Last year actress Yancy Butler was riding on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting the then upcoming made-for-television movie WITCHBLADE. At the time, TNT had thought enough of the series to move it up from its original October air date to an August premiere and if all went well, the actress would find herself back in Toronto shooting an ongoing series.
In spite of some rather lackluster reviews from both the fan and professional press, TNT thought enough of the project to give it an 11-episode commitment. Thanks to some good luck on the corporate end, particularly Time Warner's recent move regarding programming, the WITCHBLADE movie was recently rebroadcast on the more mainstream WB to encouraging numbers and the new series has already made its debut on TNT this month.
It comes as no surprise then that Butler is ecstatic with the recent chain of events.
'[People associate me with] very action characters,' says Butler. 'I've always played strong women who are doing their own thing. In this show they are really allowing a female character to shine through in all her colors. Sara is different from those characters, however. I feel for her. A lot of stuff is going on. She's having a meltdown. She's not all hard and male-hating. She is not just angry and bitter or somebody that's just fluffed up. We very much could have gone in that direction. I think it's an extension of everything that I've worked for.'
This means that the Pezzini Butler portrays is very different from her current comic book incarnation. In the Top Cow series, Pezzini is more of a mystical superhero, rather than a hardened cop. On television, however, Butler and producer Ralph Hemecker make sure that audiences identify the character as a gold-badge toting detective for the N.Y.P.D.
'I think being a cop is one of the toughest jobs there is,' says Butler. 'My grandfather was a cop in Long Island. I often try to draw on those things that I've heard about him. It's got to be extremely difficult. One had to become jaded. I don't know if there's any difference with a cop's world through Sara's eyes. I think that Sara's quite jaded, but she does care. She wants to do good. I think it's a struggle with her to remember to do good.'
This also means the 'Versace and metal bra' look of the comic has been ditched for more 'realistic' attire -- a full medieval knight's costume in the first episode. However, count on seeing more of the actual Witchblade talisman in upcoming episodes. It seems Pezzini has learned the importance of keeping the gauntlet on her person at all times.
'There are many blessings,' says Butler. 'It gives Sara a certain power. It gives her insight. It's giving her certain relations with people and a new perspective on herself, both in what's going on around her as well as knowledge of her lineage. Knowing where she comes from is important to Sara.'
As for the cast itself, the supporting members left alive at the end of the pilot have returned for the ongoing series. Also returning is a character who, at last we saw him, was quite dead -- Pezzini's former partner Danny Woo (played by Will Yun Lee).
'He's become a bit of a mentor,' says Butler. 'He's obviously somebody that still misses very much, and kind of creeps up like the Witchblade when she least expects it.'
Even more interesting is the fact that the upcoming first episode is not as much about Pezzini as it is about her other major mentor, Nottingham (Eric Etebari). The story will demonstrate that he was not alone in his particular form of training, but rather the shadowy Irons (Anthony Cistaro) had much to do with it. When their past comes back to haunt them, it's up to Pezzini to decide who will live and who will die.
Other plot threads include Captain Siri's (Kenneth Welch) retirement and replacement by Captain Dante (Victor Serrano), who now heads up both Homicide and Special Investigations units. It doesn't take long to realize that the new captain isn't a Pezzini fan -- whether it's her or her late father. As to why the character harbors this resentment, only Siri seems to know the answer to that question.
'Having Siri retire is quite devastating to her,' says Butler. 'Captain Dante is someone she can't stand and he's itching and waiting for an excuse to get her off the force.'
Then again, inside sources have just leaked that this new captain's name is highly significant. The source stated that those familiar with history would recognize the original Dante Allegheri as a freedom fighter who was sent to jail for his actions. That was where he wrote THE DIVINE COMEDY, a highly charged political tract in its day. However, audiences will have to wait and see what this bit of history has to do with WITCHBLADE's Dante.
Another character who is definitely not all he appears to be is Pezzini's new partner, Jake McCartey (David Chokachi). As introduced in the series, he appeared to be a young cop who was a former surfing champion. The only thing that rubbed wrong with this image is his ability to get information that leaves even Pezzini mystified. For those who pay close attention to detail, there is one scene in 'Parallax' that will sneak a peek into McCartey's true nature -- he's a heck of a lot more than a rookie detective with a sunny smile and crush on Sara.
As for future episodes, the Who's former lead singer, Roger Daltry, is slated to make a guest appearance as a rogue priest. His association to the Witchblade is being kept quiet, but our source indicates that it will explain much of the Joan of Arc/Salem Witch elements hinted at in the movie.
Another interesting element will be the establishment of a love interest for Pezzini...and it won't be McCartey.
'I think he's got a little bit of a thing going for me,' Butler says, with a tad of sarcasm. 'But it's an unrequited love. Sara really loves him like a brother and the rookie partner that he is. She definitely does not think he's a match for her. My new love interest is a character named Conchobar (Kim De Lurie), a musician. The story has it we were involved years ago. Sara gets flashes of this and she clearly thinks she's losing her mind -- the last thing she needed. [That's] always the case when the love of your life comes around. It doesn't hurt that he's drop dead gorgeous.'
Still, the most important plot development for this season is Pezzini's acceptance of the Witchblade, even if she still isn't sure what exactly it does.
'She's intrigued by it,' says Butler. 'You know, some of the things that scare us are the things that are good for us. It's empowering her in a certain way. It's a frightening force as well.'
As for how all this will play out, you'll have to watch TNT every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. to find out.