THE EXILED: Wesley Snipes And Keith Arem Talk Their New Graphic Novel, A Possible Film, And BLADE (Exclusive)

Wesley Snipes and Keith Arem talk about collaborating on new graphic novel, The Exiled, and the possibility of one day adapting it as a film...or video game. The legendary actor also talks Blade's legacy!

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The Exiled is a new graphic novel that follows Detective Niles "Roach" Washington as he pursues a serial killer in the aftermath of a deadly gas attack. The killer is ripping the spines from his victims and using tools over five-thousand years old. The world rejects Roach for his theories, but his instincts keep pushing him forward. With enemies on all sides, and within, he wades into the darkness to find the killer and uncovers Earth’s darkest secret.

Crowd-funded via Kickstarter, the project has already smashed past its initial $20,000 goal and there's buzz online about an eventual film, television, or even video game adaptation. 

You can visit the link above to see the perks on offer, but we recently spoke with PCB Entertainment's Keith Arem and legendary actor Wesley Snipes about collaborating with writer Adam Lawson on The Exiled. They're going to be on hand next Friday at the San Diego Comic-Con to hype up this comic book, and we have an early glimpse into its creation and future plans. 

They talk us through the creative process of working on a project like this one, developing the character and story, and their future hopes for The Exiled. Wesley also weighs in on potentially playing Roach and creating a leading Black character in a genre which isn't always the most diverse.

Finally, the iconic actor also reflects on the Blade franchise's legacy and how his time working on that Marvel Comics movie series has informed what he's doing with this comic book. 

Check out our interview with Wesley and Keith in the player below: 
 


I know you first worked together on Demolition Man, but could you both start by explaining how you came to team up with Adam [Lawson] for The Exiled?

Wesley: What I really liked when I first met Keith was that he was a hyphenate. Not only was he creative, but he could also write and had worked in production. He was also very technical and liked the forward-thinking, futuristic vision of what technology could do for the arts and with the arts for the creatives. I really, really dug that. There are not a lot of people out there that can talk about art and culture and comic books and technology. And all these futuristic subjects. I really enjoyed that. And he was good at what he does…and he knew Stevie Wonder! [Laughs] I was like, ‘If Stevie likes you, you’re cool with me, buddy.’ 

Keith: Wesley and I had crossed paths over the years and when I first got into the industry, my first game was Demolition Man. We were shooting all this additional footage at the same time as the film to go into the game. That was where we crossed paths and then years later, Wesley was doing a book with Antoine Fuqua at Radical called After Dark and I was working on the first stages of this with Adam Lawson. Adam is an amazing writer, producer, and showrunner, and when Wesley and I reconnected a few years ago for some new projects, we started talking about all these things to collaborate on. We teased out a few of those and people were saying, ‘What are you guys working on?’ Then, we decided our independent spirit would come together through this Kickstarter, and the three of us working together has been fireworks. It’s been amazing.  

Keith, what does it mean to you to develop a project like this and have a legend and a film icon like Wesley get involved both creatively and as someone who can help spread the word about the story you and Adam were also looking to tell here?

Wesley: You can tell the truth this time, Keith. It’s okay [Laughs].

Keith: [Laughs] What’s amazing about it is that, in our hearts, we’re all storytellers. We all love characters and stories, and to be able to play in this space that’s so immersive. The background that the three of us have in production and making this has been just fantastic. The added bonus to this is that with Wesley’s background, his fans, and his experience combined with our knowledge of Kickstarter and the gaming world, we’ve been able to bring all three of our communities together and get the word out without having to go through traditional marketing. Even the way we’re able to meet with you today. This is us being able to directly connect with our audience without having to go through a media machine. That’s been really rewarding because it allows us to have more of an unfiltered, raw creative experience in getting our ideas out and letting the audience, in real-time, let us know what they like so we can incorporate that into our campaign. 

Having been part of the Blade franchise and all that entailed, Wesley, what was it about The Exiled and Roach that stood out to you and made you want to return to this world of comic books?

Wesley: Oh, I love this character and the world that’s been set up. I love a good murder mystery and this is definitely a good murder mystery with some sci-fi and a little bit of flavour of Blade Runner and Se7en. Definitely two of my top twenty films of all time and some of my favourites. It made a lot of sense to come back to that kind of world and it’s been a lot of fun. 

In terms of building Roach as a character, what did that process involve for both of you, especially when you’re throwing this Detective into a dark world of murder and conspiracies?        

Keith: It’s interesting because he’s really this hard-boiled detective who no one believes because of his conspiracy theories. He’s chasing this serial killer who has got this very dark agenda. He’s brutally killing people and ripping their spines out. It seems like some graphic, terrible serial killer, but he’s using tools that are five thousand years old and there are all these conspiracies surrounding that. Roach is a survivor. He’s a character who has endured everything in his personal and professional lives and no one believes him. He knows there’s something wrong here, so this character keeps digging deeper and deeper into the truth, and when we finally reveal what this is, it flips the entire story on its edge. This Kickstarter campaign where we’re following Roach on this pursuit of a serial killer is the first layer of this onion that’s going to reveal Earth’s darkest secret. That’s great for us and it allows us to develop the character throughout this series. We’re following Roach from his perspective, so we know something is wrong, but don’t know what. We don’t have the benefit of knowing what’s behind the next corner and it makes it a great experience for us to write that, and a great experience for the audience to go on that journey.

Wesley: Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? [Laughs]
 

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Was it important for you Wesley to have some input into the character? I know you’ve talked in other interviews about growing up in the Bronx and bringing that to the table, but did you want to make sure you could add some authenticity? 

Wesley: It’s kind of organic to the process. When we decided that we would team up, we all knew that each one would be contributing and expected that. It’s natural to contribute in this way. It’s not the first time that I’ve done it. We’ve done that with some really interesting projects and almost did it with the Black Panther too. We had it for a while, but anyway, technology wasn’t there, so that’s why. It’s a good process. To bring the Bronx to the world of comics…I don’t know of very many storylines that have featured or referenced the Bronx as a setting, so I’ve got to represent, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs] Everybody wants to rep LA, but I’ve got to rep the Bronx!

Keith: What’s interesting is that what I love about working with Wesley on this is that it’s character and story and world, and it’s detailed. Roach, through the three main acts of the story, goes deeper into what’s happening, and that not only evolves his character but physically changes him too. What I was so impressed with was that Wesley not only just looks at this character and how he relates to the other characters and this serial killer as well as what’s happening, but also just who he is physically. That turned into his weapons, how those evolve, and how his outfits change. It was also how his relationships reflect on that, and that was amazing, because Wesley’s experience as a performer all these years and his film, writing, and producing experience, really reflected that. To do that in a comic book was phenomenal because we were all able to riff on these really creative ideas.                   

Kickstarter is such a great platform to launch this comic book series on, but how much fun was it coming up with those incentives for fans like that badass figurine? 

Keith: Yeah, that’s the idea. We want people to get something they can only get through this. 

Wesley: It was an absolute joy and very fun. To see it growing, I understand the joy farmers have working on the land and in the soil and dirt. To see their plants grow. It’s a beautiful thing, man. 

Keith: A lot of people don’t know Kickstarter still. Even if they’ve heard of it, they don’t know what it is. We’re surprised that there are so many people who understand it and haven’t backed a campaign before. We really created this very independently in the sense it was designed for seasoned collectors who want to get this version of the book, the statue, and everything else they’re not going to be able to find later. Also, for first-time backers who have never done this, whether it’s Wesley’s fans or people who know mine and Adam’s work from video games. That was really encouraging because the campaign was funded within the first hour and you could see the backers come in. As the campaign has continued growing, and we’re leading to, in a few weeks, a huge panel at the San Diego Comic-Con. We’re finally getting out to this huge fan base that loves these worlds, characters, and types of stories, but aren’t familiar with backing a crowdfunded campaign. We wanted to do something that was open to everyone, and that’s why this campaign has been so unique for us. Obviously, we could have self-financed something, gone to a studio, or through the traditional route that most creators would go, but we really felt our independent spirit needed to be reflected in how we were going to get this out to the fans so the fans could let us know what they want. Now, we’re revealing this new publishing relationship with Whatnot, and they very much have the same independent spirit with what they’ve done with their platform. For us to be on that as one of their first five titles was a perfect marriage for all of us. 

Wesley, you mentioned trying to develop a Black Panther project once upon a time, but with something like The Exiled, are you thinking about taking this to film and television?

Wesley: We like having a very strong story now [in the comic book], but I think it’s almost unavoidable that I don’t think about action and putting this in motion and having the characters in motion. There are so many different mediums we can do that in. Even something you can see or can’t see, but hear. I’d love that opportunity and the potential for that. Thanks to the fans for supporting us, but we need to see the characters move. Definitely [Laughs].

I can’t help but look at Roach and see a little Wesley Snipes in him, so is this a role you’d be looking to take a crack at Wesley, be it in live-action or video games?

Wesley: Oh, I’m going to audition for all of the roles [Laughs]. The various mediums, absolutely. That’s the goal, and with the support of the fanbase, health, wealth, and strength, we will do some wonderful things. It could be a great franchise. 

Given your history in the video game industry, Keith, do you think The Exiled would be a good fit for that style of storytelling?

Keith: Yeah, for us, I always look at what the best way is to tell the story to the audience. Whether that’s a book, a comic book, a video game, or a movie, I want what’s best to tell that narrative for those characters. I always look to the game industry because that’s where I’ve been for the past 25 years, but as my career is also moving into film and television and I’m starting to direct for the screen, I’m looking to do what’s best for the characters and story, and where that story takes us, we’re going to have a fun journey. It’s amazing collaborating with Wesley and Adam because we all have very practical experience in production. We all know how to make films and TV shows and now with games and graphic novels. For us, it’s our palette to start painting. 

Wesley, we are finally starting to see a greater level of diversity in superhero projects, but we still don’t see anywhere enough Black leads in comics. Was it important to have the sort of creative input that meant you could help create someone like Roach here?

Wesley: I think there are a lot that are created. I know some incredible artists that have worked for the big boys, the Disneys of the world, and have done some incredible independent work with a kaleidoscope of characters from the vast world that’s out there. I don’t think of it in those terms while creating. We’re creating something dynamic and exciting that will appeal to a wide audience and has a transcontinental appeal. I think of it from that perspective, and not so much that it has to have a Black character or Puerto Rican character or story. We put them in because that’s organic and true to the world, but not for political reasons. It’s [also] with the goal of getting more artists work and creating roles they can be cast in! [Laughs]

While I have you Wesley, it goes without saying your Blade movies are iconic and that they paved the way for today’s superhero movies. Looking back on them now, what does their legacy mean to you? 

Wesley: It’s amazing. In the beginning, my motivation for doing the first Blade project was to have fun and to do something I knew my homeboys and homegirls would absolutely love. The ones from the martial arts world. The ones from the Shaft world, and the ones who love Kung-fu and all that [Laughs]. We knew that would be attractive to that niche audience, but I had no idea it would have broader appeal. However, it was a good lesson. It taught us what was possible. A lot of things we didn’t imagine because we didn’t have the technical tools at the time, but we have them now. It’s a great time for us and I’m giddy over the possibility of the potential of doing some of the things we had imagined with the tools we now have available with this particular project. 

Finally, if you could describe The Exiled in one word for fans, what would it be?

Keith: Wow, that’s a good one. In one word? 

Wesley: "Woo, holy shit!"

Keith: That's one word! [Laughs]

Wesley: [Laughs]
 

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