Creepshow Showrunner Greg Nicotero on the Challenges and Triumphs of Season 2
When it comes to anthology horror movies, any discussion will ultimately include 1982's Creepshow, [...]
When it comes to anthology horror movies, any discussion will ultimately include 1982's Creepshow, which came from the mind of director George A. Romero and writer Stephen King. The project aimed to honor the horror comics the pair grew up reading, with many of those narratives featuring not only ghastly and gruesome exploits, but also feature plenty of humor. As if the filmmakers involved in the original Creepshow weren't accomplished enough, the series also enlisted top acting talent, starring the likes of Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, and even King himself. It was this blend of humor and horror, in addition to the recruitment of diverse storytellers, that showrunner Greg Nicotero aimed to honor with his Creepshow on Shudder.
Paying respects to the original movie's tagline of "The Most Fun You'll Have Being Scared," the first season of Creepshow was a massive hit for Shudder, understandably earning it a Season 2 renewal. Nicotero once again rounded up some of the genre's best talent to put both behind and in front of the camera, only for Season 2 to be forced to shut down production days after it started due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite those setbacks, Nicotero and company were able to return to the series last fall to first deliver The Creepshow Holiday Special, which was modified from a story planned for Season 2, as well as six all-new episodes for a sophomore season.
ComicBook.com caught up with Nicotero to talk Season 2 setbacks, rewarding opportunities, and what the future might hold for the franchise. Creepshow Season 2 premieres on Shudder on April 1st.
Header photo courtesy of Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images/Shudder
ComicBook.com: Season 2 of Creepshow is about to premiere, which is interesting because it's almost a year after production shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously those delays were disappointing, but how did taking those months off impact the new episodes?
Greg Nicotero: Well, interestingly enough, we thought it was only going to be a couple of weeks, you know? We had started prepping in February and I think we had filmed one day. So when we went home, the sets were all built. The first two episodes were ready to go, so we had just all packed up and said, "All right, well, we'll see you in a few weeks." I don't think any of us realized that it was going to be April, May, June, July ... five months until we went back to work.
So that was, I think, the hardest part of it. The hardest part is, people like me that are always busy and always doing things, going from a hundred miles an hour to zero, it's like being in a car accident. All your muscles tense up and everything's sore. It was weird to just go to zero for a little while, but the truth of the matter was that I was a little hesitant to get back into shooting because I think there was this big, giant question mark over everything, like, "What's it going to be like? How's filming going to be? You have to wear masks, and you have to wear a face shield, and you have to stay six feet apart." So I was concerned before we got back to work because that was going to stifle some of the collaborative nature of filmmaking.
But, I'll tell you, the minute that we got to set, I forgot. I forgot that I had a mask on and I forgot that people just did it because it's in your blood. I was really grateful that Creepshow was one of the first long-form shows to go back into production. We started prepping in August and we were shooting in the beginning of September in Georgia. I feel like being one of the first shows to start shooting again, I felt like we showed people that yeah, you can get back to work. You can follow the protocols. You can keep your crews safe, and you can still make fun TV shows and movies.
I was really proud. I was really proud of that and I think it shows. I think it shows that people that were ready to get back to work that had been home for a while, came back going, "All right, man. I sat around for a while. I'm ready to do this."prevnext
We've spoken about Creepshow before but it dawned on me that I didn't ask the all-important question: what's your favorite segment in the original Creepshow movie?
Well, for me, "The Crate" was always my favorite and I think it's because it was the one episode that had a monster in it and I was actually around [Tom] Savini's shop when he was building Fluffy. I had been on that set when I was like 16 years old, so I always thought "The Crate" was the one that personifies Creepshow for me, but they're all great in their own way.
You're certainly not alone on that one, I know "The Crate" is one of my favorites, but I might also say "Something to Tide You Over" depending on what day you ask me.
I think that's one of the things that we've captured on the series, is they're all very different. Even when you watch "[The Lonesome Death of] Jordy Verrill" and it's such an outrageous [segment], and in Season 1, there were a couple of episodes that I was pushing the network to make. And I kept saying, "Guys, not every single episode of Creepshow has to be scary." The whole criteria for me is they just have to be fun.
I think that what really sets Creepshow apart from so many other shows is the fact that we can explore whatever tone we want. It doesn't always have to have a twist ending. It doesn't always have to be scary or blood-curdling and we can do whatever we want. I really feel like, Season 2, I found my footing. Season 1, I was holding on for dear life because the show came together really fast. We had a very short time to shoot six episodes and the rigors of shooting two stories in seven days with a whole new cast and a whole new set, it was really, really hard. When it was over, I knew I had done everything that I could to honor the spirit and the legacy of George and Steve King.
I think what really gave me a lot of confidence in Season 2 was the fact that people saw that, at the core of the show, it was all passion and heart. That was the one thing that I really wanted people to see when they watched Creepshow. So when we got into Season 2, I really felt like, "Okay, now I know what I want Creepshow to be and I know which episodes resonated for me personally." They were always ones that had some connection to my upbringing or what I was inspired by. So I feel like a lot of Creepshow now is becoming a bit, I'm swirling my DNA into Creepshow along with the DNA of all the great writers, and directors, and horror storytellers that came before me.prevnext
"I Have to Want to Direct Every Episode of the Show."
Speaking to that range of creatives, when you read a script for a story vs. seeing it brought to life, surely different filmmakers adapt things in ways you weren't expecting. I know it's tough to pick a "favorite," but was there a certain Season 2 segment that surprised you with what you were expecting vs. the finished product?
It's interesting because I directed half of the episodes for Season 2 because, as the scripts were coming in, I read Rob Schrab's script for "Public Television of the Dead" and I said, "Well, I'm definitely directing this." And then I read the script for "Model Kid" and I said, "Well, I'm definitely directing this." Once I had developed the material with the writers, and once the scripts came in, I couldn't not shoot them.
Dana Gould wrote a script called "Night of the Living Late Show," so we were developing material that spoke to who I am as a fan and that's what really put it over the edge. But I kind of jokingly said, "Well, if a script comes in that I don't want to direct, then it's not good enough." I have to want to direct every episode of the show. If I feel that strongly about them, then I know for a fact that they're good enough to be on Creepshow. So we've had some amazing writers that have turned in some great material and, on Season 2, I directed three episodes as well because there were stories that I really, really liked and I'm like, "Oh man, I really want to do that." We actually had one director fall out 'cause she couldn't travel, so I was like, "Well, gee. Shucks, I guess I'm going to have to shoot those episodes," and had a great time doing it.prevnext
The first season had a bunch of Easter eggs to the original movie, and even had Adrienne Barbeau return, can we expect the same Easter eggs and references or did you try to make this season more of your own? Are there any cameos from the original cast?
Well, I think it's much more my show. The Easter eggs are always going to be there because the Easter eggs are fun. I think in Season 1 they were mostly Stephen King Easter eggs, but I think in Season 2, there are Easter eggs in there that honor Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. There's some deep cuts in there that, unless you're really hardcore, you probably might not get it, but they're there and they're there for me and for just fun.
I have a great props department and they literally put stuff everywhere. Half the time I don't know they're doing it and I walk on set. There was an episode that we did and there were some papers or files in a law office and it said the "Murawski files." I walked on set and looked and I went, "Guys, really?" And they're like, "What?" I said, Bob Murawski is Sam Raimi's editor and worked on Army of Darkness, so they're going there. Those guys were really, for a lot of it, they were really going full bore.
I don't think we have as many cameos from the original movie that we had in Season 1, but the cast that we were able to get in the middle of a pandemic is unexplainable to me. Adam Pally, Anna Camp, Kevin Dillon, Iman Benson, Keith David, C. Thomas Howell, Ali Larter, Ryan Kwanten, Breckin Meyer. We had people that were really, really excited. Eric Edelstein and Barbara Crampton and Ashley Laurence. I mean, it was really wild that we were able to get the cast that we did. And then we wrapped up Season 2 with Justin Long and D'Arcy Carden in "Night of the Living Late Show," which I directed. It was very humbling to me to see some great actors come in and really, really want to be there.
They came in and they were committed and I think a lot of it was there were people that were looking ... we've been sitting around for six months, and we're ready to get back out there and explode back into the workforce, and, no pun intended, sink our teeth into something fun, so it was really a great experience.prevnext
George and Steve did the original movie, but then that led to George developing the Tales from the Darkside TV show. Given that fluid nature of the premise, could you see yourself developing a Creepshow movie reboot or do you think the Shudder series accomplishes everything you'd want to do with the franchise?
Well, you're talking about different audiences. In this day and age, we have a society that tends to like to watch short content. They like the idea of an 18- or a 20-minute morsel. The fact that I think what makes Creepshow different is that you have all these different themes. So I like what we are able to do. Certainly, I would love to consider doing a Creepshow movie and have a little bit more money, and more time, and expand the show. But "Shapeshifters [Anonymous]" was a unique situation because it was the first story that we'd had optioned for Season 2. When I read it, it was one of those things where I'm like, "Aw, man." It was October of 2019 and I thought, "You know, it's Halloween. I really want to read some spooky stories."
I found Joe Konrath and I started reading some of his stories and I got to "Shapeshifters" and it was so fun, and so outrageous, and so strange, and it just kept getting weirder and weirder to the point where I love the story. I gave it to the network, and said, "I'd really love to do this." I think they scratched their heads a little bit like, "What is the appeal to this?" So I said, "Well, the appeal is it's so untraditional in every way, shape, or form." I wrote the script for it, and directed it, and designed all the creatures, and if we hadn't had the pandemic, "Shapeshifters" would have aired in October.
The original plan was it was going to be a two-parter. As soon as the Santa Clauses attack the church, we were going to end on a cliffhanger, and then we were going to continue the story in the next episode, like a continuation of a comic book, you know? But while we were shooting it, we just kept looking at each other on set and finally, I went, "God, it would do the episode and the material a disservice to not try to get it out there for people in December." So we finished. We shot in September. We edited it in October. We did all the visual effects and music in November, and by the middle of December, it was out. People hadn't even gotten back to production work yet and we had already cranked out an animated special and the holiday special.
I think, too, the first couple of days on set of "Shapeshifters," I was so happy to be there. I was so confident. I loved working with my actors, and collaborating, and up until that point, most of the stuff that I had directed, it was pretty heavy. Walking Dead, when you're bashing Steven Yeun's head in with a baseball bat, there's not a lot of yuks on set when you're shooting something like that.
With "Shapeshifters," having the opportunity to really have some fun, and let the actors play with their characters, and ad-lib, it felt very liberating in a way that I hadn't felt in a long time. I think having done "Shapeshifters" first really opened myself up to making sure that the episodes, no matter what the subject matter, had to have some sense of humor, had to be fun. They had to be outrageous and the twist and turns. So to go from "Model Kid" to "Public Television of the Dead," which are very different tonal episodes, and they're also directed very differently. I really leaned into everything that I learned working with Sam Raimi for decades, and being on set for Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, "Public Television of the Dead" is really my love letter to Sam Raimi and everything that he created.prevnext
Creature of the Black Lagoon Revival
The last time we had talked, it was December of 2019 and you mentioned how you watched Universal Monster movies every holiday. Since then, Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man came out and was a big hit and new Dracula movies have been announced, a new The Wolf Man was reported, so if you could get involved in reviving a Universal Monsters movie, whether you direct it or focus on designing the monster, which would you want to get involved in?
I think for any creature, monster kid, Creature from the Black Lagoon is the quintessential monster movie. I think Robert Rodriguez and I always talk about like, "Hey, man. Maybe we should co-direct a Creature from the Black Lagoon movie," because he and I have identical tastes. We love Jaws. We love The Thing. We love Escape from New York and Blade Runner. We toy with the idea of like, "Wouldn't it be cool if we remade Creature from the Black Lagoon?" And I know they've been trying to do it forever, but, for me, that's the quintessential Universal Monster movie.
I'm always curious because I feel like one of the reasons why Walking Dead became the show that it became was because Frank Darabont entered that universe with respect. He loved Night of the Living Dead and he wanted to pay tribute to the Romero universe. I remember talking to Frank years before Walking Dead ever even happened and saying, "Man, I would just love to visit that universe because I love the idea of there being a survival story set in that world."
So, for me, all of these remakes and retellings and stuff, the one thing that they need to have is they need to have respect and passion for the genre. It's not just taking a title and putting your own spin on it because anybody can put whatever spin they want on it because everyone's going to have a different approach, but you have to have respect for the original material, I feel like that, for me, is one of the things that really drives me, because I have respect for the storytelling that was done on the original Creepshow and everything that George did, everything that Steve has done. So, to have the ability to approach a project like that with respect, I just feel is the key ingredient in the success of rebooting anything.
Well that love definitely comes through, not only with Season 1, but also from what I've seen of Season 2, it's clear that everyone involved really loves the genre and respects the source material.
Thank you. Well, look, we've been saying for years that part of the success of The Walking Dead is people that are devoted to the show. It means the world to me that people are devoted to work that I get to contribute to because I still love it and I wouldn't do it if I didn't, and the fact that I'm very, very hard on myself and, as an artist, I always look back at anything that I've done and I'm like, "Aw, I could've done that better. Oh, man. If I had another chance, I would have tried something else."
But looking at what we were able to do on Season 2 of Creepshow, I'm like, "When did that happen? When did we shoot that?" I hadn't seen the first episode for probably a month and a half because we were busy shooting and I went back and watched it. I went back and watched it and for like five minutes I forgot that I had worked on it. I got pulled into it and it was over. I was stunned for a minute going, "Wow." I was so proud of my team and everything that we did together. It's a pretty amazing, amazing way to feel. So I'm eternally grateful to everybody that supports the genre and that loves what we do because if we didn't have that, then we wouldn't be doing it.
Season 2 of Creepshow premieres on Shudder on April 1st.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.prev