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MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2006


LOS ANGELES -- With the pilot movie in its final stages, production on Spike TV's Blade live-action series is underway in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Spinning off the movie trilogy based on Marvel's vampire hunter, Blade will debut with a two-hour premiere on Spike TV on Wednesday, June 28. Eleven more one-hour episodes have been ordered, and there's already talk of a second season.

The two-hour series premiere opens with Blade -- Kirk "Sticky" Jones taking over from Wesley Snipes -- setting up shop in Detroit and investigating the vampire house of Chthon. Along the way he forms an uneasy alliance with Krista Starr (Jill Wagner), a former military veteran who becomes entrenched in the world of vampires while investigating the murder of her twin brother.

Promotion for the show was heavy at Wizard World Los Angeles over the weekend, with Spike TV having one of the largest booths. Backpacks featuring the show's logo, trading cards with the show's main characters and DVDs with the newest trailer were handed out.

And on Saturday, Geoff Johns, a consulting producer who wrote the pilot with executive producer David Goyer, joined Spike TV's Pancho Mansfield and New Line Television's Jon Kroll for a panel devoted to the series.

Here are highlights from the panel:

* Johns said the series is set after Blade: Trinity.

"It's a little more grounded, like the first film," he said. "We'll be exploring his mytholpgy, how he got the tattoos, what he did before he was Blade, as well as fleshing out what the Vampire Nation is and their world.

"Blade is a great character in the comics, but he's never sparked as much as he did in the films.

"I love the character because he kicks ass. He's a tortured character who kicks ass."

* Johns likened Blade to Black Adam in that he's a "morally gray" character.

* Marc Spector's name was mentioned in a clip that was shown. Asked if Moon Knight would appear on the series, Johns said, "Maybe."

* Mansfield said that Goyer, who wrote all three Blade films and directed Blade: Trinity, is "very involved" with the show.

* The House of Cthon will be led by Marcus Van Sciver, who is named after comics artist Ethan Van Sciver. The character is played by Neil Jackson.

""Neil Jackson is the great British villain that Blade needs," Kroll said. "Blade is so street that we wanted to have a really proper villain."

Van Sciver's mission will unfold over the season.

* Van Sciver's assistant is played by Jessica Gower, who Kroll called "the secret weapon" of the show.

"She's the nicest person, but she's the most horrific character on the show," Johns said.

* Nelson Lee plays Shen, who takes on the Whistler role in Blade's life.

"You learn something about Blade and his assistants -- the number of them that he goes through," Johns said.

* Mansfield said he feels Blade has a "feature quality" to the production. "We're shooting 16 by 9," he said.

* Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell, light heavyweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, appears in the pilot.

* Look for Marvel characters and asides in the show. For example, one of the vampire houses is the House of Falsworth, referring to the Baron Blood character from the comics.

* The pilot movie has Blade returning to his hometown of Detroit, where the House of Cthon is. Johns, who is from Detroit, said there will be references to local landmarks in the show.

* Mansfield said something happens in the pilot "that really shapes and drives the show."

* Johns said there is some humor in the series but it will never cross the line into camp.

* Kroll prasied Jones' work as Blade. "We were looking towards the longevity of the character," Kroll said. "We wanted somebody who brought depth and resonance to the role."

* Johns noted that Jones is a big comics fan and he helped him find the comic shop in Vancouver.

* Johns, whose previously television writing experience was an episode of Justice League Unlimited, is writing the fifth and 10th episodes. He said the fifth episode will feature an obscure Marvel villain that he updated for the show.

* Mansfield said there is a standalone quality to the episodes, but Blade will be serialized. "Most of the really effective shows that are on television right now are shows that continue and really hook you into them," he said.

* Johns, who is exclusive to DC Comics, said there has been talk of Marvel doing a new Blade comic book. "I hope they do something," he said.

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