May 4, 2017, 11:17 AM EDT (Updated)
In a rare moment of genuine jubilation at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Freeform announced during the Beyond panel to the creative team and cast that the show was picked up for a second season. The genre series about a teen who wakes up from a 12-year coma with superpowers debuted on Jan. 2 as both a weekly series and an online binge of the entire season. Since it dropped, the episodes have been viewed by 14 million people between both platforms. Allowing audiences and different demos the ability to choose how they consume the show is an experiment that has obviously paid off for the net and the creative team of creator/executive producer Adam Nussdorf and executive producers David Eick and Tim Kring.
In an exclusive interview after the panel, Kring and Eick shared their ideas of what's to come in Season 2 and how the binge-model is changing how they write for television. (Spoilers for Beyond Season 1 below!)
With the news of a definite Season 2, what are you excited to continue to explore in Holden's unfolding reality that exists both in the now and in The Realm?
David Eick: We were certainly limited by the depth into The Realm that we could travel. One of the first orders of business is to continue to explore what that geography looks like, how it feels, and what it represents, because each one of the environments of The Realm isn't just a land like in Disneyland, it's an emotional sounding board for what Holden's been through and comments on some critical decision, or lesson he might have learned during a time he can't remember now, but more importantly how that might apply to the here and now today. It's the yin-yang of here and there, and how they metaphorically parallel each other. The fun will be figuring out what the next versions of that metaphor will be.
Tim Kring: I feel some of the secret sauce of the show is all of the character stuff going on with Holden, the family drama around him which is unique and rich, and this concept of waking up after 12 years where you are emotionally and psychologically 12 years old in the body of a 24- year-old. It's all of the pathos and the fun that you can have as a storyteller. It's really fertile ground. It's Big and Rip Van Winkle, so I think making sure that's not cast aside in the second season.
Luckily, you haven't progressed Holden that far from his waking up.
TK: Yes, chronologically, not that much time has passed. He's still dealing with awakening and being a boy in a man's body.
What story points really worked for you in Season 1?
DE: We had so much fun with the artists and designers talking about the frozen tundra world, the dense forest world, and the Vanilla Sky urban landscape. But I have to tell you two of my favorite discussions in the writer's room the entire season were how can we make our character, Yellow Jacket, reflect an existential crisis of middle-management in America, and will the audience believe that mom has started sleeping with the minister down the street. What the hell happens with that?
How much of a fight was there over that story point?
DE: Everyone loved it! (Laughs)
When you were writing Season 1, the network didn't tell you how they were going to release the show. When it became your reality, were you happy to be a proverbial Guinea pig?
TK: When we went to the initial marketing meeting where they announced they wanted to do this binge idea and we saw the way they would market it in social and non-traditional ways, I said, "I think this thing is going to work." Very often working with networks means there's a single source of revenue with advertising, and that stifles so much creativity. To embrace the idea of where the audience is, and the only things that really break through are the ones people talk about, then let's fish where the fish are. It was very courageous to go that way. It's building a relationship with an audience that is skeptical and wary of being talked down to, or worried things will get canceled. The way they are approaching this audience is welcoming, and talking with them and not at them.
Will you approach writing Season 2 differently when the writer's room reconvenes because you can now think of it as whole piece, rather than separated stories?
TK: I think the discussion of do you think differently when you know the show is going to be binged, absolutely you do. You treat your audience with much more intelligence because of their ability to find the answers. If an audience has not caught up to the episodes, it's no longer the storyteller's responsibility to catch them up. That's your fault and the call is in your court. I no longer have to spoon-feed it to you in a pedantic way.
DE: Or spend the first six minutes of every episode recapping the previous episodes.
TK: One of the statistics that they used to quote to us constantly on network TV, which I was furious about because you're convinced that's not the way it is, is that the most loyal fans of a show watch one out of every three episodes. Sure enough, they'd show you and it was real. So you spend all this time filling in all those gaps for people, but now that goes away. The storytelling and the audience are seeing eye-to-eye on everything and you can have a very intelligent way to subtly let out clues, and they'll catch it and talk about it. You no longer have to use a sledgehammer with the audience which is a fantastic by-product of binge-watching.
DE: So yes, an even more hopeful by-product heading into Season 2 is that we didn't know this would be binged in Season 1. Now there's an advantage to going into it knowing that and writing to it.
When will you officially start breaking the new season?
DE: Adam and I keep not talking to one another because we didn't want to jinx it by hatching anything officially. We'll have to get together now and get going!
Beyond airs on Freeform Monday nights and all of Season 1 is available online.