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Truths Revealed—An Interview with Derek May about HIGHLANDER: VERITAS

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

By Elizabeth Gracen:



I'm very excited to share the work of my friend and Editor-in-Chief for Flapper Press, Derek May! I met Derek many years ago when the HIGHLANDER franchise was in full swing and our conventions were full of people who loved the series as much as the actors, writers, and producers loved making the show. Back in the day, I had learned the Flying Rainbow Fan martial art for an episode of Highlander: The Raven ("A Matter of Time") from the wonderful Helen Wu in Toronto, Canada. I decided that with what little I knew of the fan form, I could share it with attendees at various conventions. I'm not sure when Derek actually stepped into the class, but I do remember immediately feeling intimidated and somewhat relieved that he was there, as he had a background in Tai Chi and fan forms from his years in the martial arts. When he offered to help me and Roberta Brown teach the class, I didn't hesitate to take him up on his offer.


To make a long story short, Derek and I became friends, and he eventually asked me if I would be interested in voicing "Amanda" for Season 2 of his stop-motion animated series, Veritas. Once I saw Season 1 of the series, I jumped on board to help—I never say no to stepping back into Amanda's Immortal shoes!


Little did Derek know that I would soon be roping him in to make use of his editorial skills to help me get Flapper Press off the ground. We've made it through a couple successful years now with the online magazine, all while Derek continued working through the incredibly complicated process of creating his HIGHLANDER-inspired Veritas!


Now at the halfway point in the release of Season 2, I reached out to Derek to tell me all about the series, his process, and why he likes HIGHLANDER so damned much!


Meet Derek May and VERITAS!


 

Elizabeth Gracen & Derek May

EG: Derek, we’ve known each other for quite some time from the HIGHLANDER world and from the FlapperPress.com world, but your talents in the arena of stop-motion animation are still a mystery to me. I don’t know how the hell you do it, and I’m mystified that you (anyone) has the patience and attention to detail to pull it off with such success! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how and why you ventured into this medium?


DM: Thank you! To be honest, stop-motion animation was never a medium I ever thought I’d work in; I sort of threw myself into it out of availability. I love film and television in general; it’s been my passion for as long as I can remember and my lifelong dream to work in that field in some capacity. For a long time, I thought that would be as an actor. But over time, writing felt like a better fit.


I ended up with a degree in both Media and Philosophy because I always saw the two as going hand-in-hand. I want to tell stories that have meaning and hopefully have a positive effect. I spent over a decade honing my screenwriting craft, writing big epic stories, small personal stories, and everything in between. I got a lot of positive reaction, won or placed highly in contests, even meetings with Disney. But I never got that one big break I needed. It left me sort of heartbroken and disenchanted, and I stepped away from it all for a time.


The 1/6 modern Connor & Duncan Macleod figures from Sideshow Collectibles

On the other side, I’m a big geek: I love toys and collectables. One day I discovered that Sideshow was releasing a series of 1/6 scale (12 inch) figures based on HIGHLANDER. They were simple by today’s standards, but I thought the detail and articulation was incredible, and I was just happy to have collectables from my favorite franchise. But those figures were a door into a totally new world for me.


Til then, I just bought whatever was officially produced; but I discovered that fans and collectors were making their OWN figures. You could either “kitbash,” which is taking existing elements from various figures and combining them to create your own, or you could hire amazing artists to create a fully customized figure. Suddenly, I could have any character, and any version of that character, that I wanted. So I started crafting any HIGHLANDER figure I had the resources to make, which at first were various historical versions of Duncan, Connor, and Kurgan (the characters Sideshow had produced). Then I branched out to Methos, Fitzcairn, Darius, Jin Ke, etc. Eventually, I even created a diorama to scale of Joe’s Bar for them to all hang out in.


Amanda, Joe, and Connor on the Joe's Bar set from HIGHLANDER: VERITAS, Season 2

When I finally started thinking about writing again, I knew that writing what I thought others would be interested in wasn’t getting me anywhere; I needed to write something that would reignite my passion, make it fun again. I’d seen lots of fan films, and that seemed cool. But I’d done enough live-action shorts to know it would be tough on several levels. A friend of mine, Daniel Shaw (who plays Methos, among other characters in Veritas) had experimented with stop-motion using his TRANSFORMERS figures. It was a sort of light-bulb moment: I had a variety of figures, I had a complete bar set, and I knew the HIGHLANDER world well enough to be able to write those characters. The only thing left was to figure out how stop-motion worked! There’s been a LOT of trial and error. I’m still very much a novice.


EG: I know that the subject matter for Veritas pays homage to the world of HIGHLANDER—both the films and the television series. Why did you decide to work on a narrative that includes this myth and these characters? Why do you like HIGHLANDER in the first place?


DM: I loved the first Highlander movie when I caught it on VHS in the late 80s, but I really didn’t become a super-fan until the series in the early 90s. I still remember seeing the premiere, seeing Lambert pass the torch to this new guy in a bad ponytail. My appreciation for the film kept me tuning in those early days when the show was still finding its footing. But after the episode “Mountain Men,” you could feel the shift. And then they were filming in Paris! And the show just kept getting better and better. I was hooked.


Adrian Paul as Duncan Macleod in "The Samurai"

Once David Abramowitz (who has become a writing hero of mine) took over as showrunner, the “Talmudic discussions” he and the other talented writers brought out in each episode showed me that an action show about people cutting each other’s heads off could also deliver beautiful, heart-breaking stories about love, loss, honor, friendship, anything really. The sky was the limit! It opened my eyes, at an age where I was trying to discover where I was going, that it was possible to explore these philosophical nuances in an entertaining and engaging way. I learned so much about not just filmmaking, but about everything! It completely changed how I looked at history and other cultures. Until then, school taught you history in isolation: Europeans did this at this time. Then in another semester you might learn that some other culture did this at that time. But what Highlander: The Series did by taking you back and forth over a personal lifespan over seasons was show that while this was happening, so was this. By Duncan fighting at Culloden, then a few years later being in Japan with the samurai, then a few years later in France during the revolution, you can see—visually, aesthetically, in concrete terms—how history unfolded concurrently across cultures. It just made me appreciate history and other cultures so much more. It was all so alive!


When you add to that the action, the martial arts, the swordplay, it was literally like someone had crafted a show specifically geared to every one of my interests.


So when I decided to do a project just for me, and I had the resources to tell a HIGHLANDER story, it just seemed a no-brainer. I could literally explore any topic, any time period, any idea I chose.


EG: You’ve just launched the second season of Veritas, but it makes sense to talk about the first season first! Give us the Season 1 synopsis and the background of how you created the storyline and why.


Season 1 poster for HIGHLANDER: VERITAS