When Deadly Class debuts on Syfy–it’s already available online–you might find the level of graphic content in the series to be a little surprising. After all, this show is adapted from a graphic novel about a high school for assassins, the training ground for contract killers. With subject matter like that, you might be expecting gunfights left and right, with blood splattered on the walls.
Deadly Class, though, isn’t the ultraviolent playground you might think it is. Yes, there are still plenty of fight sequences and based on the first three episodes made available to the press, some heinous kills. However, if you’re walking into this series expecting the type of violence you might see on a show like DC Universe’s Titans, it’s time to temper your expectations. That’s not what Deadly Class is attempting to be. Instead, it’s carving out its own place in the crowded world of comic book adaptations, where what’s far more interesting than the violence on display is seeing the toll is takes on the characters forces to participate in it.
“In this show, we tell stories about the cost of violence,” Luke Tennie, who plays Willie, told GameSpot during a visit to the show’s set. “We are not glorified. It’s not casual. If there is a loss of life on our show, we see everything about the price. We don’t spend time on blood and gore, and we don’t glorify the violence.”
That’s a price that will vary, depending on the student that finds themself in the middle of it. While it may bring certain characters joy, there are others enrolled in King’s Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts that struggle with its murderous teachings. “[Marcus] just really wants friends and a family and that’s what he’s creating over here,” star Benjamin Wadsworth explained of his character, a newcomer at the school. “But he does not like violence. When he was on the streets he saw that all the time. He saw homeless guys beat up women. He saw money stolen. He’s forced to get in these violent situations and he personally gets to feel the ramifications of violence… And it kind of teaches everyone at the school when we do this stuff it’s gonna affect us physically and mentally.”
Given his outlook on this world he’s being immersed in, Marcus quickly finds an ally in Willie. While the leader of the Final World Order clique may present himself as a stone-cold killer, the truth is quite a bit different. “He hates it. No one knows he does, and the only time he opens up is with Marcus, and that’s something you find in the comics right off the bat between Willie and Marcus,” Tennie admitted.
Then, of course, there’s those who don’t necessarily love or hate the terrible acts they’re learning to commit. There are some, like punk rock outcast Billy (Liam Jones), who simply don’t know any other way of living. “From a very young age, he’s dealt with violence outside of his school,” the actor said, referring to his character’s past in an abusive home. “If all of that violence was for nothing, it would be really hard for him to take. So I think he’s trying to harness what he’s had to deal with.”
In truth, much of the way these characters react to the violence is pulled straight from the comics. With Rick Remender, the writer of the comic book series by Image, serving as one of the showrunners on Deadly Class, this is an adaptation that sticks very closely to its source material.
However, when looking at the more violent aspects of the show, there is one major change being made to the source material. The series is set in 1987, but the creative team behind it is sensitive to the world of 2019. Though this is an academy for budding assassins, you will never see guns used as weapons on school grounds.
“When I first cooked this up six, seven years ago, the amount of school shootings, whatever’s going on in our society, whatever this f***ing meltdown is, makes it abundantly clear to me as we’re developing this, that I don’t want to see a gun in the school,” Remender said. That’s not to say you won’t see guns anywhere in the series, but they won’t be brandished in the halls of King’s Dominion, which is a change from the comic. The explanation given within the show is that Master Lin, the headmaster of King’s Dominion played by Benedict Cumberbatch, loathes firearms and sees them as a tool of the weak.
Instead, viewers will see a lot more hand-to-hand combat and the student body finding more creative ways of expressing themselves through violence, whether it’s a through Lana Candor’s expert use of a katana or María Gabriela de Faría doing some serious damage to police officers using bladed fans in the role of Maria. And truthfully, that’s far more interesting to watch than someone swinging around a pistol anyway.
Deadly Class premieres on Syfy on Wednesday, January 16.