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Titans’ James Scully Dishes on the Series’ Queer Romance & CGI Snakes

The following contains spoilers for Titans Season 4, Episode 5, “Inside Man,” now streaming on HBO Max.

Despite their heroism and extraordinary abilities, the Titans cannot wage war against evil on their own; they need allies. One of those individuals is Bernard, played by actor James Scully. Introduced in the season 4 premiere, “Lex Luthor,” Bernard serves as the director of special projects at STAR Labs in Metropolis. In addition to providing the Titans with high-tech gadgets, he catches the eye of Tim Drake, and the two begin a flirtatious relationship. Tim even sends him STAR Labs nerdy photos of him posing with Bo’s staff that Bernard set it up with. However, hanging out with the Titans is a sure way to fall into danger. Episode 5, “Inside Man,” finds Bernard and Tim hunting one of Mother Mayhem’s supernatural snakes in the lab, but soon, the hunters become the prey.

Scully recently spoke to CBR about her love for the Titans. She dove into finding Bernard’s voice for the HBO Max series, filming alongside a CGI snake and her character’s kiss with Tim Drake.

RELATED: Titans Season 4, Episode 5, ‘Inside Man’, Recap and Spoilers

CBR: How aware were you of the Titans and their lore before joining the show?

James Scully: I was very, very, very aware. I was a big fan of cartoons growing up and then later in my life I moved to New York City and got access to Midtown Comics and started collecting comics. I loved. I loved the characters. It was one of the first shows I watched when I was young, especially one of the first cartoons I watched where I felt [that] I, as a 13-year-old, as a teenager, as the characters on the screen, was being taken seriously. I wasn’t being spoon-fed by the cyclical monster-of-the-week plots. These characters were really going through things and really changing and being challenged, not just as superheroes but as people. The clear anime influences on cartoons are what introduced me to anime as an art form, which is now my favorite thing in the world.

So yeah, I was a big fan. My team also represents Teagan Croft, who plays Raven, so I found out. My manager Charles said, “Oh, Teagan is working on titans. That’s how it goes.” I remember auditioning for [the] Episode 1 or 2 bad guy in the first or second season. I don’t even remember the character’s name. It was a long time ago. I was like, “Ohhh… being on this show would be great.” It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, which, in hindsight, makes me extremely emotional because if it had, obviously it could never have been Bernard. When I saw the word “titans” into my email inbox, I said, “I’m definitely going to record it. I don’t know if they’re going to give me the job, but I would absolutely take it if they did.” Then figuring out who the character was and what her arc was going to be throughout the season, it was really easy yeah I’m so glad I took it. and i ended up doing it.

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Not much is known about Bernard other than his role as Director of Special Projects at STAR Labs. What was your perception of him from the breakdown and scripts?

They have to be a little shy on the breakdown. They can’t send a quote to a bunch of actors who are going to post, “Oh, they’re getting Robin a boyfriend in Season 4.” With the background information I have and talking to my manager and reading between the lines… and because in the audition package, the character’s name was Bernard… I was able to piece together what was going on. It was interesting because I could tell right away that it wasn’t going to be the Bernard character as shown in the comics. They were aiming for older, and heading in a different direction with him. It was a relief because I’m not a 17-year-old boy. I won’t be able to figure that out, but it also meant that he didn’t necessarily have a guide to what he needed to be. So, it was kind of figuring it out.

I think a really enlightening experience was my final test when I saw the costumes that I was going to be put on. When I reflected on his style and what I did on the tape, I said, “I know who this guy is. I think I know who this person should be,” especially in the context of the titans. He was interested in bringing an energy to the team that wasn’t there yet. I can’t be another Dick Grayson. I can’t be another Superboy. I could definitely never be Starfire, even if I really wanted to be…and I do. That’s how we got to a bit of a fussy, a bit dry and anxious Bernard, but a very competent and focused Bernard that we got.

I was able to talk to Rich Hatem, one of the writers, before I accepted the job, and in between making the tape and then accepting the job, they let me read the first script. Something that really appealed to me was the way he conveyed the obvious passion he has for the work that the Titans do, and also the warmth he has for these people, the care he takes when talking to Conner about Kal-El. and the care he has for Tim, and the faith and pride he has in Dick Grayson… I really liked those humanizing traits. I was giving off a bit of a mother hen vibe to the titanswhich was something I tied to bring. Again, not as effectively as Starfire, she can’t be touched, but my version of that.

I think it’s also fun because the Titans are a new experience for Bernard. He’s a seasoned pro at working with superheroes, but the Titans exist in this weird little pocket of the DC Universe where all this crazy, wacky stuff happens. It was funny meeting Bernard at this point in his life, where he said, “You know, I thought I’d seen everything, and then a giant black snake came out of Superboy’s mouth and chased me around the lab. Now I’ve seen everything.”

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Titans James Jay Coffee

Just being around the Titans puts Bernard in danger. How long did you wait for that moment? Were you a little dreading it or just itching to get into action mode?

On some level, I think Bernard wishes he had super strength, or super speed, or laser vision. On one hand, he is very exciting. He now he feels like he’s not just support staff, he doesn’t just give someone a Batarang and say, “Good luck.” He sits in the trenches with them, doing the work and wading through the goo. On the other hand, he is very scary. He is not a superhero. He’s not super tough. If that snake bites him, he’s going to pierce his skin. He’s very conflicted, and that largely reflects how he feels about Tim’s involvement with the team.

While he respects Tim’s convictions and believes in the mission Tim has for himself and the work he wants to do to make the world a better and safer place, he also says, “Tim doesn’t have super strength or heat vision or super invulnerability. He’s just a guy with the gadgets I’ve given him, but ultimately just a guy.” He is very back and forth. Bernard wants to be a part of this and wants to help, but he also doesn’t want to be chased down a hallway by a giant snake again. He didn’t like that part. I was like, “I can’t wait to get to the scenes with the giant snake. Let’s not talk about technology anymore. Let’s bring in the giant snake, please.”

In fact, Bernard and Tim go on this hunt to find this gigantic snake and must finally evade it. They are on the run through the labs. What was it like filming that sequence? It’s not like there’s a real life reptile slithering up behind you.

No, what we had was a pool noodle on a stick. The first obstacle was not laughing every time he appeared on camera. We often joke that Tim and Bernard need their own spinoff comedy series, where it’s just them traveling through the countryside and solving crimes, solving mysteries. Jay Lycurgo is a dumb, dumb guy. We laughed a lot on set. Sometimes, within those scenes where we had to take things very seriously, we’d run, run, run, and we’d make it to the end of the hallway, and then a pool noodle would slide across the floor. It was just, “Stay together. Come on. You have to imagine it’s a giant, giant snake.” We’re also filming all of that off-duty. Seeing the snake, running away from the snake, and going back to the lab: those were all different days and different places. We had to check in long before we started filming and say, “Sorry. Where in the timeline of finding the snake are we? Where are we in space?” They were fun days.

As goofy as Jay is, he’s always ready to go there, all the way. He is totally committed as an actor. In that scene where we had to run down the hall, I fall and he comes back to get me. The first time we filmed it, when I fell, I was taken aback. He was like, “BERNARD!” He grabbed me. I’m a little bigger than him, but he lifted me completely off the ground and was carrying me down the hall in a couple of seconds. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun.

RELATED: Titans: Is Superboy Vulnerable To Magic?

Bernard and Tim share a kiss in that episode. What have you enjoyed about how that relationship has blossomed over the season?

One thing that I think is really cool about the way they’ve decided to tell this story is that no tension, conflict, or drama is really rooted in the fact that any of these characters are queer. Is demonstrated. Tim tells the team, “Oh yeah, I kissed Bernard,” and they say, “Oh, okay. Great.” Bernard is gay, and we don’t have a conversation about it. He never has to be spoon-fed to the audience. It just happens very naturally. Of course, there will inevitably be tension and conflict about other things later in the relationship, but right now, we’re at a tipping point in telling stories about the LGBTQ community where it’s not so sad and painful to be a part of it anymore. community.

Those stories still need to be told. We still have to honor those experiences, and we still have to reflect on and challenge the homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia in the world, but that doesn’t have to be the summary of who we are as storytellers. That doesn’t have to be every story we tell about queer love. It’s like so many other love stories that have been told between heterosexual couples on television since the beginning of time. It develops in a very sweet, serious and simple way. On the set that day, director Jen McGowan knew she was going to be very special. As a fan of the series, as a fan of the characters, and as a gay actor, it was very important to me.

Developed for television by Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, and Greg Berlanti, Titans releases new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.

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