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[This story contains major spoilers for season two of The Flight Attendant.]
The Flight Attendant took off for its second round trip five weeks ago and landed at its final stop on Thursday.
Season two of the Kaley Cuoco espionage comedy-thriller began with Cassie (Cuoco) living her best sober life in Los Angeles while moonlighting as a CIA asset, and then witnessing a murder and becoming entangled in yet another international incident. Over the course of the eight episodes, Cassie learns someone is pretending to be her, going on a murder spree across L.A. and framing her for it.
The new season welcomed back most of the cast from season one — including Zosia Mamet, Deniz Akdeniz, Rosie Perez, Griffin Matthews, T.R. Knight, Michelle Gomez and Colin Woodell — with a few new additions played by Cheryl Hines, Sharon Stone, Mo McRae, Mae Martin, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Jessie Ennis.
This time around, Cuoco was tasked with playing three versions of her character, as the differing personalities of her inner monologue help guide her through a season that sees Cassie struggling with her sobriety, landing more of her friends in trouble and letting her loved ones down, in true Cassie fashion. By by season’s end, she genuinely accepts who she is and is determined to be better.
Before beginning production, co-showrunners Steve Yockey and Natalie Chaidez knew they wanted to focus on the Cassie double storyline, but when Cuoco told them she thought there should be another giant twist, the writers came back with multiple ideas, one of which they immediately knew they wanted to include, focusing on the new, suspiciously friendly character Jenny.
Cassie meets Jenny (Ennis) at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and Jenny immediately swoons over Cassie, begging her to be on her murder podcast to talk about the events of season one. Jenny befriends Cassie’s brother, Davey (Knight) and, in the season finale, it’s revealed that she’s actually in love with Feliks (Woodell) — Cassie’s former flame and serial murderer from season one — and has been trying to get Cassie alone to murder her, on behalf of her “boyfriend,” who’s in prison.
“We have this writer, Ian Weinrich, who pitched the idea of Jenny as a secret Manson chick, basically, for Feliks, and the minute he pitched it, none of the other ideas mattered,” Steve Yockey tells The Hollywood Reporter. Below, Yockey and Chaidez unpack season two and share their hopes for future seasons.
Let’s talk to about the intro sequence. It has a James Bond-Mad Men energy. What was your inspiration?
Steve Yockey: Well, for season two, we wanted to basically do a little bit of a pumped-up version of season one. It has the James Bond vibes. It has very Saul Bass-Hitchcock vibes. Actually, the biggest point of inspiration might have been Hitchcock meets Cowboy Bebop, which has a very similar intro, and Archer had already kind of lifted that almost directly. So, we did our own version of it, but I used to get a kick out of the Game of Thrones opening and how it would show you the different places you’re going to go that episode on the map. I love that, in a sometimes abstract, sometimes very literal way, our opening credits give you a sense of what’s coming in the season.
During the intro, I actually found myself saying, “Oh, I recognize that from this scene or that scene.”
Yockey: I had a friend who said, “So, there’s going to be a giant teddy bear and a Ferris wheel?” And I was like, “I don’t know…”
This season had more spy elements. What went into that decision to lean into the espionage more?
Yockey: Natalie came on board this season, and I think we were both really excited about [it.] In season one, we were a little bit handcuffed by the fact that the only person who was really like a trained killer or anything kind of espionage-y was actually Miranda, who didn’t really show up in a speaking role until late in the season. So, this season, by having Cassie involved as a civilian asset for the CIA, it allowed us to open the door to a lot more spycraft. And when Natalie came in, she was like, “Let’s go through that door.”
Natalie Chaidez: We just really loved playing with all those conventions and, of course, exploring Shane as a CIA agent after the great twist at the end of last season, and just diving into that world and really having fun with it — seeing Cassie as a fish-out-of-water there.
Yockey: It may not seem like it, but we did have an actual consultant to make sure that we were accurately portraying how things would have happened — of course, with the television twist.
It was great seeing Shane and Cassie’s relationship evolve over the course of the season; how he still protects her even though she’s constantly outing him as a CIA asset to people. That’s loyalty.
Yockey: There’s definitely a push-pull to their friendship there.
This season had more antagonists as well. Why?
Yockey: We knew what we wanted to do with our main storyline, the Cassie double storyline — Natalie came in with a lot of that, which was great, and we were able to break to it. But then Kaley actually came back to us after our season pitch and was like, “I feel like we need like one more thing that’s just crazy.” And we were like, “OK, well, let us go think of some giant, crazy thing.” We all came in ready to pitch different ideas, but we have this writer, Ian Weinrich, who pitched the idea of Jenny as a secret Manson chick, basically, for Feliks, and the minute he pitched it, none of the other ideas mattered. I threw my idea out the window. I was like, “Forget about it.”
Chaidez: “This is so good.”
Yockey: And also something that we can bury in the season and build that can actually be a reveal.
How did you go about researching and plotting to write in Cassie’s evolving relationship with her sobriety?
Yockey: We were really excited to explore the journey of sobriety in the second season, because it’s not as easy as Cassie at the end of season one saying, “I’ve got one day” and then feeling like it’s gonna just work out magically. So, we did do a lot of research. We also had sober writers in our room. We have sober producers involved in the show, and so we had a lot of knowledgeable voices helping us. But we also leaned into who Cassie is as a person, and how that particular person would deal with recovery. Whenever you try and do a job of exploring sobriety as a blanket that fits for everyone, I think that’s where you get in trouble. I think when you’re specific with it like, “Here’s this person who has a really hard time making good life choices. What is she gonna be like as a sober person? How is she gonna stay away from alcohol and positively affect her life?” That was the thing that we got so excited about emotionally exploring in season two.
Cuoco actually plays three versions of Cassie this season. Why did you choose to have her surrounded by other Cassies in her head?
Chaidez: That was an idea that I came in second season with. I was like, “When you admit that there’s this other part of yourself, this dark side, this alcoholic side, how do you ever come to terms with that other you?” It was like this big thematic umbrella that then I took to people, and then Steve kind of blew up into the multiple Cassies. It was really coming from a place of just character exploring — we all have these feelings of different parts of ourselves, and how do we ever come to terms with accepting them and living with them?
What comes next for Cassie, now that she’s accepted who she is?
Yockey: I feel like this chapter of her story has been told. Someone asked, “How many times can you emotionally traumatize this woman and get enough television out of it?” And I don’t think it always has to be that. So, this was just the same transition from season one to two; the show kind of became a new animal, and I think if there were to be additional seasons, it would be a new case, a new adventure for her to get caught up in and, how does that upend what’s happening in her personal life, her personal growth? So, I think there’s always more story for her, but I think she’s on the right path.
Chaidez: We talk a lot about how recovery isn’t a one-year, one-season, two-season journey; it’s a lifetime journey. So, there’s always a place to go with that, and that was exciting to me and Steve while diving into season two. It was one of the foundational ideas. We all have ways to go in our own recovery.
What would make you feel like you’ve fulfilled your story?
Yockey: Our goal, and I hate to say this, but our goal is to make sure when we get to the end of each season, that could be the end; that people will feel satisfied and emotionally with her, where she’s off to next. So, I feel like as long as we could keep coming up with solid emotional stories to tell for her, I think we can keep coming up with crazy international incidents to put her in the middle of. It’s harder to tell her emotional story. There’s more to tell, but our goal is always to make sure at the end of each season, that it feels like, “OK, if that’s the end, then we feel good about it.”
Chaidez: I just love the experience. So I keep pitching, I’m like, “What if she’s commanding a nuclear submarine?”
Yockey: She’s pitching that now in this interview. Maybe, Natalie.
Chaidez: We’ll talk about it. I love it. I won’t be happy until she’s commander of a nuclear submarine. (Laughs)
Yockey: I think that our point of view towards the storytelling on The Flight Attendant is we can get big with it as long as her emotional journey stays grounded, and as long as the journeys of the other central characters, Megan and Annie, prominently stay grounded. So, with those three women at the core of the show, I feel like we really wrapped up the Megan international espionage story in a nice way. Megan would have to find new trouble to get in, which I would not put past her, but I think that the stories can get crazy but also she still feel real, which is successful.
Thank you for not ending the season on a cliffhanger.
Yockey: Our attitude, even in season one, was that we were gonna tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end. And then if we get to do it again, we’ll tell another story with a beginning, middle and an end. Some shows have the luxury of knowing when they’re coming back, and so they can cliffhang and leave crazy things. With us. It’s a case-by-case, so we’ll see.
When you see next season that it’s about Cassie on a nuclear submarine, you’ll know that’s your fault and that I’m not happy about it! (Laughs)
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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