The first season of Disney+ and Marvel Studios' Moon Knight went out with a bang, setting the stage for one of Marvel's most complex and emotionally resonant characters, Marc Spector/Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac).
Shadow and Act sat down with Moon Knight executive producer Grant Curtis on what it took to bring Marc and Steven's intricate inner world to life for audiences while authentically telling a story about Marc and Steven's severe trauma and dissociative identity disorder.
"Well, I think first of all, we approached it reverentially with a lot of respect because we are dealing with mental health, a very serious issue," he said. "Obviously we're dealing with a fictionalized version of that, and wrapped in a superhero story. But Jeremy Slater, our head writer, approached it that way from the beginning and obviously took it very seriously, as the subject deserves to [be treated]. Mohamed Diab, our lead director picked up that mantle along with [Isaac, who also executive produced] and continued to carry it, taking the mental health and dissociative identity disorder very seriously."
Curtis talked about the "army" of mental health experts the team employed to help them convey Marc and Steven's journey as authentically as a fantastical Marvel project would allow. One of these experts included Dr. Paul R. Puri.
"I do think if you look back at the six episodes, I hope the fans and the people who watched the show realized that we took it very seriously," said Grant. "And again, it's fictionalized, but, I do hope people come out the other end of it with a satisfying journey into mental health."
Egypt was a pivotal element in the show, since Marc and Steven were the collective avatar of Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), the ancient Egyptian moon god. For Egyptology fans, it was interesting to see how Marc and Steven's multifaceted existence possibly mirrored how ancient Egyptians thought of their gods as beings who took many forms and iterations. Curtis said that along with having mental health experts on board, the team employed Egyptologists to help bring authenticity to the magical world gods like Khonshu, Tarweret (voiced by Antonia Salib) and Osiris via his avatar Salim (Khalid Abdalla) inhabit.
"One of the things that we always just looked at was what the emotional and narrative journey could look like and those connectivity points [to ancient Egypt]," said Curtis. "And that's how we got to what you see on the screen. We talked to a mental health consult, [and] we had an Egyptology consultant on this, Rami Romany. As he took us through those connectivity points between Egyptian history and [Marc and Steven's personal story].
Creating an authentic world that represented both mental health and Egypt in sensitive lights took the team on "a three-year journey," said Curtis. It's a journey that also helped the team learn more about Egypt through Diab's eyes, who has already talked in interviews about how Hollywood has often portrayed Egypt through stereotypical, Western sensibilities.
You will look back at those people who come with a word and help you tell that attorney organically. And I do think about the mental health aspects of this. I also think about what a game-changer was bringing mama. You know, Mohamed is obviously an incredibly talented, uh, Egyptian filmmaker. Uh, and so that authenticity, the weakness that he naturally brought to the table. Curtis said that all of the resources from experts, including Diab, his wife and series producer Sarah Goher, Judaism consultant Sarah Bassin, Egyptian series editors like Ahmed Hafez and Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih, made Moon Knight "so much richer."
"We had an incredible production designer [Stefania Cella] [and] when you work with a filmmaker [Diab] who grew up on the streets of Cairo, who grew up with this inherent knowledge, it just made the journey [we] take the audience on that much richer and organic," he said. "I mean, it's what he grew up with as a kid, those streets, he grew up on those stories and I think it shows." and I think also the team that Mohamed brought with him continued to drill in to that authenticity."
"We knew every early on that the world has a fascination with Egyptian art and architecture that we can't recreate to this day. It's just one of the aspects of that globe-trotting adventure that Mohamed and his team continued to make authentic and I think people enjoyed the journey."
As for where Moon Knight can go next, Curtis said he would love to know what happened after that fateful limo ride in what fans have dubbed the Overvoid, the mystical plane of consciousness from the comic books. In this series, the Overvoid seemingly presented itself as a mental health institution. While the Overvoid led to Marc and Steven reconciling and becoming whole, villain Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) had a different fate as he entered Khonshu's limo outside of the Overvoid institution, meeting Khonshu's friend, and Marc's murderous third identity, Jake Lockley.
"I want to know what happens when that limo pulls away," said Curtis. "I mean, selfishly, I want to be able to fly on the wall. That's where I wanna go next, just continuing to do justice to a comic book and a character that got started in 1975 in Werewolf By Night and in 1980 for Moon Knight, issue number one. There are so many great stories through the decades by so many talented writers and artists. I just want to continue to see where that incredible character's journey takes us."
The full season of Moon Knight is now available for streaming on Disney+