Jack Bannon hopes new 'Pennyworth' title, network attract more viewers

Jack Bannon can now be seen in Season 3 of "Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman's Butler." Photo courtesy of HBO Max
1 of 5 | Jack Bannon can now be seen in Season 3 of "Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman's Butler." Photo courtesy of HBO Max

NEW YORK, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- British actor Jack Bannon says he hopes a new crystal-clear title -- Pennyworth: The Origin of Batman's Butler -- and a high-profile streaming home -- HBO Max -- translate into more viewers for his Alfred Pennyworth origin story.

The first two seasons of the comic book-inspired, action-drama Pennyworth aired on EPIX.


The series followed the titular former British special forces soldier living in 1960s London and working for Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), a wealthy ex-CIA agent and the future father of Batman.

With showrunners Bruno Heller and John Stephens at the helm, the series got a new home and name change for Season 3. Fresh episodes premiere Thursday nights.

"It's a big thing for us. We are very excited about it," Bannon recently told UPI about the network move at New York Comic Con.

"I took it as an accolade for the work that we had done in the previous two seasons. In terms of production, there wasn't a huge difference," he added.


"There were bigger sets, a few more things like that, but essentially our job is the same. I did notice Week 1, everyone was like, 'Right, we've gotta pull our socks up and do a great job,' even more so than usual, perhaps."

Bannon said there were times when he had to explain to people what the show was about because its previous title wasn't obvious to those outside the circles of die-hard DC Comics fans.

"Bruno's got this whole story about how HBO Max did some research and found out nobody knew what it was about, which is probably half true," the actor quipped. "Clarity is a good thing in the world. We've got a new title, a new network, a new season and renewed vigor."

Season 3 opens several years after the events of Season 2.

"A time jump is always exciting," Bannon said. "The 1960s were cool, the '70s even cooler, in a sense. I love all the fashion and the cars and the music and stuff like that, and just to be immersed in this psychedelic, colorful world."

The actor teased what is to come in Season 3, careful not to spoil any of its big secrets.


"We visit Gotham. There is an early version of Clayface. V for Vendetta is in there. But I shall remain tight-lipped," he said.

Alfred and Thomas are a bit older and wiser this time around.

"Thomas is going through the fatherhood thing," Bannon said, referring to his daughter, Samantha, a new character in the Batman mythology.

"But Alfred certainly has the guardianship [to keep him busy]. Looking after Daveboy (Ryan Fletcher) is a full-time job for him, keeping him alive," he added. "You definitely start seeing the relationship with his mom (Dorothy Atkinson) progress. Obviously, he is an adult living at home, looking after her."

As the series moves on, the characters will start looking and acting more like the ones depicted in comic books, movies and TV shows.

In most traditional tellings of the Batman tale, Thomas and his wife Martha are murdered in Gotham City, leaving their young son, Bruce, to be raised by Alfred and eventually shaped into the legendary Caped Crusader.

"It's always funny doing an origin story because you know where you end up, but it's about the journey," Bannon said.

"John Stephens used a term earlier about 'zigzagging.' You kind of get closer to Batman and Bruce Wayne and then you zigzag away from them," he said.


"Toward the middle of this season, you see Alfred using a grappling gun and it's sort of like the genesis of Batman and you think, 'Oh, that's cool!' But then it zigzags over there and goes completely bonkers, so it will be a wild ride for sure."

To prepare for the role, Bannon said he studied the work of Michael Caine, the actor who played Alfred in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

"I think he was the one who said, 'I'll play a butler as long as he is ex-SAS,' so he gave us that backstory," Bannon said. "He also was the archetypal film star of the '60s and London, so for me that was a no-brainer."

Alfred's love life remains complicated in Season 3.

"He's a man who suffered a lot of trauma in the show with Esme (Emma Corrin) and, before that, in the SAS, so I think his coldness or apprehension to get involved too deeply with somebody comes from that," Bannon said.

"He's got things going on. There's people on the scene, as there always is and we see that pretty much right at the start -- there's quite a funny scene with Mum."


Bannon said he admires Alfred's willingness to risk his life to protect others, as well as his loyalty and devotion to his friends and family. He thinks these are the qualities that make Alfred such a compelling character to play and watch.

"He's an all-action kind of bloke, but there's vulnerability behind him and for me the human side, his vocational calling to help people is so strong and he's a nice guy, generally," the actor said.

"Quite often, I'm like, 'I need to be a bit more Alfred in my life, in some respects.' But I think there's darkness within him, which feeds into the darkness of Bruce later on. There's lots going on."

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