'gen:LOCK' Creator Talks Writing for Michael B. Jordan Before He Was Cast

Rooster Teeth's most ambitious project yet, gen:LOCK premieres in just a few months, but it's already making waves with its all-star cast.

Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning and Maisie Williams are just a few of the names attached to the mech series, and the gen:LOCK team subconsciously had Jordan in mind well before he accepted the role.

Newsweek spoke with Gray Haddock, head of Rooster Teeth Animation and creator/writer of gen:LOCK about the show's casting process, how they landed Michael B. Jordan and some of the production hurdles the team had to overcome.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Michael B. Jordan will play Julian Chase in Rooster Teeth's 'gen:LOCK' series Rooster Teeth

Some writers write characters with specific actors in mind. Was that the case for gen:LOCK?

When you're building a world for the first time it might be difficult to get the characters to talk to you, so to speak, and it helps you by envisioning someone you know, whether its someone in your life or an actor in the industry.

In this case, I had some folks in mind. With Michael B. Jordan, he already had influence on the art phase of the show. We had spent the better part of the year developing the lead character, and that was me working closely with artists from a couple of different shows, including RWBY.

When we finally identified the show's art director, Michael Pedro, the first thing I tasked him with was to lock down Chase. We had a lot of good conversations about the character, his qualities and what we had in mind. And by the end of the conversation, Michael said, "We keep referencing Michael B. Jordan in these talks." And when he left, I was in a couple of meetings, I got a message from him where he sent me a combination photoshop and painting he had done that had Michael B. Jordan in a flight suit doing the Top Gun pose in front of a jet fighter, like, that's our guy. [laughs]

Then we locked down the remainder of Chase's design. A couple of months later, it was time for casting and production asked if I had anyone in mind. Nobody told me not to suggest him for the part, so we put together a package of the script, a bunch of art of the world and a test animation of a work-in-progress of Chase's model delivering lines from Creed. So we sent that to his team and we never expected to hear back. About a month later, a representative from his team wrote back and that Michael had seen the package and his answer was not no. And the sheer fact that they were interested at all and wanted to see more was an incredible relief. The conversations continued, but after about six-seven weeks...I get a call from the producer of the show who said "Michael B. Jordan wants to be Julian Chase."

I'll never forget that moment.

You must have felt relieved and validated about gen: LOCK after that.

It was incredibly validating, but we still had a lot of questions about the show and if we were doing the right things. But if MBJ is in our corner, then we must not be sucking as hard as we think [laughs] and we went from there.

We were already in discussion with some of the people who would eventually join the ensemble, so it was not the case that Michael B. Jordan saying yes helped open the doors, but it definitely accelerated the conversations. Because now we were able to say, "the very first person attached to the project is Michael B. Jordan, now are you ready to negotiate and come on board?"

gen:LOCK's art style is similar to RWBY's, was that intentional?

The thing with gen:LOCK, it's a way to show the world that we're not a one-hit wonder with RWBY. That being said, we still have to make use of the production efficiencies and technology that we learned from doing RWBY. A lot of the foundation of the production pipeline that we did for RWBY we used for gen:LOCK, but applied it differently, meaning that we've done a whole bunch of technological advances under the hood that help us alter and improve the look of the show in subtle ways. We can only do so much of that with RWBY without ripping apart its whole aesthetic. RWBY still needs to look a certain way, and we want to improve it year after year, but you don't want to have such a sudden brand new look.

gen:LOCK allows us to hit the reset button on some of the art guidelines we do for RWBY and also apply some of the things the production team has learned and technological advances that have gone online that wouldn't be appropriate for RWBY, like a more realistic and cinematic look for gen:LOCK that lets the team flex some muscle and try some new things. It's also been good for morale to allow people to work on RWBY and showing it the love it deserves, but also shake things up and experiment.

Do gen:LOCK and RWBY have their own art and production teams?

Over the first part of this year, we went through a complicated logistical challenge that parallelized two full production pipelines while they were both active. And it's been a joy to see the team that's been around for awhile and see them grown up and take new responsibilities around the department.

We've had key talent stay on RWBY, we've also had some people grow up and take positions on gen:LOCK and then we fleshed out the two teams. We're all in the same studio, and the way it's laid out, both show animators and artists sit next to each other, so you'll have moments where the RWBY team is sitting and looking at the gen:LOCK team's stuff and talk about it, and vice-versa.

So they're all challenging each other by providing reviews with a fresh set of eyes.

gen:LOCK is set to release Jan. 26 on Rooster Teeth First.