James Scully has had a string of excellent roles throughout his career.
He currently stars on Titans as Bernard. The latest episode featured a romantic twist for Bernard and Tim (Jay Lycurgo).
Check out our full interview with James below as he delves into working on the show, this new relationship, and more.
Could you speak a bit about what attracted you to Titans?
I was a big fan of the animated series when I was younger. It was probably like the first show where I felt I was waiting week to week to see the new episodes and was like googling, when is the next season going to be coming out?
I got the audition, and my people were like, is this something you would still want to do or be interested in? And when I read between the lines of where the character was going to go and the purpose he was going to serve in this season, I was like, oh yeah, I don’t know if I’m right for what they’re looking for, based on the way that they had it advertised, but I was like, I would definitely love to take a shot at it.
And then, I don’t know, they just liked what I did, and it was sort of an obvious choice for me. I field jobs by looking at the job and being like, what would 13-year-old me think about this? Like, is this something that a younger version of myself would be excited about or proud to do? And this just so obviously checked all of those boxes. I love superheroes, I collect comic books. I’m just like a huge, huge fan of the genre and of this IP particularly. It was a super easy choice.
Bernard is a very different role for you. He’s a far cry from Forty and JD. Was that intentional?
It was certainly part of what I found attractive about him. The process between my first audition and me accepting the job, I think, was about a week and a half. And during that period, they let me read the first script for the first episode, and I did like that he had this warmth and care for this group of young up-and-coming superheroes he met and was interacting with.
Look, I love playing spooky bad guys. When I do a comic book show in the future, I hope I get to be a villain, but in terms of how I am as a person, I like to believe that I veer more toward Bernard.
Coming off the last job I did, Fire Island, where I played a similar sort of like friendly, affable character, that was an experience I really enjoyed. I think that’s another thing that made the job attractive: he was kind of shrewd. He has very dry sense of humor, but ultimately a very like loving, friendly person.
Bernard has proven to be a fountain of knowledge for the Titans so far and has helped them out of some sticky situations. Why do you think he’s so interested in helping them?
He believes in the work that they do. He is not from an alien planet. He was not born with superpowers. But the gift that he does have is his brain. And he recognizes that the best way he can be useful to these people is by providing tactical support and insight.
And I think he believes the world can and should be a safe, happy place. I think if his life had gone differently, he would’ve liked to be a superhero, but this is where he is. How can he be most helpful? I think he believes in the mission. He believes in the Titans.
Tim and Bernard are chased by a huge snake through S.T.A.R. labs on Titans Season 4 Episode 5. I know the snake was added in the post-production process, but what was it like filming that scene?
It was actually one of the funniest things about this job that I’d never experienced on a job before this was there were a lot of things where they were like, You just have to trust us. It’s not here in the room, but we’re going to make this happen in post-production.
So on that day, when we were walking down the hallway together, and the snake comes around the corner, it was a pool noodle at the end of a stick.
Editor’s note: there was a lot of laughter on the Zoom call at that moment.
One of the challenges for Jay and me was not to giggle when they would come around the corner because everyone’s dead quiet, we’re trying to get the shot, and then just this pool noodle slides across the floor, and you just have to suspend your disbelief and buy in.
We just both had to, and it was so much fun working with Jay because he’s so willing to go there. And every time we shot one of those scenes, he was screaming and running and reacting like there was a giant 10-foot snake in the room, so I was like, okay, you gotta do it. You gotta convince yourself that there’s a snake.
And then, by the end of the day, that pool noodle really became a huge black snake to me. But it was definitely weird at the beginning.
Tim kisses Bernard after they get caught up in a life-and-death situation, likely changing the nature of their relationship going forward. What can you tell me about that?
I think it was a really special moment for Jay and I as actors, and I think it’s a really special moment for this series. Obviously, I’m not the first person to say this: Representation is really important, and I think that specifically comic book and superhero stories are, like the fans of these stories are so committed and so invested in these universes, and these characters are really sort of like the lenses that they use to look at themselves and to perceive the world.
Having the relationship between Tim and Bernard in the comics and on TV is really important. There are a lot of young gay, queer people who watch these shows and read these comic books and have been happy with them up to this point but have definitely been looking for opportunities to see themselves in the material.
And I think we, both as actors and just as people, recognize that it wasn’t just a turning point for Tim and Bernard, but it’s a turning point for the show and the canon. It was a lot of fun to shoot. While Jay and I are not actually romantically interested in each other in real life, he’s straight, he’s so talented, and he’s such a fun guy and such a giving scene partner, and also just like a good friend, and he took the responsibility of what we were doing in the statement we were making by telling this story and having that scene really seriously.
It just made it easy to pretend to fall in love with him. It just made that day all the more special that he, even though that was not his personal lived experience as a human out in the world, that he recognized what that moment would mean to the fans. I don’t know. I could talk about that for the rest of the interview. But it was a really cool day. And it was also nice because up until that point in the series, we had been trying to tread that line of, like, are they flirting with each other? Are they not? Like, what is this relationship about?
And it was hard sometimes because they had written in a lot of moments where just make long, meaningful eye contact. But they were like, we don’t want to give it away too quickly.
You know, stare deeply into each other’s eyes. It has to maybe be like, it’s just a friendship stare or something. So once this happened, it was nice that we could sort of like settle into the fact that this was a romantic relationship and move forward with the drama of that.
Tim has been suffering from FOMO because the Titans have been allowed to go to battle. Do you think Bernard is worried Tim isn’t ready to go back out to fight crime?
Speaking of somebody who doesn’t have any superpowers and wasn’t born on an alien planet, he did die and come back, which is special. But he’s not Super Boy. He’s not a Tamaran princess. He’s just a guy, and I think Bernard identifies with that because I think in the presence of working with Batman and Superman, Bernard has definitely had to confront his own mortality and his own frailty, just like as a person in the world.
I think he sees that in Tim, and it’s scary to think I’m falling for this person, and now what? He’s gonna like run off to a cult temple and fight a demon. God. He’s just a guy with a Bo Staff. What is he supposed to do? And I think it’s scary, but again, because of the work that he does and because of the work that he’s always done, Bernard recognizes that we need people like Tim who are maybe not the best prepared to do this work, like physically, but who have like the heart and the conviction to do this work.
It’s a tough situation for Bernard, knowing that the world needs heroes, but just wishing that maybe they didn’t need his new boyfriend to be a hero, you know?
By the end of the episode, Sebastian is with Mother Mayhem. Could you speak a bit about how the gang prepares for what’s coming heading into the midseason finale?
They’ve roped in Jinx, which I think is immensely helpful because the tricky thing, and I think the reason Batman, Superman, and a lot of the teammates are so magic averse is because you never really know what somebody with magic is capable of. She’s capable of reanimating the dead and summoning demons to this plane. You also have shapeshifting, possession, and giant 10-foot snakes. It’s like you don’t know what they can accomplish.
I think having Jinx on their side and understanding how magic works and what magic can accomplish is a big part of it. And then I think just going into that battle knowing we need to expect the unexpected.
We need to be ready for Mother Mayhem to do anything after everything she’s shown she’s capable of up to this point. We need to be ready for her to do something crazy and nuts.
What have you enjoyed the most about working on Titans?
The people. One of the fun things about working in TV and film is it really does take a village, even a small, bare-bones show is still gonna be about like a hundred people working on it day to day. I just love meeting new people. So anytime you set foot on a new set, it’s like you get to make a hundred new friends. I told Greg Walker multiple times on this show specifically, I think they really put together, like with the Titans themselves, a really special, uniquely talented group of actors. Every day I got to work with one of them, I was like nerding out.
And also, as an actor, I was like, you’re all so committed and talented. They just knew what they were doing. And also, the creatives, the people behind the camera, the crew, and our hair and makeup artists. I mean, there’s a lot of the hair and makeup artists on this show have to accomplish a lot. They work so hard. And they were all such lovely, caring, generous people.
Titans airs Thursdays on HBO Max.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.