*Mario Van Peebles, son of famed film and author Melvin Van Peebles, is not playing with Hollywood. Not only is he the star of the new SyFy supernatural thriller Superstition, but also an executive producer, director, and writer on the series.
If that’s not badass enough, the diverse cast that he’s assembled for the series defies Hollywood logic. The sci-fi story centers on a black family who combines arcane weaponry with mystical alchemy to defeat evil (infernals).
The Hastings family owns the only funeral home in the mysterious town of La Rochelle, Georgia. They also serve as the keepers of the town’s dark secrets and history. Known for its haunted houses, elevated graveyards, odd townsfolk, and rich history of unusual phenomena, the town is also a “landing patch” for the world’s darkest manifestations of fear, guided into the world by an ancient, mysterious malefactor.
The cast includes W. Earl Brown (Preacher, Bates Motel), Demetria McKinney (House of Payne), Diamond Dallas Page (WWE Monday Night RAW), Robinne Lee (House of Payne), Brad James (For Better or Worse), Morgana Van Peebles (We The Party), and newcomers T.C. Carter and Tatiana Lia Zappardino.
“I wanted people who had a duality. People who were multicultural. People who could speak other languages. People who could laugh at self,” Mario said of his cast during a recent media teleconference. “And people who were bilingual. And I don’t just mean bilingual in terms of language, but even bilingual in terms of socio-economic divide. That they could talk to the brother or sister in the street or the brother and sister in the trailer park. But they could also talk to someone at the White House, kind of like that Kipling poem.”
Van Peebles also “wanted folks who kind of got the joke of life.”
“I felt like if we’re going to do this in the long haul, I want the (funnest), best, smartest family that I can get. And that’s what we went after. And we found them. And it’s been a ride. And as we go on, it just becomes more and more that way. Not to mention the fact that some of them are legitimately my family. It’s been great.”
Superstition debuts Oct. 20 on SyFy and the pilot episode finds Calvin Hastings returning home to reconnect with his family, but the reunion is cut short by a string of killings instigated by a supernatural villain only Calvin & his family can take down.
Mario’s MVPTV teamed with XLrator Media’s Barry Gordon to produce the series, with Joel Anderson Thompson (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Boomtown,” “House M.D.”) serving as showrunner.
“This has been a collaborative effort,” Van Peebles noted, “and we thought this is a very exciting diverse America that we wanted to show. And I think part of the other thing we kicked around was this notion that, you know, what would the Obamas really be like when the cameras go off?”
Continuing, “If you took a family that was a pretty tight family, had a lot of love, smart family, when the cameras go off, if they had to deal with infernals and demons and fight the forces outside, what would that family look and feel and sound like?”
The Hastings family hold a deep knowledge of the occult and ancient lore and use it to fight the evil lurking within the shadows of the town.
“I wanted the family to feel like they were multicultural. That within the dynamic of our American family, you could feel that, at times, my wife could be more the Michelle Obama mode. But at night, when she’s got to get into her full set of, you know, mystic side, other things come out and other sides come out.”
So, are the Hastings ordinary people whose lineage comes with the responsibility to protect the town from evil?
NO SPOILERS — as Mario says you’ll have to tune in to find out.
“Oh, man. How can I tell you that?” he laughs. “That’s why you watch. I think you find out over time that we’re all individually suited but collectively the sum of our parts. The sum of the family, the family together is greater than the sum of our parts,” he said.
“And, you know, as we link up and really work together more, it’s not just that the four of us are four. It becomes, there’s a power in our unity. And that’s also something that I wanted to show here that I think there’s a power in unity and family.”
We’re thrilled with Mario’s vision of a Black family at the center of a sci-fi narrative, which is something audiences rarely get to experience. The pilot episode left us wondering if he has personally experienced any strange and unusual phenomena.
“Have I personally experienced any strange or unusual phenomenon? Yes, I have. Yes. And I’ve known other people that have, too,” he revealed to EUR.
He further explained:
I’ve experienced something that happened with sort of a past life regression that I went into. I didn’t believe it. But, man, when I saw it, I said, oh, yes, this is very familiar and I don’t want to go back to that lifetime.
I’ve had that happen with my kids where we went to do things together and someone did a reading for us and it was very, very illuminating. And it really actually helped me be a better parent.
But I’m a weird guy in that I’m personally okay with saying, I don’t know. I don’t really know what happens when we die. I’ll find out. And I look forward to finding out. I don’t want to find out too soon.
I want to enjoy what I’m doing right now. But I look forward to finding out. I don’t really know which belief system is always the best. I suppose the one that makes us kind is probably a good place to start. So there’s a lot of things.
We have one superstition about people reading the grinds in a coffee cup. It was written in there. We Googled it. We talked about it, discussed it. My cameraman came over and said how did you guys know? I said what do you mean? He said, this has happened to me twice. I had a woman read the grinds in my coffee cup and predicted that I would have a child, predicted when, predicted that I would shoot the sequel to my movie, predicted when.
People can come at this game from all kinds of places from Vedanta theory, from past life theory, from religious aspects, from all kinds of places.
Part of the fun of this was going around and going through the history of Americana and saying what superstitions, what belief systems, what sort of cultural nuances and idiosyncrasies can we play with? And how do we do that with each episode and play with it? What do we do when someone gets lost in the mirror world? What do you do when someone gets caught in a clock in a time warp? And, you know, what’s the concept of the time?
There’s a lot out there that we human beings don’t understand. And that’s part of the fun of playing in the area of superstition.
Don’t miss the Superstition series premiere Oct. 20 at 10/9c on SyFy. Stream the first episode here or watch it below.