WonderCon: Shooting the S***t With the Cast of Human Target

There’s a good chance you’re not watching Human Target; ratings for the freshman series aren’t strong enough to ensure a second season. Which is a real pity, because the comic book-inspired action show boasts intense fight sequences, a talented cast, and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. Before the Human Target panel at WonderCon this weekend, we caught up with actors Mark Valley and Jackie Earle Haley and show creator Jon Steinberg to discuss the first (but hopefully not last) season of the show.

On Adapting the Comic Book
Christopher Chance is the Human Target—and that’s where the comparisons end. Okay, not really, but Fox's adaptation of the DC comic series is loose. “Out of the gate, some big choices were made from an adaptation standpoint,” Haley explained. For one thing, TV Chance doesn’t completely change his appearance in each episode. While that was an important feature of the comic, the Human Target creative team agreed it wouldn’t work on a series. “I hope the comic guys don’t slam me for this,” Haley said. “Even though it was in the comic, I didn’t want our lead guy changing his face every week.”

Valley has a slightly different perspective. “I’d have a few more days off if they did it that way,” he joked. But he agreed with the choice from the beginning, as did original Human Target creator Len Wein. “Realistically, it’s gonna take an awful lot of work to get somebody to look just like somebody else, and I don’t really know if that’s technologically possible,” Valley noted. “We wanted to keep at least one foot in reality.” And when you’re already suspending disbelief for big ‘80s style action sequences, that’s an important concession to make.

On Casting and Developing the Characters
“We got super lucky across the board,” Steinberg said of the show’s high-profile cast. Valley and supporting actor Chi McBride are both well known to TV audiences—Valley for his work on Days of Our Lives and Boston Legal, and McBride for Pushing Daisies. “It’s become sort of fashionable for an action hero to be very dour, very severe, tortured to the extent that it’s no fun to be around them anymore,” Steinberg said. “Mark is the opposite of all those things.”

Creating and developing the characters was a joint process between the writers and actors. Steinberg admitted that McBride’s Winston “wasn’t written to be quite as funny as Chi has made it. I don’t know that the show would work without him. I don’t know that it would have found its tone as quickly.” As for Haley’s Guerrero, he’s a constantly developing mystery, even to the actor: “There’s still questions that float out there,” Haley said. “For me, it’s kind of a fragmented process of possibilities that comes more and more into focus as we go.”

On the Improving Quality of TV
An Academy Award-nominated actor, Haley received acclaim for his unsettling performances in Little Children and Watchmen. He’ll soon be seen as the new Freddy Krueger in the much-anticipated A Nightmare on Elm Street remake. But he’s just as happy to be on TV. “Watching the quality of this show really stoked me,” he gushed. “I was super excited and proud to be a part of it.” I’m inclined to agree with Haley’s suggestions that “TV itself just seems like it’s gotten better over the years.” At the very least, it’s become more cinematic: Human Target is especially movie-esque, offering a mini-action flick every week. “I love Jon [Steinberg] and I love his writing staff,” Haley continued. “God, they’re a clever, bad-ass group.”

On The Show's Unanswered Questions
OK, it’s not as bad as Lost, but Human Target serves up plenty of questions that it's not inclined to answer right away. That’s no problem for Haley, who said, “I like that in entertainment. I think it’s neat to kind of hold some back. I don’t want to learn too much about Guerrero too quick, because that’s what makes it interesting.” The first season finale does offer some answers (see below), but it raises just as many questions. There’s a fine line, as Steinberg explained: “In terms of building a show with some legs to it,” he said, “it’s a really difficult balancing act to balance just enough mythology, so the people who are watching your show every week feel like you’re going somewhere, but not so much that the mythology eats the show.” But seriously, can we talk about the matching tattoos?

On the Upcoming Season Finale
Minor spoiler alert: There’s a Chance-Guerrero fight scene. “It was neat to get in there and get to mix it up a little bit,” Haley reflected. But the episode is more about building mythology—you know, the stuff that Steinberg doesn’t want too much of. In a finale, however, it’s an important component, and the Human Target finale has plenty of resolution for consistent fans. “Anything can be paid off later,” Valley teased. “You think that there’s this limited number of things that one clue can lead to, but there’s numerous ways to weave it into the story.”

Haley is pleased with the episode, although he admitted that his judgment was based solely on the script because he hasn’t seen the finished product yet. “I just thought it was such a satisfying last episode,” he said. “We’ve always been eking out a little bit of a mythology of who we are and who Chance is and how we’re all kind of related and connected.” Again, don’t expect everything to be answered, in part because no one has all the answers yet. As Valley noted, “It’s really interesting the way a TV show evolves, because it does evolve. Nobody has all the scripts written out.” I guess that means we’ll need a second season.

Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom

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