'Titans' Will Walk a Darker Line Between DC's CW Shows and Feature Films

The streaming show has already been renewed ahead of its Oct. 12 debut.
DC Entertainment

DC Universe, the recently launched digital service that includes a library of digital comics, feature films and TV series, faces its biggest test comes with the Oct. 12 launch of its first original series, Titans.

The drama — whose early second season renewal was announced Wednesday during its New York Comic Con debut — follows Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), aka Robin, post-partnership with Batman. He forms a group with old friends (Alan Ritchson's Hawk and Minka Kelly's Dove) and new (Anna Diop's Starfire, Teagan Croft's Rachel/Raven, and Ryan Potter's Beast Boy).

But being the first series for a new platform wasn't what executive producer and former DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns had in mind when the ask came in to create a Titans series. "No one really said, 'This is what the service is,' or 'This is what we want,'" Johns tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They just said, 'We want a Titans show.'"

Johns and fellow Titans producer Akiva Goldsman had a lot of feelings about bringing the world of the beloved comic characters to life. The series, originally developed for TNT, wound up getting a straight-to-series order and earmarked as DCU's first scripted offering. Johns revealed that he and Goldsman had a "huge fight" about the property during their first meeting a few years ago. 

"Being the first show [for DC Universe] gave us a more familial approach," Goldsman says. "A lot of us, in one way or the other, had worked together. It was a lot of shared relationships, which could have gone all to shit. We were all searching in the dark, but at least we were all doing it together."

When it came time to craft the series, the team realized they wanted to explore unmined territory in the superhero genre. "I love the Marvel Netflix shows; they're great and really grounded. And the DC shows, right now, they're very mostly superhero-ish," Johns notes. "So, it was a balance between both of them. How do we tell a serialized, cinematic story and not lose the superhero aspect to it?"

The result is a series that is unlike any of the other DC properties on television, which include The CW's ArrowverseandFox's Gotham. Titans is dark (literally and figuratively), with intense, graphic fight sequences, and characters not afraid to drop f-bombs. (Including the infamous "Fuck Batman" line from the trailer, which was actually a line producers added in reshoots.)

The stars of the series cite the more realistic approach as the reason they signed on to the show. (However, Smallville vet Ritchson admits he was initially concerned it would be too similar to his last role; it took a call from Johns, who sold him on Hawk's "gritty" arc, to get him to sign on.) 

"I think [fans will] feel more than before that our characters are real," Thwaites says. "No teenager doesn't say 'fuck' … and [our ability to do that on the show is] partially due to Geoff Johns, who wanted to make the characters edgy." 

However, "sometimes it was too much," he adds. "If we hadn't said it in a while, [it would suddenly be done multiple times] and we'd go, 'There should only be one 'fuck' in here!' It's a balance to making the characters feel like real people."

But the producers are also quick to point out that the occasionally grim feel is not the show's eternal setting.

"The story with Dick Grayson and Rachel, because that's how the first Titans book launched, it's all about exploring darkness," Johns says. "Dick has a darkness when they meet and Rachel has a very different one. The thematical darkness and violence and danger all came up, and is what the show wrapped around. Violence begets violence, and you can lose yourself in darkness if you're alone."

Adds Goldsman, "It's certainly darker than The CW shows, but it's nowhere near as nihilistic as the movies. I wouldn't say we're a light show, but we're an optimistic show that is hopeful. It is a show that arrives at the promise of connection and family early. The moral of the story is a creation of a team, as well." 

Titans bows Oct. 12 on DC Universe.