Interview: gen:LOCK Series Creator Gray Haddock

by Kalai Chik,

Rooster Teeth's newest and upcoming original anime-inspired series gen:LOCK shared a sneak peek into the first and second episodes at New York Comic Con. The clips showcased the cast, who were shown front and center, as well as a few quick action sequences with the series’ mecha.

The voices behind the characters include an all-star roster, with Michael B. Jordan voicing Julian Chase, the main character of the series. Other major stars include Koichi Yamadera (Spike in Cowboy Bebop), and now voices Kazu Iida, a recruit from Japan's army force. He, along with characters such as Miranda Worth, voiced by Dakota Fanning, are part of a mixed team who will fight alongside Julian.

During the short sequences, the clips showed Julian Chase enjoying a meal with his sister and Miranda. Interestingly, his sister performs as a J-pop idol in virtual reality called “the Ether,” but her performance is cut short as her mom takes her out of it to question Miranda. But duty calls and Miranda leaves, revealing that she and Julian are just projections from the gen:LOCK base. In another scene, the other members of the team have been flown in from their respective countries and assemble on the base, meeting each other for the first time, but there's a little bit of friction that hints at some team tension down the line.

After the panel, series creator and head of Rooster Teeth's animation, Gray Haddock, sat down to give some insight into how the gen:LOCK world came to be.

What can people look forward to in terms of your Warner Bros. partnership?

Gray Haddock: We've been talking for the past couple of weeks to get some brainstorming ideas for what we can do with this particular series. Stay tuned for more details.

The cast is pretty diverse, with people such as Koichi Yamadera (voice of Spike from Cowboy Bebop) playing a role in this series. Can you tell us more about the characters?

The way technology works in this universe is very new, and it has to do with a very recent breakthrough 50 years from now. In order to be compatible with the system, the good guys put out a screening test to see who they can possibly find to be compatible with the technology. The results start to come in from this society that they exist in all corners of the world. This is how we end up with this internationally diverse ensemble that winds up getting in the robot.

What would you say was the most difficult challenge in the creation of gen:LOCK?

Trying to deliver a solid story for every episode. While we were developing gen:LOCK, we were exploring different season structures. In the end, we chose to do 8 episodes with about 22 minutes per episode. It sounds like a lot, but it's not. We have a large ensemble of characters and trying to feel right by them, where each character is challenged and grows in the first year…It always felt like no matter how many good moments I gave a character, it never felt like enough. There's just a ton of ideas I want to flesh out in the show, but eventually you have to prioritize what's best for the story. I'm balancing the story by fleshing out different aspects all at once. If we're lucky to have a season 2, I would like the audience to know more about what this world is about.

Can you talk about the music and sound of the show?

I wanted to make sure that over time, the soundscape of the show is as diverse as the story is. At the same time, I'm a sucker for retro electro-synth right now, and I think that reflects the science and technology centered in the show. We're going to have some music from the band Battle Tapes. In regards to the score itself, I've had a fantastic time working with the team, and developing themes and motifs for all the factions and characters. It'll operate a lot like an old school movie score. But we also have an interesting collection of instruments, depending on the emotion of the moments or what factions are driving the action right then. You'll hear everything from very full symphonic moments to intimate piano pieces to very synth driven beats depending on what's going on.

What was it like scheduling time to record with the cast?

Scheduling our talent was definitely very crazy. All of them are busy with their successful movie careers and going out of their way to make this happen. This is the most flexible we've had to be in terms of production. Like we were talking about in the panel, we needed to begin storyboarding and building animatics with some form of audio. About a year ago, we were beginning to get traction casting the talent, but of course it takes a while. We decided that we would continue with production. I would go ahead and perform all the parts the way I would be hearing them in my head. The intonations and cadence that I was intending to direct the actors into would serve as a guide for the production team to work off of.

During the panel, we got to see a first look at what the characters look and sounded like. The visuals are unique. What inspired those designs?

I was craving more of a retro character design that we haven't seen used in Japanese animation in many years. It's seeing a resurgence lately. For me, having grown up on anime from decades ago, I wanted to show people how not everything has to be moe. The world that gen:LOCK operates is more serious, and same for the storytelling that we wanted to do. It demanded more detail and a realistic approach to the character designs. One of my favorite anime designers from this end of the spectrum is Shuko Murase. He's done a variety of anime from Gundam to Ergo Proxy, and he's been making a comeback lately. I was excited to see him do the character designs for Blade Runner: Black Out 2022.  

What would you say are the biggest anime influences on gen:LOCK?

Gray Haddock: There's a lot. I love science fiction anime, and a variety of mecha shows. Both old original Gundam storytelling all the way to Iron Blooded Orphans. Other mecha shows like Aldnoah.Zero, which was written by Gen Urobuchi. He's a big influence on my world building as well. I enjoy the works of TRIGGER and other studios who do storytelling with heart. Gen:LOCK is a very character driven story, and is similar to anime like Kiznaiver, where even though the story talks about the world beyond the story, it focuses on how these characters become a team.

Gen:LOCK is set to premiere on January 26, 2019.

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