Luke Tennie Talks DEADLY CLASS, SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE, Harry Osborne, and More
I was recently lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to Luke Tennie about Deadly Class, his role as Willie, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and more. Check out the full interview below and see Tennie on Deadly Class Wednesday nights at 10 ET on SYFY.
T: You’re currently in Deadly Class and you play Willie.
L: Yes sir.
T: Real quick, can you just describe, who is Willie in a nutshell?
L: So, Willie Lewis is a young man who has come up from the streets of California. His parents ran a gang called the Final World Order. He is now the prince leader of this gang, assumed responsibility for leading these people, and he is a young man who goes to school at King’s Dominion which is an affiliate of the deadly arts, meaning they’re trained to be assassins, and he is a hotshot, he’s a big dude, a mad dude. You don’t want to mess with him; he will mess you up. The only catch is, if you get to know him as Marcus has, he hates violence. And that is a tough thing to deal with at a school where you need to be violent to pass a class.
T: Yeah, I can only imagine how hard that would be in real life. What’s your favorite part about being Willie?
L: One thing I really love about Willie is the way he speaks. It was pretty interesting, the audition process. When I went in, I just did what I thought would work. I didn’t know where the character was from, I had no idea what Deadly Class was, I didn’t know who the other guy in the car was. What we did was the scene from the pilot, that was my audition, and I didn’t know who Marcus was, I just kind of look at him like “OK, well this look like Training Day, I’m going to give it my best Denzel.” You know, so I tried my best, and it seemed to work for the writers. They thought that my best was enough, so when they called me back I got to read the pilot and I figured out this guy was the exact opposite of the stereotype and that made me excited too. But I was kind of questioning whether or not the way he speaks would be good, if what I was bringing was good for the character. I mean they told me that they liked it, so I refined it, really tried to make it something different, and it’s just fun. It’s almost like Shakespearean sometimes. He really likes comics, so it can be dramatic sometimes and just the way he speaks, the rasp, the vernacular, the swag, it’s really fun for me to play with.
T: Yeah, I can tell that he looks like a fun character to be.
L: Yeah, putting on those shoes, putting on the suit, the chains, like, you just, you become a part of that façade. It’s a lot of fun. But, the other fun parts are when you get to play the parts of Willie that are really genuine and sincere. That’s fun too because honesty’s a big part of my life, so playing a guy who is lying to survive is a lot of fun to figure out what’s different between he and I. And, sometimes what’s the same.
T: Yeah. So, you mentioned you had no idea what Deadly Class was going in, but after being cast as Willie, did you go back and ever read any of the comics?
L: Yes sir. When I got cast, the writer was kind enough to send me this link with all of the comics that he had released at that time. And I read through them all in about two days.
T: Oh wow!
L: Just blew through those. Because they were fantastic. Then before we shot the pilot, I read them again. Before we shot the series, I read them again. And then I’ve read them again since then, too. Not just because, you know character research and actor stuff. No, it’s good. It’s a good piece of work. Sometimes you go back because something’s iconic and cool and for that reason alone.
T: That’s amazing.
Good book man. I like it.
T: I clearly have to go pick it up.
L: Yeah, I would recommend if you do like any sort of comic, this one is so much fun because while it’s told from the character’s perspective, Marcus, there are so many characters in the foreground who just really have such a lasting impression on his life. So, he’s always journaling, reading the comic is a voice, it’s your voice, you’re the voice of Marcus, but everything is coloring this perspective. Willie’s character, Sia’s character, Billy’s character, Maria’s character, Chico’s character, all just puts pressure on him. It’s really cataclysmic. So much fun.
T: Speaking of characters, outside of Willie because you know, you’re going to be biased, do you have a favorite character?
L: Well I will say this, Billy is definitely one of my favorite characters to watch. He is somebody who, he just breaks my heart. He’s got such a good heart when it comes to using comedy to lighten the mood; he uses comedy to escape. He just…I wish that I could have a trait like that in my life. For me it’s just dad jokes, but Billy’s actually funny.
T: There’s nothing wrong with a good dad joke.
L: You got that right.
T: So, Deadly Class takes place in the 80s. Did you grow up in the 80s, or did people have to teach you about the 80s?
L: So, I’m 24. I grew up in the late 90s, early 2000s. I grew up around that type of music, that kind of environment, that kind of style. But, when it comes to the 80s, it’s always fascinated me because a lot of people who did grow up in the 80s comment on our show and think, “oh it was really like that.” I take that as a compliment of course, but I look at our makeup team, wardrobe, all the stuff that we didn’t do. All the stuff that we just got on, and I’m grateful that people feel that way, but then they go even further as to say the characters, the way they communicate is all 80s, it’s so 80s. And I think, “OK, maybe the case is we’re not that different now than we were in the 80s.” I think maybe people are just people and that’s something I learned in school too. When we’re training, learning Shakespeare, learning how to shape our vowels, or do all the words that have all that sound. When we’re training to do that, we’re learning that these characters are still people, and I think that’s the thing. Maybe we don’t speak that differently, we don’t communicate that differently than we did in the 80s.
T: That’s definitely an interesting perspective there.
L: Oh, thank you.
T: I think 80s and I think all the terrible fashion choices that people have made.
L: The big hair…the hair was so big.
T: Big hair, lots of jeans.
L: So much denim.
T: Jeans, jean jackets.
L: Denim overdose.
T: I was taking a look and according to the great internet, it looks like you haven’t been in too many projects, but it looks like you have been in a movie or two, and you’re in Deadly Class now. What’s one of the big differences to you between working on a movie and working on a TV show?
L: Great question. So, the first film I did was called Shock and Awe and that’s Bob Reiner. That was dope. That guy directed A Few Good Men, Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, he’s great. He’s awesome. I learned a lot on that set, but what’s so cool is, it’s a film. It’s one project that’s seen on both ends. There’s a start, there’s a finish, just very refined and it’s there and you go and do the thing. On TV, you can be working on one episode and have one perspective about your character and you don’t have the script for the next episode yet. You don’t know what’s going on. You have to wait, you have to be open to change, you have to be receptive, so when I was working on Deadly Class, as the scripts were coming out it was like I was an audience member waiting for Wednesday night at 10/9 Central. It was the same. We had to wait to see what happened, and then the cool thing was we got to talk with the writers about where we saw our characters and how that would affect our performance, things like that. But the main difference actually between TV and film is change and knowledge. You just know less on TV because if you’re shooting episode 3, I can guarantee you don’t know what’s going on episode 9. The writers are trying to crank out episode 4.
T: Is there a role that you sit there and go, “I want to do that role?” Maybe it’s a Marvel movie or a DC film that you’re like, “aw man I really want this.” Maybe Nova or Green Lantern.
L: Good question man. Funny enough, when I was much younger I wanted to play Luke Cage. My name’s Luke. Large African-American male. I was like, “yeah, sign me up for that!” Then I saw Mike Coulter and I was like, “woah, let me step back because that man’s awesome.” I wanted to play Cyborg. The guy who played Cyborg actually went to my college. I got to meet him, and he’s fantastic. So, the line is running a little thin, but until recently I realized there’s a character out there that I so badly want to play, and that’s Harry Osborne.
L: Really. I have always really liked that character. Whether it’s on TV, cartoons, film, I just really love this idea of this prince of industry. Oscorp. And he’s best friends with this guy who just so happens to be brilliant, but there’s something that brews between them. A resentment, an animosity. And also, I kind of like the idea of a villain being a big guy instead of these cool parkour guys and all that stuff. That’s awesome. I wish I could do that. It also would be cool to have a large, teenage kid who maybe could take a couple hits, and maybe isn’t that pretty with combat. He’s just strong. He’s really strong or something. But I love the character Harry, it’s something that I would love to play.
T: Well they haven’t brought him in to the MCU yet, maybe you still have a chance.
L: You got that right. And they like to change the color with everything, so I’m cool with that. We can make Harry chocolate.
T: I have no qualms about that.
L: Yeah, colors of the rainbow are everywhere. Spider-Man: Homecoming was beautiful. There were reds, blues, browns, and it was really cool. I feel that if there’s enough opportunity, we’ll see.
T: Are there any other projects that you’re working on or shooting for right now, outside of Deadly Class?
L: I’ve got nothing I’m attached to, but I did just finish a screenplay with my friend. He was very passionate about it when he brought me the idea. The way I explain it is 55% his, 45% mine and we really love it. We just finished it. We just copyrighted it. We worked really hard on it. It’s a cool idea, and I don’t know, maybe it’ll come out in the next 2-3 years. We got a lot of work to do on it. As far as I’m concerned, Deadly Class is a blessing, but I’m still a nobody. So I gotta kick down a lot of doors to see if we can get the ball rolling, but that’s my big thing right now. That screenplay I’m working on; I’m excited to do that.
T: That sounds very ambitious and very awesome. I wish you the best of luck with that.
L: Thank you.
T: So far, I love you as Willie. Me and my wife are constantly talking about doing fan casting as we look at new projects coming out and we’re always looking for smaller people to choose from. Right now, seeing what you’re doing with Willie, and now I want to go back and watch Shock and Awe, and we’re kind of sick of big names. Let’s bring in some of these smaller people.
L: Yeah man. We’re trying to get up there. Hollywood’s going through a purge right now, so it’s really cool that the young people are stepping up, and I think that’s important. And that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this screenplay with my friend. It’s not just, “Oh we want to make a movie.” We want to break down doors. Our goal with this film is to cast the people we know. To work together with other young, upcoming actors who are talented but don’t have a way in. That’s what we want to do. Since I’ve been blessed to have a little bit more of a name working on this awesome show, I want to take that momentum and put it into something where more people can get in the room.
T: Well I definitely support that.
L: Thank you.
T: After a day of shooting Deadly Class, what do you do to just relax and have fun?
L: Ben [Wadsworth] was my roommate. The guy who plays Marcus, we roomed together in Vancouver when we shot. We had this awesome apartment, it was great, and Ben had a PS4. We would just play Spider-Man. That new Spider-Man game came out and we just played it all the live-long day. We played Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Rocket League, listen to Twenty-One Pilots
T: I love Rocket League.
L: Rocket League’s dope. I’m not good at it, but it’s dope. But yeah, we would just sit around and watch videos and play video games. It was awesome.
T: That’s great. Is there anything you’re playing right now?
L: Actually, when I got paid I knew the first game I was going to get. On the car ride back from the airport, after four months in Vancouver, I took out my phone, went onto Amazon, I bought a Nintendo Switch and Super Smash Bros. I play it nearly every day.
T: Fantastic choice.
L: Thank you. I agree. It’s a good game man. I think it’s one of the best of all time.
T: It is a fantastic game. My only problem with it is the way that they do online, but outside of that I absolutely love that game. Who’s your main in Smash Bros.?
L: I have a couple now. I just started getting good with Mewtwo. From Melee, I’ve always been good with Roy, but I think someone who I’m just kind of consistently good with now is Captain Falcon and Ridley. He’s a dragon! He’s awesome.
T: I absolutely love Roy. Have you tried Piranha Plant yet?
L: No, I haven’t gotten the DLC.
T: You gotta do that man.
L: Yeah, I gotta do that. My wi-fi has been down since it’s been raining, so the storm has knocked down the signal. So now that it’s back up I need to download that Piranha Plant.
T: Piranha Plant is a lot more fun than you would think.
L: Cool cool cool.
T: Going back to Deadly Class, do you have a favorite episode of the show?
L: The next one.
T: The next one?
L: Yes, sir. Episode 5.
T: That should be “Saudade”?
L: That is correct. Just thinking about it.
T: I’m excited for when that happens.
L: Me too man. I haven’t seen it.
T: Do you go back after they’re filmed, and do you get to actually watch it?
L: It just depends because sometimes it depends where you’re at. When I watched episode 3, I was in New York doing press and Rick Remender just let us all know he was going to show it, so he showed us a rough cut. He showed us what he was working on and that’s kind of how you see it, but everyone’s working in their own way so sometimes you can catch it and sometimes you can’t. But I just love that I’m seeing the first episode that I haven’t seen a rough cut of and I’m flipping out. Episode 5. That’s the one I can’t wait to see how it’s turned out. Everybody worked really hard on it.
T: Now you got me excited.
L: Good man. Six days! That’s all we’ve got to wait.
T: Just six more days.
L: Just six more days. Just six.
T: I don’t know that I can wait six days Luke.
L: One of the only reasons I can wait is that I’ve seen a little bit, some rough sketches of what was going on. You just gotta be patient and you’ll see what it is. It’s really cool man. Like everybody worked hard. Every department. Costumes, hair, makeup, actors, director, oh my goodness. The writers worked so hard on bringing everything to life. Wes Craig’s work from the comic really comes to life int his particular episode. It is, dare I say, trippy.
T: Trippy, huh?
T: I’m going to hold you to that one.
L: Yup. Trippy.
T: If I watch it and it’s not trippy, I’m going to blame you Luke.
L: Oh, it will be trippy.
T: Is there someone in the cast or crew that is your favorite person to work with on Deadly Class?
L: I know that I’ve worked with Ben the most. I’ve worked with Mich the least. I loved working with Lana. I barely worked with Liam. No, I don’t have a favorite, but I’ll tell you that one of my favorite experiences was working with Ben on the scene in episode two at the party. Willie’s flashback. He just brought so much different stuff that Willie recounting what happened to him as a kid didn’t seem like that. It seemed like something that Marcus forced out of him because Ben just shows up to work ready to go. That was one of my favorite moments of shooting the season. He made it easy for me. He was open and receptive and challenging and moments like that are great. But I’ve worked with him the most so we really built a relationship how we communicate around the scene, about the scene, and while we’re doing it. A lot of good memories, but that one right there was a good one. That’s specifically a good one.
T: That was great to watch, that moment. I watched that one recently and was like, “wow that was really awesome.”
Thanks, I had help.
T: Well thank you so much Luke.
L: Thank you.