Emma Paetz Explains ‘Pennyworth’s Martha Wayne, Plus What Real-Life Occultist Sizes Her Up? (VIDEO)
Pennyworth continues to be one of the coolest dramas of the hot-as-hell summer this week when the show’s alternate Swingin’ ’60s timeline brings notorious “magician” and occultist Aleister Crowley into Alfred’s orbit. And it turns out, the guy has his eye on someone who definitely deserves a closer look: Emma Paetz’s fascinating Martha Kane.
Who is this intriguing woman who will eventually marry Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and give birth to DC Comics’ greatest detective? And what is she up to in this uber-clever, canon-twisting tale?
Paetz gave us some insight into the character, including a better idea as to her connections with both Thomas and Alfred (Jack Bannon).
This is a whole new twist for Martha Wayne — a spy and a badass? How did they describe the character to you initially?
Emma Paetz: I remember at my last audition for Pennyworth, [executive producer] Bruno Heller told me how it was important that Martha Kane wasn’t trying to be liked by anyone, least of all Alfred. She starts off as his boss, not his friend. She’s very driven to perform the tasks set before her for the No-Name League to the best of her abilities. And she’s unconcerned with how she’s perceived in doing so.
On the page, both Ben Aldridge, who plays Thomas Wayne — also known as Bat Daddy, also also known as Big Bat Daddy or Bat Zaddy if you will — and I had essentially a tome written [by the producers] about our characters before they said a word. Martha’s was along the lines of being a “Hemingway-esque heroine” with sad eyes — brash, driven, and impulsive. At the read-through for the first episode I appeared in, “Martha Kane,” after the lengthy description was read out about who the character would be, Bruno interrupted the silence with, “Should be easy,” which made everyone laugh, and actually ended up putting me at relative ease with living up to that.
What parts of this Martha do you see as future traits in her son, Bruce/Batman?
I think Martha has a very courageous heart that she’s given to Bruce, as well as an ability to sit with her own darkness and not be uncomfortable with that. She’s impulsive like him, clever and has a very strict moral code, however dubiously justified at times, that we definitely see reflected in Bruce.
The chemistry with Alfred is obvious. How tricky is this triangle between Martha, Thomas and Alfred going to get?
We’ll have to wait and see! [Laughs] I think what’s wonderfully bold about Bruno’s writing is that he’s been unafraid to give these beloved characters an unexpected, realistic — and therefore at times, messy — journey. In the real world, everyone has a complicated time navigating relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s never straight-forward in life, so it makes sense that we explore those tensions in a show which is essentially about personal dynamics rather than superheroes.
In this week’s episode, Martha crosses paths with Aleister Crowley. What do they want/need from each other?
Martha is intrigued and repulsed by Crowley in equal measure. He’s able to get straight to the quick of her in a way she finds unnerving, as she’s usually exceptional at playing her cards close to the chest. Crowley knows she’s got a profound sadness inside her that he’s keen to draw out and she’s somewhat lured in by his charismatic darkness… as is everyone in his circle.
How does Martha factor into the battle between the No-Name League and the Raven Society as we get closer to the season finale?
She gets increasingly desperate to hold onto an ideology, something to ground her in a personally tumultuous time. Her work with the No-Name League brings her in more contact with Thomas Wayne, though the rock-solid belief she had in the League’s principles gets tested as the waters between the two extreme parties gets murkier.
Pennyworth, Sundays, 9/8c, Epix