Charley and Vlas Parlapanides are very proud of their Greek heritage.
The writers and executive producers of the hit Netflix anime Blood of Zeus once turned down the chance to develop a movie idea for Sylvester Stallone and opted instead to write Immortals – the 2011 release that starred Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans and Mickey Rourke – because they really wanted to fulfill their dream of making movies about Greek mythology.
While that movie suffered from a reduced budget and the usual challenges of working under studio constraints, in Blood of Zeus the Parlapanides brothers had a broader canvas and got to tell the story that they wanted to tell.
SPOILERS FOR THE NETFLIX ANIME SERIES – BLOOD OF ZEUS
At its core, Blood of Zeus is the tale of two brothers – Heron and Seraphim – and how they cope, for better or worse, with the hand the fates dealt them.
Half-brothers born as fraternal twins of the same mother to a god and a king, they are violently separated at birth. However this is not a rosy new take on ‘the prince and the pauper’ trope – this is an honest-to-Zeus Greek tragedy with bloody and fatal consequences for all involved.
It’s an excellent tale that grapples with themes of anger, loss and being an outsider on the fringe of society that is in many ways a deeply personal story to Charley and Vlas Parlapanides.
Descended from immigrants, their family has grappled with fitting in and the loss of a maternal patriarch who was killed for organizing local resistance against invading Turkish forces during the destruction of Smyrna in 1922.
We had questions and they were happy to answer.
Which of the Greek pantheon of gods best describes either of you? Tell us who Charlie would say, reminds him of Vlas and who would Vlas say reminds him of Charlie?
Charley: For myself I was gonna say Hermes, because you know Hermes was a knucklehead initially. And he was always kind of getting in trouble and he was [doing things like] stealing Apollo’s cows. But the thing that he always wanted was to be elevated to the status of his other siblings and to be elevated to the Pantheon. And basically, you know, Zeus had to tell him like, “Hey, get your act together”. And so in our story, we only see the Hermes that is now kind of the dutiful son and doing what Zeus asks of him.
But I know I always wanted to hang out with Vlas and our other brother. We have another brother, whose in between us and was maybe a little bit of an idiot. Thankfully we had very patient and loving parents who were willing to guide us. But if I had to pick one for Vlas, I would say he’s Apollo in the sense that all the girls I grew up with were like, “Oh my God, your brother’s so good looking, we love him.” when he would come home from college.
But also Vlas is very wise. Apollo would bring prophecy to mortals. And the Oracle of Delphi is in the Temple of Apollo. And Vlas is like our mother. Our mother’s very wise, she’s a very pious woman. But sometimes they’ll both say something [that would later make you go] like, “Oh wow”. It would kind of take you back and then it comes to fruition down the line.
So for the looks and the prophecy, I would say Vlas is Apollo. Not the blonde hair [since] we’re all relatively dark haired and [have] dark features. But that’s who I would say for Vlas.
Vlas: I’ll take it. I’d say for Charlie, it’s an amalgamation again – and it might seem a little weird, but I’ll tell you why – Zeus and Athena. Athena, by far was the smartest of all the gods. And Charlie by far is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. So I think that he has that intelligence. We’ll go through a script and then he’ll see the ripple effect ten steps down [in the story] and it just always takes me a lot longer to get there. So I’m [going] can we do this? Can we not do this? And I know it’s frustrating for him because he gets to see it so much sooner than I do.
So there’s the in the intelligence component to it and Zeus just being someone that is a natural born leader. I think that [Charley] could have gone into any field. He obviously went to law school and he was at the top of his class, he got into some of the best law schools in the country. So I feel like he could have succeeded in law, he could have been CEO of a company and he’s obviously succeeding in this. So he’s just a natural born leader; he was the captain of the football team among other things. And so, I would say [Athena and Zeus] for those two reasons.
For myself I wouldn’t say I’m like this god, but I would draw a characteristic of the god and that’s the anger component that Zeus has and that Hera and even Heron have. Sometimes I struggle with my anger and I have to be careful that I don’t let it make me bitter, that I don’t let it consume me. Seraphim [deals with anger] too. And thematically that was something that we wanted to explore with three characters: the anger that Heron has, he’s able to let go. And then he’s able to overcome the adversity he’s pitted against. The anger that Seraphim has he’s not able to let go [off] and that becomes his downfall. The anger that Hera has, I would say it pushed her to go too far. But then it changes her in a way. She’s forever changed.
Will we see the African gods of Kofi the gladiator referenced or appear on the show?
It’s a great question. We would love to help someone bring that world to life. We’ve always believed – and we’ve always pitched from the outset – that there’s so many great world mythologies. And I think people want to embrace them, they want to see these stories. Kofi was a character that we inserted into the story because [we discovered him] in doing our research. He was based on a true character who was basically from North Africa. He was a slave in a silver mine in Athens and he eventually won his freedom in an athletic competition and became a citizen of Athens. And we thought that was cool.
There was a lot of commerce [between Africa and Europe], and even if you know anything about Egyptian deities [of] North Africa and [those of] Greece, you know there was a lot of interchange between the two. And so we thought it’d be cool to involve that.
The story we hope to tell is primarily focused on the Greek gods. But we think it’d be cool. We had initially pitched – when the show was called gods and heroes – like we’ll do Gods and Heroes: Norse Mythology, Gods and Heroes: Greek Mythology, Gods and Heroes, you know, Celtic mythology, African mythology. They could do it all. Now whether that’ll ever come to be, you know, who knows? That’s a Netflix question. But we’ve told them and I think they’re open to the idea. It’s always about finding the right way into those worlds.
We just need to make some fuss, right? Kick up some fuss on social media or something. We want to come play at this party.
Vlas: The greatest challenge in all this is it’s an ensemble show. And so then we said, okay, we’re brothers. We want it to be about the brothers. And then it’s like okay, then who else? Oh the Father Zeus and then Hera. And so once you make it primarily about these four characters for that reason. It just started with that idea. And then the great challenge was that we wanted to spend more time with Kofi, we wanted to spend more time with some of the Greek goddesses and we wanted to spend more time with Alexia. And we had her backstory and more of Kofi’s backstory but you have 20 to 22 pages and we couldn’t fit it all in. And it broke our hearts because we wanted to get more of those backstories and explore and delve into those characters even more. And at the end of the day, we just didn’t have the time or the real estate. And that was probably the thing that was, I think, most difficult and most challenging.
Who was your favorite blood of Zeus character to write for? And why?
Vlas: That’s a tough question because we love all the characters. And I would say the characters are an amalgamation of who we are as people. But I think for me, it really stems back to drawing upon experiences. And we are children of immigrants. And consequently that played a big role in the characters that we wrote.
We firsthand have experienced discrimination. Our great grandfathers were killed and tortured by the Turks simply because they were Greeks. Our grandmother had to hide in a basement to avoid getting raped. So when they came here to the United States – they were living in Asia Minor at that time, which is modern day Turkey now – they encountered all kinds of adversity. And so I feel that at times too, we experienced it to a certain extent. Much less than what they experienced, you know, where we would bring in the spanakopita to our lunchroom. And people would kind of smell it and look at us kind of funny and think that we were weird.
And so when it came time to write our main character Heron, we wanted to write a character who was an outsider. And he’s the quintessential outsider. He’s ostracized and he’s minimized. And so what I would say is that experience gave us great empathy with regards to any ethnic group that is in any way subjugated. We have great empathy for those types of groups simply because of what happened to our great grand-parents, our grandparents and some of what we experienced here in the US.
Charley: And what I would add to what Vlas is referring to is that our family on both sides are originally from Smyrna, which is now called Izmir. And Greeks had been living there since before the time of Alexander the Great for over 2500 years. And when the Turks rolled through and they burned Smyrni, there were more ethnic Greeks living in Smyrni than there were in Athens.
And both of our grandmothers had to flee for their lives and they told us the stories. And our grandmother’s father, he and three of his sons helped organize the men to try and fight off the Turkish army so the women and children could get to the boats. And because he was a ringleader, when they finally caught him, they hung him and his sons from a tree in front of their old house.
And so that’s a story that is kind of lost here in the West. We don’t hear about it [except for] you know, the Armenians have always brought it up because in the early 1920s, the Turks rolled through, they killed over two and a half million Armenians, they took out about 500,000 Greeks. But that’s what Vlas is referencing. And those were all the stories that you know, we always heard growing up.
The one thing I will say, though, getting back to Blood of Zeus is that I think Seraphim was the most fun, because we just thought that it was just such a, such an interesting character. We always told Shaunt Nigoghossian, our director, from the beginning that he’s not a villain, he’s an antagonist. And we hope the audience will empathize with him.
We know he kills a lot of people and he does a lot of brutal things, but we love Seraphim and and we hope audiences do too. And we hope you guys did. But for me it was always fun whenever we got to do a Seraphim scene or a Seraphim and Hera scene. That was always fun. We always loved the dynamic between them. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but if you put a gun to my head, that would be it. Seraphim would be it.
Vlas: And he’s the audience’s favorite. Everything that we’ve heard the audience’s loves him.
Yeah. I told my brother, he’s the main character. He is a main character.
Vlas: very astute, very astute, you’ll see why very astute.
Who is your favorite God from the Greek Pantheon? And who is your favorite God from a non Greek Pantheon?
Vlas: That’s a good one, you know, for the Greek Pantheon. It’s so hard to choose because again there’s certain components and I don’t feel like… I’m dodging the question, but I love the leadership skills of Zeus. But I love what Charlie mentioned for Hermes as someone that was trying to grow into himself and just really discover who he was. Ares for me is a little less interesting. But, you know, there’s the fact that Athena was very wise. I love what Charlie had mentioned about Apollo. And well, who would you say bro?
Charley: For me, I always love Zeus. And I don’t know if that’s because when we were young, we saw Clash of the Titans and Laurence Olivier was playing Zeus. But I always loved the story that when Typhon attacked Olympus, all the other gods bailed. They just left and only Zeus stayed and fought. And that always struck me as just being such a cool story. If you’ve ever seen the vase of that, you know, Typhon is this like half-serpent half-human thing. And there’s Zeus with the lightning bolts. As a young kid, that just left like an indelible mark on me.
So for me, you know, I know Zeus sometimes was also a terrible guy. But we certainly have a lot of love for him. There’s a lot of tragedy and a lot of brutality in Greek mythology, if you really dig into the stories, you know, and so, but for me, it’s Zeus.
And then for the non Pantheon, I would have to go with Loki just because there was a story that we love about Loki’s imprisonment and how his wife helps him escape and this brings about Ragnarok, basically the end of days in Norse mythology. And if you know that story, it’s a really cool story. And then obviously, like in the MCU, they just like made him this huge character and Tom Hiddleston is amazing. But that story we always felt could be an amazing story to tell out of that mythology.
Vlas: And I would say in that same mythology, because there’s it would be Odin for me. But the reason why is that he felt responsible for his people. He felt that he needed to make whatever self sacrifice he had to make for the betterment of his people. He knew doom was coming, he knew that they were going to be in peril. And the fact that he took on that responsibility and took on that burden was something that I always really loved about that character. And we’re just family guys. We’re blue collar guys. Family is very important to us. Faith and family. Those things matter the most. We both love being dads. And so that component for Odin, and for that reason I would choose him though, I think Loki is probably more fun to write.
So hey, Charley, thanks for bringing that up talking about the MCU by the way. So our last question is the MCU Odin versus blood of Zeus. They’re both dead right now onscreen, but who would win in a fight if those two went head to head?
Charley: You know, it’s a very interesting question. I, you know, obviously I’m very biased – I love Zeus and being Greek. But the one thing I will say is that Odin was truly kind of like, I guess the young kids will call him like the O.G. god in the sense that [where] in Greek mythology, you have the primordial gods that were overthrown by the Titans. And then the Olympians overthrew the Titans. And you always kind of have these stories of how one regime is usurped by the other. Righ?. But with Odin, he was just kind of the Allfather and that was it. And Greek mythology doesn’t have an End of Time story. It’s kind of like Christianity just made it kind of disappear, there’s no Twilight of the Gods. But Odin is there all the way to the end. And so just out of respect for the fact that he ran through all of their mythology, you know pretty much, I give him just the slight nod over Zeus.
Vlas: That question made me laugh when I read that, I literally laughed out loud. I’m like, oh that’s funny. That’s really witty. I would argue that Zeus would come out on top of that. Listen the lightning! Lightning at its peak? That heat is five times the surface of the temperature of the sun. So that dude with the lightning? He takes down Odin. And because people don’t know this little known fact: Zeus is actually from New Jersey.
Great answers guys. Thank you so much. And I will say this much looking forward to seeing Blood of Zeus Season Two when it comes out.
Charley: Yeah, thank you.
Vlas: Thank you. Thank you for the fan, you know for being big fans and supporters.
Charley: And thank you for shining a light on Ade [M’Cormack]. He is so talented people have no idea. When he was in the booth, we were just like, we got to figure out [how to get him] more stuff.
Vlas: seriously, because he was so good. We’re like, oh my god! We love Castlevania. I personally think he’s the best thing in Castlevania. But [yes] he is so talented. He’s someone that we want to work with. Not only on this, but God willing on other shows.
Blood of Zeus is streaming now on Netflix.