Can you talk about throwing in story elements that you know fans might react negatively to, like when Max was sleeping with Jenna Cameron?
It’s very important to me that the characters on this show feel human and feel flawed. One, I really like the Max and Cameron relationship as a writer. I think it’s really relatable. What’s not relatable is this beautiful man pined for you for ten years while you were off having a fiancé and now you’re back and he’s just been waiting. That’s crazy. What is relatable is you have feelings for the person that you work with, and you’re sleeping together, but you’re not really sure if he’s actually into you, and then he says he wants to go on a date, and then he ditches you in the middle of [something]…. I understand that feeling. Cameron is someone that I really root for. Not necessarily root for with Max, but I want the audience to like her, and I want the flaws in these characters to be adult flaws. Max is really searching for something, and when Liz rejects him, it cuts pretty deep, and I don’t think he means to hurt anyone, but the fact that what he is doing is hurting Cameron just says something about who he is, and the mistakes that he’s made in his life.
Liz makes grown up mistakes too. You always hear that word, “unlikable.” “Does this make this character unlikable?” And I’m kind of like “nobody’s likable all the time.” I mean, you might be. I’m not all the time. So it’s fun to explore really deep flaws in these people the are adult flaws. This isn’t stuff that’s gonna be fixed. You know what I mean? You’re 28 years old. This is who you are now.
Can you talk about Isobel’s relationship with her husband?
He’s the only man she’s ever loved, [but] if there’s a bus coming and it’s about to hit Max or Noah, she’d for sure let the bus hit Noah. Because of her unhealthy attachment to Max and Michael, Noah has always been held at arm’s length, and he’s just kind of accepted that there’s a part of her life that he doesn’t have access to, and it’s starting to bother him. He’s starting to push a little bit more. He has questions about her.
He’s a really great guy. When she says “hey, let’s have dinner” and she can’t go to dinner and she can’t because she’s in an alley making sure her brother doesn’t beat up a racist, he doesn’t call her on it the next day and get mad at her. He’s just like “seriously. Can we have some time?” And I like that. He has given her a lot of space for a really long time. He’s getting a little tired of playing second fiddle to her brother.
The relationship between Max, Michael, and Isobel is my favorite thing about the show, because it is so unhealthy, but they are all alone together.
Will we ever learn why the Evans family didn’t adopt Michael as well?
Yes. All I’ll say right now is if you go to adopt a kid and there’s three of them, nobody’s like “oh, cool, triplets!” But yes. We’ll learn more about it. We’ll meet Max and Isobel’s mom later on in the season. Claudia Black plays her, which was really fun, because Claudia and Nathan and I worked together on The Originals and we had a great time. We’d go to basketball games and stuff. So it was a really cool reunion for the three of us.
There’s a flashback episode coming up [airing tonight, actually]. Can you tease that?
It takes place almost entirely in 2008. It spans the last three months of senior year.
And how much fun is it to write those versions of the characters, and see these actors bring them out?
It was so fun to see. My favorite part of the entire process was seeing Michael Trevino step out of the trailer clean-shaven and be like “Tyler Lockwood, I missed you!” [Laughs] It was really fun. The characters, some of them are very different in high school. Some of them weren’t so different in high school. And I think the actors had a lot of fun doing that. The boys speak differently; Nathan carries himself in a different way once he gets the backwards baseball cap on. Shoulders hunched forward and hands in his pockets… you lose the cowboy swagger entirely. It’s just fun. It’s really fun to do that.
I think we have 800 visual effects shots In that episode, because we are de-aging everybody with a little bit of movie magic, so it was an expensive episode, but it’s really fun.
Can you talk about the relationship with Michael and Alex, and the conflict that forms with Master Sergeant Manes?
Master Sergeant Manes is a homophobic @$$hole. He doesn’t respect his son, even though his son is a decorated war hero, because his son is gay. There are bad guys on our show who are redeemable, there are bad guys on our show who are not redeemable… I don’t know that a man who hates his own son can be redeemed.
It was a really important thing for me to tell that story, because I think that it’s easy for me, as a straight person, living in my little liberal L.A. bubble to be like “oh, we’re moving past those days.” And then huge gay-bashing or racist hate crimes are happening, and you realize that these rose-colored glasses that we have on about what it feels like to be ostracized in America right now, is just not a reality. I thought that putting the hatred close to home would be a story that would resonate with a lot of people. I worked really hard with Tyler and Trevor to talk about the roots of their relationship. We’ll learn more about their relationship in high school, too.
In [Tyler Blackburn’s] audition, he did a scene as Alex in 2018, and he did a scene as Alex in 2008. Nobody else had to play high school in their audition, but he is so different. He is so hopeful and idealistic, and he believes in art, and the good of the world as a kid, and his dad broke that in him, and we’re going to see that.
What I always remembered from Roswell [the original series] is the idea that everybody feels like an alien in high school, and I kind of feel that the opportunity to tell a story about non-high school kids was just raising the stakes of that feeling: What happens when you feel alienated in your own home, as an almost 30-year-old, and what toll does that take on a person? I wanted to really take a look at the ten years of what it felt like. In our flashbacks, you’re going to see a lot of “Vote Obama” stuff all around. Things have shifted dramatically in our world since then. People who once felt safe, don’t feel safe anymore.
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