By: Nicole D’Andria
Where do superheroes go when they want to get their dry cleaning done? Find out in Super Drycleaners, a new TV show available on TELUS OPTIK On-Demand and online. I talked to the creators of the series and several members of the cast!
Super Drycleaners takes place in the town of Angelcrest. Kyle and Sky Walters want to become crime fighters. Their grandmother even owns a drycleaners for superheroes! With the ability to absorb the powers of the person whose costume they try on, Kyle and Sky learn plenty of lessons.
I first spoke with creators Brandon Rhiness (who I previously spoke to about his comic book company Higher Universe Comics) and Barb Briggs.
Me: You were able to make the show after winning the Telus Optik contest. What can you tell us about that?
Barb Briggs: We submitted a proposal back in June of 2016 and had to wait some time before finding out if we received the grant or not. We knew we had a good story but were being ambitious with what we wanted to film. We found out around October that we received the grant, and began working. TELUS was extremely supportive in providing us with mentors and assistance in assuring we made the best possible series with the budget we had.
Brandon Rhiness: Barb Briggs had hired me to write a horror movie. It was during that process, in one of our Skype meetings, that she mentioned an idea she had about two teens who worked in a dry-cleaning store that catered to superheroes and the teens who sneak out in the costumes.
I really liked the concept because of my work in writing comic books. We didn’t really have any means to actually get the series made, but I wrote the first six episodes on spec, mostly just for fun because I liked the concept.
Soon after, the Telus Optik contest came up. Telus is a communications company here in Western Canada. They had the contest offering to fund chosen Canadian-made TV series by newer producers. Barb entered the Super Drycleaners scripts into the contest. I don’t think either of us seriously thought we had much chance. I had pretty much forgotten about it until Barb contacted me one day saying we were one of the winners!
It was a great experience! There’s no way we could have funded the series ourselves. So it was amazing to see this TV show I just thought would be a fun thing to write turn into something real that is now on TV and people are watching!
Me: As co-creators, what are each of your individual roles on the show?
Rhiness: I’m the writer and Barb is the director and main producer. Basically, my job is to come up with really hard things for Barb to shoot and it’s her job to figure out how to do it. ?
Briggs: I came up with the original story concept and Brandon wrote the scripts. We worked back and forth until we were satisfied with the final storylines and had a script that we were both happy with. Brandon also provided creative input on how we might film some of the scenes.
In addition, I was the primary producer and the director for each episode.
Me: What inspired you to combine superheroes with drycleaners?
Rhiness: I’ll leave that question up to Barb, since she came up with the original concept.
Briggs: There were a few inspirations. One of the first was the Warren Zevon song “Werewolves of London,” which has a line “I’d like to meet his tailor.” It got me thinking about the costumes that heroes, villains and monsters wear. They need to be made, cleaned and mended. In some superhero films you see the characters address this – such as in Spider-Man and Deadpool – so I thought it would be fun to spend more time in that world.
The second inspiration was Seinfeld. There’s an episode where they suspect that their drycleaner was wearing the client’s clothes out at night. I thought it would be interesting to look at that scenario from the point of view of the person borrowing the clothes for the night.
And finally, the biggest inspiration came from my two boys and watching how they try to figure out who they are in this world – where they fit in, who they are and who they want to be. By combining superheroes and literally trying on an identity, we wanted to address questions around finding yourself. I think at some point, especially in those adolescent and teenage years, we struggle to find ourselves. We try on different identities, and sometimes people assign them to us, such as jock, class clown, social butterfly, scholar, etc. We do so through clothes, speech, activities, likes, dislikes and the people we choose to hang around with. I remember as a youth, and even still as an adult, wondering what it would be like to be someone else for a day. Sky and Kyle get to do just that.
Me: What can you tell us about the main characters of Super Drycleaners?
Rhiness: The main characters in Super Drycleaners are Sky and Kyle Walters. They are twins and attend the same high school and work part-time in their grandmother’s dry-cleaning store. They both have ambitions of being superheroes, but Sky takes it a little more seriously. Kyle still isn’t sure if he should be a superhero or a famous rock star.
Sky is running for school president and tends to take things a little too seriously. Kyle is more laid-back and a bit of a goof. He has to remind his sister sometimes that she’s not his boss.
Sky and Kyle are both good kids, but as the series continues and they find themselves in possession of great superpowers, a dark side begins to emerge in both of them.
Briggs: Kyle and Sky are twin siblings aged 16 years. They are both popular in their own ways and fairly confident. They have a stable group of friends that support them both.
Sky is the more dominant of the two. She’s taken on the role of leader and a bit of the “mother” in the family. She’s precise, focused and organized. She has a goal in mind and works toward it. I don’t think she likes being challenged too much by others, which sometimes poses problems for Kyle. She likes to be right.
Kyle is easy-going and more interested in being a hero because it’s fun. For him, it’s like being a rock star (which he would also like to be), whereas Sky says she wants to make a difference in the world. Kyle often gives into what Sky wants because he wants to support her, and because it’s probably easier than arguing with her.
Me: What makes this show stand out from other programs targeted to 9-12 year olds?
Briggs: The combination of school drama and superheroes would be the biggest difference. The show doesn’t “talk down” to the youth like some shows do. It features actual high-school aged actors as opposed to adult actors pretending to be in high school. It was important for us to show youth as they are – to cast actual students and give a realistic portrayal of what teenagers look like.
We also made a big effort to not “gender” the series. I think it will appeal both to boys and girls. There’s the action with the heroes and villains, a bit of romance and high school drama. We also combined live-action with comic book panels and motion comics. As the series progresses, we will include more of this.
Rhiness: Lol. That’s difficult for me to say. I don’t watch many shows aimed at a young audience. In fact, most of the comics and movies I write are aimed at an adult audience and deal with mature themes. So writing Super Drycleaners was a great exercise for me to learn how to write for a different audience.
I think I was successful. When I attended the premiere last week, the kids seemed to love Super Drycleaners!
Me: Thank you for your valuable insight into the show!
I also spoke with actors Skylar Radzion (Sky Walters), Adam Forward (Kyle Walters) and Lorette Clow (Lydia—Grandma—Walters) about their roles in the show.
Why did you decide to audition for the show?
Skylar Radzion: I really loved the idea and the message that the show had. It’s about finding your identity and staying true to who you are. I struggled a lot in high school and I know a lot of other kids are too. To be able to help young people means a lot to me. I started getting into acting and my mom saw this audition for a TV series in Calgary. It was for a couple of smaller roles and so I thought “why not”? It was such a cool idea about superheroes. We drove to Calgary for the day and while there, they gave me some pages and asked if I could take ½ hour and read. It was for Sky! Adam and I read together and just meshed like a real brother and sister, and the rest as they say is history.
Adam Forward: I saw the audition notice and I thought it was a great opportunity, but I also saw it as a chance to work with teens. The cast of Super Drycleaners mainly consists of high school kids and it was so great to be part of a cast of teens my age. I also love superheroes so that drew me to it as well. What teenager doesn’t want to have superpowers!
Lorette Clow: It’s an exciting prospect to be a part of a new TV series, as well as Children’s and Young Adult programming – something I loved while filming Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Me: How would you describe your character on the show and what is your favorite thing about them?
Radzion: Sky is a very complex character. She has so many dimensions and that is what I love about her. I relate to her in the sense that she’s hard to read and she’s very passionate about her options. I’m very passionate with my career and I always want things to be perfect even though I understand that sometimes it just can’t.
My director, Barb Briggs and our acting coach Dawn Van Der Schoot talked about Sky having an anxiety disorder, which is something I too struggle with. Mental illness still has a stigma – especially in teenagers. It’s not something kids want to talk about. I want to be able to put myself out there to help other people with their own mental health issues. Sky was the hardest character I’ve had to play so far but I’m forever grateful to help bring her to life. Oh, and kicking butt is an awesome perk!
Forward: Kyle is all about fun. He loves hanging out with friends, reading comics and talking to girls. He loves being a superhero because he wants to show his powers off to his friends.
In any situation Kyle can always find the fun and the positive; he’s always first to crack a joke. This contrasts really well with Sky. Sky is all about the facts and what could go wrong, she will focus on the negativity in some situations where Kyle would see it as a great thing. A lesson that Kyle learns is how to balance fun and seriousness. Kyle can be serious when he needs to be. My favorite thing about Kyle is that fun-loving personality because it makes him so much fun to play. His character is much like my own personality, I love having fun!
Clow: A warm-hearted caregiver to her grandchildren – she would do anything to enrich their lives but understands their growing need to explore and learn from the world around them. She is fiercely protective of them and also the world around her – when she can!
Me: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
Radzion: Well, my favorite superhero from the show is The Wraith. I love the wraps she had around her arms and just the way her costume looked. It was functional and comfortable! I love Gal Gadots’ Wonder Woman. I was a bit concerned when they announced her as she seemed very young. But when I saw her, she was cast perfectly. The innocence, the compassion, the strength. She nailed it. And having a woman Director was the icing on the cake. She’s definitely an actor I aspire to be like.
Forward: My favorite superhero is Spider-Man. As a kid I was obsessed with him. I had a whole costume including a mask and web shooters. I would run around all day and pretend to be Spider-Man. He is my favorite because he’s super cool, and he has one of the most interesting origin stories and the most unique powers in my opinion. I also loved the movies, my favorite being Spider-Man 3. The whole universe of Spider-Man is awesome, from the villains to Spider-Man himself.
Me: So far, what has been your favorite scene to film and why?
Radzion: It’s really hard to pick just one. I really enjoyed filming every scene because the cast and crew were phenomenal. I would definitely have to say the scenes where the whole cast was involved. Being around a bunch of people who genuinely want to see you succeed and laugh together is incredible. Oh, and Adam was a lot of fun; we were like brother and sister on and off set! Everyone was like a family and now every time I travel to Calgary I look forward to seeing these wonderful new friends I’ve made on set. I absolutely cannot wait to get back to filming!
Forward: I think my favorite scenes to shoot were all of the ones where Sky and Kyle are trying to come up with/use our catchphrases. I had a lot of fun trying to come up with a cheesy action to say them with or a funny way to speak the line. We had a lot of freedom in those situations as to how we were going to deliver those lines and we had so much fun creating that and performing it.
Clow: I don’t have a particularly favorite scene as they are all delightful to partake in, but I did enjoy sending the message to the “hoodlum” in Episode 3 that YOU DON’T MESS WITH GRANDMA WALTERS!!
Me: Thanks for letting us get a glimpse into the world of acting like a superhero!
If you’re interested, check out Super Drycleaners, check it out on TELUS OPTIK On-Demand and online.