WE HAVEN’T SEEN a live-action Robin—you know, The Boy Wonder, of Batman and Robin fame—since 1997’s disastrous Batman and Robin movie. Titans, perhaps DC’s highest-profile TV series, has remedied that with a brand new version of the character. But who’s been the man behind the mask since the show’s 2018 debut? We’re not talking about the Dick Grayson or Jason Todd, the characters best known for taking up the mantle as Batman’s sidekick. We’re talking about Curran Walters, the model-turned-actor taking Robin to the dark side for the first time as the villainous Red Hood.
Walters isn’t a newbie to the Titans scene—he already played Jason Todd in the show’s first two seasons, after all. But while the actor knew his character would eventually transform into the Red Hood, the preparation for becoming the Titans No.1 antagonist in Season 3 has been a whole new playing field.
Of course, it can’t be easy to transition from teammate/hero, to antihero, to villain. Walters says the biggest key in his research was looking at the original source material: the comics.
“I went out and bought everything I could possibly find on [the] Red Hood,” he explains. “I read online comics. I bought a hard copy of [the] comics. And then also, I watched the Red Hood animated movie probably 50 times. So, I did my studying. I picked from each and everything that I saw what I wanted to bring into this live-action version of Red Hood.”
Being the first of something, there’s always a set of expectations about getting it right. And, for Walters, he didn’t have the wiggle room to deviate too much from the comics (his origin story was already a bit different than some fans would have liked). That said, Walters wanted to up his game by accentuating the villain’s sinister brutality. That’s why he underwent martial arts fighting, boxing, and even gun training (die-hard fans will notice that the Red Hood uses guns as his primary weapons, a subtle-but-significant change that highlights the “killer” in Jason, Walters says).
“With Covid-19, we didn’t get the opportunity to train as a cast, which was difficult because we had a lot of fight scenes together,” he says. “Obviously, Red Hood uses guns, as we know. So we brought in Special Forces units, some military people to really teach us how to hold a gun, how to shoot a gun, how to reload, [and] foot movement. And, that all translated over to [the] screen.”
Though the action scenes in Season 3 are exciting, what’s really remarkable about Titans is the series’ ability to show Jason’s duality. Curran says you almost see two sides of him this season—one where he is vengeful and angry against both Nightwing, and more importantly, Bruce Wayne. On the other hand, he’s also just a scared orphan who wants love and attention.
Look at the opening shots of Season 3’s first episode: there’s a eager-looking Jason trying to prove to Bruce that he’s capable (of being a Robin, of being better than Nightwing, of being worthy of Bruce’s love and respect). He pleads with his pseudo father to let him take down Gotham’s favorite nemesis, the Joker. But while we, Bruce, and he, himself, all know that he can’t do that, he does so anyway. And that was the death of Jason Todd— because Todd’s worst enemy is himself.
Jason’s suicidal ideation, ever-present rage, and impulsiveness all point towards the mental health crisis—specifically his post-traumatic stress—which fuels his decision to become the Red Hood. And it’s been there since the beginning (little clues have been sprinkled in throughout the course of the series). The contentious relationship between Jason and Nightwing was the first sign.
“There’s always been tension right from the first time we saw Jason in the Jason Todd episode in Season 1,” Walters says. “Dick’s like ‘Oh, who is this kid? He’s driving Bruce’s Batmobile.’ Jason looked up to Nightwing in a way, even though Nightwing didn’t think so. And when Nightwing let Jason down, that was very wrong in Jason’s eyes. But Nightwing didn’t see that. That’s ultimately what led Jason to where he is in Season 3, feeling like this is his only option. Feeling like he has no home, and that’s always been Jason’s thing—finding a new home, a new identity, and what will make him feel welcomed. He was a foster kid, so that’s all he knows.”
So, when he puts on the Red Mask, it’s not because he seeks to cause the Titans harm. Deep down, “he’s still trying to get over the traumatic stress and everything that he experienced throughout the two seasons,” Walters says. Despite what we may think as an audience, Jason is neither a villain nor a superhero. He’s a victim; a victim who murders hundreds, yes, but a victim nonetheless.
“As the season goes on, we see him start to regret his decisions,” Walters explain. “We see him start to, in a way, want to be family with the Titans again.”
Though let’s not get it twisted: Jason might be a victim, but his fall from grace is—aside from Titans not believing in him—because of himself. “Jason thinks being a hero means never being scared, but I’m not sure that’s really true about heroes, or you know, anyone that matters,” Walters says. “I think that when he transitioned over to Red Hood, he feels that all that fear and all that stress is going to be gone.”
And, is he fearless when he’s the Red Hood? Curran says no. He’s being manipulated. As for who’s controlling him? You’ll have to watch the entire season.
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