Following the exciting news that the world of Mythic Quest will be expanding with an eight-episode extension series, Mere Mortals, Nerds & Beyond had a chance to chat with Mythic Quest co-creator and executive producer Megan Ganz.
Mythic Quest, which is currently in the midst of its third season, follows a group of video game developers tasked with building worlds, molding heroes and creating legends, but the most hard-fought battles don’t occur in the game — they happen in the office. Ganz is also set to executive produce Mere Mortals, which will explore the lives of employees, players and fans who are impacted by the game by taking a page from the style of episodes like “A Dark Quiet Death.”
In addition to working on shows such as Community and Modern Family, Ganz also currently serves as a writer and executive producer on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: First and foremost, I wanted to say congrats on the news [Mere Mortals]. I was so excited when I heard, because I really love the show’s side episodes. I was actually going to ask you about them before this news came out. I know that you might not be able to really say much yet, but can you say anything about Mere Mortals or how it came to be?
Megan Ganz: How it came to be was that Apple came to us and said, “We’d love if you guys had ideas for a spin-off.” And we thought, “Wow, that’s great.” They’ve always been very supportive of the show, and we knew that they liked it when they picked us up for two seasons after season 2, but it was just another vote of confidence. So like, “Hey, we have an appetite for more of this show.”
We’re no dummies, we know that one of the most popular parts of the show are our standalone episodes. And we also have talked a lot about — in the writers room — how we just don’t have the space and time to talk about the people that play Mythic Quest, which is such an interesting part of the story. It’s never made it into the show, but we’ve had a lot of discussions about how our characters are kind of like Greek gods, where they control the world, but they’re also warring with each other all the time. The results of them warring with each other are usually felt by the people on Earth, meaning the players of the game end up suffering because of disagreements and arguments that we have up top. We’d always talked about maybe doing episodes where we delve into the players of Mythic Quest.
We’d had ideas of, for instance, a story of a bug in the game that makes a really loud white noise sound, and a father, who has a newborn baby that won’t stop crying, realizes that this sound is the only thing that makes the baby stop crying. He’s running the game all the time to try and activate this bug, and then they fix the bug. And how that thing — which is for our characters, “Great, we got rid of that bug!” — can ruin somebody else’s day. We were talking about things like that, and going, “There’s just such a world there that that we don’t have time to talk about.” That was really the basis for the idea behind Mere Mortals — “Why don’t we talk about that?”
I think that there’ll be some really interesting interplay between Mere Mortals and what we’re calling Mythic Quest Prime now, which is how those two things relate, how the things that our characters do affect the players of the game, and vice versa. I’m really excited and also some of our most senior and our most talented writers, John Howell Harris and Ashly Burch, who plays Rachel, and Katie McElhenney. I’ve sort of taken up the reins of that show, and they just put together a fantastic pitch. And yeah, Apple went for it. We’re really excited. I think they’re gonna start writing pretty soon, actually.
Nerds & Beyond: I can’t wait. Now, pivoting back to Mythic Quest Prime, how would you describe some of the major themes that are prevalent in season 3?
Ganz: Season 3, story arc-wise, is the moment where Poppy … for the first two seasons, she’s been absolutely convinced that all of her problems in life are because Ian is her boss, and he’s not her partner. And if she didn’t work on his game, she wouldn’t have any of the problems that she deals with. Season 3 is her realizing that that is not the case. That once they get out of Mythic Quest, and they are equals — and they’re working on her game, so she should be in the in the driving seat — it’s her realizing, “I don’t know how to do this. I’m not good at this part of it.” The show, in general, is saying that that’s okay, that Poppy doesn’t need to be good at both parts of it.
I think we sometimes fall into this girl boss trap of making women who are just great at everything they do. And we’re too afraid to make them bad at certain things or unlikable in some ways. And I think what’s really great about Poppy is we’re saying, “Look, she’s the most talented programmer, maybe of her generation. She’s a terrible boss. She doesn’t have great hygiene, not a people person and can’t think of the big ideas. And you know what? That’s okay, because she has a partner that can do that stuff for her. The thing about Ian is, he’s not good at what she does. And if they were both good at what the other person did, they wouldn’t need each other. So it’s really a love letter to partnerships.
This season is all about Poppy trying to come to a place where she maybe lets go of that need to do what Ian does and stops judging herself up against his skills and instead starts to gain some confidence in what she’s doing. I think it’ll make them more effective partners going forward. Season 3 is about them both realizing like, “Maybe our bad stuff isn’t between us, maybe it’s separate, and we’re bringing it into our relationship.” But the whole show in general — Charlotte Nicdao has said this in a press interview, and I think it’s totally bang on — is a creative love story. So it’s not a romantic love story between the two of them, but it’s a “will-they-won’t-they ” about whether Poppy and Ian will be able to be partners, be good for each, other accomplish their creative vision, or whether they go their separate ways and don’t.
Hopefully, the audience is rooting for them to figure it out so that they can make something great together. But that starts with them both realizing that it’s okay to need somebody else in their life. That’s a lot of what we’re delving into this year. The standalone episode this year [“Sarian”] is delving into why maybe they both have some trauma around trusting another person to be such a big part of their lives, and maybe hinting at why they’re scared of that intimacy with each other. So hopefully that’s what people take away from it.
Nerds & Beyond: One of the things that stands out the most to me about the show is that the subject matter, gaming, is typically looked at as a predominantly male hobby. However, the show is carried by a cast of strong female characters who all have their own distinct storylines. And the fact that this is a comedy makes that an even bigger deal. So what does that mean to you as a creator?
Ganz: It’s integral. There was no version of the show we ever tried to make that didn’t feel like it had a very strong female presence on screen. But we want it to be authentic, right? And we’re talking about the video game industry, which is male-dominated. Still, it’s getting better. Not that the players are all men, I think that’s a myth, but that in the studios, they’re still doing their best to bring more women into it. We wanted to make sure we were authentic to that.
What we did was recreated characters like Poppy, who we treat as an exception to the rule. It’s not normal for a young woman to achieve the level that she has. So we treat her with that, we acknowledge that she’s kind of a phenomenon within the studios. Then all of the other characters, if you notice in the first season, they are testers, low women on the totem pole. They are Jo, who’s the assistant, they are Carol, who works in HR. We tried to make these female characters but still have it be authentic to the world. Then our position with the show is that we’re going to watch these women come into their own in the industry. It’s been our drive since the beginning to see them chase their own dreams and grow and kind of climb up the ladder and realize that they have a space in this industry as well.
Frankly, we just have really fantastic performers that have allowed us to make such strong characters. I think all of that starts with Charlotte. She’s phenomenal. She’s one of those incredibly rare actresses that can both be incredibly goofy and stupid and then in the next scene be crying and make you feel for her so strongly. Sometimes I refer to her as a muppet. She’s so “like that,” but then she feels so real and authentic. Really, it was over the first season, we realized, that the audience is experiencing the show through Poppy. She is kind of the center of the show, and all of the arcs are based on her relationship with Ian. He’s sort of this immovable figure. We’re showing a little bit of arc for him now, in struggles that he’s having. But basically, you’re watching it as Poppy’s journey. You know, I’m a lady, so I like to write for ladies, and we have some really funny ones. I loved this year, we got to bring Carol up in the mix, because she was always one of my favorite characters, and I just love her getting more involved this year. So that was great.
Nerds & Beyond: So I asked some of the other cast members this question, and I wanted to ask you, especially because your point-of-view may be different behind the scenes. If you could take any character from the show out to lunch to pick their brain, who would it be?
Ganz: Oh, that’s a great question. I might take Dana, because Dana, to me — and we’re really exploring it more this season — she kind of has the same internal confidence that Ian has, and she just kind of is a person who doesn’t ever think that she’s not the baddest bitch in the room. And I’ve never felt like that. So we wrote this great line this year where Dana and Poppy are preparing for their pitch, and Dana’s trying to teach Poppy how to have more confidence. Dana says something about how Playpen is “our” game. Poppy is like, “Where do you get off thinking that this is your game? Are you crazy?” And she says to her, “Well, yeah.” Poppy says, basically, “I worked on Mythic Quest for seven years, and I never thought of it as my game.” And Dana’s like, “Why not?”
I’ve always seen myself a little in Poppy. So seeing the that moment where it’s like, “Oh, shit. Yeah, why didn’t I ever think of that as my game?” And like, “I have a lot to learn from you.” So I would take Dana, because I think maybe she could teach me how to kind of tap into that, inner confidence that she seems to have. She is a wolf. Whatever that test says, that she’s an otter, whatever else? No, she is a wolf, through and through. She was absolutely right.
Nerds & Beyond: Is there a chance that we’re going to see you step back into the director’s chair again in season 4?
Ganz: Yeah, I think so. I love directing the show. This year, I wasn’t going to, just because we were giving opportunities to some of our other writers and actors to test their hand at directing, which was fantastic. Daniel Pudi directed one, Ashly [Burch], and David [Hornsby] — they all did these amazing episodes. I was like, “You know what? That was great.” And I got to direct some [It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia] last year. But then for “Sarian”, our director got COVID, so then they were like, “You’re up!” I ended up directing part of that one.
I love it. Especially on Mythic Quest, I’m so involved with the writing of the stories and everything that it seems like a natural step that I would then direct those things since I know what the intention of the writing was. But I really love it. I mean, I don’t know if I could ever beat directing “Please Sign Here.” That was so much fun. It was my first episode ever, and I might have peaked with it. Because I got to be a part of one of those moments that I’d always dreamed about — like when David dropped down from that window as the wolf and was rolling across the table and all that ridiculousness, people couldn’t keep it together. It was hysteria on set.
As the director, I’m like, “Guys, stop. Your characters are not finding this amusing.” But they just could not stop laughing to the point where every take, I had to start by going, “Okay. Alright, everybody set, and David’s not funny, and action.” Like, try to get them in that space. But no, I absolutely love it. It’s a blast. It’s so much fun.
Catch new episodes of Mythic Quest exclusively on Apple TV+ on Fridays.