How David Weil tapped his own personal history for the Nazi-fighting saga Hunters
As a child, Weil saw stories of the Holocaust 'as comic book stories, stories of grand good versus grand evil.'
Hunters series creator David Weil recalls being just 6 years old when he and his brothers gathered around their grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, to hear some of their first stories about Nazis and World War II. “It was such a strange and jarring thing to hear as a kid,” Weil tells EW on the show’s Brooklyn set. So, he processed them the only way he knew how: “I saw those stories as comic book stories, stories of grand good versus grand evil, and that became the lens through which I saw the Holocaust.”
Now Weil is approaching his new Amazon Prime Video series (launching in 2020) the same way.
In this sometimes ultraviolent tale about a group of vigilantes fighting Nazis in 1977 New York City, Weil seeks to turn the stories of real-life Jewish heroes into superheroes — in a street-level crime-fighting sense more than a cape-wearing sense, though their headquarters is referred to as the Batcave.
“It becomes this story that lives not in black and white, but in the gray and that murky morality,” Weil says. “If we hunt these monsters, do we risk becoming them ourselves?”
Through a fresh teaser trailer (above) and EW’s exclusive photos, the series (previously titled The Hunt) offers a glimpse into the three distinct worlds at play.
It begins with Jonah (Logan Lerman, of The Perks of Being a Wallflower), a Jewish comic book shop clerk recruited by Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) to join the Hunters, whose mission is to uncover Nazis hiding in America 30 years after the war and prevent the formation of a Fourth Reich.
Lerman was 13 when he last starred on a television series (the WB’s Jack & Bobby), but the actor, now 27, says the creative team and the character arc made it easy to make such a hefty commitment again. “He’s a young man, struggling financially with his grandmother,” Lerman says of his character. “He has to make sacrifices for the path he wants to take in life so he can stay and support his family.”
The series also focuses on Millie (Grey’s Anatomy veteran Jerrika Hinton), who provides a look inside the world of the FBI, which is working to weed out Nazism as well. “She is one of the first black women to work for the bureau, so she’s a pioneer in that way,” Hinton says. “She’s a devout Catholic, she’s a woman of faith, and those two things tell you a lot about how she sees the world. Her guiding light is a very clear sense of right and wrong.”
Then there is “the grand evil,” the Nazis themselves, a group powered by their sociopathic golden boy, Travis (Greg Austin, who appeared on the Doctor Who spin-off Class). According to Austin, Travis doesn’t necessarily believe in the group’s dogma, but that doesn’t make him any less cruel. “He’s a normal American kid that has somehow been caught up with this re-emergence of Nazis, because it allows him to express his violence and his lust for chaos,” he says.
Pitching a show like Hunters, which also includes flashbacks to concentration camps and brutal slayings of Nazis, was “a high-wire act,” says Weil. “People were afraid of it.” Turn on any news program these days, and you can probably guess why. It’s also partly why it was crucial that he and his team — including executive producer Jordan Peele — provide levity in the series to counterbalance the seriousness of the material.
“The comedy is so prevalent, and you can really push the envelope with a lot of these characters because all of these Hunters come from different backgrounds,” says executive producer Nikki Toscano, who serves as co-showrunner alongside Weil. “All of them have been discriminated against in some way, and I loved this idea of them collectively trying to take the power back.”
Just call them the original Defenders of Hell’s Kitchen.
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