Pennyworth producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon felt “lucky” to get season 2 out during COVID

PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Executive producers Danny Cannon (L) and Bruno Heller of Epix's "Pennyworth" pose for a portrait during the 2019 Winter TCA at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 10, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Executive producers Danny Cannon (L) and Bruno Heller of Epix's "Pennyworth" pose for a portrait during the 2019 Winter TCA at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 10, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images) /

Pennyworth creator Bruno Heller celebrated a “calmer” reunion between Rome stars James Purefoy and Polly Walker and thinks maybe a Rome sequel is possible. (The sets are still up!)

With the holidays upon us, the second season of Pennyworth is premiering at just the right time. Sinking our teeth into the evocative reimagining of a civil-war-torn London set in the spy universe of the 1960s, seems like the perfect dramatic escape from reality.

Centering around the adventures of a young Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon) — of the Batman comic books fame — is navigating his way between the No Name League and the Raven Society, which has emerged the stronger faction at the outset of season two.

And since Rome is one my favorite series ever, I couldn’t help asking series creator Bruno Heller if there was any chance that we could get another season (or movie, or anything!) of the HBO drama centered around two Roman soldiers who witness the time of Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and Augustus.

Culturess spoke with Pennyworth producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon about filming in the Harry Potter studios, rehearsing with masks on, bringing in a new brutal character played by James Purefoy (always wonderful), and if Alfred will get any luck in the love department (considering the haunting loss of his fiancé Esme, played by Emma Corrin, who is winning raves as Lady Di on The Crown).

Culturess: First of all, how are you doing during the pandemic? What have you up to during quarantine?

Bruno Heller: We’ve been making the show here in the Harry Potter studios, in Watford, in the U.K. And there were certainly challenges, but we got it done. It was good to be at work.

Culturess: Absolutely. And what’s it like to film now with the new strictures?

Heller: Camera rehearsals are odd because the protocol was that you’re allowed to shoot scenes, but you can’t rehearse scenes without a mask on. So, people would rehearse emotional scenes with their faces covered, so “Yeah right, that was good.”

Culturess: That would be so weird. How challenging is that for you, Danny, with the new protocols?

Danny Cannon: Well, luckily, the episodes I got to direct were right before the shutdown. I didn’t have to rehearse with masks on. Although the good thing about shooting on video is you can shoot rehearsals, you’re not saving film, just roll, roll, roll. You know what I mean? It doesn’t cost any more. That’s the good thing about video.

Culturess: Bruno, I wanted to ask you what it was like to have kind of a Rome reunion with James Purefoy coming on board, and then you had Polly Walker already in place.

Heller: That was fun. They hadn’t actually seen each other since Rome. And they always had a tempestuous relationship in Rome. So, it was great for them both to see each other again, and not have to have to fight or conspire to kill each other behind each other’s backs.

For me, and Danny will tell you the same thing, there’s nothing better than working with actors that you know from previous work because you know what they’re going to do, you have a common language, you can write to them in ways that, with new actors, you’re kind of exploring what they can do.

Culturess: What can you both tease about James’s character [as Captain Gulliver Troy] coming on board?

Heller: It’s a very James Jamesy character. He Alfie’s old commanding officer back from his fighting days. And he is one of those guys who, even more so than Alfie, is really made for wartime and has a very difficult time adjusting to the civilian world. A lot of great soldiers are, to all intents and purposes, sociopaths in, you know, the normal world and Gully Troy, who James plays is that kind of guy. Very charismatic, more than a little crazy.

Culturess: I have to ask you, Is there a chance we’ll get a sequel to Rome?

Heller: [Laughs] Never say never. I’d love to do it. The sets are still in Cinecittà [in Rome, Italy]. We can never know.

Seriously, I doubt it, because one of the things that Game of Thrones has done — and a lot of the guys on Rome did Game of Thrones — is raised the bar for that kind of big-budget TV event, and it’s very hard. It’s not that the audience wouldn’t be there for it, but it’s very hard to sell that kind of thing if you don’t have dragons. If you don’t have, you know, White Walkers and that level of effects-driven sensation. You know, a straight period drama is tough.

Culturess: Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Heller: Yeah, please.

Culturess: Getting back to Pennyworth, do you think that Alfie will get a chance to find real love?

Heller: What do you reckon, Danny?

Cannon: I think the pursuit of love is almost more important than love itself.

I think Alfred’s life would be eventually to care for somebody who’s very important to us than everybody else, and I think he maintains and keeps so much love back for that. Not that he knows that now.

Heller: There you go. There’s an answer.

Culturess: As another Alfred wrote [in this case Alfred Lord Tennyson], “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Season two of Pennyworth premieres Sunday, December 13, on EPIX, with the first four episodes dropping weekly this month and the rest of the season scheduled for 2021.

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What do you think of the time jump for Pennyworth season two? Are you as excited as I am about Purefoy joining the cast? Sound off in the comments below.