Fans of comic books may not often stop to think about the collateral damage that can befall innocent bystanders during the epic clashes between superheroes and supervillains that have been known to destroy entire blocks of cities on occasion. Last year’s films Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice touched on this subject in a serious manner, featuring forces trying to rein in the destructive power of those with super abilities. But the new sitcom Powerless takes a lighter approach. It’s basically a workplace comedy set in the DC Comics universe, positing a world where people just know and accept that these things are going to happen from time to time, so how can the citizenry be made safer?
Working to solve that problem are the folks at Charm City’s Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises (owned by Batman himself, Bruce Wayne). There, new Director of Research and Development Emily Locke, played by Vanessa Hudgens in her first regular lead role on a TV series, heads the team to create the products that will make average people feel less powerless when any super-damage might unfold. Unfortunately, although this office is set in a unique world, it happens to have the same office politics and drudgery found in our world. Emily finds her confidence and big ideas far exceed those of her new boss (played by Alan Tudyk, most recently heard as the sardonic voice of K-2S0 in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and officemates (played by Danny Pudi and Christina Kirk, among others).
“They’re a bit jaded and don’t really want to do the work,” Hudgens tells us of Emily’s coworkers. “It’s the first time that she’s ever really been tested, and you get to see her find her way and try to be a powerful person as someone who has no powers, because in Charm City, there are superheroes and supervillains running around on a daily basis.”
We asked Hudgens if we would see any of those DC heroes or villains on the show.
“We’ve got Crimson Fox,” she says. “We’ve got Jack O’Lantern. I don’t want to give away too many because there are a couple of other ones. It’s so funny, though, because I’m being introduced to these characters that I’m like, ‘Wait, this is a comic book?’ DC Comics has so many characters, I had no idea. It’s really funny, the stuff that my character and the people in this world endure.”
Hudgens certainly had some idea of more notable DC Comics characters as a little girl. She laughingly tells us that she dressed up as Catwoman “every single day when I was 4 after seeing Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. I’m such a girly girl that she was my favorite, for sure.”
Production on Powerless was postponed a little bit last year after creator and former showrunner Ben Queen departed over creative differences. Hudgens tells us that the original concept was to have the series set at an insurance company (where presumably her character and the others would have sold coverage against acts of God, or acts of godlike beings). Hudgens seems pleased with the new concept of the show.
“It’s a fun journey and for the audience to watch. I crack up every single time I read the new script.”
Powerless debuts Feb. 2 at 8:30pm ET/PT on NBC