Mario Van Peebles is probably one of the most underrated black directors out here. We've tackled a couple of his films on our show and have enjoyed every minute of it. Whether its his famous well known movie, New Jack City or his Western opus, Posse, Peebles has been around the block and has kept himself very busy behind the camera over the years. So imagine my surprise when we found out he has a show picked up by SyFy called 'Superstition' thats structured around a black family thats in the business of slaying demons and dealing with other occult shenanigans. We watched the first episode and it definitely sets the tone for how great this series will be. Mario was able to sit down with us and give us an overview of the show and what to expect.
Balancing the duties of acting and directing
Mario: I think when you grow up with Melvin Van Peebles, my dad, you know, and you're an independent filmmaker, you learn as a kid to take care of the cables, to be a PA, to be an editor, to do all those things. And it's all part of the Zen of, you know, independent filmmaking in that you kind of need to know it all. And I didn't really realize until later on as an adult that those were sort of carved up into different sections because it was all part of the family filmmaking thing.
So I guess I grew up with it and it feels very organic to me. And I think sometimes as a filmmaker/director, I mean, as an actor/director, it's easier to actually direct other actors because you kind of give them what you want to get. So you create a climate where they can do their best work and you sort of, you know, you have a different bedside manner if you're not only a doctor but you're also a patient. So I think it allows me to talk with them, you know, and speak the language and really get in there and mix it up.
On his daughter joining up on the show
Mario: Oh, I'm glad. She's a smart cookie. She's at Columbia. She's taking a semester off to do the show. And, you know, she's old enough to get her own place. And I said, honey, you've got money. You don't have to live with dad. And she said, nope, I want to live with you dad. And so we've been playing house. And she's vegan. And she's trying to keep me healthy. So we have our little vegetarian meals and we work out together at the gym. And it's been fun. It's been bring your daughter to work week for a couple of months and it's great.
The Challenge of not falling into tropes for the characters
Mario: I think, you know, part of it is drawing on life experiences that we have. You know, in the writer's room, a lot of the writers brought, you know, experiences they had. And all of our experiences vary. So, I think, finding that line between where something can be entertaining is a concept, and, you know, where it's real. And I think one of the ways that we avoid it is by really by having great actors that bring that to the role that, you know, that there are fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. And here's the other thing, you know, and they're not doing stupid things. So sometimes in horror movies people do stuff you would never do. If we get to the page, and go, man, my character would never go back in that haunted house looking for the kitten. He'd be, like, I'll come back tomorrow. So we try to read it that way with the bullshit meter and go, man, I would not do this. You know what I mean? We have it so that each character is 360 and is multidimensional. And that's part of the fun of it. And that's part of the challenge.
On what he looked for when casting for the show
Mario: What I wanted was a cast that felt smart. That felt like people that you'd want to have a drink with and that at the core felt like people that you would laugh and hug and that are in essence positive and happy to be who they are. So what do I mean by that? There are certain people that you feel from them that they enjoy being themselves. And I wanted a family that one, you believed was a family that could overcome issues that families often face. But at the core of the show it's like life for me. I wanted the family to feel like they were multicultural. That within the dynamic of our American family, you know, you could feel that, you know, at times my wife could be, you know, more the Michelle Obama mode. But at night, you know, when she's got to get into her full set of, you know, mystic side, other things come out and other sides come out.
So I wanted people who had a duality. People who were multicultural. People who could speak other languages. People who could laugh at self. And people who were bilingual. And I don't just mean bilingual in terms of language, but even bilingual in terms of socio-economic divide. That they could talk to the brother or sister in the street or the brother and sister in the trailer park. But they could also talk to someone at the White House, kind of like that Kipling poem. And I wanted folks who kind of got the joke of life. I felt like if we're going to do this in the long haul, I want the (funnest), best, smartest, you know, family that I can get. And that's what we went after. And we found them. And it's been a ride.
On his directing experience influencing the show
It gives you a different set of consciousness about the whole thing because, you know, as my dad would say when I was growing up, he said, look son, some dads might teach you to play ball. Hopefully, I can teach you how to own the team, how to understand the business side of show business. And so I went to Columbia. And he pushed me to get a degree in economics which I did. And later on realized that speaking the language of finance freed me up as an artist. So now I realized, oh, well, if I can make this in this many days and save this money over here, then I can use it for the ending and not be sort of - not be reactive artistically without understanding the business part of the show. One of the things that I also think is very helpful is to keep pushing the envelope.