Brenton Thwaites Discusses Nightwing’s Journey on ‘Titans’

Dick Grayson has gone through so much this season of the HBO Max’s Titans. After returning home to Gotham to settle some things from his past, Dick finds himself the de facto protector of Gotham after Batman suddenly vanishes. But, the weight of being the hero has its limits.

He finds himself killed by the very people he was meant to protect — the people of Gotham. After being resurrected by the Lazarus Pit, Dick now is more determined than ever to stop the criminals — Scarecrow and Red Hood — with his Titans teammates. 

Actor Brenton Thwaites has been really enjoying Dick’s complicated and arduous journey in Gotham this season, including coming back from the dead. 

“He comes back with a purpose and he has a bit of a bit more clarity [about] what he needs to do,” Thwaites said during a Zoom call with The Nerds of Color this week. “His goals are defined. They’re specific and a little bit more defined.”

We got to chat in-depth about the episode and what his life-death sequence in the Lazarus Pit could all mean — from seeing the Scarecrow, becoming the Joker, and his potential daughter; his possible relationship with Starfire; Dick’s true purpose in Gotham; and, Jason Todd’s possible redemption.  

Check it out below:

We need to talk about Dick’s battle with life and death because he went through a lot. We see Dick dressed up in the Joker attire brutally beating Jason Todd. Was there really a rivalry between the two of them or was this something the Lazarus pit was placing on him?

Brenton Thwaites: It’s a good question. [The] Lazarus Pit brings back life and it [has] this kind of healing property. But, in the storyline that we were representing, it was more of a place where Dick could come to terms with his truth, his vulnerability, and his darkest feelings and secrets. I feel like Crane is in [Dick’s] head in a way. A big driving force for the evil in his head [which] is Crane. Crane is a representation of [Dick’s] fears.

Throughout the season, Kory had visions of a little girl. Now Dick has this vision of a daughter. Is this hinting at a Dick and Kory reunion and the possibility of seeing Nightstar? Or are we just seeing how connected they are in their visions?

That’s a good question. I don’t really want to plan the moment based [on] something that could potentially be. So, in my head, I kind of saw that it was a relation to season one. [Dick and Kory] had [their] relationship together and we kind of were exploring romantically with each other in season one. I think that the writers wanted to keep a strain of that with each other and to keep some kind of DNA of that relationship with each other so they had the ability to kind of explore in future seasons. [In] season two and three, we kind of detached and became more [like] colleagues in fighting crime. She was a senior member of the Titans and a big part of the clan in the Titans. But, romantically, we weren’t really exploring that in those past two seasons so this could be a seed of planning — no pun intended — future seasons [and] maybe they develop that relationship more. Or, it could be part of his dream sequence. It’s the dream part of his life. I really don’t know. Yeah, we’ll have to ask [Dick Grayson].

When the third season opens, the Titans have their own story and history in San Francisco. They were all settled in their places as superheroes. Dick has finally let go of the idea of being Batman’s right hand man and became Nightwing, but they decided to go to Gotham to deal with Red Hood and Batman leaving Gotham. Why was this journey to spend time in Gotham so important for Dick’s growth?

I think because there were two things happening in Gotham. It wasn’t just to fight crime. That’s the front. That’s the kind of veneer of the reason he’s back in Gotham, but the inner emotional reason of why he stays has to do with coming to terms with his past and dealing with his childhood. Part of that childhood is bad and part of it is good. Part of it was filled with a certain level of abuse from Bruce Wayne and being forced into fighting crime as a teenager and jumping into that role quite young. Then, a part of it was filled with falling in love with Barbara Gordon and exploring that whole kind of romantic relationship in his late teens/early 20s. So there’s a few different integral emotional parts coming to terms with him being in Gotham. It’s his home [that] he’s returning [to]. Although it’s his crazy place and he may not want to, it’s where he’s gonna be.

Dick was told “don’t be like me” by Batman himself and to “be a better Batman.” But, it seemed like Dick was falling into the same Batman mode — doing everything himself, drugging Connor, and pushing everyone he loved away. What was going through his mind during this time? 

[It’s that] kind of that thing when you have kids, you want to be a better dad than your dad. But then you find yourself yelling at the kids and you’re like, ‘what am I doing? I’m just repeating the cycle.’ I think a lot of his problems started and came to fruition in Gotham when he was younger and in order to solve those problems he feels he has to do that in Gotham. He’s not going to solve these Gotham problems in San Francisco or Detroit. He’s a guy that has run away from those problems, you know, in the disguise of, ‘I’ve got to go here and I’ve got to work here and do this here,’ but really he’s running from his past a little bit. So this season, we see him return to Gotham and try to sort out those problems. In terms of being a bit of Batman, it’s the kind of thing where the parent says you know you’re on your own now. You leave the nest, and you’re an adult and your parent steps back and becomes more of an observer, as opposed to someone who is actively engaged in your life. I can sense that happening with Bruce a little bit. Bruce has been this powerful leader and protector of Gotham for so many years and this is the moment where he says, ‘I’m not that. I can’t be that. You’ve got to be that now. I’ve taught you all that I know. I’m not going to be there for this city anymore.’ So it’s kind of a moment where Dick has to stand up and it forces him to find his confidence and, essentially, replace that figurehead of Bruce Wayne.

Now that Dick has died and come back. Near-Death experiences do something to a person. How do you feel death has changed Dick? 

It’s changed in the sense that he has a purpose. There’s not a lot of wishy washy when he comes back to life. [When I say] wishy washy, I mean [having] a lot of the fear [that] takes over his ability to make decisions in the moment. He is a little less afraid and a little more confident to lead the Titans into saving Gotham, essentially.

Dick was shot point blank in the head/neck and then stomped to death by a crowd and then coming back to life. All of which can be extremely traumatic. Will he have PTSD from this experience? Will this affect him in the long run?

PTSD has been a subject that we’ve been playing with for many seasons. I’d like to think that he’s had PTSD from his childhood and it’s manifested in different ways. Fear is a big thing and covering that up [by] putting on the mask, so to speak, does a lot for him. It takes away that fear and he gets to put it aside as opposed to acknowledging it and dealing with it. So I think that coming back to life, that’s a realization that he has to deal with this fear and this PTSD from his childhood. In terms of getting shot in the head, that’s a really good note. I mean, yeah, okay. I’m sure the showrunners will be listening to this.

So, I’m a bit frustrated at the fact that Dick is so willing to work with Jason Todd – who killed many people, including their friend HanK. Does Dick really feel like Jason is redeemable after this?

That was my question. When I read the script, [I thought] I can’t forgive this guy. I know I just can’t allow him back into our circle. Finding that gray area was, at the time, [frustrating]. I felt exactly the same. I don’t want to let him back in. In my head, I just want to kill him, but then I will become the same thing as a [him] — a killer, which is strictly against my morals. It’s the complete opposite of who Dick Grayson is. That’s Batman. That’s kind of falling into the Batman lore of crossing that line. However, I say to him [that] this is a first step to redemption. You can’t back in. You can’t come back into our circle. You will never be a Titan again, but if you want redemption, you can do good things from now. I think that’s the important lesson. These things that he did were atrocious — committed murder, killed a bunch of people, and one was our dear friend. So I don’t think we will ever forgive him. But, to be a character that has the tenacity to say ‘if you’ve done all these things, I’m not gonna kill you. From now on, you can do good things and you can build towards redemption and forgiveness’ is the point of season three. [For Jason] desperately wanting to do good to cover up [all] the evil that he’s done.

Part two of the interview continues next week. 

DC’s Titans season finale airs on Thursday on HBO Max.