When the audition for We Can Be Heroes came into Lyon Daniels life, he was feeling in a discouraging place. A month before his agent sent him the audition offer, he tested for a pilot for a big network but didn’t get the part. It turns out, it worked out for the best because it made space for him to go out for his dream role. He says when the role came in, he jumped back in excited and motivated at the thought of getting to work on a possible Netflix franchise with director Robert Rodriguez where he would play a superhero.
The same director of projects such as Spy Kids, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and Sin City, Robert Rodriguez’s latest movie We Can Be Heroes serves as both a stand-alone and sequel to Sharkboy and Lavagirl. It’s an ensemble story that blends action and fantasy in the way that Robert’s movies often do where this time, aliens are invading earth, and the super-team known as the Heroics fail at saving the day leaving their children to take matters into their own hands.
While Lyon plays the role of Noodles in the movie, he was originally up for the role of Wildcard. “The Wildcard is supposed to be the leader of the Heroics, a cool kid with an attitude who did not know how or understand how to control all of his powers. After I sent my tape in for that role, I did hear back about a week or so later that casting would like me to read for the role of Noodles. I did not get very much time on it because I found out as soon as I got home from school and they wanted it back the very next morning,” he explains. In order to tap into Noodles so quickly, he read through the role with his mom a few times saying that his excitement for the project made him feel ready to just go for it.
“I read that Noodles stretches his neck so when I taped, I made sure to become the character by moving neck forward and around almost like it was a snake. I imagined my neck being able to stretch and slither around, it was a lot of fun and I felt really good about how my audition went,” Lyon exclaims.
The son of Invisi Girl, Noodles has the power of extreme stretchability being able to extend his limbs and bend them like noodles. “Noodles is a fun-loving character and he is clever and knows what to do in the toughest of times,” Lyon says about his character. “Some might believe that his powers are used for comedy, but they end up being very useful, creative, resourceful, and lifesaving in the end.” It goes into what he took away from playing the character as well, “I learned that I can be a leader and someone that people can count on and rely upon by keeping my cool and staying focused.”
I learned that I can be a leader and someone that people can count on and rely upon by keeping my cool and staying focused.
As someone who dreams of directing in the future as well, gaining those kinds of leadership skills is crucial. But, working with Robert Rodriguez, Lyon explains, taught him immensely. “Working with Robert helped me so much as he has great techniques that I can’t wait to use when I film my movies. I watched how he filmed different angles and how he helped us visualize the world that we were in and gave us advice while he was directing us,” he says about the way Robert ran the set. “All we see are green screens and some sets, but there is an entire world that we have to visualize in our minds while we are acting, which he helped us do. Robert gave me so much inspiration and he had so much patience with us kids. I look forward to and hope I have the opportunity to get to work and learn from him again.”
We Can Be Heroes puts the power into the hands of the children of the Heroics allowing them to be protagonists instead of the ones in need of protection. And the fact that they all don’t look the same or have the same powers, Lyon hopes are things that young people watching the movie take away from it. “I hope young people can take in all the inspiring, powerful, and uplifting messages of hope, teamwork, and believing in yourself. This film also does such a great job of showcasing diversity and not just race, but age and gender as well,” he says.
“We Can Be Heroes shines a new light on Gen-Z and shows the power that youth can hold. The tagline is, ‘Power comes in all sizes,’ but I think it should say ‘And all colors too,'” Lyon continues. While the movie can be inspiring for young people watching and remind them what they’re capable of even without superpowers, Lyon also wants the movie to serve as a reminder for adults, directors, and studios to know as well.
“I hope that directors and studios take all the messages I just noted into consideration. It’s okay to let us all be heroes,” Lyon says. And when he says ‘Let us all,’ he means all. “Robert Rodriguez is Latino, so he knows first-hand how much representation matters. He gave us all a chance to be heroes and I hope we made him proud. I know that I am proud of it.”
The pride that Lyon has in the movie lies in the fact that he got to be a part of this dream role in a genre that he wants to see make space for more. “I definitely hope that more diversity will start showing up within superhero movies so we can all have a hero to relate to,” he continues about the impact he hopes We Can Be Heroes has on superhero movies. When I ask Lyon about some of his heroes, he shows that even the ones he looks to represent this sense of power and heroism coming in different sizes and for different reasons. One being Black Panther for his use of intellect, agility, and fighting skills while also being able to represent Black culture. Another is Spiderman, who he also sees himself in because he gets to be a normal dude who happens to have superpowers. (For powers of his own that he would want to have though, he chooses the power of flight to fly around and travel the world as well as to fight crime.)
I definitely hope that more diversity will start showing up within superhero movies so we can all have a hero to relate to.
While he gets to learn a lot from having heroes like those, similar to his character Noodles and the rest of the children of the Heroics, Lyon finds himself learning a lot from his peers. A scene in the movie focuses on the group figuring out a plan to save their parents and the world while thinking of all the ways in which their parent’s plans to save the day often don’t work; the way that they often have big battles in the city thus causing destruction that not only costs a lot of money to fix but interrupts the life of the citizens, the fact that they’re all in costumes which lets the villains know who to go after, and the ways that they can let their ego and their praise get in the way of the actual saving the day.
In order for the children of the Heroics to fix everything, they realize that they can’t think like their parents. They have to think differently from their parents and based on what feels the most beneficial and efficient instead of just trying to take over and be seen as the only hero. “I hope that we can be equal and unite and fight against the same enemy,” Lyon begins when I ask him what are some things older generations have done/are doing that he hopes Gen Z will do differently. “I want us to stop causing wars and to take everyone into recognition no matter what age, gender, or race. I hope that we can enforce stricter gun control laws to put an end to reckless mass shootings and ban semi-automatic weapons. I want to stop wild pollution from getting into our oceans and hurting the ecosystem. I also want to protect nature and not be so reckless with endangered species,” Lyon lists his ideas for what he would like to see to make the world better.
Getting to work on a movie like We Can Be Heroes led to Lyon getting to utilize his imagination to determine how to make even the most impossible-looking things feel and become possible. It also gave him the chance to work with and befriend so many talented people as a part of his cast. Aside from freaking out over getting to work with Pedro Pascal (“I thought it was beyond cool to get to hang out behind the scenes and chat with Pedro Pascal who is the MANDALORIAN! Really?! Is this real life?”), getting to work with the other children of the Heroics made for a memorable time filming.
[We Can Be Heroes] also makes you realize how important the next generation is as we will one day need to take over where the older generation left off.
“When I got to meet the cast for the very first time, it was a day I will never forget. The van from the airport pulled into the hotel and a bunch of them stepped out. When I met the others, we all instantly connected like we were long-lost, friends,” he reflects on the cast coming together. “We spent every waking moment together for 3 months filming the movie. When we were not working on set, we were hanging out together playing Dungeons and Dragons in our hotel rooms, swimming at the hotel pool, watching movies, having sleepovers, going out to dinner, playing mini-golf, or laser tag, etc. We would play ding dong ditch on hotel doors and we even got a noise complaint. It was the best summer ever and we will be friends for life.”
The cast arrived in Texas two weeks before filming for stunt training which added to the bonding experience. It also gave the cast a look into what the filming process would look like and prepared them to let their imaginations guide their acting. “It was such a wild, surreal experience for me just walking into the massive green screen room! It was like a giant warehouse with crazy high ceilings and a giant green screen that went maybe like 30 feet up into the air. It took some practice learning how to get harnessed and move around on the ropes because you feel like you are floating, one time I had to flip around, and I got caught on the wire which hit the wrong spot,” Lyon laughs recalling the memory. “I also had to use my imagination to envision what I thought everything was going to look like based on the script that I read.” For those who have grown up on the sci-fi and fantasy projects of Robert Rodriguez such as Spy Kids and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, before even watching the movie, you have an idea of how brightly colored and animated the movie will look balancing the feel of a comic book with live-action, but after spending 3 months imagining the world that he was playing in, Lyon admits to being in disbelieve when got to watch the first preview of the film with the special effects added in.
“It was just the coolest thing that I have ever seen,” he exclaims. “I saw my neck and arms stretch, monsters and aliens chasing us and Guppy riding on a giant metallic shark, it looks so amazing and I cannot wait for everyone to see it!”
As one of the last movie releases of 2020, Lyon hopes that the movie is a fitting way to close out the year when people watch it. “We Can Be Heroes is the perfect movie to close out 2020 with because it is a great family movie with diversity and a ton of really beautiful, inspiring, and uplifting messages about hope to make you feel like everything is going to be ok,” Lyon assures. “After a year of living through a pandemic, our world has seen a dark time and this movie shines such a bright light on positive messages of teamwork and believing in yourself, it teaches that we can all be heroes.” He closes out with a final reassurance that embodies what the movie aims to teach, “The movie also makes you realize how important the next generation is as we will one day need to take over where the older generation left off.”
You can stay up to date on all things Lyon Daniels by following his Instagram account.
We Can Be Heroes is now streaming on Netflix.
(photo cred: courtesy of Netflix)