Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion' showrunners create a show with heart
June 10, 2022
A new Disney Channel Original Series and Disney’s first LatinX superhero show, Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion is an action-comedy that stars Scarlett Estevez as Violet Rodriguez, an everyday Mexican American teen who is chosen by a magical luchador mask to transform her into Ultra Violet, a superhero fighting crime alongside her luchador uncle, also known as Black Scorpion.
Showrunners and Executive Producers Leo Chu and Eric S. Garcia share their creative process working on the groundbreaking family TV series. “Family TV usually means kids’ TV,” says Chu. “So the adults don’t want to watch it, even though they want to watch it with their kids. But something that Eric and I talk about a lot is how family entertainment is so broad, so really, both adults and children should get something out of it.”
The Creative Process
“We do a lot of exercises in the writers room about our most significant movies,” shares Garcia. “And they're always family movies because there’s an exuberance we all felt. And we're trying to recreate that youthful high.”
“A significant movie isn’t the same as your favorite movie, though there may be some overlap. It’s a movie that hit you and shaped you,” Chu explains. “One of mine was Adam West’s ‘Batman.’ I was obsessed with it because it’s campy and funny. There’re great fights, but it’s not super serious. It shaped my view for the type of things I enjoyed.”
It was important for Chu and Garcia “to show a new way to see a superhero and an average girl.” “We wanted to dive into what her superpowers do to her,” says Garcia. “What are the challenges she faces and how it affected her friendship?”
Chu nods, “We both love genre and world-building, but genre is not the destination for the show. Genre is the context to explore the human conditions and their complexities. It's a means to get to what's at the core.”
He goes on, “Mythology is tied to heritage and comes from the psyche of people. The ones that reverberate the globe–there's a power and a commonality, and a shared emotion and spirituality. And we really wanted to delve into the mythic heart of the story.”
Garcia adds, “Masks are a huge facet of ancient Mexican culture. People are representing their gods. It's a completely different way of connecting with the divine.”
By combining the mythology around luchador lore with the coming-of-age narrative, Chu and Garcia were able to heighten what is at the mythic heart of the show.
“[Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion] is a coming-of-age story about a girl uniting with her superhero mentor who turns out to be her uncle, and it brings her family together,” says Chu. “Because of the magical luchador mask, she’s under very extraordinary circumstances. She has to deal with all the pain and heartache of growing up while hiding and leading a double life. And the genre only heightens what she's going through.”
“This is very much taking Mexican culture, superheroes, and a Mexican-American family, and knitting them altogether through inspiration,” says Garcia.
Assembling the writers room
Because the show’s roots are in Mexican culture, it was important to Chu and Garcia that the writers room, cast, and upper-level executives reflected its ethnic sensibilities.
“You have to be very sensitive to assemble your show. We have a majority LatinX writers room, an all LatinX cast, a wonderfully supportive cultural consultant, and majority Latinx, female, and POC department heads,” says Chu.
He continues, “You want diversity there. You want that to create a space where people can have authentic conversations naturally and creatively in the spirit of the show.”
On how to find the right people for the jobs, Garcia contends that “you have to do the work.”
“It takes time to read lots of scripts. We read lots of scripts where, on paper and in ethnicity and what they worked on, that you would think would be perfect. And they're not always perfect,” he says. “It's a personality thing or how you're inspired. You have to find it in the genuineness [of] the writing. And we dug deep for that.”
He continues, “And we're writers–we should be able to write everything. But we can't write everything. We all have a propensity for things. It's a combination of natural upbringing that will give you the sensitivity, what you want to write, and what you want to explore.”
Nurturing new talent is the work
Both Chu and Garcia admit it was hard to find upper level executives who had the ethnic background and understood the show. Finding LatinX actors who were well-versed in comedy also proved to be a challenge because of the lack of comedic roles available to them.
That is why, “as showrunners, you have to want to do it,” says Chu. “It’s not easy. A lot of the writers on our show, it’s their first or second time writing professionally. You really have to have an eye and a mindset to nurture and grow talent.”
“You have to see the talent and believe in them and want them to succeed. Because as people of color, we don't have that many heroes, [certainly not as] as kids. The youngest superhero is Spiderman who is a teenager.”
“That is why we love the age group of our characters and audience. It’s where more of anything is possible,” says Garcia. “You're not shutting yourself down, and you're not making weird judgments of your actions or behavior.”
“Part of that fun has been being on set with these kids and seeing their confidence grow. We’ve all become their aunts and uncles,” shares Chu. “I always love the imagination that goes into something like this and dreaming about it.”
Writing is rewriting
As for Garcia, the most fun he’s had working on the show? He answers, “How many chances do you get to create a whole world and then create 16 episodes that have a trajectory?”
“Our episodes aren’t written ahead of time, so there’s an improvisational quality,” he continues. “You're almost rewriting what's going to be happening in season one, all the way until the end.”
“There’s room for discovery, and there has to be. And our writers contribute so much to the show. It’s inspiring.”
Passionate about humor
When asked about what inspires them, Garcia smiles. “Inspiration is one of those things–you live it all the time.”
Then pauses, thinking, “The reason we do the work that we do is because we’re asking ourselves, ‘What do you want to do everyday?’ I want to be happy every day. I want to be making fun things.”
For Chu, it’s humor. “Humor is a huge part of the human experience. It brings you joy. It gives you perspective, and it helps you deal with the pain. And that’s what helps you deal with it more.”
And what would they say to themselves if they could go back in time and high five themselves? Chu shares, “Stress less, and don't be afraid to be your authentic self. Once you're open to that and who you are, everything is so much easier.”
Garcia, after some thought, says, “‘Don’t be so serious’ is my first inclination. But I like the serious side. I enjoy making joyful content, but I enjoy pursuing serious topics. So I’d say, ‘Give it a try, try more things, then get to work.’”
‘Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion’ is available now on Disney Channel and Disney+.
Written by: Quincy ChoQuincy Cho is a multi-hyphenate comedy writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Born a 20-lb. baby with a creative flair, she doesn’t know which upsets her mother more—the fact that her baby hippo daughter grew up to do comedy or that she’s not married. Tomayto, tomahto. Quincy has studied and performed comedy with house teams on the mainstages of UCB and iO West. She recently made the Second Round of the Sundance Episodic Lab, finished the WAN Writers Workshop, was awarded the NBC/Second City Hollywood Bob Curry Fellowship in 2019, and showcased her work as a writer/performer at the 3rd Annual LA Diversity Comedy Festival. She attributes her success to her experience working in web comics as a producer and quality control editor. Favorite credits: Shameless, Queenpins, and her most recent Bud Light Super Bowl LV commercial. Now, in her spare time, Quincy happily spends her time pole dancing in her living room with her deaf cat (much to her dog’s dismay).