Exclusive: Adi Shankar On ‘Castlevania,’ The Bootleg Universe & More

Castlevania Adi Shankar Netflix

While the Castlevania adaptation originally begun life as a direct-to-video trilogy of movies that never got off the ground, the project rose from the grave and into Netflix’s library of original content thanks to the efforts of showrunner and executive producer Adi Shankar. Shankar (whose other credits include The Grey and Dredd) recently took some time out of his busy schedule for an interview with Heroic Hollywood, where he told us about his interest in the series, potential games he’d like to look at for future adaptations, and a few original projects that are forthcoming.

One thing that set Castlevania apart from other video game adaptations is not only its warm response from fans, but its critical acclaim as well. When asked about what it was that Castlevania got right whereas other video game movies failed, Adi Shankar observed that a lot of it came back to the team’s love for the series.

“Fundamentally, the show was made for the fans of Castlevania,” Shankar said. “It just happened to resonate and connect with an audience even bigger than the fanbase. We inherently respected the source material because we’re all gamers here — we love Castlevania so much. Ultimately, when you’re this passionate about a project, you can only hope that will connect with critics and audiences alike.”

The project was deemed successful enough that Netflix was willing to greenlight the second season — which will feature twice as many episodes as the first — the same day that the series debuted. Since the first four episodes were what would have been the original movie, the next season will complete the rest of the planned trilogy, which is based on the fan-favorite game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – along with some elements drawn from the even-more popular Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

“We are all hard at work on Castlevania Season 2,” he added. “We knew the story we wanted to tell before Season 1 even came out because we had a master plan for all of this. I’m looking at some awesome scripts. It’s a frickin’ dream come true to do this!”

While Adi Shankar chose to keep quiet about whether or not we’d see Grant Danasty (the fourth party member in Castlevania III) make an appearance, or if some of the stranger elements from the games (like the infamous “wall chicken” health pickup), he did offer a few encouraging words to fans hoping for more references to the original games — “If you guys are thinking it, we’re probably thinking it too.” He also noted that, given that Castlevania is a familial saga spanning generations, the series could go on for quite some time as long as there’s continued interest in the property.

“We’re not giving a specific number [of seasons]… If you’re looking at the Belmont family history — which is in and of itself super-interesting — we’ve tackled the story of one Belmont in the first season. Castlevania lore is very deep and rich. I personally don’t ever want to stop working on this.”

But Castlevania isn’t the only adaptation that Adi Shankar has produced, as he previously worked on the aforementioned Dredd, and is currently developing an Assassin’s Creed animated adaptation. Aside from his involvement with action movies and television series, Shankar is well known for a series of five short fan films collectively referred to as the “Bootleg Universe,” which started with 2012’s The Punisher: Dirty Laundry. While the Bootleg Universe’s 2015 short Power/Rangers generated quite a bit of controversy among fans and is probably the most well-known installment in the series, there haven’t been any new shorts in the series since that year… but that might soon change.

“The Bootleg Universe is not dead,” Shankar said. “It’s not over. I can release one at any time. I don’t publicize them until literally the moment they come out. I could have one, two, or none completed right now. The point is that they can come out at any time, and it’ll always be a surprise.”

According to previous interviews, two projects that Adi Shankar has expressed interest in are Mega Man and Metroid, both of which he stated he’d like to give “R-rated” reimaginings (or, at the least, darker takes on those series than usual). While we discussed the former, a different fan-based alternate version of Mega Man came into discussion in the form of The Protomen, a rock opera based on the franchise. When asked if he’d be up to adapting something like The Protomen or if he’d prefer to stick to his own vision, Shankar responded with the following:

“I’m a fan of that band… I’m always down to collaborate. It doesn’t have to be my vision and my vision alone. All these projects are a mosaic of multiple creative people working together. It’s not just about just one vision. It really depends.”

As for Metroid, we noted that Nintendo has a tendency to stick to being family-friendly — or PG-13 — with some of their darker properties. Although he could neither confirm nor deny his involvement with such a project, he mentioned that he would always honor Nintendo’s vision, noting that the last time someone ignored Nintendo’s concerns with an adaptation of their work, it led to one of the most infamous video game movies ever made.

“I have the utmost amount of respect for Nintendo, and they’re a company that loves their characters as much as their fans do. Their characters are so iconic, and they have tremendous respect for their own brand. It’s like, the people that made that Super Mario Brothers movie in the 90s ruined it for everybody – they made everyone at Nintendo afraid to adapt their franchises, and rightfully so. I was around when that movie came out – that isn’t just one of the worst video game movies ever made, it’s one of the worst things ever made, of all time. They created such bad PTSD for Nintendo that generations have gone by without seeing adaptations of their work. The people who worked on that movie should be ashamed of themselves.”

Beyond the realm of adaptations, the prolific producer is hard at work with some originals projects — the first being Bodied, a project directed by Joseph Kahn (who previously directed the aforementioned Power/Rangers), which Shankar notes that audiences will “learn more about imminently.” (SDCC, perhaps?) In the meantime, the producer notes that he’s ready to make his directorial debut with the his forthcoming series Adi Shankar’s Gods & Secrets. When pressed for details, he noted that he didn’t see becoming a director as being much different than the work that he’s already been doing and gave some details on the show’s premise.

“All these jobs keeps changing because technology keeps evolving. It just makes all these jobs very different… Gods & Secrets is definitely a project I’m excited about. It’s live-action, set in the 1980s, and that’s all I can say for now. You’ll find out more fairly soon.”

Adi Shankar’s rise to prominence in Hollywood in such a short amount of time is inspiring, and he describes his opportunity to be able to adapt some of his favorite works to the big and small screens — as well as to be able to get his own projects off the ground — as an incredible gift.

“To get to do what you’re passionate about? It’s amazing,” Shankar said. “It’s awesome. It’s like a dream come true. It’s a blessing.”

Castlevania Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix, directed by Sam Deats and written by Warren Ellis. The show features the vocal talents of Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, James Callis as Adrian Tepes (Alucard), Graham McTavish as Vlad Dracula Tepes, Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha Belnades, Tony Amendola as the Elder, Matt Frewer as The Bishop, and Emily Swallow as Lisa Tepes. Season 2 of the show has been greenlit.