Executive Produced by showrunners/writers Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage and Marvel’s Head of TV Jeph Loeb, the Hulu series Runaways is back for Season 2 with higher stakes and greater danger, as this group of teenagers who realized their parents were evil have now left their homes and are learning to live on their own and take care of each other while working to take down PRIDE. At the same time, PRIDE is looking to find their children, and a secret plan has been set in motion that might lead to betrayal from one of their own.
While at a junket held on the set for The Hostel, an underground dilapidated mansion that the runaways take shelter in this season, executive producers Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Jeph Loeb spoke to a small group of outlets at a roundtable interview about really shaking things up for Season 2, focusing more on the runaways, keeping their teenagers feelings current, having villainous parents that you can sympathize with, exploring the diversity of the cast and characters, giving a personality to a dinosaur, and the possibility of a third season. Be aware that some spoilers are discussed.
Question: Jeph, how exciting and how nerve-wracking is it, as a producer, to really shake this up so much, this season?
JEPH LOEB: What makes a great show is great storytelling. When we first sat down with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, and they laid out where they saw us going for this season, what excited us was that it really turns the table on Season 1. In Season 1, the kids were constantly behind the story. They were trying to catch up to what the audience and the adults knew. It was them finding out the secrets. It’s always hard when you’re telling a story and the audience goes, “Yeah, I know that. Can we get to the next part?” And yet, people still fell in love with them. That’s always the hardest and the best part of the job. You turn it on and there are these very unique characters that feel very Marvel, but it’s not a big action-adventure superpowers show, except that we have a dinosaur.
The parents are, in many ways, very sympathetic, as your antagonists. We don’t even call them villains, although it’s pretty safe to say that Jonah (Julian McMahon) is not exactly on the right of everything. You are constantly torn, in that place of, are the parents right? Are the kids right? It’s not unlike life. Where we come into Season 2, it starts with this very romantic idea that many kids have, which is, “I’m gonna run away. My parents are never gonna tell me what to do. I’m gonna eat what I want. I’m gonna sleep wherever I want to. I don’t have to go to school.” That works out for about a day and a half, and then reality comes knocking at your door. The real basic, simple questions of, am I ever going home? Am I ever gonna go to school? Am I ever gonna go to college? What happens the day after tomorrow?
When we look at our other heroes, they’re mostly adults, with the exception of Cloak & Dagger, who faced a lot of these same problems. When you think about Matt Murdock and his choice to be Daredevil, he’s got a job and he’s got an apartment. Jessica Jones, as screwed up as her life is, still knows that there’s food in the refrigerator, at the end of the day. I’m not sure these guys have a refrigerator. The idea is, come join us on this adventure, and hopefully, when they finally decide to say, “We’re gonna take back the power, we’re gonna drive the story, we’re the ones that are gonna be able to tell our parents how it’s gonna be,” the question is, how does it get resolved? That’s the tension that you get, throughout the entire season. Do they go back? Do they betray? Does someone die? Does someone live? Does someone do something that’s completely unexpected? What’s great about the show is that it has so many different characters. It’s our largest cast, and each one of those characters has an opportunity to tell a different story. Not every kid has to feel like everybody else.
Josh, as much as the parents are killing people, you also can sympathize with the position that they’re in. How will that continue into Season 2?
JOSH SCHWARTZ: We wanted to dirty their hands up, in the beginning of Season 2, to remind the audience that they don’t get too soft. There’s so much more at stake for the runaways, themselves, in terms of giving up on living at home and living with their parents, and the impact of what they’ve learned about what their parents have done. If their parents do love them, and if their parents are nuanced characters, it just makes it messier and harder for the kids. If the parents are just black and white villains, and it’s easy for the audience to hate them and it’s easy for the kids to hate them, there’s less at stake, emotionally, when they go on the run. And so, it felt if you were invested in them as families, that would make their journey more complicated and make those struggles more interesting. Every parent has their own rational for the way they behave, which by the way, is true of parents in real life, even ones who aren’t killing people, but just are parenting in different ways, or are doing things that their kids don’t necessarily like because they don’t have a full context for why they’re doing what they’re doing. To us, it just made for a richer, more interesting, more layered story, if the parents weren’t all bad.
With so many characters to focus on, how do you decide who and what to focus on?
SCHWARTZ: We have plenty of episodes this year. We have 13 this year, instead of the 10 we had last year. We wanted to use the first couple of episodes, at the beginning of last season, just to introduce you to the world and everyone, and set that up. Hopefully, all of that investment in those characters, in the first season, will really pay off. This season, the pace increases and the kids are on the run. The balance of the storytelling was probably closer to 50/50 last year, but because the runaways are now living in this new environment and encountering new characters, the weight of the storytelling does lean more towards the runaways this year. Obviously, we love our PRIDE parents and love those stories, so it’s something where, hopefully, all of the groundwork that we laid last year, really pays off this year.
Josh and Stephanie, the further away you guys get from being teenagers, how do you keep your teenaged characters feeling current?
STEPHANIE SAVAGE: Young people have changed, especially in the last couple of years, in terms of their social awareness, their activism, and feeling empowered and taking a stand on things. That wasn’t the case when we were young, and wasn’t the case when we started telling stories about young people. In the show, we try to reflect that, and a lot of that comes from conversations that we have with our young cast.
SCHWARTZ: There’s certain emotional truths about being a teenager that are universal and timeless, but there is a lot of stuff that has evolved and changed. We’re very lucky that we have this young cast to pull us aside and say, “We don’t talk like that. You can’t get away with that anymore.” And then, there’s Gert wrestling with being away from her anxiety meds and what that means, and having Ariela [Barer] wanting to really having an opinion about that and wanting to be fearless in tackling that. We want to figure out what those stigmas in society are that we can explore and tell stories about.
This show includes storylines of diversity and sexuality. What’s that been like to explore, with these characters?
SCHWARTZ: That’s all in Brian K. Vaughan’s original vision for the comic book, as well. The diversity of our actors is what represents the diversity of the cast. It’s something that we have eagerly leaned into. The Karolina and Nico relationship wasn’t really explored in the initial run of the comics, but it’s something that we’ve obviously leaned into much more quickly, and more so with this season. And the new characters that come on the show continue that diversity and inclusiveness in the storytelling. It’s nice to see Allegra [Acosta] be able to be a superhero for an audience that maybe didn’t have someone to look up to.
What’s it like to give a personality to a dinosaur and ensure that audiences really grow to care about Old Lace?
SCHWARTZ: We start with Stephanie’s relationship with her dog, and everything goes from there. Old Lace is a critical character, and part of the anxiety story for Gert. It’s not just what happens with a girl who doesn’t have access to her anxiety meds, but what happens when you’re that person and you’re also psychically linked to a dinosaur, so that if your brain goes haywire, their brain can go haywire. It’s also a testament to the puppet that they’ve built, and the CG that we compliment that puppet with, and how expressive and emotional it is. Having a beautiful puppet that takes six people to operate gives the actors something to engage with and react to. They’re not looking at just a tennis ball, most of the time, so everyone is just really emotionally invested in that character.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you so far, with this show?
SCHWARTZ: How you can say, “We would like to build an underground mansion that is discovered in Griffith Park,” and then you walk in, one day, and there it is. To be here the first time Brian K. Vaughan walked onto the set was pretty awesome.