Earlier this year, journalists from various media outlets gathered in Toronto, Canada for a Killjoys set visit in preparation for Season 2. Series creator/showrunner Michelle Lovretta shared a few hints about the new season, as well as her love of tropes, strong women in leadership roles and her positive views of sexuality on TV. Check out this peek into the brilliant mind of our favorite creator/showrunner, then check back in with us for more interviews with the cast of Killjoys!
Where does Season 2 pick up? Is there a time jump?
Michelle Lovretta: There is a bit of a time jump. It’s a small jump, but we’re basically picking up not too long after we left. With the same emotional drive we have with our characters. Which is, where the eff is D’av and how do we find him? The course of this season is sort of exploring a little bit what happens as a result of, in many ways politically but also with our mythology, the events of the cliffhanger of last year. So it is something that we’ve always built to at the end of one season, with the intention of expanding and exploring that and having a lot of ripple effects for this year. Which we continue to do.
Did you have a sense of where you wanted to end up?
ML: I think it behooves you, certainly, whether it’s something that’s written internal or something you evolve, your network and bringing your other writers in. You do have to look at where you end, because frankly where you end involves a fair amount of wishing to get here, finding some things that expand your own reach which you were pleased about and finding other things that fell a little bit short. And the job is just sort of learn from that and go forward. At the end of the day, look this job is really freaking tiring. It is an intensely involved occupation. It is readings, it is post, it’s editing. In the end no one gives a shit, including me. What you want is a good product. You want to be able to be there at your four in the morning post, and say “I f*ckin love this episode.” This episode is full of joy. And it’s full of sexy. And it’s full of fun. And the only reason that I’m in television is because that’s what I want to do. It’s what I want to watch. I don’t watch things very different from the things that I create. I probably should, [laughs] so there’s a bit of expansion of your mind that way, but I’m looking for fun and sexy and emotion. I think we hit a lot of the emotional points that I wanted to in season 1, but you’re never going to hit them in your first season with characters you’re just getting to know yourself, as well as the audience, as deeply as you can in successive seasons where you know them now. And you know what their relationships mean. And you know how to hurt them. And I enjoy hurting them. [laughs]
What about the relationships surprised you in season 1? Was there somebody’s interaction that you saw and said we need to get these characters more involved together?
ML: One of the things that surprised me in season 1, that came late in the season, was a great episode written by Emily Andras. Luke and Hannah did a really lovely thing in episode 9, after they’ve had their big fight and then they’ve had their we’re going to try to make up and it’s not going to work really well in 8. And then in 9 there’s this small scene where she’s lying on the bed and he comes in, and he’s freaking nervous around her. There was something about that that I found really compelling. That I felt like, we had found a way, for me personally, to understand that character and his vulnerabilities in a way that we hadn’t in the beginning. Because in the beginning you’re setting up, okay here’s your alpha male. Here’s your guy with a tortured past. I love tropes and I do not shy away from them. I will not apologize for that. That’s the fun for me, but the only sustaining power that has is if you’re able to sort of twist it, and find the heart underneath it. The surprising moments. I think we found some of those with those characters and its been a goal of ours to do more of that in season 2. Hopefully some surprising ones.
When you’re writing strong characters such as Dutch, do you put any of yourself into it?
ML: Well, I’m really weak [laughs]… Yes, I think honestly though both in Lost Girl and in Killjoys a lot of what you will find with me is the second. I am basically Kenzi. I’ve had people call me from high school and be like, “Oh my God that person talks, walks like you.” I’m like yes, but much better looking. In Killjoys, to me, that’s kind of Johnny. Johnny Jaqobis is a little bit of all of us. He should be a little bit of all of us, but cooler and has better one liners than most can think up. To me, the loyal person at the side of the strong person. The person that’s able to look at them and say, you’re going too far. This is the tough talk you need. This is the good shoulder you need. That’s the person I think that I usually am casting as myself. The hero is scary good. The things that Dutch has gone through and survived, and the strength it takes to not be a person who will therefore be hopeless, or therefore be dark and ugly. She, I think, is full of joy and still full of a capacity to care about others and to put them above her. I think that’s an incredibly beautiful and difficult thing to do, and I don’t think I have that. So I’ll stick to being the wingman.
Do you think it’s true all writers write about themselves? Maybe even subconsciously?
ML: I think, no. I think all writers have to write about what interests them. I believe that there’s a certain degree of narcissism in all of us and we’re interested in ourselves because we know ourselves best. We’ve been on this journey, and we want to stay on it so it must be pretty freaking good. But ultimately, I’m more interested in other people. I’m much more interested in that weird third grade teacher I had, or that really bitchy vet that I took the dog to. I want to know what is that about? What is that person? For me, the same way that you guys turn to a book probably, like I just want to expand and be with other people. That’s exactly what writing is for me. I just have the privilege and I’m really grateful for it, that I don’t have to wait for someone else to put it on the page. I just sort of sit there in my head, and let them talk. But I don’t want to just meet myself. I don’t want to meet people who look like myself. I don’t want to meet just people who have sex like I do. I don’t like that world. I like a world that’s full bodied, and has a lot of variety in it. That’s also something that I’m committed to trying to do. Because there’s nothing more boring and bland than sameness.
Has anything changed for you about how you write these characters, now that you’ve had a chance to get to know the actors? Did anything evolve from your original vision?
ML: Aaron was my original vision. As soon as I saw Luke in the little tiny screen you get when you’re popping up your first auditions, I sent that around to all the writers. I was like, “Oh my God we found D’avin.” Hannah was a joy, because we looked so long and far. There’s this weird moment that happens at the best of castings, when you’re almost at the point where you think, we can’t do it. Then the person walks in, and you’re like, thank God. She had exactly everything I wanted, right down to having an accent. When you get to meet them as people and they have an opportunity to do more work with the characters you ultimately do start writing to them a little bit more. One thing I would like to do, increasingly, this season and hopefully many others, Hannah is funny. She’s light, you just want to go have a beer with her. She’s young, and she’s full of joy. She sings and she dances. I think that we have done a really good job season 1 in saying, Luke who is a badass and who is buff and plays a soldier very well takes orders from her in a way I don’t find emasculates him at all. I also don’t live in a world, in my head, where I believe that that is a truism that has to happen. I believe he looks at her for what she is, a born and trained killer. An absolute leader. Like knows like, and he takes the orders where they’re the right ones and questions them when they aren’t. In order to sort of sell that, we had to make clear that she’s capable and strong. I think you all know that and I think we all get that, so from here on there can also be a little bit of Hannah coming through. A little bit of, she’s still young you know? Characters die, I hope we have 12,000 years on this show but inevitably you don’t and I’d like to be able to add my love for that character and let her have some fun. She deserves it.
With all your cliffhangers last season, how important was it to answer some of the questions before introducing new ones? How long do we have to wait to learn about Level 6 and Red 17?
ML: Funny you should ask [laughs]… The point of the season, for me, is sort of kicking open the barn doors on all of those mythos and questions. We explore this season, a large part of the origins of Red 17. How all these pieces that look quite disparate and disconnected ultimately are telling a bit of the same story. Possibly heading in a bit of the same direction. The characters are more aware of what’s going on. They have their feet on the ground and don’t want to be people’s puppets. Now they’re invested in finding out. I can tell this story rather than having it happen to me. So in season 2, part of that is what is Red 17? What is a Level 7? Why are they infiltrating the RAC? Did they start it, or were they brought in afterwards? So we slowly, throughout the season, kind of poke holes in the veil on that and ultimately give concrete answers.
The topic of PTSD is one that is extremely prevalent right now, it’s also one that is really hard to write about and portray on television. What did you do research wise and why was that an important core part of D’avin’s character?
ML: Two of the most important male character for me growing up, were Hicks in Aliens and Bourne. They’re basically archetypes that I have always had a deep connection to. If we’re going to be on the psyche couch, it’s because I grew up near a base and my cousins dated a lot of military guys. Two of them in particular, had some things go wrong and they had a really hard time with it. I think that because I was quite young, I was aware of those things and just the collateral cost of that. There is a beauty to being noble and trying to use your body and your strength to “fight bad guys.” A lot of us are raised that way when we were young. We believe in a black and white, simplistic sort of view and you’re often young when you enlist; D’avin was. There is an unraveling that can happen for a lot of people as they again “enter those thirties” where they are able to see a larger picture. It is very much what our show is about. Now that I know this larger picture, how do I become a piece of it and how do I fight it? So with D’avin, once he was able to look at his own unraveling, we obviously did it through a science fiction lens, where it was not very simple and he had battle-brain and there were implants and all these other sort of elements. But the core part of every story that I want to tell and I believe all of you are interested in, regardless of the show, is just real people. So ultimately, yes there’s a little sci-fi thing in his head, but what was important was that breakdown. What was important to me was, is she going to forgive him? Is he going to forgive himself? It is only told on the strength of human relationships, if it’s going to be a story worth telling. I think PTSD is a story, ultimately, about relationships.
So this season with the time-jump-ish, we’re assuming D’avin is going to be facing that again. Will we be seeing any kind of flashbacks into what he’s going through now?
ML: I think it’s more of an emotional and psychological tie-in into it. I feel bad for D’avin, frankly, because we’ve been a little harsh on him. He takes the brunt of a little bit of that, and there is more of that this season, certainly. What I find lovely about it is his ability to find his footing and say enough, and the way that the flashes started to do in season 1, this is a bit of in terms of his arc, and they all have their separate arcs this year (John has a very large one as well), but for D’avin his is a bit of that standing his ground and again reclaiming this as “I’m going to pick the path that I want.” A large part of it connects to what he’s gone through.
You mentioned liking tropes. Are there any science fiction tropes from other shows you want to play with or turn on their head?
ML: A lot of it is frankly just very instinct based with me, in terms of just… you know, it’s like when you get a five-year old sitting there on the carpet saying tell me a story. It’s just what I have inside my head. What every writer has, right? That part of your brain that says, tell me a story. Often my stories reference things that as a child, in science fiction and fantasy, I was frustrated by as a woman sometimes or that I was engaged with. It’s just the incredible luxury and privilege of being able to engage with those on your own terms now and possibly re-frame them. If you look at season 1, look at the teaser. The whole show was set up basically to spin a trope of let’s bring and frame where you want her, and that’s her story. Except I say, f*ck you. Her story is, you’re going to bring her in and she says this is my plan and I’m the boss. I’m going to take this, and I’m going to have an entire journey come from that. That was really from stuff I saw as a child, as a young girl. You turn the channel and you see these things. The old Bronson movies etc. and you’re like, no I don’t want that. I don’t want to live in a world like that and I don’t want to pretend that that’s okay, so I flip it. As long as I do it in a way that I’m having fun with and the purpose of it is to entertain, then I’m good with it. That’s about as political as I’m ever going to get, is what’s the fun and is it a way I think is kind to me. You know what I mean? Rather than something that is putting me, or anybody else in a particular box.
You have said that sci-fi allows for women in authority. Have you accomplished that with Dutch?
ML: I don’t think there’s a problem with women in authority. I think what I said I liked about science fiction, is back when you couldn’t tell a straight story with having a woman as a president, when you went to science fiction what you could instead tell is she’s the president on the moon. And everyone’s like sure she is and it’s fun and you could go along with it. That’s all I really asked for as a kid. Because if you had to have straight literature, back in the 40s and 50s whatever she had to be a teacher. I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to fantasize about being a teacher. It’s just… that’s not me. I want guns, you know? I want a ship. I want a sexy guy and a sexy lady and I’m not going to apologize for that. All I can say is, my job is to give that to the people who are interested in that as well. If I can, that’s the whole joy of genre. I don’t know that I would have survived in a world of medical shows. They’re great, but yeah I don’t think that would feed me.
Is it easier to write women in a strong leadership roles, than say when you started Lost Girl?
ML: I don’t know that there’s been a change in the five years. I think that there’s usually more of a place for those women in genre. Obviously, we’re enjoying a great renaissance of an explosion of genre right now, so we’re able to see more and more of that. I think for me though, it’s just sameness that I kind of want to push away from. Because if I were to see constantly show after show of just strong women, I would also be like alright let’s have Simon and Simon again. Do you know what I mean? It’s just seasons, you don’t want to feel as a storyteller that you’re held back by what they will believe, in terms of what the role or color or gender or whatever of the person. You just want the liberty to say, but why not this person? This person I haven’t seen in a while. I think that we are seeing more women in power, but because of my natural taste unfortunately the “strong woman” is also the ass kicking woman. I don’t think that’s the only type of strong person, man or woman that there is and it’d be nice if we could have more of that variety as well. But then I wouldn’t get to shoot things, and I really want to shoot things. [laughs]
How do you think old movies/performances inform how people view modern female action heroes?
ML: Honestly, they had such a huge impact on me. I can’t be the only one, I’m sure that they had one across the board. What I loved about Sigourney, in particular, was that she was unusual looking. She wasn’t your typical type and the romance she had with Hicks and Hicks being super badass, but also completely comfortable with her, was a new kind of dynamic in the relationship paradigm which we look to and it becomes a reference. I think they had a huge impact. I think honestly people could only dream of having that sort of relationship.
Both of your shows are very sex positive and feature characters that are very sex positive. Why is that important for you to use as part of your storytelling?
ML: Because it’s my worldview. Again, I’m an intensely non-political person. When I tell a story, it has to come from my heart and it has to be something that I believe there’s a kindness to it. Like there’s a lot of science fiction and there’s a lot of horror that comes from a place of darkness and it comes from a place of nihilism and I’m just really freaking chipper, so I can’t do that. I don’t want to watch that. I don’t want to make that. So, often the people in my worlds have liberties because I want to live in a world that grants those and I don’t know why we wouldn’t. I don’t find that scary. I don’t find the idea of granting rights to the people around me, so long as they don’t shit on me in the process, a scary thing. And so the worlds that I create are people who remind me of people that I work with, the people I grew up with, that I went to school with. It would feel fake to me to not have them around. I don’t put them there for a purpose. They’re there, because they’ve always been there. It would feel like I was editing, if I didn’t have them.
The relationship between Johnny and Lucy, though she’s an AI, is kind of like they’re a family or siblings. How did you create that?
ML: A lot of that came with the help of Aaron and Tamsen. It was a really interesting process in season 1, where we had written Lucy in the bible as somebody who had personality and was comedic. The networks weren’t sure how it would play, because when we finally see the show together she could be like waka waka in the corner and we were like, yeah we don’t want that. So we kind of went back and forth a little bit, and because of the process we never actually cast the voice actress, Tamsen, until we were in post. In the meantime, we have one of our editors speaking into a microphone and we don’t know if this will work. Then finally, when you get the two actors together and they’re playing off each other, or she’s playing off of him, you start getting this warmth between them which was lovely. We didn’t want to suggest she was immediately an off the top crazy AI, but I love the idea that Johnny just keeps tinkering with her to mess with Dutch. So he keeps upping her loyalty, and all these kind of things the way you would with some little computer game. Over time, particularly in the second season, I like to see the expanding of that relationship between the two of them. One of the scenes that I wrote in 210, is a scene that basically made me cry between the two of them. And I’m crying over a ship and a boy. It’s kind of weird, but I think that’s how we know it’s successful at that point. You know, it’s that these two really have a bond. I think in the end, if you’re going to put a bunch of people on a ship and go off into space and have adventures, bonds are key.
Killjoys Returns to Syfy on July 1st at 9/8c. Don’t miss it!