Tonight is the Canadian premiere of famed music video creator Director X’s newest series Robyn Hood on Global TV.
As the name suggests, it’s a modern spin on the classic Robin Hood story, only this time, Sherwood Forest is the kind of housing project you might see in Toronto, and Robyn is a street-wise aspiring rapper who robs with her band of merry pals in a glowing mask.
It’s an all-Canadian production, but Director X doesn’t think it’s a show Canadians should support just because it’s from here. “You shouldn’t watch it because it’s Canadian, you should watch it because it’s good,” he said. “We made a show for everybody.”
Specifically, it’s a show about the poor rising up against the rich, and with grocery and rent prices totally out of control in this country, now is as good a time as any for a show where the 99 per cent fight back.
Complex Canada met with Director X to talk about Robyn Hood’s timeless story, life in St. James Town, Toronto, and the 10th anniversary of Drake’s Nothing Was the Same.
Why do you think the Robin Hood story has stood the test of time?
I think there's always something appealing about a person that fights for the little guy. Helps them when they need help. Takes from those who are taking too much. That will always be a part of human nature and will always be something we respond to when they fight back.
In Canada right now, everyone’s talking about rent being expensive, food being expensive. Do you think the time is especially right to tell this story?
Rich versus poor is always a thing. Those who have will always take a little more from those who can't afford to lose it. This is just how life is, but now we are into a realm of unbelievable. I mean, I think it's criminal what's happening. Something like just how much it costs to rent an apartment is criminal. Unbelievable. No people are going to jail for things people should be going to jail for.
This is the largest incoming inequality gap since the gilded age. People can't afford to put gas in their car, or food on the table. When I thought of the show, let alone when we were shooting it and editing, this criminality with rents and mortgages wasn’t even what it is today.
The show is inspired by where you’re from, St. James Town.
Well, a lot of the influence. I moved to St. James Town a long time ago, I've been there and a lot of what happens in the show happened there. It influences the show, and even the idea of what the Sherwood Towers are, it’s the idea that it was sold to the city, that comes from history. There are meant to be these beautiful luxury apartments. And then they were sold to the city and became public housing. It’s across from Rosedale. It’s supposed to be this very fancy place.
Then there's these characters in there, and they’re influenced by people who lived in the neighbourhood, and you’ll see more of them as the show goes on.
So there's a lot of stuff in there from my life. This Toronto stuff, like the fact that they live at Sherwood and Forest, it's very much Jane and Finch. It's the same way we refer to Jane and Finch and that intersection, but being from Jane and Finch doesn't mean you live on the corner of Jane and Finch, you know? But yeah, we’re pulling these things from our lives and building this world from it.
And the story of people being removed from their homes, it’s happening all over the country, not just Toronto.
It’s everywhere. The idea came about from my experiences in London, England years ago. I remember this one situation where the mothers in that community got involved and fought back to keep their homes from being knocked down. When you’re poor, you have to fight back, and I think everyone can understand that. This is a show about class, about the ruling class and vast majority of us, and this is what we should be unifying around.
Why was it important to have the strong mother-daughter relationship in the story?
It hits hard. We wanted Robyn to be just a normal girl with her own life and her own things, who then has this big thing thrust on her. She wants to be a rapper, a big star. She even tells her mom, “yeah, I’m dreaming.” But the mom is her moral compass, this fight against the system is rooted in her because of her mom. The messaging and the themes of the show are about family. That family, social bonds, and community are the essential things when the world is stomping on you. You're slaving away for pennies and you can barely afford to make ends meet, but if you can go home and hang out with your friends and have a beer, that’s what it’s about. This is hood Wakanda: So as the battle gets real on the show, you're going to see a community that bands together.
You also have viral Toronto star Chromazz on the show.
She’s going to pop up with one of my favourite villains. It’s really a lot of fun.
Will there be other surprises for Toronto viewers?
It’s an all-Canadian show. The whole cast is Canadian. But it's hard to top a viral sensation like Chromazz. When you see what she does, you’ll see she's absolutely perfect for that.
Who’s on the intro track?
It’s Tia Banks, SLM, and Bouff. The track is called “Run This Hood” by The Hoods and you’re going to hear it on the radio soon. The idea with the soundtrack wasn’t to make something current or a hit song, because making a hit song is tough, but to make something good that really fits the show, and this does that.
It’s the 10th anniversary of Drake’s Nothing Was the Same and you directed the “Started From the Bottom” and “Worst Behavior” videos. Any memories of those 10 years later?
It’s funny, I don’t think of anniversaries of when things drop because we’re working on them well before that. But I loved working with Drake. He’s a good guy, and works hard to make everything creative and unique.
People still talk about those videos.
I don’t know if the videos will stand the test of time, but Drake will definitely stand the test of time. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent. It’s mindblowing what he’s achieved.