Ever wonder how genre TV darling Lucy Lawless prepares for her roles? Or where Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar gets inspiration for the show’s unique world? At New York Comic Con earlier this month, The Portalist asked stars and creators from a diverse range of series about the books that influence their creative process. How many of these have you read?
Lucy Lawless: Notes On a Scandal
On Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead, Lawless plays Ruby, an enigmatic, cunning character whose intentions in the first season are never entirely transparent. Although Lawless told us Ruby’s agenda becomes clearer in Season 2, Zoë Heller’s Notes On a Scandal helped her channel the character’s more mysterious side: “Notes on a Scandal is really great. It’s about people who only say what they say, they don’t ever say what they mean.”
Clara Paget: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
In portraying real-life pirate Anne Bonny on Starz’s series Black Sails, actress Clara Paget often draws inspiration from historical accounts of the 17th-century female buccaneer. However, information about Bonny is sometimes so conflicting and varied that Paget says she also takes “artistic license” and models her depiction of Bonny off some of literature’s most non-compliant female characters: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actually is one of the books that I read, and another one, Pippi Longstocking. Virginia Woolf actually, Orlando.So many different places I’ve taken inspiration for her, and then just wanted to make her my own as well.”
Tom Hopper: Treasure Island
Not surprisingly, Tom Hopper and his fellow Black Sails actors drew inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island for their roles as pirates in the Starz show. Hopper, who plays Billy Bones on the series, says Treasure Island was the book that really stood out to him when preparing for his part: “Luke [Luke Arnold, who plays Long John Silver on the show] talked a lot about Treasure Island when we first got over to Cape Town and started shooting […] Treasure Island was a lot of where our focus was at.”
Ty Franck: The Stars My Destination
Under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey, Ty Franck co-writes The Expanse novels alongside Daniel Abraham. The book series, and the SyFy adaptation of the same name—which Franck and Abraham also collaborate on—follows humanity’s struggle for stability after colonizing the solar system.
Franck told us that the science fiction writing which most inspires his and Abraham’s work on The Expanse is “Alfred Bester’s classic novel The Stars My Destination, which is very much about humanity being trapped in our solar system, but spread out everywhere, among the outer planets and inner planets. The story isn’t about it, but in that setting there’s a war going on. And I read that, I think when I was 11, which is way too young to read that book—do not give a kid that book when they’re 11—but I think just that idea stuck in my head, and I know he [co-writer Daniel Abraham] is a fan of that book too.”
Rebecca Sugar: The Left Hand of Darkness
Rebecca Sugar’s Cartoon Network series Steven Universe, and the show’s companion book, The Answer, offer refreshingly positive representation of a variety of LGBTQIA experiences. Given how Steven Universe explores issues of gender and sexuality, it’s not surprising to learn that Sugar was influenced by a sci-fi classic with similar themes: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Sugar explained, “It’s about a planet full of aliens who are only really gendered when they’re in love with someone, and it can change, and a human being goes there and is kind of trying to figure out their society, but they’re all shocked by him because he’s constantly one thing.”
Another of Sugar’s favorites? The animator says Jules Feiffer’s hilarious illustrated fantasy novel A Barrel of Laugh, a Vale of Tears ” was a huge influence on me. I used to go to preschool with Jules Feiffer’s nephews, so I would get some of their extra books. I love Jules Feiffer.”
Jennifer Paz: Instant Mom
An acclaimed stage actress and the voice of Steven Universe‘s Lapis Lazuli, Paz often turns to the writing of other female performers for inspiration: “I love reading a lot of artists’ memoirs. And the last one I read was Nia Vardalos, she wrote a book called Instant Momwhich talked about her experience with trying to become a mom. Mindy Kaling also is another one of my favorites; Patti LuPone, I read her memoir. I loved Mindy Kaling’s, you know, she is one of those pioneers where she’s writing content for herself, and I love that about her. I think as an artist I relate to other performers struggling and finding success from living their truth.”