From ‘Tron’ To Steampunk: Discovering ‘Bruce Boxleitner’s Lantern City’

Bruce Boxleitner would like very much to talk to you about steampunk. In my recent chat with the Tron and Babylon 5 actor, I found that he’d become something of an evangelist for this bit of mash-up culture. So much that he’s looking to build a television show around it with his project Lantern City.

The series, which is currently in development with Boxleitner serving as co-creator and executive producer, sees three characters thrust from our world into that of the titular steampunk metropolis, struggling to survive that’s similar to our own, but with a dangerous, stratified Victorian flourish. Mixing political intrigues and drama, the series will feature the designs of steampunk engineers Art Donovan, Thomas Willeford, Joey Marsoccci, and Tom Banwell in what in Boxleitner’s vision will be an expansive universe that, to his mind, does justice to steampunk.

Right now, the series is in its earliest stages of development, but I spoke to Boxleitner recently, along with co-creator and fellow executive producer Trevor Crafts and writer Matthew James Daley about their vision for the series and why it was so important to use steampunk to tell this particular story.

At the start of our conversation, Crafts was quick to explain that this wasn’t first and foremost a steampunk project–it was important that Lantern City which was character-focused on its trio of heroes: “Outsiders” Rachel, Maxwell, and Duke who are transported via a mysterious lantern into Lantern City. There, they find a society split between the monied rulers of the Grey Empire to the fringe denizens of The Underground, to the closely-controlled members of the Working Class who live in a kind of surveillance state under the Grey Empire.

To hear Boxleitner tell it, the story, which he likens to the connected, cross-cutting narratives of Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones, is kind of his way of exposing mainstream audiences to the under-represented genre of steampunk:

To tell you the truth, even though steampunk is a very big thing with genre fans, to mainstream audiences it’s still a very unfamiliar world. They’ve seen bits and pieces of it throughout the years, but I’ll walk up and talk to someone about steampunk and they’ll look at me and go “What is that?”

It’s also hard to explain to someone what steampunk is to someone who has absolutely no knowledge of science fiction, literature, what have you. So I think I agree with Trevor that this is a world that will be brand new to people and I think it’s so rich and visual, just to talk about the filmmaking aspect of it.

When he describes steampunk, you can hear the excitement in his voice about the possibility of working in that world and introducing it to a wider audience. He explains to me that it’s a world that fascinates him while Crafts adds that it also incorporates their shared love of history, science, and Victorian-inspired elements.

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