NYCC Interview: Executive Producers Aron Eli Coleite, Jeff Fierson, and Brad Peyton Discuss ‘Daybreak’
Nerds and Beyond is thrilled to give you our fifth and final Daybreak roundtable interview from New York Comic Con 2019! We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the three executive producers of the show: Aron Eli Coleite, Jeff Fierson, and Brad Peyton.
Without further ado, you can read the final interview below:
Fierson: This is Aron [Coleite], I’m Jeff [Fierson], this is Brad [Peyton]. We have a band!
NYCC Press: What’s it called?
Fierson: Daybreak Band.
Peyton: We’re very clever!
NYCC Press: The show goes from genre to comedy to graphic drama. So I was wondering, how did you balance that when creating the show from episode to episode?
Peyton: Yeah, Aron [Coleite], how did we do that?
Coleite: Very. Carefully. It’s a tightrope. I mean look, the thing when we really started talking about this, we talked about Buffy. Buffy was a real touchpoint show to us, because it could combine all the things together that we loved. It had horror, it had humor, and it had heart and the ability to balance those things out. So, when looking at the show, it was really about finding ways in every single episode to have all three of those touchpoints and carry them forward and make that the total consistency of the show, because if you can make somebody scared and make somebody laugh and make somebody cry in a single hour of television, then we’ve accomplished it. And we took this into the writers’ room, and it was a real difficulty of like what’s too goofy? What is our tone? What is our humor? Where does it lie? And when we started telling everything just from our characters’ POV, then we knew that we could accomplish that.
Fierson: I think it’s also a perfect combination of us. Brad [Peyton] is an expert of action genre. I think I’m funny, probably not–
Peyton: You’re pretty funny. You’re smarter than the two of us [him and Coleite] combined.
Fierson: And Aron writes heart and soul better than anyone. I mean he really filled these characters out and [brought] them to beautiful places.
Peyton: Well, and it was important, I think, we always were trying to balance like it’s good to be funny, but if you’re not worried and you don’t have stakes and you don’t have emotion, then you don’t really care. So, it’s like how do you balance those two things out? You know, I don’t have a long history of comedy, but you can tell what’s funny. So it’s like, I don’t want this to get so funny that you just don’t care about them, and so we started leaning into that in the writing. Like, make these emotions real, make the stakes real, and then still have fun and still be optimistic in this world.
Fierson: And Brad built this incredible world. It’s just huge and bat-shit. Actually, it’s two worlds.
Peyton: The bat-shit one’s the apocalypse.
Coleite: Right. The other thing is, there’s no comedy writers in our writers’ room. I don’t come from a comedy background, and I wouldn’t say we write jokes. I think that we write humor; we just do what’s funny to us and what feels right for the characters. And the other thing is the allegory of the show just lent itself to fitting all those tropes and all those genres, because if the allegory of the show is “surviving high school is hell and surviving high school is like surviving the apocalypse,” then we can take that into the show of surviving the apocalypse is just like being in high school, and we can balance all those things because being in high school is fraught, it’s emotional, it’s terrifying, but it’s also the best time of your life.
Peyton: And it’s one of the things, too, with Brian Russell’s graphic novel. There was two things the graphic novel’s known for, like the character looking directly at the reader. So even though we get compared to Ferris Bueller — and rightfully so. We have Ferris Bueller in the show [laughing] — it initiated from the graphic novel. And then the second thing was the tone, and largely the tone was a kid who’s like, “the apocalypse is awesome!” And I was like, “that’s amazing!” You know, I was telling the guys, like initially when I went for the graphic novel I was like…I don’t want to say the movie, but it was a movie that has technology but for some reason everyone is wearing like leather and boots, and I was like, why are there no pairs of Nike’s in this movie. It was only like 50 years later, and I was like, if the apocalypse happened, I’d go down the street and get Nike’s. I’d steal a Ferrari. I’d go have fun ,and the kid [in the Daybreak graphic novel] had that. He had that optimism, so that carried through the show in a big way, because it was like okay, the apocalypse is terrible. We’re all used to that story, but what if you were a kid, and you’re like, “my high school life sucked,” and the apocalypse came and you were like, “I’m gonna steal a Ferrari.” You’re suddenly like, this is the best. I can do whatever I want. So we love that kind of overall tone of like, you can reinvent yourself. It doesn’t matter what happened in high school, we can be whoever we want to be.
Fierson: Really, the apocalypse for us was breathable fabrics. [everyone laughing] Moisture wicking, breathable fabrics.
Nerds and Beyond: Is there a specific scene that you’re excited for the fans to see?
Peyton: Bloodbath. Episode one. Very happy with that one.
Fierson: That’s a good one!
Coleite: That’s a very good one!
Fierson: Every scene to me! I think it’s awesome! I love watching the show, and I think that’s a dream for me is to be able to be part of a show and love watching it.
Peyton: [To Coleite] What’s yours? Do you have a favorite one?
Coleite: I do not have a favorite scene. There’s one scene that makes me cry every single time.
Peyton: Is that the witch and Angelica?
Coleite: It is not.
Peyton: Oooh, because that’s a good one, that one makes me–
Coleite: That scene is fantastic.
Peyton: That one gets me every time! That relationship is amazing.
Coleite: But there’s one scene that makes me cry every single time, and I can’t say what it is.
Peyton: Is that the scene where everyone dies?!
Fierson: Aaaaaand scene!
Peyton: That doesn’t happen. That does not happen. I’m kidding.
NYCC Press: What was the most challenging aspect of adapting the graphic novel into a show?
Fierson: Throwing it out and starting fresh?
Coleite: Nooo! Don’t say that! Everything was challenging about this. From world creation to getting all the little details right. It was, because this is a really genre literate audience, and we know who we’re writing for and we can’t give them more of the same. We have to constantly be reinventing and turning things on their head and surprising the audience. What I like as a viewer is to be surprised. All I want is to be surprised every single episode, that I don’t know where the story is going, and you’re being taken on a ride.
Peyton: We definitely do that!
Coleite: And so we needed to bake that into the series. So in shifting perspectives and doing different point of views, almost every single episode felt like it was rewriting a pilot. And writing pilots are extremely difficult, because you have to really dig deep into their point of view. What are they thinking? They’re the star of their own movies. What does their movie look like? And so when we’re doing that, when you’re really reinventing the language of the show almost episode to episode, it’s really hard, because it’s almost like starting over fresh.
Peyton: From my perspective, like one of the things visually, is everyone’s seen Mad Max: Fury Road, right? So that “making of” book is fantastic. It’s one of the best “making of” books, and I remember bringing that into the art department, and I said, “K, so here’s the bar, right? Now they had two years to do this. We have two months.” You know, so it’s like because I knew the production designers, they did a bunch of my movies, and I was like, “I’m serious. It’s got to be this good. It can’t look like this. This has been done. We have to do this, new, like with a comedic slant and true to our world and everything.” And so everyone was like, “oh my God, he’s serious!” I was like, “Yeah! I’m serious! We need to do that!” Then when I would look at Aron in the writers’ room, and I was like, they’re going to define each of these. They have to define each of these characters. No one can take a back seat because everyone is getting their own time. So it was like doing a pilot over and over, and so much care went into every single one of these cast members popping in the biggest way possible. So no one got kind of short-changed whatsoever, which I thought was very impressive, because a lot of times you’ll watch a show, and you’re like, these four characters are the main characters, and these six, you know, we’ll get to know them a little bit. This show, it’s like you get to tell who everyone is very clearly. The characters are so well drawn, so well written, the voices are so clear. So that was a big challenge.
Fierson: And just the scope of trying to tackle 10 episodes of a show like this was very hard–
Peyton: With world creation, and–
Fierson: From a production standpoint.
Fierson: But every time we needed to make a shift, whether it be budget, time, you know, weather, we made a creative change that I feel actually ended up making it better. I think when you’re put on your heels and you’re stretched to your creative, you know–
Peyton: Nether-limits?! They’re really bad!
Fierson: It’s when you make a pivot that ends up being the best decision you make. I can point to a lot of that.
Peyton: I think that’s the job, right? That’s the task. As a creative person, you never ever feel like you have enough money or time or whatever, so you’re always like “how can I make this,” like Terry Gilliam told me when I was so lucky to sit down with him. He’s like, “I only do my best work when they put a fence around me and I’m forced to jump over it.” And I’m like, I get that! Because if you tell me we only have this much time, we only have this much money, and we can only have Alyvia [Alyn Lind] till eight o’clock, I’m like, okay! Now I know the challenge and now I can outdo myself, you know? And so it was costly what we were trying to do.
Peyton: It’s also how you up your game creatively, like when we get together it’s like we want to try to up each other’s game and make the best thing. You know, like you always kind of feel like “well, if there’s no season two, let’s make season one the BEST season possible!” You know?
Fierson: For Brad and I it was a real luxury. The last series we did we had about six cents per episode [laughing]! So this–
Peyton: And we lent it to the show, so we had to get paid back in the end.
Peyton: We did a show called Frontier, and it was like a third the size of this show.
Peyton: And it was brutal [laughing]!
NYCC Press: Did you bring any new gangs to the show at all?
Coleite: We hope we brought lots of new gangs to the show.
Peyton: We only brought new gangs!
Coleite: Because it is about finding your tribe. It’s about all these different tribes of kids and how they click together. And so we do have jocks, and we do have cheerleaders, but our cheerleaders are quite different in that they’re “Cheermazons.” Michael Ground, our wardrobe designer, who just did the most amazing job designing these outfits for them. It has all this wish fulfillment and yet still kickass. It’s brilliant! We also–
Peyton: Even our version of zombies!
Coleite: And even our version of zombies.
Peyton: Which is super funny.
Fierson: And each tribe has a tag. This is the jock tag [showing the red tag symbol on his hat]. Jocks, see it’s a barbell with a smiley face.
Peyton: Everything on the show is like that.
Peyton: Everything in the show is like that. Wesley’s shirt has all this Japanese print. It actually says Daybreak in Japanese. Like the show has a million layers of where that comes from.
Fierson: Little Easter eggs.
Peyton: One of the things, and this, him [Fierson] and I thought it was brilliant: you know because in the comic, there was a world of zombies, and we’re like, we can’t just do zombies again. And first of all, the tone isn’t like, “How are we going to survive?” It’s more like, “who am I going to be? Where am I going to belong?” right. It’s very coming of age story, and he [Fierson] said, “I have an idea for the zombies! What if they say the last stupid thing they were thinking?” So like literally every zombie in the show…what are some of the lines they say?
Coleite: They say–
Fierson: “A new David Chang’s restaurant is awesome sauce.”
Coleite: They say, “I should really get off of Facebook. It’s toxic.”
Fierson: “Why does Hollywood keep making graphic novels into movies? It’s derivative.”
Payton: So literally the zombies are walking around, or ghoulies, are walking around going [tired zombie voice] “Why does Hollywood keep making these stupid graphic novels into movies?” over and over and over! So like everything in our show has this angle to it, that’s like, “we know what you might be thinking. We’re not doing that, we’re doing this!”
We had such an amazing experience taking part in the Daybreak roundtable interviews at NYCC, and we hope you enjoyed reading! You can read the rest of our Daybreak interviews here. If you have not already, you can binge season one of Daybreak on Netflix now!