General spoilers below for Jupiter's Legacy, so be warned if you haven't yet watched!
Netflix's Jupiter's Legacy marks comic book creator Mark Millar's first adaptation through his mega-deal with the streaming service - the Big Bang of the Millarverse, if you will. The big-budget drama flips between two different timelines, one focusing on the familial superhero team The Union in the present day, and one set in the past that tells the story of how those heroes (and eventual villains) came into being. Star Wars voice actor Matt Lanter, who winningly brought The Clone Wars' Anakin Skywalker to life, features heavily in the 1930s timeline as George Hutchence, the charismatic BFF to Josh Duhamel's Sheldon Sampson. He's mysteriously absent from most of the modern storyline, however.
It's likely the Jupiter's Legacy creative team felt there were already enough moving parts to introduce in these first eight episodes that George's post-1930s future as Skyfox would be easier to explore in a second season without having to sacrifice anything. Which meant the pressure was on Matt Lanter to make George as memorable and impactful a protagonist as possible without entering into 95% of the superpowered action sequences. So as one might imagine, the actor was first able to find parallels between his name-changing hero-turned-villain in Jupiter's Legacy and the one he portrayed in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Speaking with press ahead of Season 1's premiere on Netflix, Lanter said this when asked to compare playing George and Anakin:
Yeah, there's a lot of similarities; they're definitely not lost on me. They're both charismatic guys, both full of bravado. They're both rule breakers, and they kind of do what they want. Then of course - I mean, you specifically said pre-Vader - but then, you know, they both fall. I think they also both think they're doing the right thing, with the exception of murdering little Jedis. [Laughs.] I think they both think they are just in what they're doing, and they think they're helping the world around them.
On the George/Skyfox side of things, Matt Lanter is speaking to elements that viewers aren't entirely privy to at this point, but are recognizable to those who read Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's Jupiter's Legacy and Jupiter's Circle comic series. There's no reason to go into that here, since it's hard to know what might change from the comics for the TV story, but suffice to say George and Walt's chiding and unfriendly spark grows into an inferno. But the comparative points he made are completely apt, with Skyfox arguably being quite a bit more of a relatable villain than than that evil bastard Darth Vader.
The bulk of George's development throughout Jupiter's Legacy Season 1 is tied to his closeness with the Sampson family, hinging largely on his friendship and support of the increasingly maddened Sheldon. So Matt Lanter had to dig into those moments to show audiences what George's true essence was, and in that way, the actor was also able to reflect on his time portraying Anakin Skywalker, particularly in developing his relationship with Ahsoka Tano (as voiced by the excellent Ashley Eckstein). Lanter , who may one day voice Anakin again, said this when asked how he approached his onscreen kinship with Josh Duhamel:
That was really important to me. I think it helps establish that relationship, and much like we've mentioned Anakin - if you guys have seen The Clone Wars - that establishment of Anakin and Ahsoka and that relationship that you see, all these losses in Anakin's life really help propel him to a dark place. Well, I think that I took some of that from Anakin's story and brought that in, I think, the more that we establish the loyalty and the love that George has for Sheldon, just as his best friend. He's always got his buddy's back. And I mean, you see Sheldon's talking crazy and saying, 'Hey, let's go get on a ship and sail out to the middle of nowhere.' And George kind of says, 'Hey, okay, buddy. I got your back. Whatever it is, I got your back.' I love that. I definitely wanted to portray that because I think it sets up what's to come and makes it a stronger fall and more sad that Walter really drives that wedge between them, kind of unknowingly to Sheldon.
Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, and Mike Wade were each able to show the before-and-after versions of their characters throughout the first season of Jupiter's Legacy, and how Sheldon's Code affected their relationships with family members and the outside world. Conversely, George only allowed Matt Lanter the time to play up the kind of hero that George Hutchence, father of Ian Quinlan's future-villain Hutch (somehow), might be as a member of the Union without twirling his metaphorical mustache with any villainous verve. And while it's almost hard to believe that anybody could ever buy into Sheldon's scrawled map and his ship scheme, Lanter plays George in such a way that feels truly genuine (also somehow).
I asked Matt Lanter about his thought process in going a full season where George is spoken of as the world's greatest supervillain without ever really showing audiences that he's anything more than loyal and dependable. In his words:
Yeah, you're right. It's a great question. Again, kind of falling back on that Anakin/Ahsoka relationship, and just seeing how kind of great and charismatic and likable he was really helped me. I really wanted to make sure that George felt just earnest and like he really truly cared and felt like Sheldon was family, because I think that establishing that bond and that relationship is really going to help make that fall greater and more tragic when he does. I didn't really have [the lack of Skyfox] in my head. I wasn't really playing any of those scenes. I didn't really have to. I think my job in Season 1, as we saw in the past, was to show my caring, my understanding, my loyalty. And then of course, to establish the character as just fun, and somebody that you want to be around. Probably you'd want to talk to that guy because he's probably got some stories. I saw George have a certain magnetism about him, and I don't know, I hope audiences kind of feel the same way. Because I feel like I hope there's going to be a divide in people that are angry at George that he's defected from the group and don't want anything to do with it. And then I hope there's a group that's with him, that kind of says, 'No, this guy's right. He's doing the right thing. He's been framed.'
While he was speaking more loosely about the character's future, Matt Lanter spoke to the idea that the Netflix TV series from showrunner Sang Kyu Kim (who took over after creator Steven S. DeKnight's exit) might lean into Skyfox's notoriety as a mega-double-decker-supervillain might be overhype promoted by the likes of the hyper-telekinetic Walt as Brainwave, whose string-pulling actions behind Sheldon's back were revealed in the Season 1 finale. Could it be possible that the live-action Jupiter's Legacy will reveal all of George's villainy was just Walt's mindgames? Lanter continued:
So I think, like, the greatest supervillain of all time - I guess we don't quite know yet. Is that sort of just a label that's been slapped on him by Walt, and then subsequently The Union, and subsequently the entire world when he doesn't really deserve that? I'm actually not sure yet what we're gonna see out of him. Or does he actually get into some pretty villainous things in the future? I don't know. I hope we'll get to find out.
It would be a massive gut punch for Jupiter's Legacy comic fans, and anyone who digs the TV show, if Netflix didn't order up a second season to wrap up everything that wasn't shown in Season 1. Plus, Skyfox is pretty badass, as seen both in the source material and in his brawl with Brainwave, so who wouldn't want to see more of that? And if they wanted to give him a weapon that looked like a certain weapon wielded by a certain Sith lord, that'd be cool, too.