With the series premiering on Disney+ on Wednesday, March 30th, Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the Moon Knight cast and crew. From the accent to the villain, read on to learn what the Moon Knight cast and crew told us.
The series follows Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a mild-mannered gift-shop employee who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector.
As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.
Mohamed Diab and the team of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead directed the episodes. Jeremy Slater is the head writer, and Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum, Diab, Jeremy Slater and Isaac are the executive producers. Grant Curtis, Trevor Waterson and Rebecca Kirsch serve as co-executive producers.
Grant Curtis, executive producer said of the series, said: “I think ‘Moon Knight’ in particular has been on Kevin Feige’s radar from day one. I mean, you look at his history, first appeared in ‘Werewolf by Night’ in 1975. Then, he kind of bounced around in the Marvel Universe for the next five years, and he got his own offering in 1980.
“And when you look at years and decades of storytelling, as the great storytellers and artists on the ‘Moon Knight’ pages have been doing, I think this was a natural progression, a merger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I think it was just like this was the perfect time. When you look at Disney+ and needing a broader canvas to tell this incredible story, March 30th, the audience will see it, and this was the perfect time to drop into the universe.”
Oscar Isaac added, “I think the story is so point of view. It means that you’re just in the skin of this guy, and you’re seeing things happen. You’re experiencing it just as he’s experiencing it. So there’s something that’s terrifying about that. I think Steven, in particular, there’s a sense of humor there that is different from what we’ve seen. I think Marvel in particular have done such an amazing job at combining action and comedy in such a great way.
“And I thought with Steven, there was a chance to do a different type of comedy than we’ve seen of somebody that doesn’t know they’re funny, doesn’t know they’re being funny. And so that was really exciting. And then to find the counterpoint of that with Marc, in some ways leaning into a bit of the stereotype of the tortured, dark vigilante guy, but what makes him so special is that he has this little Englishman living inside of him.”
May Calamawy‘s character, Layla, is one of the highlights of the four episodes we’ve seen so far. She said, “I love how strong she is. But at the same time, I felt like I got to play the full gamut of a woman with her because she’s strong and she’s for the people and fights for what she believes, but she’s also really vulnerable and scared. So that was fun for me.”
Ethan Hawke plays the villain Arthur Howard and explained, “Well, the history of movies are paved with storytellers using mental illness as a building block for the villain. I mean, there’s countless stories of mentally-ill villains, and we have a mentally ill hero. And that’s fascinating because we’ve now inverted the whole process. And so now as the antagonist, I can’t be crazy because the hero’s crazy. So I have to kind of find a sane lunatic or a sane malevolent force.
“And that was an interesting riddle for me to figure out how to be in dynamics with what Oscar was doing. And Mohamed was really embracing his mental illness as a way to create an unreliable narrator. And once you’ve broken the prism of reality, everything that the audience is seeing is from a skewed point of view.
“And that’s really interesting for the villain because am I even being seen as I am? And it’s also… I think that was our riddle, and we came up with somebody who was trying to save the world. And in his mind, he’s Saint Harrow, you know? I mean, he thinks he’s gonna be part of the great solution.”
Mohamed Diab, director and executive producer, talked about how he got involved in the series, “I come from a background that is very independent, small films, usually from the Middle East. I remember the first call between me and Oscar, and he told me, ‘Mohamed, what the hell are you doing here?’ He called me privately. No, but Oscar was smart. He just wanted — why? Why am I here? And I remember telling him something about making intimate stories not exclusive to budget. And I think Marvel was onto something.
“I had other offers before to make big-budget movies, but I never connected to anything like this, intimate stories that has some big stuff happening around them. So just imagine that line. You as a normal person discovering that you have another identity that is a superhero. So that’s what’s — I was drawn right away. And I never want to forget Jeremy Slater for creating such a great concept on how to tackle the story, such a great tackle.
“And the other aspect that really attracted me was the Egyptian part of it, the present and the past, the Egyptology of it. As an Egyptian, we always see us depicted or the Middle East depicted in a way that is – we call it orientalism, when you see us as exotic and dehumanized.
“Just showing us as a human, just normal human beings, through Layla’s character and seeing even Egypt as Egypt because 90 percent of the time, Egypt is not Egypt. Imagine Paris and you’re seeing Big Ben in the background. That’s how we see our country. So it’s funny, but it hurts. So that’s really what attracted me.
“And I wish there was more rows here for — we had 1000 people working with us, literally almost 1000. And the most important one missing for me was Sarah, my wife, who’s a producer on the show and even was a partner with me in the pitch getting the show. I loved — I’m so lucky. I think it’s gonna be hard for all of us to find a better team and a better shepherd.”
Director Justin Benson said, “In the roughly 50 years of comic books this character is somewhat defined by being bold and being an outsider. And there was something attractive about telling a superhero story like that, but then also working with a bunch of people who were so clearly going to make it something personal to them and then finding what’s personal in this at such a large scale.
He added: “And then especially these three, finding this deep humanity of humor and pain and everything else in what you might call the great mythology of our time.”
Director Aaron Moorhead said, “Although, it’s true, actually, because we’ve been trying to make sure that all of our independent films, they’re based on a new mythology. It’s something that’s come up whole cloth. And you kind of think, oh, where are the new stories coming from? And weirdly enough, I mean, our great, modern myths are Marvel movies right now.
“The Great American Myth right now comes from Marvel. And a lot of other places, but it is really cool to actually be a part of that and telling a story that’s actually about these ancient myths and things that we all grew up on. And also, just the fact that that tonally somehow dovetails with all of our independent work is really, really cool. We probably would have said yes to anything. But it happened to be something that was just like what we do, you know? So very cool.”
Isaac said his brother, Michael Hernandez, worked as the other version of Moon Knight. He said, “That’s the closest thing to me there is on Earth. So he came in and he would play either Steven or Marc, even do the accent and everything, both accents. So that was really helpful to have someone that’s not only a great actor but also shares my DNA to play off of. But that was something that I didn’t anticipate was how technically demanding that was going to be of having to show up and decide which character I was going to play first.
“And then try to block that out, give my brother notes, and then do the scene, and then switch characters, and then figure it out. Because one of the fun — I think maybe if not the most fun thing about acting is acting opposite somebody and letting something spontaneous happen that you didn’t expect. But there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that and still having to try to find what makes it feel spontaneous and not all planned out. So that was challenging.”
Isaac has to do more than one accent. He said, “I don’t know, it was set in London. And when I asked why it was like the answer was we just have too many characters in New York. So it seems like let’s just change it up. Let’s make him an expat in London. And so I was like, okay. But then it felt like there was — I mean, I love English humor, like ‘The Office’…
“‘Stath Lets Flats.’ And there’s just so much of that humor that I just find so funny, and I thought there’s an opportunity here to maybe make something. What if we make him English? What if Peter Sellers was approached with a Marvel project, what would he do? And so I started thinking about that, and that led me to Karl Pilkington from ‘An Idiot Abroad.’ And not so much for the accent but just for his sense of humor where he doesn’t know — you know, you can’t tell if he knows he’s being funny.
“And then, I thought about the Jewish community in London and where a lot of that community is from and Enfield as an area and sort of listening to accents that are northeast London. And then just committed to that and found this guy that it wasn’t just about accent, but it was also about his timidness but also wanting to connect with people but not quite knowing how. So yeah, Russell Kane was another — is a comedian that I listened to, as well.”
Hawke spoke about a day that really stuck out for him, saying, “There’s one that jumps to mind, getting to be on the deserts in Jordan and literally being on location where they shot ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ And one of the things that surprised me about the Marvel Universe is that it’s kind of fun acting in front of a lot of green screens.
“I come from a theatre training. I enjoyed all that, pretending something was there, pretending you’re on top of a pyramid. But then when you’re really in the desert, it’s so beautiful and you feel — I don’t know, I felt some kind of connection to the cinema history of the desert.
He added: “And the people there in Jordan treated us so well, and it elevated our collective imagination, I think, and it broadened the scope of the show. So I loved being there.”
What do you think of what we learned from the Moon Knight cast and crew? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @vitalthrillscom.