This week I got to talk to Danny Shepherd, the man behind the mask in the epic YouTube mini-series, Nightwing: The Series. Well, not literally talk to him, unfortunately. But we did have an amazing email conversation where I asked him a couple of questions, and he got back to me with some awesome answers! So any fans of NTS out there, check out the 'man-wonder's' (he's not a boy anymore!) answers down below!
Q1: How did the show (and your casting as Nightwing) come to be?
Back in 2012 I had just gotten out of film school and was just anted to make a superhero fan film with my friends. I’ve always wanted to play Nightwing so my best friend, Jeremy Le and I decided to make a short fan-film following him.
We wrote, shot, and edited it over the course of just a couple days and much to our surprise, it actually went kinda viral.
I could be wrong, because I'm pretty good at that, but I think the short fan-film that started it all was this one here:
Either way, its still an awesome short, and it really lets you see just how far Danny and the NTS crew have come, and how dedicated they are to the show.
Fans of the short continued to ask for more! So we turned to Kickstarter in order to make sure the production value of the series was substantially improved. It started out as just a couple of nerdy film kids making a fun video for YouTube, but it ended up turning into something much bigger.
Q2: Nightwing is (obviously) the focus of this web-series. Would you say that you relate to Nightwing in any way?
I absolutely relate to Nightwing on many different levels. That’s one of the reasons why he is one of my favorite comic book characters! I have an older brother and when we used to play as kids he always got to be Batman and I was always Robin. Out parents would buy him Batman toys and me the Robin toys, but between you and me… deep down I always wanted the Batman toys. I grew up kind of associating myself with Robin and my older brother as Batman. When Robin grew up and became Nightwing, I felt like I understood that change because I had grown up as well. It may sound corny or just plain stupid, but that’s the secret origin of how I became a Nightwing fan… Stockholm syndrome.
That's an awesome origin story! Really cool to see how Nightwing's feelings mirrored that of Danny's when he was little. I myself am the oldest sibling...so...so I guess I was Batman...still cool!
Q3: The show is heavily inspired by important DC Comics events like The Killing Joke and the Death of Jason Todd. If the show returns for a second season, are there any other historic events in DC history that you'd want to incorporate in the series?
If we end up doing more our team has expressed interest in fleshing out Jason Todd and Dick Graysons relationship. This is definitely our own universe where Nightwing takes point, so we will be sort of retelling one of our favorite stories, Under The hood (or Under The Red Hood) from Nightwings perspective.
'Under the Red Hood' is one of DC's greatest comic book events ever! It's mainly about Batman's grief over Jason's death, and his reaction when he finds out that not only is Jason alive, but he's an agressive anti-hero who kills, something that Batman is strictly against. It'd be great to see the story through Dick's eyes, as he too had a family-like relationship with Jason Todd.
Both were Batman's protege, and now they've both grown up and taken different paths. It'd be interesting to see these two "brothers" face-off.
Q4: In this series, we sort of get a look at the human side of Slade. Things like his origins and his troubled life make us sort of feel for him. Was it your intention to make us feel some sort of sympathy for this antagonistic character?
Absolutely. It was met with a mixed reaction, but we would do it again in a heartbeat. Slade is not an evil person, he’s a mercenary who’s dealt with some hardships in his life. I’m not a big fan of characters who are evil just to be evil. We wanted Slade to feel 100% justified in his actions and at his core he was a man trying to get back what he lost. And that’s another reason why we included the heart to heart with Nightwing at the end of the story. Slade isn't a bad guy!
I'm really glad they gave Deathstroke some validity for his actions. Deathstroke has always been the type of villain I've felt for. He's evil sure, but at least he has good reason. Being tested on in a military facility and being forced to carry out immoral missions would have me feeling pretty evil and anarchic too!
Q5: Here's a fun one: Besides Nightwing, who is your favorite superhero?
Bet you it's Melvin...
Batman. If you are asking me to pick someone outside of the bat family, then I’d say The Flash for DC and Spider-Man for Marvel. It’s so hard to choose though!
Oh I totally agree. I've so far narrowed it down to Deadpool, Spider-Man and Red Hood. I know 2/3's of that are technically anti-heroes but I don't care!
Q6: The show is mainly in the Batman/Nightwing area of the larger DC mythos. If the show returns for a season 2, would you like to see the show stay that way, or would you like to see characters from other parts of the DC universe, like say (and this is merely an example) Cyborg or the Teen Titans?
Possibly. We did set up our series to feel as though there is a bigger universe, we mentioned the Justice League, Superman, and some other cameos. But at it’s core it’s Nightwing: The Series, and we want it to focus on his story. If we put in a character or cameo they need to have a reason to be there, otherwise it gets cluttered and messy. So to answer your question… maybe :]
It'd be great to see more DC characters show up. But I agree that they need to have a reason to drop into Bludhaven. But hey, if Nightwing: The Series ever needs a Beast Boy...I mean ya know...I'm not....I'm not doing anything...
Final Question: What is it like for you, bringing such an emotionally complicated and emotionally driven character such as Dick Grayson to life?
Surreal. Even though NTS is a fan film we created, I feel very grateful that so many people were accepting and appreciate my performance as Dick Grayson. It means more to me than I could possibly convey! I love the character and if I get the chance to put myself in his boots again, I will do my best to be the Dick Grayson that all the Nightwing fans deserve!
It's true, Danny's performance as Nightwing is so well received, that fans of the show actually want DC to cast him in their DC Cinematic/TV Universe (myself included)! Here's hoping that NTS does indeed get a season 2! For now, it's unknown, but with the love that the first season has gotten, I wouldn't count out some more Nightwing adventures yet!
You can check out the entire Nightwing: The Series and Danny's other escapades by clicking here.