Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ketty Jay: The Series

In the past year, I have been fortunate enough to become acquainted with a series of novels that's just plain fun, yet a serious, adult read at the same time. I've heard people describe Chris Wooding's Tales of the Ketty Jay series as Firefly crossed with Pirates of the Caribbean in a dieselpunk setting. That's not a bad description, even if it does barely scratch the surface.

Part science fiction, part fantasy, part western, part sky-pirate story, and mixed together in a way that feels familiar and yet fresh at the same time, Tales of the Ketty Jay is a four-novel long action/adventure story set in a fictional world where electricity, machinery, etc. exist yet society is still at about the level of about early 20th Century. Our heroes are the captain and crew of the Ketty Jay, a Millennium Falcon-esque airship that's seen better days. Darian Frey and his crew are freebooters; they'll take almost any job that pays well, even illegal jobs, even if there are some lines they won't cross. Action and danger rule the skies, and our heroes are frequently at the heart of it. 

For those of you who aren't familiar, I'll try and go light on the spoilers, but I will encourage you to go pick yourself up a copy of these books right away. You won't be disappointed.

Now, up until now I have been casting film versions of the books I've read, but this time, I feel a television series would be best. The books aren't super-long but there's a fascinating world and set of characters to be explored here and I'd love to see a four-season TV series running on, say, Starz or BBC America. I think the best title for the series would be simply Ketty Jay rather than Tales of the Ketty Jay, since really, none of the individual book titles would work for the series as a whole. Well, maybe Ace of Skulls but it sounds a little too obscure.

Also, I mentioned in my first post that I take into consideration the age of the actors vs. the characters, and for the most part, I've followed that here, but for a few of the roles, I've aged them up a bit (and perhaps down a bit, too). In this case, characters' ages are less relevant, and in the case of at least one of them, I feel he was too young in the novel to have amassed the life experiences he supposedly has. Despite that, I still feel these actors will do a great job.

The Regular Cast

For our intrepid (hah) hero, Darian Frey, I kept picturing Dominic West of The Wire and The Hour fame, but I'm afraid he's just a bit too long in the tooth by now. Darian is self-centered, often greed-driven, treats women poorly in general and is a burgeoning drug addict. We're talking about a seriously flawed, yet very human and engaging, lead character. I'm picking Tom Riley, formerly of Da Vinci's Demons, but I'll confess, I'm primarily familiar with this actor thanks to his performance as Robin Hood (seriously) on Doctor Who, where he showed a great deal of charisma and charm. This tells me he's an actor with range, as his role on Demons was darker and more brooding. There's darkness and charm to Darian, so Riley should work perfect.

Also aboard the Ketty Jay is gentleman daemonist Grayther Crake. Crake is on the run, and with him is a mysterious golem named Bess. Crake's main talent is in binding daemons, which comes in handy a lot, and really, his only other skill is fitting in with society crowds, which comes in handy for infiltration purposes. He eventually realizes he belongs on the Ketty Jay. The foppish dandy seems like a good role for Stephen Campbell Moore.
Stephen Campbell Moore
Jez, aka Jezabeth Kyte, is the new navigator aboard the Ketty Jay. She's small, looks younger than she is, and is maybe a little too good at her job. What's she hiding? Well, on the Ketty Jay, where everyone has secrets, she's right at home. Kaya Scodelario is a tad young, but to me captures the mysterious, yet inviting, young navigator.
Then there's good old Doc Malvery. I like Althazar Malvery, and you will, too. He's a fatherly, wise old feller, even if he is a functioning alcoholic. He's sort of the mentor character, and one of my favorites. I wanted to match his girth, age and wisdom with an actor that would be TV-ready, and came up with Game of Thrones's Ron Donachie. All he needs is a walrus mustache.
Ron Donachie
The role of the Ketty Jay's engineer, strong silent-type Silo, was tougher, because he's probably the most layered character in the book. A Murthian, Silo is basically a strapping, handsome black man with a thick accent and bass voice. He starts off so serious, quiet and withdrawn that he's hardly a character. But once we begin to delve into him, well, let's just say that still waters run very deeply in this case. I think I've found my Silo in Jimmy Akingbola.
Jimmy Akingbola
Then there are the two out-flyers. These are the men who pilot the planes that scout ahead of the Ketty-Jay and help in any dogfights they get into. First up is Artis Pinn, the whipping-boy for the rest of the crew who is a few bricks shy, and also chubby, sexist, perpetually horny, even a little mean-spirited. Sounds like a great guy, eh? Well, no, he's not, and the book even makes it clear. The only thing he's good at is flying, and he thinks of himself as a dashing hero because of it. To me, he looks like Calvin Dean.
Second outflyer is Jandrew Harkins. Harkins fought in the Aerium Wars (read the books to find out what they are) and is still shell-shocked from them. He's perpetually frightened, only ever feeling at home in his plane. He was another who was hard to cast, but I think Jason Flemyng could handle the jittery, rat-faced, balding, gap-toothed pilot.
In the last two seasons, a new regular comes aboard. Her name is Ashua Vode, and she's a street rat trying to break into bigtime thievery. She's a short ginger with a tattood face, and kinda looks like this:
Which to me, looks an awful lot like Karen Gillan. That's not Gillan in the photo, but it's a pretty good estimation of what she'd look like dressed as Ashua.

Recurring Cast
The following characters will appear frequently, but probably not often enough to be considered regulars.

The first of these, and the most important, is Frey's love interest, Capt. Trinica Dracken. After he left her, she became probably the most infamous and feared sky pirate in the world, and cultivates an evil persona that she uses to inspire fear. Underneath it all, however, there are hints that Darian's beautiful former fiance is still there. I chose Rosamund Pike for the part. I think she could handle both aspects of the character.
Rosamund Pike

The Century Knights are a fun group. They're the hundred most deadly fighters in the Coalition, and we get to know one of them quite well; Samandra Bree, a dual-rifle wielding, short, cute badass, she was a lot of fun and I wanted to cast a fun actress in the role. Believe me, I'm not just trying to work in as many Doctor Who companions as I can, but I think Jenna Coleman would rock this part.
Jenna Coleman
 Samandra's partner, giant, taciturn Colden Grudge, basically just calls for a really big actor. So I chose stuntman Spencer Wilding, who stands 6'7".
Spencer Wilding
There are lots of other roles, but few that appear as often as the ones I cast. I'm gonna leave it up to other Wooding readers to suggest actors for people like Kedmund Drave or Plome.

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