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How Warrior Nun blends religion and technology to create a fantasy world - Exclusive

For a show centering around an ancient sect of religious warriors, Warrior Nun hones in on a brilliant balance of technology and theological themes — blending the two together in a unique way. As fans often liken the series to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this concept is reminiscent of similar story arcs in the '90s show. Season 2 of the slayer series witnessed the Sunnydale gang defy a prophecy that declared that "no weapon forged by man" could kill the Judge, an ancient demon. Rocket launchers didn't exactly exist when humans first tried to tango with the demon, and technology won the day. When Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner) whips out her guns at the end of Warrior Nun's debut season, series creator Simon Barry flawlessly encapsulated that same "oh, snap!" vibe between technology and folklore.

Similarly, Jillian Salvius' (Thekla Reuten) technological use of the spiritually-powered Divinium on Warrior Nun seamlessly blurs the lines between technology and religion, providing a compelling, modern take to the show's premise. Instead of detracting from the mythology of fantasy worlds, merging together technology and history only strengthens the world of Warrior Nun – adding both more nuance and more opportunity for intriguing plotlines.

Barry recently spoke with Looper in an exclusive interview to dish on Warrior Nun's take on the intersection of religion, technology, and history — and whether or not the series has faced any backlash from religious groups.

Sparking a scientific debate

Barry said of the decision to mash up technology and religion, "We were doing a show that had a mythology that was thousands of years old, and we wanted to honor the connection to that. But at the same time, it takes place in 2020, and it's about a group of young people." He continued, "We wanted to at least open the universe up to both realities and [avoid making] it exclusive to one or the other."

While some people see religion and science as mutually exclusive, Barry is far more interested in exploring how they go together. He explained, "The idea that science and religion were two sides of the same coin was fascinating to us because we were dealing with mystery and supernatural elements already in our show, which are things like the halo and the mythology of the halo." The showrunner clarified, "It seems like a natural fit for the existence of the halo in our show to be something that could be a steppingstone for scientific speculation regarding what it is and how it connects to religion, and whether those two things are exclusive or not."

There's no better place to tackle a massive controversy than within the confines of a TV show — and Barry was up for the task. "I liked just the idea that we could have a debate [and] be honest with you," he said. "I wasn't really set on making one thing more relevant than the other. But the idea that we could have a debate about it in the framework of our own supernatural component felt like that was something that if we didn't have religion connected to the show and we had a mystical, magical object, like a halo, we would have already done the scientific thing. That would have been a no-brainer."

"But to have it connected to religion allowed us an opportunity to broach the subject of how science and religion coexist," Barry added. "That, for me, was just more as a social experiment and a dramatic experiment — and the other writers, too."

The concept seems to have worked for both the fans and writers alike. "I think we all enjoyed the idea that we have this great mythology to build on, and that we should be present in it and also present in the present-day, modern world that is driven more by science," Barry noted. "We thought those two things could travel quite well together."

Past, present, and future of the Warrior Nuns

History is an integral part of the show's core, and season 1 took advantage of flashback sequences — providing a look at Ariola, the first Warrior Nun. Looper asked Barry if he and the writers have any plans to cover even more time periods in a possible season 2

"I haven't had a chance to discuss that with the writers, so I don't have an answer for that," he admitted. "If the halo has been around for a thousand years — which, in our mythology, [is] the case — there are other Warrior Nuns. There are other stories of Warrior Nuns over the course of a thousand years that could be told."

Barry certainly isn't ruling out the possibility of more Nun backstories and time period shifts, excited at the prospect. 

"Definitely, we would love to explore that. I mean, we did a little with the story about Sister Melanie in World War II," he noted. "Having the opportunity to look back at the other Warrior Nuns, I think, is a really great opportunity for the show, and will be if we're lucky enough to get a second season or beyond."

The showrunner is looking forward to the possibilities a second second could bring, as well as the opportunity to blend more history into Warrior Nun's mythology. He said, "Well, I think telling those stories of the other Warrior Nuns through history could be amazing and also enlightening to the present."

The potential for backlash didn't hold Warrior Nun back

Taking on a supernatural show that tackles religion doesn't come without its risks, though. Even books like the Harry Potter series — which are entirely separate from the church — have received a ton of backlash from religious groups over the years. Prior to its release (and thereafter), the Fox-turned-Netflix series Lucifer received a slew of hate, and even dealt with a massive petition from religious members trying to stop its release. (Ultimately, the appeal amounted to nothing, and the show is gearing up for its season 5 release.) But boycotts and angry mobs aren't something any showrunner wants to deal with. Luckily for Warrior Nun, Barry and the writers were free to create the show exactly as they saw fit.

Barry certainly wasn't worried about tackling a subject that some might view as controversial, and Netflix didn't tone down his approach at all. As Barry told Looper, "We had no censorship from Netflix whatsoever in terms of the connection to the church."

"I mean, we knew that this was obviously treading on somewhat unstable ground," he clarified. "But because we are squarely a show about [...] a supernatural object in the form of the halo and the idea of the demons and angels populating our mythology, [we are] connected to so many things in mythology that aren't necessarily strictly Catholic."

Barry elaborated, "We just felt like we were already announcing ourselves as a genre show, not a religious show." He then quipped, "If you took it seriously, you probably were missing the point," Touché.

Staying true to artistic vision

Barry then expanded his sentiments on the possibility of backlash, saying, "We didn't worry about that at that point because, look, the show is called Warrior Nun and teaches superpowers, in a way. We were planting our flag squarely in a universe that is recognized by fans as something that is its own universe. We are borrowing mythology from another place that people do all the time — whether it's The Exorcist or if it's Dan Brown writing his books."

He also made it clear that the Warrior Nun team wasn't trying to be against religious institutions in any way: "We were aware of it, but we weren't being consciously anti-the church in any way as we wrote." According to Barry, the mantra from the show's writers sat squarely in the territory of, "We will have good characters and bad characters, and they will exist on both sides." 

He expanded the sentiment, telling us, "That way, we're not targeting necessarily infrastructures or a culture where only characters would be representative of these things — not necessarily institutions, but you can read into it whatever you like. I mean, I think we left it fairly open."

As is the case with most shows that tackle religion or other controversial subjects, Barry set out to make Warrior Nun a compelling show with a rich mythology and interesting characters. While his intentions weren't setting out to offend, the fear of alienating people also didn't affect his artistic vision. It seems like he succeeded in his mission, though. We asked if he faced any backlash after the show released, and gave a simple, "No."

Warrior Nun season 1 is available to stream on Netflix now.

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