New 'Scream' Showrunners Preview Season 2 Reinvention, "Theatrical" New Killer

We're "blowing it up into a million bloody pieces," executive producers Michael Gans and Richard Register tell THR about the changes being made.
Courtesy of MTV

Scream is under new management for season two.

MTV's adaptation of Wes Craven's horror film franchise parted ways with original showrunners Jill Blotevogel and Jaime Paglia last fall and placed Michael Gans and Richard Register at the helm for its sophomore outing. The new team set out to take Scream "to a whole new level," and that started with the cold open.

The network released the first seven minutes of the premiere early. In it, the usual cold open murder takes a very meta turn for Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Noah (John Karna). Check out the cold open below.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Gans and Register about taking over the reigns for season two, series changes and the new "theatrical" and "psychological" killer.

That cold open was certainly a very meta way to kick off the new season.

Michael Gans: We love that opening. It was such a cool idea. We're big fanboys of the entire franchise, and really, truly, always have been. That opening to us is a huge love letter to the entire idea of Scream.

Richard Register: That's exactly what we were going for. You have to be very careful with the meta to take it to another level and be refreshing with it. But at the same time, it had to be scary, it had to be fun and it had to be real. And because it's a series, it can't be saturated too much. The formula is very tricky.

Gans: And Bex just kills it in that opening. (Laughs) I mean that not as a pun.

Was there anything daunting about taking on the job of showrunners after Jill and Jaime launched the series?

Gans: We love those guys, and they did a really great job with that first season. That being said, it certainly was daunting, because it was definitely a colossal machine. It's a hard thing to do for so many reasons, because it's assuming someone else's child. It was hard but really worth it to us. We liked what they did in the first season, and they built a beautiful platform. And within the genre, most horror movies and most slasher movies, there's always a big piece that came before it. There's always a lasting history and backstory that you begin with and you discover as you go forward. So for us, that had been shot and existed within the world already in the first season. There was already one in the bag. So the biggest, most daunting thing was taking that and twisting it to a new level. And we came in pitching that.

Register: When we heard this show was available, we were on another show, Recovery Road, at that time. So we didn't even know if we could take it over, but we were able to come in and pitch, which that alone was so exciting for us.

Gans: We went in and said, "What we want to do is take this show, put it on a roller-coaster and then tell it to have sex and then throw blood all over it." (Laughs) And that's what we've done.

Register: Lord knows it was a daunting task just to create Scream as a television series. And so they took that on so beautifully and created a whole new world that is within the genre and yet evolving the genre. They did a gargantuan task to begin with last season.

Gans: And they gave little kisses and nods to the original franchise all throughout last season, and so we continue that tradition. Like our opening, for example, alluding a little bit to Scream 2. And you really have to know the world and the characters. We had to take what we had seen a billion times on camera and re-create that for season two, making it feel like the same world and the same people while also reinventing it and twisting it. So when we had our first table read, the fact that the season one cast all liked it, the first script, they were all into it, they were our toughest judges.

Register: It was so surreal to have this cast read a script that we'd written. We'd studied the first season within an inch of its life, and so to finally meet the cast and have them reading our script was just completely surreal.

Jill was reportedly going to stay on for season two on as a consultant, so how much is she still involved with the creative direction of the show?

Gans: She's embedded in the creation of this show. In every portion of it, you see her. We didn't work with her that much throughout the course of the season, but I adore what she did, and we work with every piece of what she gave us to do.

Register: It was truly with the character of Emma that we depended on how she saw Emma, and evolving Emma. In that regard, we really tried to stay true to this heroine, this survivor, the final girl.

Gans: She is the creator of this show, and we never pull that away from her. She did that, and we took it on and carried on raising it and blowing it up into a million bloody pieces.

What kind of notes did you get from the network or studio about where they wanted you to take the show this season?

Gans: We came onto this show pitching where we wanted to take it, and it was probably the most incredible pitch we've ever done. That was just us giving our take on it. We wanted to add in a lot of psychology this season, dealing with the aftermath of last season and making it more schizophrenic.

Register: And we were talking to [executive producer] Bob Weinstein, and this is his child.

Gans: They all seemed to really love what we pitched. And they told us, "Don't be afraid to be twisted. Don't be afraid to be scary. Take it as far as you want." One of the notes we got sometimes was, "Go even farther, get even more twisted." We felt free. Throughout the season, they've allowed us to take it to real extreme places. We've never been held back with any sort of kill yet.

Register: And we started our careers on Celebrity Deathmatch at MTV. (Laughs) And there were some crazy kills there.

Gans: We're used to killing people on MTV. (Laughs) And the biggest philosophy we went into this season with was we needed to make love to everything that already existed and everything you saw on camera during the course of that season in regard to the characters and the history. You couldn’t just engage it, you had to make love to it. Most of the directives we got throughout this season was when we brought something forth that didn't seem to be true to the character from their understanding, they would say, "That's not Emma," or, "That's not Audrey," or, "We need more of this from Noah." In a lot of cases, that was a great point of view for us to get. And that's really an honest answer.

Register: As for our storytelling, they seemed to really like where we were going. They liked the way we killed people, and they wanted that to go to a next level. And I think we brought it there. The crazy twists we did, we didn't get as much notes as when we did with the characters.

Gans: Really the hardest thing was, on this show, people die. A lot. And so you have to replace characters with new ones. It's very unique, and it's like a Game of Thrones type of situation, even more than Sopranos. People are dying, and you can't just keep killing random people. You have to care about the victims for it to matter. So anyone can die on this show. Anyone can be the killer. Anyone can be psychotic enough to have a break. So we had to introduce a whole new cast of characters, and they had to be written not to just immediately die but to live and compete with the original characters. Sometimes you end up killing the older characters instead of the newer characters.

Register: That was challenging for us. We had to write and introduce the new characters to the point where it just becomes one cast and not two separate casts. You don't want to see the newbies versus the veterans. You want the entire cast to blend as soon as possible.

Looking back on season one, what did you think really worked that you're going to continue this season?

Gans: The emotional relationships were really amazing last season. We loved how the characters all related with each other. The relationship between Audrey and Emma was utterly fascinating and complicated and difficult. We wanted to keep that, deepen that and explore that. The relationship between Kieran and Emma, we wanted to push that to an extreme place. I think that Audrey and Noah are one of the greatest relationships of all time.

Register: They truly have one of the best TV relationships. The hard part was keeping those relationships intact while pushing them all to new places. We wanted to challenge them. These are the survivors, these are the Lakewood Six. They've been through the fire together, so how has that affected each one of them individually and within their relationships with each other? That was a beautiful jumping-off point for us.

On the flip side of that, what did you decide didn’t work that you're going to nix for this season?

Gans: A good sequel doesn't try to change things as much as it elevates and surprises you by taking things to a new level. In some ways, because this is such a filmic show, and since it's just massive sequels to itself, you have to create a bigger bad. We wanted to make sure that we accomplished that, to make our villain even bigger and badder and scarier.

Looking at the movie franchise, how will this season compare to Scream 2? Are you trying to make season two a sequel to last season, or will it be a completely new story?

Gans: It's the continuation of the story you saw. So it's like a sequel in that sense.

Register: But it's different from a sequel because we are doing a second season of a show, so it's not a sequel necessarily. It's more of an evolution of these characters.

Gans: When you're looking at the movie franchise, I think there are elements that are pretty similar. I think the first season had elements of all the Scream movies. This is the same way. There are elements of all the Scream movies in season two. I think if we just mimicked the movies in order, you wouldn't be surprised. So it has to consistently surprise you. I don't want you to tune in and have an idea of what you're going to be watching that night. In actuality, each episode feels like a sequel to each episode. Each episode is its own little movie.

Register: In the first season, Noah was obsessed with the legend of Brandon James and that massacre, and now, they've become a part of that mythology. They have become an extension of that mythology in their town, and they're infamous now.

Gans: And that's sort of an allusion to Scream 2. But it's a different version of that situation.

Tell me about the new killer we're going to see this season. Is there a new mask, or is this killer wearing the same mask from season one?

Gans: The killer this season is using the same mask. The kills are bigger and more theatrical this season. This killer has a need for presentation. As far as the mask goes, the dark Brandon James story is driving a part of what this killer is doing, and he's doing it in a psychological way. He's driving them to their wits' end for a purpose. It's tied to that story, so that mask and the hooded look is continuing this season.

Register: What they created in season one with the Brandon James mask and voice is utterly terrifying. They took the aesthetic of the movies and just really went for it. So we're keeping that.

Scream season two premieres Monday, at 11 p.m. on MTV.

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