Warrior Nun is a fun wild ride chock-full of BAMF nuns, terrifying demons, and twists and turns that play on a mythology known to many. Simon Barry, the show-runner of Warrior Nun, was responsible for bringing Ben Dunn’s comic book vision come to life and we got a chance to speak with him all about this new Netflix show. From Ava’s journey as the Warrior Nun to Lilith’s transformation, we had plenty to break down!
1. What sparked the creation of Warrior Nun?
Well, the project came to me originally when it was being developed as a movie. It’s based on a series of graphic novels from Ben Dunn. And a producer friend of mine was trying to get it made as an independent feature film and was coming to me to help with the script for the film. I basically said to him, “There’s so much good stuff here, so much material, why don’t you consider doing it as a TV show?” And given that my main job is a showrunner, it was natural for me. When he said ok and gave me permission to pitch the show to Netflix, who were very keen on it, and here we are.
2. How was it watching Warrior Nun come to life?
Obviously for me, being involved in the writing, production, and post production it’s a very long and slow process. But I have to say it was a lot of fun because we were shooting a show that is fun, that knows it’s fun and is trying to be a lot of things. We had action, we have suspense, we have good and evil, religion, and great group of people making the show. And a great group of actors and directors on the set which made it the kind of work you always want to be doing. Which is: hard work but fun work.
3. Ava’s transformation from coward to warrior was a thing of beauty. What went into creating a character like her?
Well we were very conscious that this mythology of the OCS and the Warrior Nun was very dense and very complicated. We wanted the character to come into the show that represented a little bit of the audience who didn’t know anything and wanted to discover this group with them. So we wanted a character like Ava who was coming from a very different place from the OCS. And at that point it was really building on the things that would kind of make her the perfect choice for the hero in this universe.
So finding her point of view, finding her voice, finding the things that had happened to her that would make her reluctant, and things like being raised in an orphanage by evil nuns and not really having belief in God and religion. And not having a sense of duty and loyalty made it great for us as writers because we could then challenge the character to be up against the wall and not just accept it. She was fighting it and that was really for us a way to get the audience to join in on this journey and be a participant in the journey that Ava was going on.
4. Ava felt real in her reaction to becoming the Warrior Nun. Maybe others would jump at the chance at being super-powered but I know I wouldn’t. How important was it to make her feel real and conflicted?
The thing is that when someone tells you that you have to do something, you immediately put your hand up and go, “Woah, wait a minute here.” And so for us as writers and for me, we needed Ava to kind of come to that decision on her own and not just be told that this is what she needed to do, but for her to sort of see it that this is what she needed to do. And I think that really is the journey that Ava was taking in season 1, to find her inner strength and find the connection to the people she has met and understand why she’s been picked and not just that she’s been picked.
5. You subvert a lot of things known to Christianity as a whole. Was it challenging toeing that line?
I think it was an advantage strangely enough because there’s so much familiarity with Christian mythology, and heaven and hell, and angels and demons. It was something we didn’t have to explain. So personally, it adds a level of gravitas and tension because it’s something people have really strong feelings about. So I liked that we had the religious mythology, Christian mythology, and the mythology of heaven and hell.
And our back bone, in terms of how the stakes of this show could be easily understood by the audience, was instead of having to invent a whole new mythology from something that wasn’t familiar we went with what was familiar. I personally love movies like The Exorcist where the tension really comes from how close we are to understanding religion and mythology. And that makes it even more powerful.
6. Besides Ava, who are you most excited for fans to fall in love with?
That’s a really hard question because it’s like asking who is your favorite child. [laughs] I gotta say, I really love all the sisters so much. I love Shotgun Mary, Beatrice, Lilith, and Camila. They’re all really amazing and that’s really an impossible question. I think that we did our job by making sure that every character was interesting, different, and surprising. In doing our jobs well it makes it impossible for me to pick one.
7. How was it tackling all the action scenes, because they were amazing and badass?!
We had an amazing stunt team in Spain and actually stunt performers from all over Europe. From France, from Spain, from Italy and Germany. We were blessed to have some of the most talented stunt people. But I will say this, most of our fight scenes, the actors themselves were major participants. And in specific terms, I would say the fights between Mary and Lilith. We had stunt teams and doubles but what you’ll see in the show is that we didn’t really use them very much.
Lorna and Toya, who play Lilith and Mary, they were amazing. They were such troopers because even though we had that option for them, to use stunt doubles, they really wanted to do it. And it makes the footage so much better that they wanted to get in there and get down and dirty. So, that was really great in terms of our ability to really have pretty close up fight scenes and action sequences with the actual actors.
8. Lilith’s transformation was on par with Ava’s for a lot of Warrior Nun. Where do you see her going from here now that she’s changed?
If we’re lucky enough to get season 2, Lilith’s story is definitely going to be in everyone’s mind because she has gone through this incredible experience and transformation. I really would love to explore it from a point of view from the shows mythology but also from a view of her personally. What personally was done to her and how does it personally affect her to have something like this happen to her. So hopefully we’ll get that opportunity.
9. Assuming season 2 is picked up, and keeping in mind that Pride just ended, will we be getting more queer storylines, particularly with Beatrice?
Should we get the chance to keep going then we’ll definitely want to double down on Beatrice’s story and backstory and find out where that goes. But I can’t say if it’ll resolve into a full blown relationship with Ava, but I do like the idea that everyone had to come to this story with their own journey and their own battle. And I love that Beatrice is one of our strongest and fiercest combatants in this story. She presents her journey in such a beautiful and nuanced way.
Warrior Nun is now available on Netflix.