Article by Steve J. Ray
Jack Bannon is a British actor who had already appeared in movies alongside the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt before being cast as the lead in Pennyworth, playing Alfred himself. He’s known for his roles in The Imitation Game (2014), Fury (2014) and Endeavour (2012).
Jack was one of the stars attending the recent MCM Comic-Con in London, where I was fortunate enough to talk to him and attend the Pennyworth panel. He’s an incredible talent and you couldn’t hope to meet a nicer fella.
His version of Alfred has already become a favorite, and his love of the character and the universe he inhabits really comes across when speaking to him. The news that Pennyworth has been renewed for a second season, and will start filming in January 2020, is very welcome indeed.
Why play Batman’s butler?
Jack Bannon: I hadn’t thought about it before, and then, when we’d read the premise of (Pennyworth), and particularly for me, Bruno (Heller)’s brilliant script…. that was what grabbed me. The S.A.S. background’s quite cool, and all the action…. the fashion of the 60s. Everything about the show grabbed me. It was fantastic.
His name is Michael Caine… what’s that all about, Alfie?
JB: (Michael Caine) said “I’ll play a butler, as long as he’s ex-S.A.S.” so it wouldn’t have felt right to do an S.A.S. story without giving him a nod. Also, personally I think he was probably the best (Alfred). He was also the archetypal film star of the 60s, so, with this being set in the 60s that sort of felt right as well.
Surprise twists to established relationships
JB: The thing about (the relationship with Thomas Wayne) is, it quite easily could’ve been a sort of bromance kind of thing, but they don’t really like each other, you know? They’re wary of each other, and each one has something that the other one needs. Thomas has money and status, which Alfred needs to get his business off the ground, and Thomas is a wimp, so he needs Alfred’s street-smarts.
60s research and inspiration
JB: There was a bit of that, because all of this was before the comics. I decided, as good as they are, rather than read thousands and thousands of comics, I watched some of the Michael Caine films; The Ipcress File, and things like that. There was a Spotify playlist, that nobody else seems to have heard about, but Danny Cannon made a playlist which I listened to a bit.
Popular culture was much more of a starting point, research-wise.
JB: It was good fun.. though you need to be careful don’t you? Saying, “Oh, it was great! all these guns” and whatnot… but it was.
There’s a fantastic place in London, on the outskirts, where it’s a street of terraced houses, and you go down a sort of alleyway, behind which is the biggest armory in the country! It has weapons from medieval times through to modern day. Fantasy, real things… it’s about four floors! So if there’s a zombie outbreak, I know where I’m going!
We got locked in there for a couple of days with weapons specialists, and they taught us how to use everything… it was fantastic! Yeah, so that was good.
A bit of trivia, the gun that Alfred uses was made for Roger Moore in The Wild Geese, but he didn’t want it. It didn’t get used, so I ended up with it!
Alfred has brains behind the brawn
JB: Exactly, that was always a thing. You know, he says “I don’t like violence”, but unfortunately sometimes that’s the only way that he can get out of a situation… but he’s always looking at the greater good. If it means he has to do bad things to eventually get there, then he’s prepared to do it.
His sharp wit is almost a lot more dangerous than any physical thing he’s carrying.
We shot for six months, and towards the end there were a couple of occasions where I sat in a pub, in London, as me… as Jack Bannon, in real life, and something was happening at the bar. I’d be looking, and going like (he eyes the area up and down, as if judging the scenario, and assessing the risk)… and friends would go, “No. No, no. You are NOT capable of sorting this out! Sit down! Don’t get involved”, and I’m thinking (in a forlorn voice) “Well, I could go over there and say… something.” Luckily, I never did.
Alfred’s unknown past… and well known future
JB: It’s sort of in the back of your head, but, without getting to “actor-y” about it, Alfred himself doesn’t know that yet… where that’s going. He’s discovering it as he goes on. So I’m trying to do that with him, if you see what I mean. We don’t know what’s gonna happen, do we? I never thought I’d be at London Comic-Con. In life strange things happen, and discovering that with him keeps it a bit fresh.
Season two and beyond
JB: Am I looking forward to it? Of course! This is the best job I’ve ever done; we get to shoot it in London, where I live, and where I love… yeah, I can’t wait.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the show
JB: There’s grannies with guns, which is quite fun. Felicity Kendal as a saucy sorceress… there’s lots. The richness of the world is worth looking out for.
Batman in the 60s and meeting previous Bat actors for inspiration
JB: I thought you were gonna say “Did you go to the Batcave?” which I did. Paloma (Faith)’s friend in L.A. took me to the original (1960s Adam West) Batcave, where they shot it. So, I’ve been there. It’s an amazing place, but it’s essentially just a tunnel, and we had to hike up there, which took hours. We got there, and I was, like… without Batman it’s just a hole in a rock.
Did we meet them? No… and I’d like to. So, if you know any of ’em, that would be great! I like Christian Bale, I think he’s my favorite.
Thank you very much, Jack.
JB: Thank you.
Jack Bannon is kind, funny and has a very bright future ahead of him. It’s amazing the way that actors can put a part of themselves into the characters they play, yet still transform themselves almost completely, sometimes to a point where the only thing the actor and character share is their face. Speaking to Jack after seeing him as Pennyworth made me a bigger fan of his as an actor, but I left liking the man himself too.
Images May Be Subject To Copyright. Photo of Jack Bannon with Paloma Faith at MCM by Daniel Belgrave.