Within the darkness of Gotham City, through the past, present and the future, audiences discover the fate of heroes and villains linked by a common theme: Madness.

Creator Bruno Mirabella spoke to MWF about creating the universe of Like Me, Like a Joker (ITA).

What inspired your series?

Like Me, Like a Joker was born as a theatrical show. In 2009 I had to move to Rome to study cinema, but due to some family problems I couldn’t leave and I stayed in Sicily. I thought that I missed the chance to join this fantastic world and I was extremely disappointed. In the vortex of this despair, suddenly came in my head the figure of an old clown laughing under a mountain of playing cards, so I went to my desk and I wrote the Joker of the future’s monologue.

It was my personal eulogy to madness. I wanted the Joker to do it because he’s the representative of the modern pop culture about the theme of the insanity. Despite this, I then realized that to explain the different declinations of being mad, he had to be joined by other characters from Gotham City, those that are called criminals and heroes, who are the same thing to the clown prince: crazy like him. That night, that thoughts, originated the web series: Like Me, Like a Joker.

What is the most interesting element of your series for the audience?

I believe it’s the opportunity for the fans of the Batman universe to see well-known characters from the comic books seen under a new and different light from the usual. I think those who want to keep watching the episodes and reach the final season is one of the many castaways that our Joker looks for through his final testament. This series is not only addressed to the DC Comics fandom. Indeed, Like Me, Like a Joker, through those characters, speaks of universal concepts, fears, inner demons, and the evolution that each of us faces, which takes us to unknown destinations

Like Me, Like a Joker (S2) Trailer

You describe your series as a focus on the psychology of the famous villains of the Batman universe – why did you choose to explore this?

I wanted to demonstrate that bad guys or good guys simply does not exist – we are all crazy. To make an analysis like that you need to know your ‘characters’ in-depth. I asked myself what could have driven the protagonists of Gotham City to the road of the madness. I did a psychological analysis – but to transpose it on the screen I converted it into a symbolic vision. All the episodes are full of symbols and signs, primordial forms of human communication that are recognized even between very different cultures and personalities.

Through the past, the present and the future, the audience discovers the fate of heroes and villains, linked by a common theme: madness. How did you develop this theme and what were the positives/negatives of the process?

In this series, we see the origins of many characters. The young Bruce is tormented by the cursed evening when his parents were killed, Harleen Quinzel is still a doctor, Frank Boles is an honest guard inside the Arkham Asylum, Strange is not yet a villain and so on. I wanted to show my viewers how these paths have developed, and how the intersections between them have led to drastic results in the future until the final testament of the Joker.

The pros of this narrative choice are that audiences don’t need ‘flashbacks’ that interrupt the narration and can instead navigate and alter the time to tell a new narration with narrative and visual editing. The viewers have a wide range of characters to whom they can get attached to. The drawback of this particular narrative is that the fragmentation of time and its revision can be confusing, but I think we managed to get what we wanted.

Based on Batman’s rival, The Joker, what was the process like in developing the ‘Joker of the Future’ character who is played along with the likes of Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson and many more?

The Joker of the future is the storyteller. Somehow we are in his head and we hear his thoughts through his colourful, dramatic and chaotic narrative. But despite his delirium, he’s a character who reveals his truths. He has to say everything he knows before the grand finale. He’s the maximum representative of madness, and also his witness and notary. I imagined his looks as a mash-up of the Jokers seen in cinema, on TV, and in graphic novels, so as to embody all the various “faces” with which the world has known him.

I chose Salvo “Sally” Cosentino, the actor who plays the ‘Joker of the Future’, as soon as he finished reading the first line of the script. Sally was a theatre actor, like many others in the cast, and he didn’t know the Joker character at all. He had never seen it or read of it, yet he was my Joker. In his pure and uncontaminated acting, made of unexpected intentions, funny and disturbing facial expressions and voice modulation games, I found the perfect elements for a new version of Mister J.

Sally passed away last year after a long illness, but he wanted to shoot all his scenes anyway as a tribute to his audience and to have something that made him feel alive until the last breath. Without him, I’d probably never have taken seriously this project and I owe him a lot, if not everything.

Like Me, Like a Joker

The release of ‘The Joker’ by Todd Phillips was shrouded in controversy and has since been met with extreme ambivalence. What message would you like audiences to take away from your series, and do you think the release of the 2019 film will impact this?

Somehow, in a small way, we have been profits. When the Burattini Senza FiliProduction team and I created the first season of the series at the beginning of 2014, the tv series ‘Gotham’ and movies like ‘Batman VS Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ did not exist. At the time of the ‘The Dark Knight’, I thought that we would have passed decades before another Joker was seen on screens, and instead, we have had three!

We first intercepted a need of a fan audience to know more about this character. I think the film by Todd Phillips is very close to our web series, as intent and themes. It remains faithful to the soul of the character but giving it a new interpretation. I think it has widened the field of the cinecomics genre, and that it will help it to get out of the prejudices that sometimes afflict it. I hope it can be the progenitor of a certain narrative, of cinematographic graphic novels.

Regarding Like Me, Like a Joker, the message we sent to our audience is not to stop at prejudices, to understand that every person is a universe that connects to the universes of others; that a lucid madness in the service of truth and of freedom is the third path between good and evil, a path that humanity can more take honestly.

What was your greatest challenge creating the series?

To be honest, I have faced a lot of challenges. Getting the trust and full collaboration of my team was a challenge – at the beginning we were just a group of friends; now we are a wide network of hundreds of collaborators. This series is a great example of a disinterested artistic product. We cannot earn from it since it’s a fan series, but we were able to collaborate with people who believed and believe in this project and so it has become a real training laboratory. Therefore, the challenge beyond self-financing the series was to obtain collaborations, partnerships and exchange of services.

Another big challenge was to transform the baroque look of a Mediterranean city as Catania into the American and the Gothic style of Gotham, but my creative department and I managed to mix these different elements in a new atmosphere to create our own aesthetic – that means original costumes, logos, make-ups and objects. This also concerns the script, the cinematography, the music, the illustrations. We didn’t want easy parachutes.

We are a fan series, but to the extent of a “non-canonical” project, we have not taken anything pre-existing or already existing, we wanted to tell our version of this story with the necessary references and citations of what preceded us, of course.

Why choose the web format for your series?

The web format was perfect for a fandom series – published on YouTube. The serial language allowed me to be able to delve and dig deep into my characters. Besides this, the format has given us the opportunity to reach so many people all over the world and be able to interact with them in a horizontal way. In fact, many fans of the series then became collaborators, and when an episode comes out it’s like a big party with our web audience that I feel very close and warm to, unlike other audiovisual formats.

What have you learned from developing this series?

This web series has taught me that nothing is impossible. If you really love something, you can share this feeling with the people you meet on your way and, one day, they could become part of your web series family.

You have recently introduced interviews with the cast since releasing your series. What’s next for ‘Like Me, Like a Joker’, are you working on another season or another project? 

The second half of the second season is currently running throughout 2020. We plan to make a third and final season or a movie, perhaps with the support of crowdfunding, because we want to top it off. We also have plans for other projects like series and films, and we’re seriously preparing for the ‘after’. In recent years, a network of professionals figures has been formed here in Catania – with the founding of our production company Burattini Senza Fili, and we hope that Like Me, like a Joker is a starting point for other bigger projects. This wonderful journey started one day in my little bedroom and today, with enormous sacrifices, the series is a finalist on the other side of the world, in Melbourne. We are curious about what we can expect tomorrow.