We sink our teeth into Netflix’s exciting “Castlevania” adaptation with their executive producer, Adi Shankar
Netflix has done a consistently impressive job at curating a programming slate that truly offers up something for everyone. The streaming service has established tentpole original programs which gave the service credibility. They’ve resurrected formerly cancelled shows and given them new life. Netflix has also shown a keen, savvy eye in identifying unique programs from foreign markets and bringing them Stateside and showing them a whole new audience in the process. Netflix’s latest series shows the platform extending their reach into the video game market with “Castlevania” being their first adaptation of a popular video game franchise.
Ever since the debut of the Castlevania games in 1986, Konami’s demon hunting action-adventure series has been a bona fide hit. Now the franchise has spawned over two dozen titles and is still one of the most beloved properties on the market. With Konami’s series making the exciting transition over to television, we had the luxury of talking with the Netflix series’ executive producer, Adi Shankar, about why Castlevania was ripe for adaptation, which is his favorite title from the series, and his mission to finally give video games successful adaptations.
CINEMA RUNNER: What is it about the Castlevania series that you thought was so fascinating and ripe for adaptation?
ADI SHANKAR: The mythology of Castlevania is just so deep and rich. It also spans a lot of time. These days, with movies, you see a lot of people trying to force franchises into existence. Nowadays before a movie even comes out you’ll see that they’ve already got like a million sequels planned. That can be frustrating to see at times when there are properties like Castlevania that actually have an expansive franchise built into it.
CINEMA RUNNER: Absolutely! That’s why there’s been over 20 Castlevania games at this point and they’re all spanning different centuries and looking at various Belmonts.
ADI SHANKAR: It’s what I love about it.
CINEMA RUNNER: You also have such a history of doing exciting things with really dark characters, whether it’s Venom, the Punisher, or Judge Dredd. Dracula and the Castlevania carry that same sort of tone.
ADI SHANKAR: Totally. More so than a hard-R Mega Man, for instance.
CINEMA RUNNER: Although I’d still love to see that.
ADI SHANKAR: I think I’ve chilled out a lot over the past few years and gotten rid of my mid-20s angst. These dark characters just appeal to me and this world felt like a bit of a progression of all of that.
CINEMA RUNNER: This adaptation of Castlevania seems to be pulling a lot from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Is that your favorite title from the series, or which are the big ones for you?
ADI SHANKAR: You know it’s kind of a cliché answer at this point, but it’s got to be Symphony of the Night!
CINEMA RUNNER: Of course!
ADI SHANKAR: But you’ve also got to look at things from the perspective that I’m 32, so I’m from that PS1 generation. I think that especially with games, what end up being people’s favorites are the titles that you were playing sort of before you had opinions of your own. But Symphony all the way!
CINEMA RUNNER: Was animation always the route that you wanted to go for this project?
ADI SHANKAR: Oh absolutely and not just animation, but animation in this style. Literally, what you’re seeing on screen is exactly what was intended to be done. I was approached about a live-action Castlevania back when the first Dredd movie came out, but this is the way to do it, in my opinion. As a fan of the franchise, the mythology, and video games in general, this is what I wanted to see.
CINEMA RUNNER: Talk a little about the casting process and how these actors came to occupy these roles?
ADI SHANKAR: Everyone auditioned and just brought it. It’s a weird thing with animation—I grew up outside of America, in Hong Kong, where there was adult animation on television. So it was weird to me when I came to America and was watching some anime and got made fun of. I was like, “Wow, this isn’t cool here?”
CINEMA RUNNER: Yeah, there was such a weird stigma towards it for a while—almost the same with comics—that thankfully is gone now.
ADI SHANKAR: As an outsider, I understand the hesitance to embrace. I mean animation goes against the whole idea of the star system being established to try and sell you a product, right? So I understand that there was an ecosystem in place that has been decimated, but what’s emerging from the rubble is people saying that they do like this stuff and there is a market for it. People are organically deciding what they want to see and what they like.
CINEMA RUNNER: Warren Ellis is such a wonderful writer. How did he come to be involved with this series?
ADI SHANKAR: What’s amazing about Warren Ellis is that he was one of my biggest influences. That’s what’s been so satisfying about all of this; getting to work with idols of mine like that. I have another project that’s been shot and finished that’d going to be released in a few months, and even that has someone that’s involved that’s such an icon for my generation. I’m so, so grateful. It’s what great about being an artist.
CINEMA RUNNER: Obviously the Castlevania video game itself is an influence on the TV show, but are there any other significant influences or sources of inspiration for what you’re doing in the series?
ADI SHANKAR: Oh absolutely, The Fast and the Furious franchise, no doubt. They just have so much character development, feature a great actor that doesn’t offer up any vulnerability, unbelievable stunts that don’t make any sense…No, I’m being totally facetious here. There’s none of those movies in “Castlevania”.
CINEMA RUNNER: Was there anything from out of the Castlevania games that you wanted to fit into the show but couldn’t figure out a way to work in?
ADI SHANKAR: Well, let’s remember that this is just season one. And not only has season two already been greenlit, but the episode order has been doubled to eight episodes. So the chapter definitely hasn’t fully closed on this story.
CINEMA RUNNER: On that note, why the decision to use a four-episode limited series approach for “Castlevania”? Was it a result of going the animation route, or did you just want to keep things shorter and more boiled down?
ADI SHANKAR: I’m genuinely not sure…The truth of the matter is that there was an easier way that this could have been done, even with animation. But this show is hand-drawn. They don’t do that anymore. Everything’s moved to CG. It’s gotten to the point that even when Kevin [Kolde] and I were having meetings with animation companies, the feedback that we kept getting was great, but there’s just not a lot of 2D animators left out there. It’s become an antiquated art form, which is so sad. I mean sure, Pixar and Dreamworks are dope, but that doesn’t mean that 2D stuff has to disappear. So we had to like set up the infrastructure to even do something like this.
CINEMA RUNNER: And I mean hand-drawn animation is so perfect for the gothic aesthetic of Castelvania. Something slicker would probably feel artificial to some extent.
ADI SHANKAR: I think so, too.
CINEMA RUNNER: After tackling something like Castlevania, are there any other video game series that you’re eager to adapt next? I saw that Assassin’s Creed is going to be next on your plate, which is super exciting, but what else do you have your eye on?
ADI SHANKAR: This isn’t a cop out, but there are just so many. That’s the honest truth. This is an entire genre that’s been either ignored or neglected for literally decades. You know, you’re going all the way back to Super Mario Bros. There just hasn’t been a good video game adaptation, period. And I’m not trying to diss the people from the past that have made these movies.
CINEMA RUNNER: No, of course, and none of these have been given the medium of a serialized television show, which is really needed to do a lot of these worlds justice.
ADI SHANKAR: Exactly. So there’s almost like an endless vault of possible titles. I’m thinking about this stuff all of the time though and only going to work on titles that I’m deeply passionate about and in love with. That’s just who I am.
CINEMA RUNNER: Do you have any sort of multi-season arc for this show or an idea of how long it might go on for? Is it two seasons and done, or is a much bigger story happening here?
ADI SHANKAR: You’re going to have to wait and see on that one.
CINEMA RUNNER: Lastly, what are you most excited for people to see in your adaptation of Castlevania?
ADI SHANKAR: I’m just excited for them to see it, period. It’s finally here. It’s weird even talking about it, like I’m waiting for someone to pinch me because the whole experience has been such a dream.
‘’Castlevania’s’’ entire first season premieres July 7th on Netflix
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