NOS4A2 continues to be one of the best dramas on all of television.
The series recently said goodbye to another beloved series regular to prepare fans for the conclusion of NOS4A2 Season 2.
We got to chat with Joe Hill about some of the challenges of bringing the show from book to screen, the future of the series, and so much more.
TV Fanatic: How challenging was it for you to make changes to the characters that you created for the series?
Joe Hill: Well, actually, I'm not sure that the characters had changed that much. Also, remember that I didn't have to make the changes.
The show has been masterminded by Jami O'Brien working with their fruit first, Tom Brady, and a great writer's room.
She's got a killer's row in the writers room. And I would say that one thing that's very true of the show is that the characters have stayed emotionally and psychologically faithful to the version of the characters in the book.
That's one of the reasons I'm so satisfied with NOS4A2. It's possible to look at the narrative to take the plot and position where the book zags to, to take a left-hand turn instead of a right-hand turn, to keep the viewer off balance and do something fresh.
What you would you hope is that the soul of the characters will remain the same. You're still exploring those people.
In the book, that made the book worth writing in the first place. It was getting to know Vic, getting to know Charlie, getting to know Vic's parents, and Lou.
With the time I spent with them that I cared about, and that made writing the book fun.
I'm definitely a guy who thinks characters come first, plot comes second.
You can always try something, you know, wild with the plot. You can always take the plot in different.
Jami stayed very true to the characters, and where the world changes, they were changes that took the characters in exciting, fresh directions and, expands on them in an interesting way.
I think it was really cool that they brought an FBI agent named Tabitha Hutter, who appears in the book in the second half, and in the TV show we get Tabitha Hutter straight from the start.
I like her. I liked that she sort of like 90% Scully, 10% Mulder. Tabitha has a kind of, almost like childlike optimism about the possibility of the occult. But that's a sliver, that's like one sliver of her heart and the rest of her is, you know, a competent FBI agent.
And to me, that's that. there was that character in the book, but Ashley has expanded on that character and made her altogether richer.
How do you like what's happened with her and Maggie and, especially in the eighth episode, that they kind of take a step back and do what's right for themselves as individuals, as opposed to them as a growing couple? What have you enjoyed about their relationship on the show?
I think it's really great. I think it's a really cool, and you know, a lot of times books have a tendency to have a laser focused on just one or two characters, often at the expense of the others and a TV show can broaden things out.
I love their story. I think it's this really interesting love story in the book. I mean, the other thing is, you know, I'm sort of a sucker for a good love story.
I sometimes feel that all my books are sort of romances disguised as horror novels.
Speaking of characters that have many functions, let's talk about Bing for a minute.
He's the ultimate juxtaposition of a victim and a victimizer. And it's a circular relationship, which is kind of the truth for most people who become victimizers as they get older.
And I'm wondering, Bing kind of reminds me of Cujo of your dad's country.
You think he wants to be loving, but the circumstances have made him into something wholly different. What are the challenges of creating a character with such duality, where you can see the good and you can see the evil and it's almost painful to watch them intersect?
To me, Bing is Charlie's most tragic victim. He is himself, a kind of child, who's longing, who was abused, like, you know, like some of the kids.
And the thing with the turkey here is Charlie sees himself as the hero of the story. Charlie, he's whisking children away from lives of deprivation and suffering and abuse to a place where it's Christmas every day and Christmas Eve every night, you know, and unhappiness is against the law.
If you look at it from Charlie's point of view, reading the world as evil parents and giving children a lifetime of happiness. An unending, endless lifetime of happiness.
That assumes that Charlie is honest with himself and honest with us about who those parents are.
Are they really all as evil as Charlie says, or are they just scuffling along like parents do, doing their bath within their limits and stuff?
To get back to the question, Bing was truly abused and Charlie uses that to motivate Bing to help in his deductions because Bing was successfully persuaded that all these children were being abused.
And if only someone had come to save him, maybe also manipulated to indulge in his worst. And that does make him a sort of terrible, terrifying, but tragic figure.
One of the things about NOS4A2 is it was my attempt to write a vampire story, while stripping away all the cliches of the vampire story.
So Charlie never drinks blood. He doesn't wear a cape or turn into a bat as a trial. He did sleep in a coffin.
I can't remember if we get into that in the show or not. We get into that in the graphic novel. But for me, the cornerstone vampire story is Dracula.
And it seemed to me for probably to get away with his climb successfully that he would need a Renfield. And so that's where Bing fits in. He's the Renfield. Sure.
You mentioned that Charlie thinks he's the hero of the story and that he's protecting all of these kids, his daughter included.
And yet we find out, and I think it's a really great scene, when Millie pleads with Vic to help her be a real kid and see the world.
What would Charlie think if he had any idea?
I think he feels he's made them strong, you know, strong enough to destroy the monsters that cross their paths. The monsters, all always being responsible adults and usually women.
Charlie has a special content. Very few women can actually live up to Charlie's expectations of what a woman should be.
I don't think that Charlie has any sense of the damage he's done to them. I think he looks at them with their fangs and their relatively impervious bodies and feel that he has saved them and made them more powerful than they ever could have dreamt.
It is interesting. One of the things that Jami O'Brien and I connected on, there's a lot of different influences on NOS4A2, but one of them is Pinocchio.
As a child, I was haunted by Pinocchio's trip to Pleasure Island. Boys are encouraged to smoke and drink and gamble, and gradually by indulging in their worst habits, they're turned into jackasses and then sold as mules.
And as a kid that terrified me and the moral lesson was not lost on me in any shape or form. If you act bad, you'll be turned into a jackass.
And then, you know, you'll become, someone's pack animal. And Christmasland is a little bit like that, but awful.
In Millie's desire to be a real girl, there's a little bit of something that Pinocchio's desire to be a real boy. Jami and I only discussed it a little, but I think it's interesting that she saw so much of Pinocchio in the book because I was certainly aware of that while I was writing it. Well, that's pretty
Well, that's pretty cool.
Well, fathers are kind of a theme throughout the series. In an episode, titled "Chris McQueen," we know that something isn't going to turn out as we want.
So this is the episode where we get to know Chris better than we ever have. And then he's brutally taken from Vic by Charlie. Yeah. And I thought it was gonna change her. How much are we gonna miss Eban Moss-Bachrach?
I just want to take a step, and pass along the good word about AMC too, because here's the thing, Chris McQueen is a really difficult character.
When we introduce a character in a story who has physically abused his wife, It's okay, as long as that person quickly gets their come up.
If you introduce a character who beats his wife, but then at the end of the episode, he's eaten by a beast in a crate -- A shaggy Yeti that comes bursting out of a crate -- We're like, haha, the bad guy got it.
Chris McQueen is more complicated than that. He is a person who has done really reprehensible things, but he's also a person who loved his daughter and tried to be a standup guy for her.
Initially I think AMC had some concerns about what are we doing with this character who has used his hands on his wife, you know, but who is not clearly delineated as a villain, but, Jami talked about wanting to examine the psychological complexity of someone like that and the way and the way it abuses family can work.
The way a family can make excuses for an abuser or blame the victim and, and how the act of abuse can make the abuser feel as well.
She thought all that stuff was rich stuff for drama. When AMC understood that, they fully supported it and they were like, 'yeah, let's go for it. Let's, let's get into this guy.'
And I think that's one of the reasons why they've had a great track record with shows full of morally troubled figures. Going back to the granddaddy of them, Walter White and Breaking Bad.
He had a lot of duality to him as well.
In retrospect, isn't it amazing that anyone in TV anywhere made Breaking Bad?
It is. When I first heard of it, that's what I was like. How can you make this happen? How can you feel sympathy for a man who does it?
You're going to make a TV show about a high school science teacher who started cooking crystal meth.
In retrospect, it seems like an insane decision, but you know, probably paid off and maybe the best TV show, the 21st century.
Tell me what you're most excited for fans to see as the action finally starts to move towards Christmasland.
I think we're going to have a little fun in Christmasland in those final episodes. When people ask me what I post and am excited to see and NOS4A2, the answer is simple.
I've always wanted to see Christmasland, and we do get there. I don't think it's any big spoiler to say we're going to find our way there before the season is over and we get to ride some of the rides, we get to take the turn around the park.
With COVID and stuff it's tough to get out to an amusement park in real life. But there's nothing to stop you from, you know, taking some rides on the happiest place, not of this earth, which is Christmasland. That's there on the close of season two.
NOS4A2 continues Sundays at 10/9c on AMC and BBC America.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.