RUNAWAYS - Season 2 | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

RUNAWAYS – Season 2 | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

RUNAWAYS premiered its second season this week on Hulu. Based on a series of graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, RUNAWAYS is set in the Marvel Comics Universe. Six well-off Los Angeles teenagers (Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okanu, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta) discover that each of them has special abilities. At about the same time, they learn that all of their parents (Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Brittany Ishibashi, James Yaegashi, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Ever Carradine, James Marsters) are involved in some very sinister activities. This causes the six adolescents to, per the title, run away.

Stephanie Savage and Scott Schwartz, the team behind GOSSIP GIRL (Savage was also a writer/producer on THE O.C., created by Schwartz) have adapted RUNAWAYS for Hulu. They also serve as executives and show runners. A tour of the primary soundstage sets for Season 2 for RUNAWAYS shows us both the gleaming headquarters of Pride, the organization that unites all of the parents, and the old mansion beneath Griffith Park, where the Runaways make a home for themselves. We also get a good look at Old Lace, the life-sized practical animatronic dinosaur who is part of the gang (she’s a science experiment that can communicate telepathically with Barer’s character Gert). In the mansion set, Savage and Schwartz answer questions about the second season of RUNAWAYS.

ASSIGNMENT X: Was there an episode in Season 1 where you felt like you hit your stride and found the tone?

JOSH SCHWARTZ: The show is always evolving, so the tone of the first episode wouldn’t have been appropriate for the tone of the fifth episode, but I think somewhere around Episode 4 is where we looked at each other, and we were like, “Okay, I think we’ve really found the tone of the show.”

STEPHANIE SAVAGE: And some of that was just the Runaways getting up to speed on understanding their own powers, and getting some clues to what their parents were actually up to, that once they got all the information and started to be able to process it, that it felt like the characters and the world were coalescing.

SCHWARTZ: Also, in Episode 9, when Chase [Sulkin] and Gert hook up for the first time, and Karolina [Gardner] and Nico [Okanu] hook up for the first time, and they’re at the school dance, and after this, they’re leaving to potentially go save the world, and they all run into each other, and everyone has to cover up what they were up to, and then, “Let’s go stop this bad thing from happening,” that felt to us like the real fun of the show. That was one of our favorite moments from last season.

RUNAWAYS - Season 2 Key Art | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

RUNAWAYS – Season 2 Key Art | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

AX: You’ve brought Brian K. Vaughan back in for Season 2 …

SCHWARTZ: Oh, yeah. First of all, he’s the nicest guy in the world. Second of all, he has a great brain, an incredible imagination, so just having him contribute and pitch ideas in the room is super-helpful. The fact that he was so happy with the first season, and was happy with the changes that we made, I think also made us feel very emboldened to continue in that process.

SAVAGE: Yeah. Season 2 is a really different version of the show, with the kids living together here [indicates set], the information they have about their parents, versus, in a lot of ways, Season 1 was kind of a murder mystery of them trying to figure out exactly what was going on, so it was really important to us to have Brian weigh in on that, and help shape and mold the place that we were going to move towards.

AX: Were there lessons in the making of Season 1 that you were able to apply to Season 2?

SCHWARTZ: We love, obviously, making the show, and this is the fun part, where you’re making your show in a cocoon, and you’re making it kind of for each other, for the network, and then eventually you have to share it with the world, and that becomes a different experience, and we love getting that feedback, and feeling like what’s working, what audiences are craving more of, and being able to lean into that, and shift. That’s part of the fun of long-form television, not just being able to evolve your relationship with your characters, but also your relationship with your audience. And so all of that feedback has gone in and inspired us this season.

AX: Was there something that you saw people responding to, where you said, “Let’s address that in the storytelling”?

SCHWARTZ: We always knew that the end of the [first] season was going to be that the kids were going to run away. It’s in the title, and some audiences yearned for that to happen sooner than it did. We had our reasons for taking the time that we did, and we think all those reasons pay off this season. I think had they run off earlier in Season 1, we would not have had the emotional architecture to make this season, I think, as compelling, as exciting as it is. But the fact that people were really yearning for that part of the story makes us excited for how much we feel like they’re going to love Season 2, because it really embraces those elements that people are looking for. We started the show in the pilot with a runaway, this girl who was going to become such a part of the story, and the sacrifice that the kids were going to discover, so it does work on so many levels, whether you’re running away from your emotions, or your murderous parents.

RUNAWAYS - Season 2 Key Art | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

RUNAWAYS – Season 2 Key Art | ©2018 Hulu/Marvel

AX: Is it part of the comics or is this something you developed more for the series, that at least some of the kids start out with close relationships with at least one parent, like Chase with his mother [Carradine] and Nico with her father [Yaegashi]?

SCHWARTZ: That was more an evolution for the show. Again, the parents get dispensed with pretty quickly in the books, and while they have their motives that are about, they’re doing their things on behalf of their kids, they are a little bit more overtly evil, and they try to kill their kids early on in a way that I don’t think our parents would initially, so that’s been an evolution that’s been part of the show.

AX: Do these parents get there?

SCHWARTZ: We dirty them up pretty early in the season.

AX: Do you guys have a very specific set of rules about what you can and can’t do in terms of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe? Does everything have to be part of a process of vetting and talking to MCU head honcho Jeph Loeb?

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. There is a system in place. Marvel gives you a ton of creative freedom, but there are certain elements that obviously they have to protect and make sure work in terms of continuity and consistency, and they’re very good about getting on that early, if there’s something that we have planned, and it may overlap with another show or something in the movies that we’re not aware of, and we can adjust accordingly.

AX: There have been some huge events in the MCU, especially at the end of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Are we going to see any of those MCU events ripple into RUNAWAYS?

SCHWARTZ: We’ll have a reference in this season that will probably be our first real breadcrumb that connects us to the MCU in some way.

AX: Do people disappear in puffs of smoke here, like at the end of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR?

SCHWARTZ: No.

AX: Hypothetically, if RUNAWAYS could interact with the INFINITY WAR storyline, is that something you would want to do?

SCHWARTZ: It’s pretty complicated. I think we like being out here in California, and away from some of the action. There will be something that will come out that will connect us, but I think that storytelling is best left to those guys, and we tell our own stories.

AX: Can you talk about how Nico and Karolina’s relationship evolves in Season 2?

SAVAGE: Sure. It evolves [laughs]. I think at the end of last season, they both sort of declared themselves to each other, and now they’re in a situation where they’re living without their parents, but they’re living together with the rest of the Runaways in the same house, which is a pretty quick advancement of a new relationship for young people. And so they’re going to be struggling not just with how to save the world, but how to have an appropriate teenage relationship when you’re living in such an adult situation.

SCHWARTZ: The Karolina and Nico relationship is, in a large way, the emotional core of the show this season, and it’s a big part of what’s driving so much of the story.

AX: What’s the origin of this intricately crafted mansion that we’re in that, story-wise, is under the Griffith Park observatory?

SCHWARTZ: Well, that comes from Brian’s work. That’s in the comics. In the book, Chase had always known about it, it was his hideaway he would go to, where he would escape his abusive dad in the bat caves of Griffith Park. We have a little bit of a different origin for it, but it was something William Randolph Hearst owned and built. [to Savage] Why don’t you talk about it?

SAVAGE: The way we conceived of this was the idea of a mansion that was on the hill in Griffith Park that had been destroyed at some point by a mudslide or an earthquake, and it has all of its history from the ‘20s, when it was built. Quentin the Great, a magician, lived here at one point. There were ‘80s punk squatters here. I’m happy to make that prequel show [laughs]. You can see their graffiti around on the walls, and they’ve left a leather jacket that Gert appropriates.

SCHWARTZ: There are places all through the house that are filled with clothes that different people have left behind, so there’s a lot of – we call it the magical closet, where there’s always something amazing that can be repurposed.

SAVAGE: Where Nico can find a little tuxedo jacket that apparently the extremely tiny magician wore [laughs], but there’s also amazing ‘70s jeans that just happen to be in Karolina’s size.

AX: Old Lace is pretty impressive. How did you decide that you wanted a practical dinosaur puppet? It seems like this is something that would usually be CGI …

SAVAGE: Well, we had to educate ourselves about both. We had never done a show with a dinosaur at all, practical or CGI [laughs]. What we loved about working with a puppet was that it gave a physical presence for the actors to interact with, especially with our young actors, that we felt like we would get more out of them. And then also, when you have the puppet on set, it’s basically like an actor. It can be in as many shots as you want it to be in, it can react to things. There’s not someone standing there, going, “That’s going to be another X thousands of dollars if you want it to do that.” So I think it just felt like actor interaction, and the way that they can control the face, especially, is really amazing, the amount of expression that they can give it – they can control the eyes. I find it very emotional. It completely reminds me of my dog [laughs].

AX: Does Old Lace have a more autonomous role in Season 2 or is she still pretty much tied to dinosaur-whisperer Gert?

SCHWARTZ: I think Old Lace gets some good story this season. She has an arc.

SAVAGE: Yeah. And it’s great to actually get her out of the habitat and into this environment, and into the hills of Griffith Park. We see her outside for the first time. She’s got her little spot where she guards over the kids up there, the overlook balcony, she has a little spot where she sleeps upstairs. So she’s really a part of the house.

AX: What’s the difference in writing for adolescent characters when you were doing THE O.C. and GOSSIP GIRL and now? Is it harder?

SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Even when we were doing [those shows], we would hang out with our cast, we would incorporate what they were talking about, their music taste, their pop cultural interests, and weave that into the show, so I think the emotional truths of these characters are kind of timeless and universal, but as we were talking about on the panel, whether you’re on fourth-wave feminism, whether you’re Molly, Allegra [Acosta], having some vernacular that maybe Stephanie and I don’t normally traffic in, we don’t ask each other if we’re “booed up,” but that was always a part of our process, even when we were younger.

AX: Do you know how long you’d like RUNAWAYS to go as a series? Do you want it to go to where the comics ended, do you want it to go to beyond where the comics ended, and how long do you think that will take?

SCHWARTZ: Well, the comics went through several evolutions. Brian [K. Vaughan] stayed with it for a couple of volumes, and then he left, and I think one of the things in the comic was, they resolved the conflict between the parents extremely quickly, because they didn’t think the comic was going to last, issue to issue, and that’s what we really worked to invest in our parent characters, and make sure that those stories can continue to sustain.

AX: What storyline are you most excited to explore in RUNAWAYS Season 2?

SCHWARTZ: The kids being on the run, and everything that entails.

This interview was conducted during Hulu’s portion of the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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