‘Titans’ – Alan Ritchson Interview on Playing Hawk, the Costume, and Training for the Role

Alan Ritchson’s no stranger to action-heavy roles. His resume includes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring as Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, and a role as a UFC fighter in the upcoming film, Shadow Girl. Now he’s taking on the part of Hank Hall / Hawk in DC Universe’s Titans.

During our interview at the 2018 New York Comic Con, Ritchson described the process of suiting up to play Titans‘ Hawk and his knowledge of the character prior to signing on to the series.

Titans debuted on October 12, 2018 and is based on the popular Teen Titans comics.

Not everyone can make a superhero costume work, but you do.

Alan Ritchson: (Laughing) “With a thick enough wetsuit I think anyone can look like a superhero.”

What was your take on that costume when they first gave it to you?

Alan Ritchson: “Uh, get this thing off of me, I think. It was so uncomfortable building that thing. I mean, the process that that team took… They really poured their heart and souls into it, but I had to be the mannequin. It was like a lot of hours and hours of pushing and pulling and bolts digging in. They really built that thing from the ground up.

For a long time I couldn’t see it; it couldn’t envision it. You just saw like foam things shooting off the back. It just wasn’t worth the trouble at the time. When I finally got up here and it was finished, and I put it on for the first time, I was like, ‘Man, this is pretty cool!’ So, it was interesting seeing that come to life.

I hated it and then when I saw it all put together I was like, ‘This is cool!’ And now I can’t pee for the entire day, so it’s a love/hate relationship with that thing.

But, no, I think they did a great job honoring the comics. It’s really hard to translate what you can draw on a page to our dimension. I think they did a fantastic job.”

How comfortable is it now?

Alan Ritchson: “It’s super uncomfortable. It just doesn’t like to move. They’ve removed all the bolts. It used to be put together with bolts because the cape is so heavy. The cape’s like 30 pounds or something, so the wings have steel rods in them to keep them from moving in a way that they shouldn’t move. It was all so heavy that it was bolted and screwed together. I’d take it off at the end of the day and my chest would be bleeding. There would be bruises all over from it. If I’d punch somebody, it’s like (digging into me). I’d feel it happening. It was awful. They’re like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to fix this.’

They’d get super Velcro manufactured for them, it’s like stronger than any Velcro. It works now. I’m not bleeding at the end of the day, but it’s just not the most comfortable thing. It takes like four people to put it on.”

Hawk and Dove have had many different iterations in the comic books. Is there one that you took a deep dive into to get into the character?

Alan Ritchson: “I’m going to say this with some shame. I wanted to do that kind of research. Geoff Johns had called me and pitched me on the part. I was like, politely, ‘I’ve done the DC thing, respectfully. I think I want to keep trying new things.’ He was like, ‘No. Let me tell you why this is different and why it has to be you.’

So, he pitched me and I was like, ‘Okay. I’m in. If it’s what you say it is, I’m in. Why don’t you send me some literature and I’ll read it and start getting to know this guy the way you think I should get to know him.’ And so, a box shows up and it’s one comic. I was like, ‘I guess there’s not much…’ I thumbed through that and I’m done. I think I know this guy.

I get to set and I meet Minka (Kelly) and we’re getting to know each other. I’m like, ‘So, did you read it?’ ‘What?’ ‘The comic book.’ She’s like, ‘What? Like one comic book? I read them all.’ I was like, ‘Well, what happened?’ She was like, ‘I called Geoff Johns and he sent me like 80.’ ‘Wait, how many?’ She said, ‘I read like 80 comic books.’ I’m like, ‘Well shit. Now I’m like the idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing!’

But he only sent me one – that wasn’t my fault! So, I don’t know who’s to blame there. But, I’ve only read one.”

How does the action in this compare to the action that you’ve done in your other projects?

Alan Ritchson: “It’s pretty similar. I mean, I think one of my favorite things about this business is getting to learn different trades and crafts that I wouldn’t otherwise. When I was in The Hunger Games, I hardly spent any time on screen but they had me in training for four months on a dagger so I’d look like I know what I was doing.

I’d come home and at night I was like in the living room flipping these daggers. Then I’d start throwing them. I got to where I could hit a rubber training dagger, I could peg it through a rubber training mat. We have it on camera, too. It was insane what I could do with those daggers.

And then immediately I go from that to Ninja Turtles with a scythe and 87Eleven, the stunt team that was on Hunger Games was there. Danny Hernandez, my trainer – I showed up for training for Raphael and it was him. I was like, ‘What?’ He goes, ‘I guess we’re just switching to a scythe.’ So now I know the scythe really well.

That stuff is really cool. It takes a lot of work, but I mean who gets to learn new crafts like that?

Much of what I’ve done is action. I’ve always played somebody who has to fight. Raphael or whoever. So, it’s just a slightly different version of those kind of martial arts. I actually did a movie immediately before this that isn’t out yet called Shadow Girl where I play a UFC fighter. I spent four months training MMA and then a month with Tito Ortiz because he was like the antagonist in the movie. We fought each other a bunch in the ring, and that is actually the style that we used for this guy. So, I rolled off that movie right into this.

Thank god I had five months of that kind of jiu-jitsu training. That prepared me for this. But it all kind of helps, in my world at least.

(Laughing) I mean, I’d love to do a movie where I play piano and I’m a librarian and I read a lot. Maybe someday.”

More on Titans:

Titans Hawk and Dove
Alan Ritchson as Hawk and Minka Kelly as Dove in ‘Titans’ (Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc)