Twisted Metal: Anthony Mackie says new show 'is a laugh'

A black man with short hair and a neat moustache leans out of the open window of a red-orange car. He wears a cargo jacket with the arms cut off over a yellow t-shirt and fingerless gloves. He's got one hand on the steering wheel and the other arm resting on the car's door. He's looking at someone or something out of shot and appears to be listening attentively or staring with trepidation.
Anthony Mackie plays John Doe in Twisted Metal, an adaptation of the PlayStation game series

Anthony Mackie is a "truck guy".

"I drive a big Ford with a lift kit and big tyres. I am not a speed guy," he tells BBC Newsbeat.

"I barely ever go over 25 miles an hour. I'm the guy driving and people drive past me and flip me off because I'm going too slow."

That might be a surprise to anyone who's seen the trailer for his latest show, Twisted Metal, which features his character pulling doughnuts in a sports car inside an abandoned mall.

The series is based on the PlayStation game series centred around a futuristic, over-the-top demolition derby contest - a game Anthony says he played as kid, but admits he "sucked" at.

He stars as John Doe, a chatty "milkman", or courier, who transports goods in a post-apocalyptic USA.

John is tasked with transporting a mystery package across the country - now a wasteland - avoiding death at the hands of Mad Max-style marauding gangs and fleeing Sweet Tooth - the evil clown mascot of the games.

While that could sound like the set-up for a more serious show, Twisted Metal is definitely a comedy.

"We didn't want to overthink it," says Anthony. "We didn't want to take too much and put too much on it.

"The game didn't really have a story, a background or a world that it was setting. It was just people blowing each other up."

A burly, shirtless man wearing an evil clown mask - with tufts of thick red fake hair sprouting out of each side of the head - leans out of the window of a very dirty ice cream truck. He's shirtless but wears a leather harness with five straps attached to a circular anchor piece over his sternum. He wears a large leather glove on his visible hand. Like the truck, he also appears to be covered in a film of dirt or grease. The mask's exaggerated, toothy smile lends the picture an air of menace
Evil clown Sweet Tooth - a mascot of the games - pursues John for much of the series

While recent video game adaptation The Last of Us was very close to its source material and gave its creators a ready-made "sculpted out world", Anthony says adapting Twisted Metal was riskier.

"It's definitely harder because it's more likely that you will mess it up," he says.

"When you look at this, it's something different. The audience could easily not connect to it because they had no idea what Twisted Metal was going to be."

But Anthony admits having a blank slate did have some benefits too.

"As creatives we had the freedom and the opportunity to create an entire world for a property that was so well-known, no-one gets to do that.

"So it was really all of us coming together and throwing in our ideas to make that a reality that the audience would appreciate and gravitate to."

A chaotic screenshot from a video game shows a shirtless man in a clown mask sitting on the lip of a car door as he holds a large shotgun. The modified sports car he's a passenger in is fitted with two large gatling gun weapons - a bright yellow muzzle flash emanates from one. Behind him is a post-apocalyptic scene - we can see a building with a large, yellow "going out of business" banner across its front. A helicopter flies through the shot, a parked car appears to be on fire and a third, modified vehicle appears to be chasing the car carrying the man with the shotgun.
Twisted Metal started as a PlayStation title and versions have appeared on most Sony consoles since (PS3 version pictured)

When Twisted Metal was first announced some fans were surprised it was chosen for a TV adaptation because the game was so light on story.

And the series, which comes out in the UK on Paramount Plus this week, debuted in the US to a mixed reception, with some reviewers criticising its "thin story".

But plenty of others found it to be enjoyably silly, even if it was unlikely to show up in award show lists.

It's probably not a surprise to learn which side Anthony is on.

"I think there's not a lot of content out there that's just turn your brain off fun," he says.

Twisted Metal, he says, "is just a laugh".

"There's so much heavy content now, there's so much pressurised content, that this is one of those shows where you can just sit back and pop your popcorn and let it happen in front of you.

"Once you know the characters, and once you know the world, you can sit back and experience it and enjoy it, but not have to actively participate in it."

And while you might be seeing Anthony on your TV screen, don't expect to see him in your favourite multiplayer game any time soon.

"I'm a very active, emotional gamer. I'm old-school," he says.

"I don't like the first-person stuff. I like Mario and games like that, where it's a character. And I get to go through this world with a character.

"I don't like me fighting you. And me on a headset talking to you, I can't do all that. And I don't want to make friends in my game, I just want it to be what it is."

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