Stephen and Robbie Amell on Code 8 Part II, their favourite scene, and the very near future | Interview

by Bryan Cairns
Stephen Amell as Garrett and Robbie Amell as Connor in Code 8 Part II.

In the world of Code 8, four percent of the population is born with extraordinary abilities. Shunned by society, these PWPs–People with Powers–are hunted down by a robotic police force.

Telekinetic enforcer Garrett (Stephen Amell) recruited electrokinetic Connor (Robbie Amell) to commit crimes in order to fulfill their own personal agendas. Ultimately, Garrett gained control of Lincoln City’s drug trade and Connor turned himself in to the authorities. Now, Code 8: Part II revisits the pair five years after the previous events.

Directed by Jeff Chan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Pare and Sherren Lee, the sequel finds Connor released from prison and attempting to live a normal, quiet life. But soon, he must turn to Garret to help 14-year-old teenager Pavani (Sirena Gulamgaus), who witnessed her brother’s murder, evade a corrupt pack of officers.

Cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell, who also produced Code 8: Part II for Netflix, spoke to me about putting their own stamp on the superhero genre, fleshing out their characters, working with each other and future projects.

What was your gateway into superheroes? What were some of the characters you grew up watching, reading or emulating that fuelled your imagination?

Robbie Amell: “I was a diehard Batman fan. Ninja Turtles. Power Rangers.”

Stephen Amell: “John McClane. I watched that movie when I was 8. And the Christopher Reeve, Superman. Michael Keaton’s Batman. Val Kilmer’s Batman.”

Robbie Amell as Connor in Code 8 Part II
Robbie Amell as Connor in Code 8 Part II

Both of you cannonballed into the superhero sandbox on Arrow and The Flash. When you were conceiving Code 8, what kind of fresh spin did you want to put on the genre? What were some of the tropes you wanted to avoid?

Stephen: “I didn’t really want to avoid anything, in particular. I really parachuted into the first movie. What you see with Garrett has always been on the page. The character that Jeff and Chris have created, he’s very even-keeled. Very thoughtful and analytical, and fiercely protective of his people and doesn’t really give a shit if you aren’t his people.”

Robbie: “He’s an entrepreneur of people. When we started out to make this, crowdfunding, we knew we wanted to make something that we thought our fanbases would be into, but we also wanted to put our own spin on it. Your budget restrictions are sometimes a good thing because you are forced to lean into the character-side of things. That’s not to say the sci-fi wasn’t amazing because our visual-effects team made it look and feel so much more expensive than it was.”

“In our first movie, our budget restrictions worked in our favour as, ‘We will try and make this as big and grand as possible.’ At its core, this is a small story in Lincoln City. The world building is big, but the story, itself, is small and contained. It gives people something they can see their own reflection in or mirror some aspect of their lives. And it’s a relatable story about how far someone would go to save someone they loved.”

“So far we have tried to keep that true with Part 2 and hopefully, one day, a Part 3. Jeff and Chris are very good at finding that thing, and then adding the popcorn and the sci-fi around it, to kind of fade into the background or to give you a couple of nice set-piece moments.”

The first Code 8 was crowd funded. In what ways did the scope and scale evolve once Netflix came on board?

Robbie: “The first one kept getting bigger as our Indiegogo campaign kept getting bigger. It also meant the script would evolve.”

“I am super-proud of the first movie. I think we learned a lot. Almost our entire crew came back. Everyone got better over the years, in between the movies. It shows. You get better at your job. Netflix came in such a great way. To their credit, they trusted myself, Steve, Jeff and Chris to deliver a movie in the same spirit as Part 1, but with more money and more time.”

“More time was big, just to be able to really have the moments or have the time to find those moments in those scenes. We were in very good hands with Netflix. They trusted us. They gave us a lot of autonomy. We always said that for better or for worse, it’s on us. I am super-proud of it.”

Code 8: Part II takes place five years after the original. In what ways has the world changed since then?

Stephen: “Technology is a forward-moving train. It does not slow down. But in terms of the characters we are dealing with, there’s been some fallout since the previous movie. The Lincoln City Police Department is trying to do things that are more of a gentle, thoughtful way. Of course, there’s an underbelly to that. My character has been slowly rising up in his world, or his underworld, as the case may be. And this guy [pointing to Robbie] has been the king of the yard.”

What about in terms of your relationship? How are you fleshing that out?

Robbie: “Part of it is delivering for the fans and giving them something fun to watch of us at each other’s throats. I also think it just makes for good entertainment. It’s nice to have a shorthand with somebody, and have chemistry with somebody, and to be able to have fun and massage scenes.”

“Both of our favorite scenes is the diner scene. There’s no sci-fi. There are no visual effects. It’s two guys talking to each other. We had so much fun filming it. Scenes like that are really special for us. Then, also, shooting the scene under the bridge with the visual effects and the sci-fi elements, that’s very cool, too. And exploring the powers. I love when Steve lifts up the cinder block to use it as a shield. Those things in our universe, that continue to be built out, are very cool and creative.”

Robbie Amell and Sirena Gulamgaus
Robbie Amell and Sirena Gulamgaus

These Code 8 movies are the first times the two of you have worked together on screen. What did you learn from each other?

Stephen: “Rob has helped me calm down a little bit. He’s very even-keeled. I get very passionate, which is almost always a good thing. I am learning to relax a little bit more.”

Robbie: “I really like that Steve will give something different every time, which is something I need to lean into a little more. But it’s really fun. We have such similarities and such differences. I know that sounds weird to say, but it’s true. There are certain things that we are so the same in and it’s fun to see those things come out. And, then, there are things we are so different in.”

Code 8 could easily becomes your Dark Knight trilogy. Where do you see the movie going if you get another instalment?

Robbie: “That is a Jeff and Chris question. I know they are already researching it. They always talk to Steve and I about what it is, but they are very good and what they do. They always want it to feel topical and mirror some headlines or mirror what is happening in the world, and try to have it take place five minutes in the future.”

Stephen: “I am terrified to read the third script. The first and second scripts… everything in there is happening now and none of it is good. In the third instalment, when they come up with brain implants that allow people to influence behaviour, I can be like, ‘Oh, cool. Oh, but shoot.'”

Stephen, it was recently announced that you will be headlining the Suits spin-off, Suits L.A. What are you excited about joining that franchise?

Stephen: “Aaron Korsh and Dave Bartis, the whole creative team behind Suits is there. I read the pilot script and I got goosebumps on my arm.”

“I went, ‘I really want this one.’ It’s a cool character. I don’t think it’s the sort of character we have seen in the Suits Universe before. I am just excited. I am shifting my focus. We have your interview. One more interview. I am going to have lunch and then I am shifting my focus to Suits.”

Code 8 Part II
Code 8 Part II

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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