The Iris Interview: James Kyson on the popularity of superheroes onscreen ahead of Supanova!

The  Supanova Pop Culture Expo is coming up this weekend for Adelaide punters, with Brisbane expo-lovers getting their turn during November’s final weekend. In what’s set to be another whirlwind of fan goodness for those of us dwelling in these Australian cities who are more used to missing out on film premieres or other events in a similar vein, Supanova will be doing its best in satiating these sometimes crippling feels of FOMO. In connecting fans with some of their favourite actors, authors, animators and more over the weekend, it hardly seems like a weekend of work for those involved behind the scenes, at least from an outsider’s perspective. Similarly for the international guests who make their way over each year, you get a resounding vibe that these expos are great excuses to travel and holiday than they are paid appearances.

James Kyson, a member of the class of Supanova 2014, has been spending much of the year travelling and working various projects – Supanova is just another great cherry on the cake.

“It’s been a whirlwind summer!” he agrees. “I’ve just gotten back from Spain, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I got engaged a couple of months ago, so there’s been a lot going on in my life. I was in Spain for the first time, in Barcelona and Ibiza, and then during the summer I’ve just had a lot of different projects and travelling with the fiancee. I was filming two projects out in LA and then I did a movie in Jackson, Mississippi.”

“I got to go to Australia maybe five years ago, it might have been longer! I’m really looking forward to going back. This time, I’m going to see Adelaide for the first time, which is cool! My fiancee will be coming with me this time, so this will be our first trip together to Australia.”

Kyson, known for his roles in Heroes, Justified and Hawaii Five-O, comments on his hectic work schedule, which has afforded him the opportunities to hop between different genres and fields. While it’s been a while since fans will have seen Ando Masahashi on their TV screens regularly, Kyson hasn’t been shying away from the spotlight and has been ensuring he’s kept on his toes.

“It’s fun,” he says. “There have been lots of different kinds of projects. I did something on stage for the first time in probably like, eight or nine years and then we were filming a sci-fi pilot here. The other two were movies that were completely opposite in genre, so it kept things interesting. It was very creatively satisfying.”

“There are now more things being made than ever. I think someone told me the other day that there is about 430 different network outlets now, which is insane! I remember a time when the television had four channels! I remember that from when I was a little kid! The fact that we went from four to four hundred channels? At the same time, that represents all these different opportunities. Not only do we get to be a part of a lot of different projects, we now have an outlet where you can create your own. There is so much more space for activity now and because of the technology, every person with an idea now has accessibility to show their idea in some form. Before, film-making was a very exclusive art, but now you see 14 year olds using Vine as a creative outlet.”

Taking a look at the rise in popularity of television shows which focus on comic books, superhero fiction and the large franchises previously reined over by the big budget film companies, Kyson discusses the role Heroes had with the mainstream television industry, before audiences had the likes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.DArrow and more.

“I really think our show was ahead of its time in different ways.” Kyson says. “It was the first show that introduced web content that connected to the main storylines and it also built interactive portals, so it started building a community online. Back in 2006, we were probably one of the only network shows that dove into that and now, of course, everybody is in that space. It’s definitely an interesting time. I think it’s just going expand more in terms of that world, not only Marvel and DC, but now a lot of graphic novels and video games too. People are exploring a lot different areas.”

“At the same time, I think it does feel a little bit over-saturated, but I think the key now is originality, you know? Marvel has 40 or 50 titles and properties that they haven’t even explored yet! That’s just Marvel alone. I think it’s just going to get bigger and bigger and we’re going to see more in that world, but I think the key is going to be originality. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy: that’s a property that not a lot of people knew of. You wouldn’t have made that movie ten years ago. I think it also had a humour that not a lot of the other Marvel titles have.  We’re in a very interesting time frame for entertainment, a lot of things are integrating and becoming very, very micro-specific. Content for the web and all those different platforms, now with Amazon, Hulu, Yahoo, they’re all becoming their own networks.”

With US productions now more than ever growing global profiles and platforms including Hulu and perhaps more predominantly, Netflix, it would seem like the industry also now more of a numbers game. Creativity and originality driving the product is crucial, but the added element of ‘Is it going to sell overseas?’ is now also more important than ever, given the accessibility the internet now affords the eager consumer. This is seen possibly more than ever with the blockbuster franchises, your Game of Thrones, you Whedon-borne series and of course, the wealth of superhero-centric dramas which have taken over as the high stat earners.

“It’s a huge factor, you know?” Kyson agrees. “With movies, international numbers matter more than the domestic numbers. Especially making movies with bigger budgets, one of the biggest factors is how does it play around the world. Now, we’re seeing content where it’s integrating. Even Hollywood itself is becoming very global; there are tonnes of Australian and British and Canadian actors in this industry. We’re now getting TV ideas from other countries and mixing it up and they’re taking ideas from us and making it their own, there is this global hybrid.”

Chatting about the nature of television and the way it brings fans from all over the world together, much in the way Supanova and similar types of fan expos do, Kyson’s positive about the strong sense of community that shows like Heroes and this current crop of shows have retained with their huge fan bases. Of course, the way people consume and absorb such material is only getting further and further away from the traditional model of sitting down in front of a television with your family or friends for a specified period of time, but the desire to do that and to share in these experiences remain, and that’s important to note.

“It’s funny,” the actor comments. “Now, people are coming up with these micro-technologies – I just saw the oculus, which is this helmet thing you put on and it allows you to experience this virtual reality. When that gets a little more commercial and more available, they’re going to start producing content for that specifically. Now, not only are people watching content on their phones or iPads, people are going to be wearing helmets and goggles! I think that in the midst of all of this, people still want a communal experience. They love going to the theatre or getting together in the living room and watching a TV show, you want that connected, communal experience.”

James Kyson will appear at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Adelaide at the Showgrounds this weekend (November 21-23) and at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on November 28-30. Hit up for further information!



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