Step into 14th Century France with SkyWire Digital’s exclusive sneak peek at SkySoft Premium’s limited-series, Beast. From a first look at Bryon Allen as Abubakri to character breakdowns, we’ve got more for superfans and newcomers alike.
I. Welcome to the Second Age
Beauty and the Beast, the most beautiful love story of all, is one that stays with its audiences for the rest of their lives. Whether you’re reading the original work of literature or watching Disney’s animated retelling, the story of finding beauty within is a favorite around the globe, and now it comes to life in a way we’ve never seen before in a 7-episode limited series released by SkySoft.
Easily the most anticipated series SkySoft has ever taken on, Beast serves as a lot of firsts, not just for the company but even historically as well. It is the first series to focus on a male lead in SkySoft’s history, and is also the first series to be completely recorded in Dolby Atmos and 4K by the company. The show is also known for being the first to feature a Black actor and a Hispanic Filipina cast as the main leads in a major cinematic interpretation of the fairytale, something the series is already being criticized for, sparking petitions to cancel the show with over a thousand signatures. The petitions have since been shut down for being racially motivated.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen anything new from the streaming company since the pandemic. With shows canceling and being renewed, a lot has changed since the days of Fox of Auxdra, but the second age of SkySoft is blooming into one of its most memorable yet, with Oron, Mutant 5, American Malice, Mayari, and, of course, Beast filling this new decade of content after the heartbreaking cancelation of Sherwood. Are you ready for all the magic and horrors that await?
II. Long Live The King
The journey of Abubakri from king to beast to man is one that explores the depths of the famous fairytale character, The Beast, who was first made most famous by Jeanne- Marie Leprince de Beaumont, then later by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. The screenplay, Beast (written by Monroe Hayden), is closer to Donna Jo Napoli’s version of the same name where both authors focus on the Beast’s journey of redemption. The script took over five years to write.
Ultimately, that is what this is; Beast is a redemption story more so than it is about love, although the act of love, whether it be platonic or romantic, does play a huge part in him being redeemed. After all, you can’t retell the most beautiful love story ever told without that component, but even the act of loving yourself, something many of us have a hard time doing, is what’s also credited to Abubakri’s transformation into a better man.
First things first: Abubakri is a real person that you can research, but there is no evidence to prove that he turned into a beast, so keep in mind that fact and fiction do cross paths in Monroe Hayden’s fairytale epic.
"The origins of [our] Beast is going to
automatically change the way it's been [popularized] before."
Abubakri was a real person who was considered more of an emperor of Mali rather than a king. Although he did abdicate his position to his deputy, Musa, it is believed that he left to venture on an expedition to the Atlantic. This is where fiction starts to sneak in: although he was once an emperor, the real Abubakri eventually became an explorer, and although there is no evidential proof of the places he did explore or even disappeared to, the fictional Abu travels from West Africa to France in search of himself.
In terms of playing a person that actually once lived, Bryon Allen had this to say: “It is easier but there’s more pressure.” At SkySoft Fest 2021, it was made very clear that a lot of extensive research went into the series, and while everyone was encouraged to have fun, they must also take this very seriously since the details are really important. However, Hayden has also made it clear that for fictional story purposes, not everything will be matter-of-fact and some things are inaccurate. “You can’t tell a story where magical elements play a very big part in its plot and expect it to be one hundred percent accurate. You’ll have to open your mind a bit and let some things go,” she said as a disclaimer.
In its many renditions, the tale of the Beast and his Beauty mostly focuses on its heroine as the lead, but in this version the Beast takes center stage. “The origins of [our] Beast is going to automatically change the way it's been [popularized] before. Viewers are really going to have a good time watching it because of how diverse it is and how centric it is only on Beast,” explains Bryon Allen.
Yet in all these past renditions, regardless of who’s in the spotlight, the transformation from beast to man has disappointed audiences over and over again. Both Hayden and Allen hope they are able to be the first rendition where audiences are in favor of the transformation scene. “I think where the problem derives from is that we don’t get to spend a lot of time with him in his human form and by the time he does turn back into a human, he’s a stranger to us,” Hayden said. “I agree with that completely, and the writing [for our show] already follows suit with that,” Allen added.
Although what everyone wants to see is Bryon Allen as the beast, SkySoft has made note that his look will not be revealed until the show is actually released.
III. Her Name Means Beauty
"I want women to think, 'I get her. And I like her!"
Another challenge in SkySoft’s version is to make the heroine of the story different from the Beauty's in the past, a challenge not easily accepted. Although while reading the original literature, Beauty [or Belle] is described as “lovely, as well as kind, well-read and pure of heart,” everyone knew that this new Beauty needed to be more than just that.
“She isn’t soft spoken. She’s very vocal because the modern woman has a lot to say whether she’s right or wrong. [Laughs] And as much as Bella is a woman of the 14th century, I want women today to think, ‘I get her. And I like her!’ I gave her flaws as much as I gave her traits of good,” Hayden explains. “I wanted her to work on herself just as much as Beast needs to work on himself, that way they’re both equal and no one is presented as better than the other.”
Monroe Hayden not only plays Bella, she also wrote and is directing the show, crediting her love for the story and Disney’s animated classic as inspiration. Although her respect for the Beauty character is well-noted, her love for the Beast character is what we have to thank for this epic romance of a series we’re all about to experience, and also serves as a reminder for viewers not to forget that the story is about the beast, not his beauty; Bella only appears in three of the seven episodes in the series.
IV. The Beauty of the Beast
The new adaptation of the fairytale is about to bloom, and while Bryon Allen and Monroe Hayden are admittedly very pretty to look at, the costumes are just as aesthetically pleasing. It's no wonder we were slightly distracted by the wardrobe featured in the series. In the past, SkySoft recycled many costumes by reinventing them for other shows, but Beast is the first series in which everything is brand new.
Set not only in 14th century France but also Castile and Africa, Beast is the most expensive production of SkySoft so far, with a sizable portion of the budget being spent on costumes. Hayden moved the period of the show from the Victorian era (as suggested by the original story) to the Middle Ages to fit the correct timeline of Abukari’s existence, but what was a drastic shift for the story turned out to be a fashionable opportunity for the costume department.
Getting the details and colors just right is no small matter. In Beast, the costumes are instrumental visual cues that, in addition to the cast’s acting, help to tell the story without words. Color is an important indicator throughout: lots of brown colors are used by supporting characters, while Beast and Bella stand out and are in lots of blacks and reds. This is done on purpose to mirror the rose but also to reflect their fiery romance and clashing personalities, while also visually displaying that they are very much meant to be.
“Another part of the details is that his costumes are usually moth eaten or deteriorating. You can tell that in their prime, his pieces were very extravagant but due to the lack of care or just simply being old, they aren’t as radiant as Bella’s. It was a conscious choice to contemplate a few things: that he once was a person of great importance who had everything money could buy and that he is also due for a rebirth,” costume lead Vivian Payne described. “Hers was a much different story to tell and the interesting thing about the script was that her costume story is still about him not her. She was never into dresses but he adorns her with them because that was all he knew about women. The entire time he’s trying to make her fall in love with him, even when he is aware of it, he still has these alpha male tendencies. A big problem amongst men [while courting women] is the notion that if you are arrogant you have to buy her affections to control her or if you are insecure, you have to buy her things to give her a reason to stay. Abubakri is both those things but never at the same time. I think it’s perfect because Monroe doesn’t really suit in red and that’s because it's not really Bella’s color.”
V. Let The Magic Begin
Much like Abubakri endures a long journey of self-reflection to become a better person in the end, so too has SkySoft gone through a metamorphosis since the last time they were on set. In a time of isolation and uncertainty, SkySoft stuck together and powered through to ensure that they could continue to tell stories everyone could relate to. Out of the hardships, many exciting and creative ideas were born. And of those ideas, Beast is certainly one of the more beautiful ones.
It is as ambitious as it is grounded, fantastical as it is relatable, grim as it is rosy (pun intended!). We hope that this sneak peak has provided you with a glimpse of what to expect from a rejuvenated SkySoft. Everyone on the team has been working hard to make sure SkySoft comes back better than ever. The stage is set, and the cast is ready. All that’s left to do is bring the magic to life.
Written by Anthony Gomez
Photos by Daniel Andrade