you
know, with a guy that's dangerously armed in a kind of world
of the climate of lax gun control or lax gun sense.
And so that comes out February 2. And I produced it and
wrote it and directed it. And Bill Fichtner's in it and Ryan
Guzman is in it and a bunch of folks.
But part of
what I do is I put projects together a lot. So it allows me
to cast people from film and television, to take great
techniques I've learned in television and move them over to
I directed a bunch of Bloodlines and acted in
those. So it all mixes up and it gets very natural. So
people, you know, you say, left hand, right hand, which do
you like more? I sort of find that they worked really well
And again, like I said earlier, it allows
me to get in there with the actors and really have a
dialogue with them as one of them. And that's super helpful
when you want to get that great performance.
Solis: Thank you so much.
Mario Van Peebles: You're
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, as a
reminder to register for a question, that is the 1, 4. Our
next question comes from the line of Christopher Powell with
3Blackgeeks. Please proceed with your question.
Van Peebles: I love that title, man. Hello. Hey, man. Hello,
Chris? Hey, can you hear me?
Christopher Powell: Can
anybody hear me?
Mario Van Peebles: I can hear you.
Christopher Powell: Hello?
Mario Van Peebles: I
can hear Chris. I can hear someone saying hello. It's Mario.
Christopher Powell: Hello?
Mario Van Peebles:
Hello. It's Mario.
Christopher Powell: Okay. Sorry
about that. Yes, you know, I enjoy your work. Love your
work. I like actually some of your (unintelligible) stuff
that you did like Full Eclipse and Solo and such.
that you're doing this show...
Mario Van Peebles:
Christopher Powell: ...when you're writing
a show like this and such, how do you keep yourself from
going into tropes and stuff, especially when you're dealing
with family and such because, you know, your character's
relationship with his son and, you know, I hope we're not
forewarning this, but, you know, the death of the other son
Like, how do you keep yourself from not
going into those tropes of, oh, the son hates the father and
all that kind of stuff. So, I mean, is it kind of a
challenge thing for you or is it just kind of easy for you
to kind of go around and maneuver?
Mario Van Peebles:
Oh, good question. I mean, I think, you know, part of it is
drawing on life experiences that we have. You know, in the
writer's room, a lot of the writers brought, you know,
experiences they had. And all of our experiences vary.
So, I think, finding that line between where something
can be entertaining is a concept, and, you know, where it's
real. And I think one of the ways that we avoid it is by
really by having great actors that bring that to the role
that, you know, that there are fathers and sons and mothers
And, you know, so allowing them the
space to say let's take this and rework it. So there's
sometimes where we'll rework a scene, you know, together.
And we'll find it together and make sure that it's based in
- you know, that there's a sense of reality.
think even in this first pilot you get a sense of, okay,
there's stuff going on but there's layers to this cake. So
it's not simplistic. I think you get a sense that they are
stronger together but they have real issues to work out.
And that's how we've been finding our way so far by
understanding that the script is a blueprint often. It's a
good blueprint but we have to make sure that the human
element, the family element, feels right. And there have
been times when we say, you know, that doesn't feel right.
It doesn't even feel culturally right for us sometimes.
So there's sometimes thing we go and we'll try it on and
go, no, it bumps for us. And we'll find another way around
it and that's part of the process.
I was just doing a
scene just now and one of the second team guys came up to me
and he said, you know, I've got this idea. And, you know,
often there are filmmakers that don't listen to ideas from
other people. And I find some of my best ideas weren't my
ideas at all. Well, before you tell me, I'm going to pretend
it's my idea.
And he came up with a great idea. So, I
said, oh, it's got to be. We made the adjustment in the
script right then and boom we did that. And so there's a fun
in that in that I think everyone knows they can bring their
creativity to it and their perspective to it and you don't
have to leave yourself at the door.
And I think
that's what makes it fresh. I think there's sort of
timelessness to La Rochelle that this fictional town that
we're in that also makes it fresh. And also, I think, the
more multi-culty dynamic just terms of cast gives it a
In this particular episode
we're doing right now, there's a character called Uncle
Bubba who is played by the comedian Bruce Bruce from
Atlanta. And he brings a whole other vibe to it, you know,
just a whole other fresh look.
So we mix it up and
you go, oh, this cat is in it? And then Jasmine Guy comes
into an episode. And, you know, someone else comes over
here. And, you know, it's exciting to see that this is a
show that folks want to come in and out of.
think that's partly due to the writer's room, you know,
hopefully making it smart and character driven. You know, if
you don't care about who's running and jumping and kicking,
you don't really care. You don't give a shit. So you've got
to go, oh, wow, I like - I want to be with these people.
And here's the other thing, you know, and they're not
doing stupid things. So sometimes in horror movies people do
stuff you would never do. If we get to the page, and go,
man, my character would never go back in that haunted house
looking for the kitten. He'd be, like, I'll come back
You know, so we try to read it that way
with the bullshit meter and go, man, I would not do this.
You know what I mean?
You know, so how does that
happen? How do we make sure that Robinne Lee's character Bea
is elegant and all that great stuff and a loving mom but
still might, you know, cock that shotgun when it comes time
to be mama bear? You know what I mean?
So that each
character is 360, you know, each character is
multidimensional. And that's part of the fun of it. And
that's part of the challenge. That's a good question.
Christopher Powell: Yes, cool. Appreciate it. Thanks.
Mario Van Peebles: Yes, man.
Operator: Our next
question comes from the line of Eunice Moseley with The
Pulse of Entertainment. Please proceed with your question.
Eunice Moseley: Hi, Mario. How are you?
Peebles: I'm good. Look, I had to be on the Subway when I
first was in New York trying to get to this place. So I
promised myself if I ever got here, I would talk my ass off.
I'm going to enjoy this. So it's great having people want to
ask me questions. What? This is good, man.
Moseley: Well, I've been asking you questions throughout
your whole career and your father's career, which tells you
a little bit about my age. Last time I interviewed you was
in 2012 for We Are the People.
Mario Van Peebles: We
the Party. We the Party, yes.
Eunice Moseley: We the
Party, yes, yes. I remember thinking what an awesome person
you are because the whole cast was, like, kids weren't they?
Mario Van Peebles: Yes, the whole cast - in fact, check
this out, Eunice. Not only that, but my partner on this
show, Superstition, is Barry Gordon. And Mike Radloff did
the publicity for We the Party and they were my partners on
that movie along with Michael Cohen.
And so we teamed
up again after the experience of doing We the Party, we
said, hey, let's do something else. And that's part of how
we teamed up to do Superstition.
So maybe you brought
us some good luck, girl. You never know.
Moseley: I thought it was great of you to do that because I
like to reach back and help out young kids, too. And for
this particular show, when you were bringing on the concept
and also as you are shooting it, do you see your father in
you and if so, what are some of the things that you
experienced with him that you see yourself doing now?
Mario Van Peebles: Quite often. You know, that's an
interesting question. And I think that's one of the things
that is so terrific about life -- if you're lucky enough to
live a long full life as I am, so far anyway, knock on wood
-- is that, you know, one day you're the child.
the next day you're climbing over trying to pick apples from
your neighbor's yard. And the next day you're a homeowner
and you have an apple tree and that kid is climbing over
into your yard.
And now, you know, one day you're
chasing someone's daughter and the next day you have a
daughter. You know, and so life gives you a chance to play
all those different roles and learn from each perspective.
And I grew up seeing my dad do a lot of this. And I
learned, you know, what to do and what not to do. And, you
know, often he had these great Melvinisms, you know, he'll
just say certain things that just - you know, he like, for
example, someone would ask him, well, Melvin Van Peebles, do
you feel lucky? And he goes, oh, luck is preparation meets
You know, and I find myself, yes, if
you're prepared and your life provides you the opportunity,
then you'll be lucky. You know, if you're not prepared and
life provides you the opportunity, your ass is not going to
be lucky, you know.
So he had these great Melvinisms.
So he had this way of talking that he calls ghetto gothic,
which is he'll hit you with a nice big word, but then he'll
break it down into sort of everyman style. And there's a fun
And one of the things that I sort of thought
about with my character of Isaac, is that he can be lofty
and he can quote from, you know, an African quote or
something from the Motherland and something from, you know,
a European quote.
But then on the other side, he can
talk to that everyman brother in the street. And that's a
really great thing. I look back at the Kipling thing, I go,
talking to the crowds nor lose your virtue, walk with kings
nor lose the common touch.
And there's a great - he
has a great sense of humor and getting the joke of life and
has never been bitter. That's the thing, you know, he's gone
through a lot. I mean, this is the cat who started directing
when there were no Black directors. And he went to Columbia
Pictures and said I want to direct movies. And they said we
don't need elevator operators.
And he didn't get
bitter. He said to me, son, there's three kinds of people in
the world. There's people that watch stuff happen. There's
people that complain about what happens. And there's people
that make things happen.
And the Van Peebles, we get
out there and make it happen. You might not like the show.
You might not like the movie but rather than just
complaining about what's on TV or what's not on TV, get out
there and put it on TV. And hopefully if you build it, they
And so that's very much a Melvin Van Movie
sentiment. So, you know, and Barry has that, Barry Gordon
has that. And Joe, my partner on this, and, you know, we're
all scrappy guys that have had to make our way out of no
way. And that's fun. You know, so it's a fun team like that
because we've all been poor kids.
And when you make a
movie like that or you make a show like that, you appreciate
all of it, you know. So I think there's a lot of that - you
know, there's a lot of - I like to think that I'm a good -
I'm not a boss, but I'm a good boss if I am a boss.
That I'm fun and I can create a climate where people can do
their good work. But they know to take it seriously. They
know to work hard. They know I will call them out, you know.
You know, if they got the same last name as me, they better
get there early and leave late, you know.
be no weak link - you know, and the other thing is we, in my
family, you never confuse people that you love with being
people that are good at what they think they want to do.
Case at point, I have a child -- I'm not going to name
no names -- that is a wonderful singer. She's got a voice
like Whitney Houston, I mean, awesome, in her head. But to
the rest of us she sounds like a dying cat when she sings,
right? I know in her head she's Mariah Carey, but to the
rest of us she can't sing a lick, okay?
she's very smart. So I will say, baby, singing might not be
the way. Maybe you should work on your law degree. Now she's
killing it, making laws in the Senate. She's doing her
thing. She's a powerhouse.
You know, my mother, my
mother loves to act. And I'm sure my mother in her head is
Ingrid Bergman, but I never hire her because the girl can't
act. That doesn't mean I don't love my mother. You know what
So I may, if I love you, I'm going to tell
you the truth. That's just a part of the Van Peebles mantle.
So I don't just put you in because you want to be in. You
better bring something to the mix. And that's very much my
Eunice Moseley: I'm the same way. I
love you and your father the same way. Well, congratulations
on the new series and God bless.
Mario Van Peebles:
Good, good. Well, I hope you enjoy it.
Moseley: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes
from the line of Ny MaGee with the E U R Web. Please proceed
with your question.
Ny MaGee: Well, hello, Mr. Van
Peebles. It's such an honor to speak with you today.
Mario Van Peebles: Thank you.
Ny MaGee: Like one of
the previous callers, I've been with you since like the 80s.
Like, I've been rocking with your career forever.
Mario Van Peebles: What?
Ny MaGee: So before I get to
my question, really, quick, allow me to just gush for a
second. I'm a fan of sci-fi. I love the Syfy channel and I'm
really in love with your vision of having a Black family at
the center of this narrative, which is something we rarely,
if we ever, get to see in sci-fi or fantasy, right?
Mario Van Peebles: Right.
Ny MaGee: So I'm looking
forward to the journey that this family is going to take us
on this season. With that said, after I watched the pilot,
again, me loving sci-fi and horror and supernatural and all
things, I got to thinking, have you personally experienced
any strange or unusual phenomena? And if not, can you talk a
little about what it is about the sci-fi genre that you
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. That's a
good question. So to the first question, have I personally
experienced any strange or unusual phenomenon? Yes, I have.
Yes. And I've known other people that have, too.
strange usually means things that folks don't understand,
right? So you can go to the middle of a field and take a box
with you and get music out of that box.
You don't see
the jazz player or the bass player. You can change the
channel and get hip hop. And that's called a radio. Now if
you didn't understand what radio waves were, you would go,
okay, in this physical plane or in this dimension, I don't
get how this works. Do you know what I mean?
really understand, really, truth be told, how an airplane
works. But I get in there. I get in the big metal tube with
everybody else who seems to believe and somehow we land
There are things we don't understand.
Water can be in a solid, a liquid or a gas, do you know what
I mean, the use of energy. That we know that this phone I'm
talking to you right now is not solid. It's actually
particles vibrating very close together. So it's held
together by energy and information.
Now once you
understand the keys to that energy and information, you
realize that we're all semipermeable membranes.
of the fun of this was going around and going through sort
of, you know, the history of Americana and saying what
superstitions, what belief systems, what sort of cultural
nuances and idiosyncrasies can we play with?
do we do that with each episode and play with it? What do we
do when someone gets lost in the mirror world? What do you
do when someone gets caught in a clock in a time warp? And,
you know, what's the concept of the time?
time, they're telling me I don't have much time left to talk
on the phone. So I've experienced some of this. I won't go
into too much personal detail. But, yes, I've definitely
experienced it. I'm not talking about just taking airplanes.
I've experienced, you know, something that happened with
sort of a past life regression that I went into. I didn't
believe it. But, man, when I saw it, I said, oh, yes, this
is very familiar and I donít want to go back to that
I've had that happen with my kids where we
went to do things together and someone did a reading for us
and it was very, very illuminating. And it really actually
helped me be a better parent.
But I'm a weird guy in
that I'm personally okay with saying, I don't know. I don't
really know what happens when we die. I'll find out. And I
look forward to finding out. I don't want to find out too
I want to enjoy what I'm doing right now. But I
look forward to finding out. I don't really know which
belief system is always the best. I suppose the one that
makes us kind is probably a good place to start. So there's
a lot of things.
We have one superstition about
people reading the grinds in a coffee cup. It was written in
there. We Googled it. We talked about it, discussed it. My
cameraman came over and said how did you guys know? I said
what do you mean?
He said, this has happened to me
twice. I had a woman read the grinds in my coffee cup and
predicted that I would have a child, predicted when,
predicted that I would shoot the sequel to my movie,
People can come at this game from all
kinds of places from Vedanta theory, from past life theory,
from religious aspects, from all kinds of places. There's a
lot out there that we human beings don't understand. And
that's part of the fun of playing in the area of
Ny MaGee: Right on. Thank you.
Mario Van Peebles: All right.
Operator: Our next
question comes from the line of Michael Pea with Friends of
CC. Please proceed with your question.
Peebles: Hey, Michael.
Michael Pea: Good afternoon,
Mr. Van Peebles. This is Michael Pea.
Peebles: Good talking to you, man.
Michael Pea: It
is. All right. A couple quick questions, I'm just trying to
- I see the first episode, too. So my questions are, well,
how many episodes are we going to have this season? And
what's the title of the first episode, the pilot episode?
And will we see - the story arc that started in this first
episode, will we see the finish of it by the time the season
Mario Van Peebles: Yes. Good question. There
are going to be 12 episodes. And we're filming them right
now. And I'm going to have to run back to set because I'm
directing, working on Episode 9 right now. And it's
exciting. Oh, man, it's just getting better and better.
But yes, you'll see some of the themes that started out
in Number 1 are weaved throughout the season and finish, or
culminate if you will, by Episode 12.
things that definitely pay off so, you know, that are like
building blocks that build one to another, which is kind of
exciting. So you sort of figure out your story, your
narrative to some degree in long form.
And then each
one has its own particular, you know, signature and, you
know, characters that they deal with in each episode that
are different but some that line up all the way. Now I can't
tell you too much more than that without giving stuff away.
So there's some exciting stuff coming up.
Pea: Okay. Thank you. And just real quick, just to let you
know, I remember when your father was on the cover of Ebony
Magazine so that tells you how old I am, okay?
Van Peebles: Wow. I'd love to get a copy of that. Cool. My
dad's great. My dad, you know, he's a little older now. He
says he stills jogs, though. He still runs. He says I still
run fast. It's just stuff goes by slower.
Our next question comes from the line of...
Peebles: Hey, Sylvia? Sylvia?
Sylvia Desrochers: Yes.
Mario Van Peebles: Sylvia.
Desrochers: Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Van Peebles: Yes. They're telling me I have to go back to
the set to film now.
Sylvia Desrochers: Okay. Well,
you gave us more time than we actually thought we would get
with you. So thank you so, so much. This is great.
Mario Van Peebles: But here's the thing, just so you all
know, I would be happy to do this if you guys want to pick
up tomorrow or whenever I could do - I love talking about
the show and they're asking me great questions. So I'm happy
to do that.
You know, if you want to reschedule
anyone who didn't get an answer to their questions or
whatever, I would hate to leave them hanging and I'm happy
to do that.
Sylvia Desrochers: Good to know. Thanks,
Mario Van Peebles: All righty. Thank you,
folks, for having me on. I'm sorry I got to rush. But,
please, if you want to talk to us more, let us know. And
we'll do it.
Sylvia Desrochers: Thank you, everyone,
for joining. Sorry we have to cut it off.
Peebles: Okay. Bye-bye.
Sylvia Desrochers: But
Mario's got to go back to work. And yes, get in touch with
me or (Haley) if you need any extra materials or anything.
Thanks so much.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that
does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you
for participation and ask that you please disconnect your
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