Geek Exclusive: Cowboy Bebop Showrunner André Nemec On Bringing The Iconic Anime To Life, And Reveals Where Ed Is

The popularity of anime is never in question, but few have gripped a global audience 23 years after its debut, especially that last only one season (and a movie), with no new material since. Despite this, Cowboy Bebop still remains a popular series amongst fans old and the young, and as expected, global streamer Netflix is taking a stab at turning it into a live-action series.

But before you roll your eyes, there are some recognizable efforts from the streamer in wanting this to succeed, such as engaging the original anime series director, as well as the composer, to return to the series. In Japan, the team has even engaged the original voice talents to do the Japanese dub, thereby closely associating the gap between the two, and few adaptations can claim this.

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

A Japanese science fiction neo-noir anime series created by Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop followed bounty hunters Spike Spiegel, Jet Black and Faye Valentine, along with Ein and Ed, as they chase criminals across space for monetary rewards.

Since its 1998 debut in Japan, followed by a 2001 launch in the US, the 26-episode series has been widely praised for its style, characters, animation and jazz soundtrack, turning it into a critical and commercial success globally.

André Nemec

This means showrunner André Nemec has a lot to live up to, and he knows it. In an exclusive interview with Geek Culture, the showrunner shared the details and excitement that went into giving the famous anime the live-action treatment, from achieving the right aesthetics to getting the original composer on board, making Cowboy Bebop has been a journey across space and time that he won’t forget. 

The first thing that Nemec needed to get right when he boarded the Bebop, was to ensure that he hit the anime’s futuristic aesthetic right on the nail, whilst still keeping the tinge of nostalgia associated with the series. 

“The anime was always our North Star,” said Nemec.

“[Aesthetics] was hugely important. The mission statement for the season was ‘We must live in the spirit of Cowboy Bebop’, and a lot of the time, the mandate was ‘If it ain’t broke, let’s not fix it’,” he continued. 

“There are so many things in the anime that are delicious and wonderful. A lot of it had to do with the technology in the show, wanting to make sure that we were capturing the technology that fed us the nostalgia that brought us back to the time when we originally watched this show 20 years ago.” 

And while his name might not be a household one yet, the work he has done certainly is. 

A writer and producer, Nemec has worked on many films and TV series, including Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and October Road. 

Adaptations are often a hit or miss, and with Netflix, you’ll never know. Although previous book-to-series adaptations have been pretty close ala Shadow and Bone, series like Masters of the Universe: Revelation were dubbed a disappointment by fans of the comic. Netflix has either stuck close to source materials or played it loose when it comes to adaptations, but lucky for the streamer, Nemec is no stranger to adaptations having brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the silver screen. 

“What was important was not necessarily wanting to serve the same meal that people had 20 years ago. I am a fan of adaptations. I’m a fan of movies in general. I’m the guy that doesn’t love to watch the trailer before I go see the movie, because I don’t like to even guess what the ending is going to be before it happens, so I knew that dramatically we were going to want to tell a different story,” explained Nemec. 

cowboy bebop

In fact, the 49-year old is a big fan of adaptations himself. Although he believes it’s important to stick as close as possible to the source material to deliver a nostalgic experience for long-time fans, Nemec is firm on allowing wiggle room to make a couple of changes to the original story.  

Utilising core elements of the original anime to pay homage and find the right aesthetic, Nemec wanted to serve a different story that came from the characters themselves. The showrunner does this by getting under the skin of the characters and used that to be the narrative structure of the season. 

Played by John Cho, series lead Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter on the run from his past as the former hitman of the criminal Syndicate organisation, while his partner Jet Black, played by. Mustafa Shakir, is a former police officer. Rounding up the crew is Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), an amnesiac con woman. All of them with their own secrets and demons to deal with as they go around space chasing criminals whilst simultaneously running away from their pasts. 

Despite such a colourful crew, the Netflix series didn’t manage to incorporate the last key member of the Bebop crew – fan-favourite Ed – who (mild spoilers) is mentioned in the first season, and finally makes an appearance at the end of the final episode in the adaptation. Since the upcoming season only includes core details from the first 6 (give or take) episodes of the anime, there are still plenty of stories to tell and it will definitely include Ed, should there be a second season.

“Ed is definitely a character and – fingers crossed  – in season two, the truth of Ed will be revealed. It’s a character that I’m dying to get under the skin of and there are many stories to tell about Ed and the bounties [too],” said Nemec.

“We had the horrible choice in the writers room of looking at all of these sort of delicious characters, and realizing we will not have room in season one for that character, so fingers crossed, we get more and it’s all coming!” 

Although it’s a shame that Ed wasn’t able to make her presence felt in the first season of the live-action series, Nemec’s counts getting the anime’s original composer, Yoko Kanno, to return for the live-action series as his biggest win on the show. 

As for how he did it, well, he would have grovelled if it came to it. Said Nemec with a laugh, “I want to say that I got on my knees and begged Yoko!” 

“Which I would have done, but thankfully I did not get on my knees and beg Yoko, We had a great conversation. We talked creatively about it. She was intrigued and enthusiastic about the stories that we were going to tell, and the way that we were going to tell them, and she came on board. She said yes,” said Nemec. 

“It was a really incredible experience to work with her on original music. Reinventing some of the music from the anime and then really repurposing some of the iconic music from the anime itself into the series, because to me, the soundtrack of Cowboy Bebop is such a core part of the show’s soul. It is essential that those jazz licks that Yoko composes are there. They’re so delicious, it’s impossible to ignore.” 

cowboy bebop

Nemec uses the term ‘delicious’ a couple of times throughout the interview, which is an interesting term to describe this series, since it is a sci-fi neo-noir series that cooks up with a lot of love, under a lot of pressure. And it’s pressure he knows all too well. 

“I felt terrified because it is such an iconic show,” explained Nemec.

“I think that fear that many around me had, as we were crafting this, really lived in that scope of like, ‘This is hallowed ground.’, he explained. 

“We must deliver and must deliver well because Cowboy Bebop deserves that. It has withstood the test of time and we owe the show that.” 

cowboy bebop

And even if there is no follow-up, Nemec hopes that fans will appreciate the opportunity to spend more time on the Bebop with the beloved characters. 

“The thing that I want people to take away from it is that they got to have another fun ride with their friends on the Bebop, that they got to spend more time with characters that they love, because I feel that way. I got to spend some time with some characters and some folks that I really loved and I wanted to see more of and spend more time with and I hope that that’s what they take away. That you know, they got to just be part of that family again.” 

Cowboy Bebop premieres on Netflix on 19 November 2021.