We are a little over half way through season two of AMC’s chilling adaption of Joe Hill’s popular horror novel NOS4A2 and while we are fully trapped inside “the Wraith” and along for the ride, we were able to have a chat with Executive Producer and Showrunner Jami O’Brien! She spoke about everything from what it’s like to make a show in 2020, to how we process the trauma we inherit from our parents, to how long it takes Zachary Quinto to get into his horrifying Charlie Manx makeup.
Nerds and Beyond: What has it been like to launch a new season in the middle of such a tumultuous time?
Jami O’Brien: It’s been challenging for sure. Luckily, we finished shooting the season back in January before the shutdowns began. We weren’t quite so lucky with post. We had four episodes completed when the shelter in place order came. Thanks to a lot of ingenuity from our post team, we were able to keep working remotely. We finished up our VFX, color, and sound mixes via teleconference and by sending files back and forth. It slowed us down, but we got there. All ten episodes complete.
In addition to COVID-19, the nation-wide protests following the brutal murder of George Floyd erupted just as we were preparing to launch season two. With the country and the world beginning to engage in a long overdue conversation about racism, police brutality, and white supremacy, the team and I grappled with whether or not we felt comfortable promoting a TV show. After wrestling with that question, I personally decided to promote the show — to honor the artistry, hard work, and commitment of the hundreds of people who worked on NOS4A2 season two.
NaB: How has the response to season 2 been so far?
Jami O’Brien: Overall, this is a harder, faster, scarier season than season one and from what I see on social media, folks seem to appreciate that!
NaB: How long did it take to put Zachary Quinto into the “autopsy Manx” makeup and body suit?
Jami O’Brien: Five hours. He’s a very patient man and total pro.
NaB As someone who is a big fan of the book, I love that we get even more story and history for characters like Manx and Maggie as well as meeting other “Strong Creatives” like the Hour Glass Man. Did you work with Joe Hill (the author) on expanding their stories?
Jami O’Brien: The Hourglass Man was Joe Hill’s pitch! The TV show draws primarily from NOS4A2 the novel, but we have another great piece of source material in WRAITH, the graphic novel. We adapted a lot of Manx’s backstory from there. As far as Maggie goes, I loved her character in the book and always planned to expand her role in the series. Then we were lucky enough to cast the phenomenal Jahkara Smith who has such great chemistry with all our cast members — she has inspired us further. So it’s an alchemy of source material, Joe’s imagination, inspiration from our amazing cast, and whatever magic happens in our writers room.
NaB There are a lot of strong parallels between Vic’s family and relationship with her father and Manx’s relationship with his daughter – especially now that Vic is a parent herself. Could you talk more about why it was important to explore these parallels (and differences!) as they relate to intergenerational family trauma and the ways children come to understand their parents as they grow up?
Jami O’Brien: I don’t think anyone makes it out of their childhood clean. Parents are human beings and human beings, even loving human beings, are flawed. They are products of their own environments. They make mistakes. I think it’s easy and natural for kids to feel angry towards their parents for their shortcomings. But what happens when they grow up and become flawed parents themselves? Have they got the compassion to forgive their own parents? To forgive themselves? Is it possible to overcome your background and your parents mistakes to stop the cycle of trauma? How?
Vic and Charlie are both products of difficult childhoods shaped, in part, by difficult economic circumstance. Charlie talks a good deal about how much he loves his children. This season we wanted to explore whether or not that’s actually true.
Vic, on the other hand, fears she’s too damaged to be much good to Wayne. She worries she’s a danger to him. In some ways she is. But I believe Wayne is better off with his mother in his life than without. One question for Vic is will she be able to save Wayne from Charlie? Another, deeper question is whether or not she’s capable of actually being present for her son, being the mother he needs.
NaB Are there any teasers you’re allowed to share for the rest of the season?
Jami O’Brien: More Millie Manx! More Christmasland! More Charlie Manx backstory! More Bing! More Maggie! In fact, you’ll get to see Maggie really beginning to step up in an exciting way in the back half of the season…
(Stay tuned for more Comic-Con@Home updates and exclusives, and make sure to stay tuned for the final episodes of NOS4A2 on AMC.)