We caught up with Michael Cusack, Benji Samit, and Dan Hernandez about their upcoming series Koala Man while we were at San Diego Comic-Con this year. The concept for Koala Man first appeared on the Australian comedy anthology series called Fresh Blood. The episodes of the season were also meant to double as potential pilots for future TV series. “Koala Man” was about Kevin, a divorced dad, who spends his days at a boring job and his nights as a superhero with a Koala mask. Originally created by Cusack, the series has now been picked up by 20th Television Animation for Hulu to be produced.

The Koala Man series now follows a family man who lives a not-so-secret identity as the titular hero who possesses a burning passion to snuff out petty crime in their small town of Dapto in Australia. The series casts Cusack as the voice behind the titular character but also employs the talents of Succession‘s Sarah Snook and Demi Lardner as family members. Samit and Hernandez serve as showrunners, having worked on projects like Pokémon Detective Pikachu, The Addams Family 2, and Central Park together.

COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY

We asked the trio about what it was like casting Hugh Jackman in the role of Big Greg, whether they got the triple threat to sing, what their influences were, and what they were excited about for Comic-Con.

RELATED: Hulu Orders Adult Animated Show ‘Koala Man,’ Justin Roiland Executive Producing

Collider: It’s great to see you guys. So first off, I just have to ask about getting Hugh Jackman on the show. I would love to hear the story behind that. How’d you guys get him? Was he hard to get?

MICHAEL CUSACK: Yeah, I think the story goes, we went out to Hugh, because we wanted a big Australian star because this is an Australian show so we aim for the stars. I’m pretty sure he showed it to one of his kids, and they were like, you have to do this because it’s very specifically Aussie. So, it was one of his kids who convinced him to do the role, which we’re very thankful for.

BENJI SAMIT: Yeah, we sort of created this part of Big Greg for Hugh. As we were writing it, we were like, “This is obviously got to be Hugh Jackman,” because the character is like the most Australian man in the world. And it’s like, who is the king of Australia? Hugh Jackman.

DAN HERNANDEZ: And also it was one of those things where there were a lot of people telling us to temper our expectations about it. “Okay, yeah, we’ll try you know, you know, but don’t… It’s Hugh Jackman, one of the biggest stars in the world.” And then I think he was the easiest yes that we had out of anybody. He loved it. He got it. He loved Michael. He just loved the show, and he was in. We couldn’t believe it.

So I’m guessing there’s no singing involved then?

HERNANDEZ: I wouldn’t say that there’s no singing involved.

SAMIT: We weren’t going to cast Hugh Jackman and not have him sing a song.

HERNANDEZ: He also brought a lot that wasn’t on the page. Just because he is such a tremendous performer. I mean, he’s just the best of the best. So but, you know, watch this space for Hugh singing.

Any Wolverine jokes? I gotta ask.

CUSACK: I mean, it’s a superhero show. So I guess like, the undertones are there, but no direct Wolverine references. We didn’t want to seem too fan-boyish on him.

SAMIT: Yeah, we wanted to be cool.

HERNANDEZ: Yeah, we had to pretend to be much calmer about the entire situation than we were.

So, Dan and Benji, you guys are showrunners. What has it been like working on this show coming from working on big projects like Pokemon Detective Pikachu?

SAMIT: I mean, it’s been amazing. We’ve simultaneously, through our film career, we’ve also had a long TV career where we’ve written on a lot of shows and produced a lot of TV. This is our first time showrunning. It’s been a few years now since we first sat down with Michael, he had this idea for a show, and we developed it together. It’s just been an amazing partnership, the three of us, like building this world, crafting the show, putting it all together. Movies are great and super fun, and they’re rewarding in their own way, but when you’re showrunning, and you’re in charge of everything, it’s a different feeling.

HERNANDEZ: Well, I would also say that, in TV, you have the opportunity to tell a longer form story. I don’t think we treat it like one long movie, I think we are very proud of the TV formula, and you know, episodic, and each episode has its own nugget. However, over the course of eight episodes, you can spend a lot of time with these characters that you can’t in a movie that’s just gotta move, gotta move, gotta move. So I think that a lot of the emotion in the character moments from the first episode to the eighth episode, it almost sneaks up on you how much you’re starting to care about these characters and the things that are happening. So I think that TV is a great medium in that respect. That’s why we love telling stories in a longer form way.

And Michael, having played Koala Man in Fresh Blood, which is where we first saw him, how has it been seeing it transition from just a single episode to a full-blown show?

CUSACK: Yeah, it’s been an amazing experience really, because going from what I do, which is very rough and crafty – it was a roller coaster to get it into more of a mainstream formula. Like, how do you do a show [that] comes from very small, crafty roots [that goes] to a bigger audience. It was really a big learning curve for me personally, but amazing too. It’s just, exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid, have a 20th Century Fox show. It’s just insane having an Australian show on American TV, I think that’s the weirdest part.

Yes, you’ll definitely introduce some people to Australia-isms. But speaking about childhoods, I know you guys are all into animation. I want to know what influences did you have when you were growing up? Do you have a favorite TV show or favorite movie that influenced you?

SAMIT: I would say we’re all that age where The Simpsons, I think I could speak for probably all of us, was such an influence on our comedy, on our storytelling. That launched this whole world of adult animation or animation with an expanded audience. Yeah, that would be the big one for my childhood.

CUSACK: Yeah, The Simpsons definitely. South Park was a huge influence on me. I probably watched South Park when I was too young. My dad let me watch it, but my mom didn’t. It was like the secret thing. What Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker] did with that and like what you get away with was such an influence to me as a kid. It’s South Park, Futurama, all that.

HERNANDEZ: That was the same for me. But, I think in this particular case, I also really enjoyed things like X-Men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Heavy Metal. So it’s been interesting in a show like this, which is a superhero show and there’s a lot of action, and there’s a lot of non-comedy – things that are funny, but we kind of treat it pretty seriously. That’s been really helpful for me having been able to deploy those diverse interests into this show.

SAMIT: Yeah, in particular, we really try and blend the animated family sitcom that people all know very well at this point with a superhero so. Those classic superhero cartoons. Those two have never really been married before, in the way that we’re doing it, and it’s really exciting.

That’s exciting, and those are some of my favorites as well, so I’m happy to hear it. So, coming to Comic-Con, you’ve got a bunch of fans and collectors here. Do you guys have things that you collect or things that you’re on the look out for here at Comic-Con?

HERNANDEZ: Oh, I’m going fully off on Comic-Con, because I haven’t been in probably five years, and certainly with the pandemic… So I’ve decided that I’m allowed to spend all the money I would have spent in the preceding five years basically today. I’ve already, I wasn’t on the floor for five minutes before I dropped some money. I’ve got a commission waiting for me from one of my favorite artists. It’s going to be an extravaganza. I’m a huge collector. I had to promise my wife I wouldn’t get too much stuff. But I may break that promise.

SAMIT: You almost certainly well.

What about you guys?

CUSACK: It’s like coming to Vegas. So you have to spend a lot of money on just nonsense, and then regret it when you get home. I’m actually probably like 10% more excited to be on the floor than all the press stuff just because like I used to do it, and it hasn’t been happening for years. So yeah, I’m gonna buy a lot, a lot of junk.

HERNANDEZ: We’re doing a shopping day soon. Soon.

SAMIT: I have small kids and I can use them. ‘Oh, no, I’m buying this for them. It’s not for me, these toys.’

HERNANDEZ: It’s also Benji’s birthday. So, he’s got something coming to him. I don’t know what yet, but when I see it, I’ll know.

Well, happy birthday! And thank you so much for speaking with me about Koala Man.

CUSACK: Thank you!

HERNANDEZ: It was a pleasure! So much fun.

 

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