A new kind of hero! Tian Richards‘ appearance on Nancy Drew paved the way for a new take on the Tom Swift story to be told.
During season 2, Tom Swift was introduced into the Nancy Drew franchise when he arrived to help the lead character (Kennedy McMann) deal with a mystery. At the time, the episode served as a backdoor pilot that hinted at a future Tom Swift series on The CW.
At the time, Richards opened up about making the well-known literary character more suited for current times.
“The original Tom Swift was great for his time and what he represented,” the actor told TVLine in May 2021. “At the time, that was the face of young boys, All-American kids full of possibilities. But in 2021, that can look so different. It can look like someone like me — a Black guy who is chocolate, who is queer, who is all those things that we’re told aren’t the normal or the status quo.”
The Dumplin’ star noted that reinventing Tom Swift allowed for more viewers to see themselves represented on screen. “If I had an opportunity to see someone like this exist when I was younger, just think of how much sooner I would have felt [more confident] in my skin and welcomed by the world,” he added. “I had representation here and there, but it was usually a secondary character, or you felt like they were being stereotyped.”
Richards continued: “Tom gets to exist in all of his beauty and pride. He gets to grow up in a family with a legacy, to have endless possibilities in education and tech and inventing. He gets to realize himself for himself, and that’s beautiful for anyone to see.”
The backdoor pilot made an effort to introduce the different ways that Nancy Drew and Tom Swift approach solving a mystery — which was a set-up for the spinoff series.
“Most of us now are used to the world of Nancy Drew and all these crazy things occurring, but if you were actually immersed in those things in real life, you’d be like, ‘What the hell?’ And that was me the whole time,” Richards shared. “Nancy does and says things so casually, and Tom’s like, ‘Girl, I don’t know where you’re from, but my theories and my technology tell me otherwise.’ Tom is strictly science — he went to MIT, he studied, he did the things — and now you’re telling me all of that will be undermined by ghosts? Maybe he needs to learn the hard way, but he’s a Leo. He’s stubborn.”
Before Tom Swift was picked up for a full season, the Burden star hinted at the “sectors of identity” that the writing team hoped to dig into in the future.
“We’re going to talk about Blackness — and a different kind of Blackness than we’re used to seeing, which is the Black elite, the 1 percent, the billionaires. We’re also going to talk about a queer boy’s journey into becoming a queer man,” he detailed. “Not only self-acceptance, but acceptance as a whole, having the community and people around you. We also don’t shy away from the STEM world. You’ll see all the amazing gadgets and science, so it’ll also be deeply informative. You want to see the action along with the representation, and we tackle both things head on.”
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