From show creator Robert Rodriguez and showrunner Carlos Coto, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is back for Season 2 and crazier than ever, as the horror/crime drama is delving into a new and unexpected chapter for the characters. Santánico (Eiza González) and Richie (Zane Holtz) are now partners in crime while Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Kate (Madison Davenport) are scraping by as small time criminals, Freddie (Jesse Garcia) has an obsessive focus on protecting his wife and young daughter, and Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama) and Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) have become changed men.
While at the El Rey Network portion of the TCA Press Tour, Robert Rodriguez (who directed the premiere and finale for the sophomore season) and Carlos Coto spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how all bets are off for Season 2, continuing the mythology and building it up even further, already planning ahead to Season 5, what viewers can expect from Danny Trejo’s new character, how Demi Lovato came to be in the finale, whether the Gecko brothers can survive without each other, and the importance of keeping the action fresh for the audience.
Collider: Does it feel like there are really no holds barred with Season 2?
ROBERT RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, but we know where we want them to go. Season 2 almost feels like a sequel to the original film. Now, we can really see what happened after that first film. Even though the stories departed from the movie, early on last season, now we really don’t have a guide. The Twister is not there. They’re off somewhere else. The brothers are split up. So, it’s very exciting for us to continue the mythology and build it up. That’s the whole reason we did the first season. I wanted to use Quentin’s characters, but we couldn’t just take it from the movie into a season. We had to retell that story in a new way, and then build it up for future seasons. Now, we finally get to pay off what we’ve been wanting to do all this time, which is start here.
The first season felt both familiar and new, but you still had a bit of an idea how some things might play out. Are all bets off now?
CARLOS COTO: Yeah, but it’s really about the characters. Robert and Quentin put these characters on the screen that had so much life and were so rich, but when you watch the film, there are moments that they mine, but they really didn’t have a chance to mine. This is all about taking them and expanding them. The characters go through this crazy event at The Twister, where not only literally some of them get killed and some of them get turned into monsters, but the whole world changes because their entire reality changes. How does a character deal with that, and how do these relationships that they’ve built up, in the course of this one night together, then grow and change and build? It’s really just about staying true to those characters and honoring them. They will tell you what stories they’re after. It’s cool.
Once you retold the events of the movie in Season 1, did you always know where you’d be taking it next, in Season 2?
RODRIGUEZ: We’d always talked about Season 2 and where we were going, so that we would know to set up Season 1 correctly. That’s why we introduced those characters in Season 1, and that’s why the characters did different things from the movie. It was for the benefit of Season 2. There are already some things that we know will be in Season 3, and some things in Season 5. We’re very excited.
COTO: There were three big things that we did. Robert really wanted to explore the mythology, which was that one pyramid shot in the film.
RODRIGUEZ: I put that in there because I wanted to explore that. That wasn’t in the original script of the movie. That whole idea of the pyramid and the culture was the thing that I brought to it. So, we knew the seasons would be based on that mythology.
COTO: And I took a little of that and said, “Here’s a great mythology that you can put your show in.” The show is already a crime saga. It’s already a story of criminals who do heists and hits. All of that’s there. That world is there, but how do you add mythology? You don’t just slap that onto this world. You have to hang it on a character, but we had those characters with Santánico and Carlos. So, not only did we know we were going here in the second season, but in the first season, part of what we were doing was subversively setting up Santánico as a main character of the show. She was just this presence for the first six episodes, but we knew that we were basically telling the story of her jailbreak in Season 1. That was the B-story. So, by telling her jailbreak story, we then set up a story of her revenge for having been enslaved. That’s one of the major spines of Season 2. That’s really what we set out to do. And then, Carlos was the other character that we hung the criminal underworld on. We knew he was going to represent that world and be a part of it. Those two characters allowed us to tell this story and expand things out, so it’s all there for us to build from.
Now that you have so many storylines and so many characters and everyone is all over the place, how much more complicated is Season 2?
RODRIGUEZ: It’s not that difficult. It doesn’t seem like that many people to me, but I always have that because I’m from a family of ten kids. You see them as such individuals and you see their story arcs so clearly that you know how they fit together. Television series always have a lot of characters because you want people to identify with someone on the show, who will be your eyes.
COTO: The characters all start speaking for themselves, really, and they really find their own stories.
Will you be getting everybody back together, at some point?
RODRIGUEZ: They’re all going in different directions, but there is a point when they come back together. There are things pulling them together. You can’t wait for these guys to get back together, and we play that up.
We all know that Danny Trejo is a bad-ass, but how much are you utilizing that for his character? Will we be seeing a side of him that we haven’t before?
RODRIGUEZ: It wasn’t written for him, originally. It was just a role called The Regulator.
COTO: The Regulator is part hitman and part bounty hunter, and he works for the Culebras, or vampires. When they get out of hand, Lord Malvado calls this guy in. He’s a guy who has a great prowess for finding people. He’s really good at tracking people, and he represents the mythological force of the Culebras. He’s also a survivor of a battle of the 19th Century, during the Mexican War. He’s got all of this lore behind him, with the jacket he wears and the gun that he uses. He’s a man out of time, and he’s a lawman, as well. With Danny, it was really about using him as a presence and as a guy who always throws you off, whether it’s with what he does to track people or with his humor. He’s always a surprise.
RODRIGUEZ: He’s got a different look and a different presence, and he’s like the Terminator. He keeps showing up at the most inopportune times, and you know he’s going to get you. You first see him as a shadow or in slow motion and you know he’s coming to throw everything into chaos. It’s a cool character for him. It’s different, in that way. I’ve worked with him a bunch, so it was exciting to see him do something different in this series.
By the time we get to the end of the season, will we see where Season 3 might go?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, sure. I know because I just directed the last episode. It will be clear where things are headed, but it’s going to leave you wanting it to come back to see how it’s going to resolve itself.
You mentioned already having some ideas for Season 5. How far ahead have you actually thought about, or do you just have possible ideas?
RODRIGUEZ: It’s more like, “When would this event happen?” “Oh, that wouldn’t be until Season 5.” We don’t have it all figured out. Part of the fun is knowing loosely where you want to go, but then having that discovery in the writers’ room when you come up with better things. It’s a balance of certain ideas. We are thinking long-term, but each season is its own beast.
Demi Lovato said that she would be appearing in the finale. Did that come about because she asked you if she could be a part of the show, did because you thought she’d be good for a specific character that you had?
RODRIGUEZ: I knew I wanted to use her. I see her all the time and I’ve known her for awhile. She auditioned for me, way back with Spy Kids 3, when she was little. I’ve known her for a long time and I wanted to make sure it was an episode I directed because I wanted to direct her. She’s terrific. She’s really great. It’s a part that we created for her, with the idea that we could always bring her back, if we wanted. She’s just so busy. It was the same thing with Lady Gaga. They have such crazy traveling and touring schedules that, when she was able to appear, we had something for her.
COTO: She brings such a fun energy to it, and she’s just fantastic. The great thing about Dusk is that it’s crime, western and horror. It’s all these great genres, so all these different kinds of performers can come in, like Briana Evigan and Jeff Fahey, and bring their own flavor to it because its’ this great, literally diverse thing that has all of this life to it.
You have some interesting teaming up of some of the characters, this season. Will they be struggling to make these new pairings work?
COTO: The characters are constantly going to be trying to figure out where they fit. It’s like, “I’m Seth. I’m a career criminal. Do I belong with this 17-year-old girl? I’m not sure. I’m not sure how that’s going to work.” Then, there’s Richie who’s like, “I’m newly initiated into this gangster world, but I’m with this woman who’s a queen, who’s been in it for 500 years and has her own agenda. Can my agenda work with hers?” All of these characters, especially by the time we get to the finale, are just trying to figure out where they fit in the world. Sometimes that has to do with good and evil, and sometimes that has to do with love and hate. It’s a constant search.
Can the Gecko brothers survive without each other?
COTO: That’s the big question of this season, honestly, for them. I always talk about Seth as a shark who has stopped swimming. He’s inspired a lot by all the classic pulp criminals who inspired Quentin and Robert, and he’s this guy who just knows how to do a job, get the money, and move on to the next job. Can he survive alone? It’s hard. And then, Richie is a guy who has all these big ambitions, but sometimes ends up being his own worst enemy. He needs Seth there. And then, you have Santánico who has the very clear goal of getting the guy who imprisoned her. That’s the kind of thing that consumes you and eats you alive, if you let it. She’s so focused that everything else falls by the wayside, and that’s also dangerous. So, everyone is fighting themselves, at the same time that they’re fighting each other.
Without knowing whether or not he’ll ever find Kate again, Scott has found an interesting kinship with Carlos.
COTO: Here’s a Chinese kid who’s adopted by an American family, so he’s already an outsider. But, who does he find kinship in? The Spaniard who came across the ocean and was an outsider here, and found his way into the Culebra world. They’re this weird duo. Identity and all of that stuff works into the show, thematically and emotionally, in a natural way.
Where are the dangers coming from, this season?
COTO: It’s mainly Malvado and Carlos and, of course, The Regulator. Those are the big villains. Within that, there’s people that they come across and some fun surprises. There’s another lord that shows up.
RODRIGUEZ: There are smaller villains that show up that are still adversaries, but who are in two episodes.
COTO: The crime stories are great because we have all these characters who are from different backgrounds and they all have different goals. None of them trust each other and they can’t get past their own problems, so it’s great.
Is it fun to always come up with new approaches to the action and horror, on a weekly basis?
RODRIGUEZ: Any time you do action and horror, you’ve always got to try to find a way to make it fresh for the audience, but also for yourself, and there are so many different ways to freak people out and create tension. Especially with a TV series, when you have episodes that need to go together, you have to map it out. When you see my last episode and it’s complete mayhem, the whole season has built to that. We couldn’t do that with every episode because it wouldn’t feel like it built. The season momentum is something you have to keep track of.
COTO: We find fun ways to do that through the mythology and the characters themselves. The Culebras have vampire powers that we know, but they also have a couple things that we haven’t seen before, like they can bite people and project their souls. We use that to get different kinds of tension. There are all kinds of different ways that you can scare people, turn things on their head, and catch them when they’re not looking.
From Dusk Till Dawn airs on Tuesday nights on the El Rey Network.