'Pennyworth's Jack Bannon Says We'll Be 'Surprised & Shocked' by the Rich Origin Story

Damian Holbrook
Preview Epix

Deep inside a monolithic studio in rural Leavesden, England — steps away from the soundstages where Harry Potter battled to save Hogwarts — the man destined to become Batman's butler-slash-mentor is just getting started on his own hero's journey with Pennyworth.

"Like everybody else, I knew him as an old man," admits the impossibly handsome Jack Bannon of his Alfred Pennyworth character. "I didn't read comics growing up, really, and I came to Alfred through Michael Caine's version in the films.”

Adding that he's been asked, "What sort of story does Alfred have?" a lot, the actor says viewers will be "surprised and shocked by the richness" of the saga that Pennyworth executive producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon (who also explored the pre-Batman world in Gotham) have cooked up.

Set in an alternate-universe version of Swinging '60s London, Epix's 10-episode action drama opens with Alfred home after 10 traumatizing years in the British Army's Special Air Service.

'Pennyworth': Jack Bannon on Exploring the Mysterious Backstory of 'Batman's Alfred

'Pennyworth': Jack Bannon on Exploring the Mysterious Backstory of 'Batman's Alfred

Bannon and showrunner Bruno Heller give background on beloved character ahead of the EPIX series premiere.

"He's been serving queen and country, doing some fairly horrible things but making sense of it in his head [by telling himself] it was for the good of England," says Bannon. "Now he's out and thinks, 'I'm not going to serve someone else anymore. I'm going to be my own man.'" The plan: Create a name for himself by starting a private security firm. 

Alfred soon crosses paths with wealthy American Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) — who will, of course, go on to have a son named Bruce — and the encounter leads to an equally fateful run-in with Bet Sykes (singer turned scene stealer Paloma Faith), a sadistic henchwoman working for one of two groups out to upend the U.K. government. 

Before Alfred knows it, he and his ad hoc team of fellow SAS vets are embroiled in a brewing civil war and dealing with a slew of familiar but heavily fictionalized figures ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to Satanist Aleister Crowley. And while the show plays around with actual history, the attention to detail on its huge sets and in its natty costumes is no joke.

"The governing principle is, does that feel English? Does that feel like London?" notes Heller. Given that Pennyworth plays more like a cheeky James Bond Jr. tale than anything from the DC Universe, the answer is "Bloody hell, yeah!"

PennyworthSeries Premiere, Sunday, July 28, 9/8c, Epix