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Thursday, November 24, 2022

“Chucky” Season 2 Post-Mortem with Don Mancini: “There Were Death Threats” [Interview]

With Season 2 of Chucky wrapped up under the Christmas tree, Trace Thurman and I sat down with show runner Don Mancini to discuss bottle episode “Death in Denial,” why Nadine (Bella Higginbotham) had to die, and where the show could go in a potential Season 3.

Let’s dive deep into all things “Chucky” with Don Mancini, shall we?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Bloody Disgusting: What lessons did you learn from S01 that informed your approach to S02? Did you do anything differently this season?

Don Mancini: On S01 we had a lot of locations, sometimes 1 hour away from Toronto and we would have to [stay in] hotels. So one of the things I wanted to do [in S02] was take that burden off the production and keep us a little more centralized so we could focus on the drama, and the characters, and the puppets without moving around so much.

BD: What was it like making the show during a pandemic?

DM: It was my good luck that for my first time as a show runner, I was going into this crazy situation, which was initially terrifying. I was like “How are we possibly going to do this under these circumstances?” But I learned rather quickly that it is possible. And we did it and we muddled through.

BD: Did that change in season two?

DM: We had to do exactly the same thing on season two: masks, shields, testing, zones. All of that. But having gone through it together in season one, it was kinda like “Meh, this is how you make a TV show!”

It was less daunting this time around, although COVID decimated us way worse on season two because making the show, we’re in safe bubble. But out in Toronto, restrictions were much more relaxed. So people are going out into the world with all the variants out there and then they come back and…basically we all got COVID. I did, Jennifer did, the kids did, Joe Pantoliano did. It was A LOT.

Thankfully we were all vaxxed and boosted, so we muddled through.

BD: What were some of the changes you made in the writing this season?

DM: I love bringing actors back. Sometimes it’s the same characters, sometimes it’s different characters. I personally love writing for actors that I know. So, for example, Björgvin [Arnarson]: his character Devon in S01 was very earnest. I always used to joke with him that he was the actor least like his character because, in real life, he’s so fucking funny. He’s hilarious.

Going into season two (and this is just one example), it’s like, let’s write to his strengths. So I made Devon more funny and I got to have it manifest in a lot of gay ways, you know? I gave him a lot of funny lines that he really nailed.

BD: I think it was in the premiere when he gets his uniform for the school…

DM: Yeah, he’s told “Young man, you’re underweight” and he goes “Thank you!” And later, Father Bryce says “No fraternizing with the girls. No exceptions” and Devon just says “No problem.”

So you just learn from the people you’re working with. And that was a real boon. It was really fun to see how much [Björgvin] grew as an actor.

BD: Let’s talk about the bottle episode “Death in Denial” (2.04). Stylistically it is the most unique, meta episode in a franchise that’s already very meta. Plus: we’ve got the Bound reunion.  How did this come together?

DM: It started out, literally, with the studio or network asking for a bottle episode, because they help to keep the costs down. I always approach this kind of stuff with the mentality “How can I turn this seeming disadvantage to my advantage?” So I thought, okay, we’ll give them a bottle episode, but we’re going to do something really weird with it. Because, you know, weird is part of our brand.

So I thought, “Tiffany has been pretending to be Jennifer Tilly for many, many years. How does that work in her life? How does that work with the people in her life? How does that square with Meg? With Sutton? With Gina?”

BD: Did it take a lot of convincing?

DM: You know, I’ve known all of these people obliquely through Jen over the years. So, I, of course, talked to her about it first and she said, “Yeah, let’s round them up.” And somehow it worked out. Honestly, until the end, I assumed that at least one of those people was not going to work out for whatever reason. And it didn’t happen, so it was lucky and gratifying.

BD: Well, queer audiences were so thankful…

DM: As a gay filmmaker, and a fan of Bound, and all those actors, getting a chance to work with all these people, it was completely thrilling. It was just so fun to give them fun shit to do.

And it’s gratifying to see that it landed [because] it’s my sense that the studio was a little concerned. Like “Are people going to get this? Don, are you going full Seed of Chucky here? Are you fucking everything up here again?” But, to their credit, they let me do and it seems like it landed okay.

BD: Oh, yeah, it seems to be the stand-out of the season. And it’s paying off decades of loose plot threads that we forgot, so that works to your advantage in this show.

BD: Let’s talk about the show’s ridiculously high body count. When you’re breaking these seasons, how do you decide who lives and who dies? And does something like “who has a doll and who doesn’t” factor into that?

DM: It’s instinctual. When you create a season of television, you want to create an emotional rollercoaster and [since it’s] within the horror genre, the deaths are going to be a part of that.

It’s always important to me – whether it’s a movie or a TV season – to have at least one death that really hits you emotionally. Because it’s important to remind the audience that Chucky is a bad guy. He is unusually lovable, I think, for a slasher [villain] because of his diminutive stature. He’s just cute and it’s fun to see him tear down authority figures and give assholes what they’re asking for, but he’s still a villain.

So it’s important that a character like Nadine ends up dying. It was very deliberate: triangulating that story, that arc, that death, with the Good Chucky story, it was the worst possible collision that could happen. You have a character who is basically an angel on earth – she is positivity personified – along with Good Chucky, who she loves and trusts, and have it all, in a single moment, go “oh god no.”

I loved planning that because I knew the effect that it would have and that there would be a lot of people mad at me. And they were! There were even a couple of death threats. It always blows my mind; the passion that this fanbase has!

BD: You really put Jake and Devon through the ringer in season two. They were in conflict a lot and they came back together so that they’re on good terms by the finale. Do you have plans to put another wrench in their relationship or are they going to be in harmony?

DM: Part of the appeal of that storyline, and the kids in general, is that it allows us to keep one foot on the ground in the real world. People’s investment in these kinds of relationships are key to staying involved in it all, despite the overall insanity [of this world].

But I don’t wanna do more discord; like, at one point, I was thinking “do I have one of them kiss Lexy and turn this into a triangle?” but that felt wrong to me. It just felt like facile conflict and not real.

So, no, I feel like there was enough discord in their relationship. My plan for them for season three is different.

Meg Tilly kneels in front of a Belle doll in a cage

Will we see Jennifer Tilly (the character) in doll form again?

DM: Sadly all of the Tillys are dead. Meg is dead. Jennifer is dead. They’re commiserating in heaven now. But Tiffany is still with us in human form. I think you’ll enjoy the plan for Tiffany in S03.

BD: Will we see GG’s European vacation and Lachlan Watson again?

DM: It has been discussed. Stay tuned.

BD: Will Devon Sawa be back in season three and will you kill him again?

DM: Stay tuned.

BD: Finally, is there a guest that you would love to book on the show in the future?

DM: I have a few. There are some tentative plans afoot. I enjoyed the guest stars in “Death on Denial” so much. I shouldn’t say anything more, but you can definitely find clues to a couple of them on my social media feeds

The post “Chucky” Season 2 Post-Mortem with Don Mancini: “There Were Death Threats” [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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