For fans of the 1998 anime, news that Cowboy Bebop would be getting a live-action adaptation for Netflix was emotionally conflicting. I was excited to finally jump into the world of Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine through another adaptation, but the thought of someone possibly using the Cowboy Bebop name and falling face-first into failure was worrying. However, after this recent interview between Polygon and Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop showrunner André Nemec, maybe we can all take a deep breath and look forward to the adaptation’s release in November of this year.
Nemec wanted to make it clear that the series is not a remake, but more of an attempt to “realign the stars” that made the original show so successful. Nemec and the Cowboy Bebop team want to bring out the things that worked in the anime and tell original stories in that same world with the same characters. That’s incredibly exciting for me because this is exactly what I wanted when I wrote about the show a couple of weeks ago.
“We would look at sets, we would look at props, we would look at costumes, we would look at the edits, we would talk about all of these things, not to ape the anime[…] but to live in the spirit of the anime.”
I’m really trying to do my best to maintain focus while reading this because it’s just so exciting. I couldn’t ask for a better approach to such a project. With people like John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda attached to star, the show has immense talent to play with, and it would be nothing short of a crime against humanity to force these actors to act out the same things executed so perfectly a little over 20 years ago when the original show debuted.
The crew took an incredible approach when creating the show. Step 1: admit your limitations. Nemec admitted, “there are obviously things that we cannot achieve with real people that an anime can.” So when developing the show they sidestepped those creative handcuffs and looked back to the very things that inspired the original show. 1946’s The Big Sleep, Sergio Leone’s classic western The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and tons of other iconic pieces of film rooted in crime and sci-fi.
“We put a pretty extensive and expansive list together, and we spent a lot of time really looking at the inspirations.”
The crew attached to the show have been responsible for some of the biggest and most well-regarded hits on television in recent memory; people from Lost in Space, Sons of Anarchy, Ray Donovan, Everything Sucks!, Lost, and Designated Survivor have all brought their talents to the table, with titles like that bringing plenty of reassurance that the show is in good hands.
“They’re bounty hunters, so they’re going to chase bounties!” A sentiment shared by Nemec while telling about the show’s narrative structure. Given the way that the original show would weave in narrative and character-driven throughlines and weave out episodic adventures with quirky characters and stories, we’re sure to get the same treatment here. Ensuring that they wouldn’t straight-up adapt any single episode, Nemec talked about how they would build unique stories of their own by naming their favorite episodes and talking about how they could dig into the character’s pasts and continue their stories.
The interview constantly reassures us that they will not be adapting the show 1:1; repeatedly using words like “reimaging” and “rethinking” to bring a sense of comfort to loyal fans of the original series. But Nemec also goes out of his way to speak about the original series with respect and love, something that anyone adapting anything should have for their respective projects.
Like any good series, the characters are the true draw and the things that will make or break it. In the case of Cowboy Bebop though, the characters are some of the best that have ever been put to screen. Nemec was sure to show them the proper care and respect and was “visibly excited” when talking about their adaptation of them. He talks about having a vast understanding of the characters as they were and being incredibly excited to use the show as an opportunity to bring another dimension and layer of depth to those that we already know and love. Once again, the strength here will be the show’s ability to build on and change things about the original series, instead of having the expectations of being a shot-for-shot adaptation.
If there is only one thing to take away from the article, it’s Nemec and the crew’s consideration, admiration, and respect for the show they’re adapting. He talks about the crew tirelessly looking into inspirations, and tirelessly finding the right costumes, and just going out of their way to do right by the anime series. If nothing else, I am drastically more excited for the series now having read the showrunner talk about it. But, I’ll do my best to keep expectations in check.
Cowboy Bebop’s 10 episode season hits Netflix on November 19th.