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On a sweltering July afternoon, it looks as if the Imposters writers’ room has taken a page from Carrie Mathison’s playbook. All the attention is centered on a jam-packed white board that would make the Homeland protagonist proud. But instead of conspiracy theories and government secrets, it’s plot twists, character developments and geographical locations taking up all the valuable real estate. The only problem? When a reporter is invited into the fray for a season two preview, the board is notably covered up. It seems, much like the con artists at the center of the Bravo series, the writers know how to play things close to the vest.
Premiering Thursday, April 5, at 10 p.m., the second season picks up right where the season one finale left off. After years of working for the doctor and running schemes as a con artist to marry wealthy targets and then steal their money, Maddie (Inbar Lavi) teamed up with three of her exes, affectionately known as “the Bumblers,” to avoid capture by the FBI and escape the doctor’s wrath (at least for now). That left her latest victim, FBI agent Patrick (Stephen Bishop), in deep water at work. That also left the Bumblers – Ezra (Rob Heaps), Richard (Parker Young) and Jules (Marianne Rendón) – on a bus to San Francisco after finally learning to become con artists while also getting over their shared ex.
The many twists of the finale, which ended with the doctor’s right-hand woman, Lenny (Uma Thurman), headed for Seattle to find Maddie, pushes season two far from where the hourlong began. “Everyone is stripped away from where they started at the beginning of the series,” co-creator Adam Brooks says. “It’s all about reinvention.”
However, co-creator and season two recurring guest star Paul Adelstein insists “the broad strokes are the same because certain things are put into motion in season one that we want to see paid off in season two.”
The two spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the challenge of starting over, why the stakes are higher in season two and their long-term plans.
How much planning had you done for season two during season one?
Paul Adelstein: We knew even when we pitched the pilot where the second season was going to have to go. We had ideas for season two, but one of the nice things about a season of television is you get to shift to what works and to actors and to how you tell the story.
What is the theme of season two?
Adelstein: It’s always going to be about identity. It’s always going to be about love. Love is the biggest con of all – or is it? Because we’ve seen Ezra and Jules and Richard go through their transformation and their naivete falling away from them and we’ve seen Maddie almost actually fall in love, be open to it and then get burned by that, so we’re starting to see in all these people’s lives the consequences of this life. Whereas for Ezra, Jules and Richard, it was an adventure at first, now it’s going to be reality and what does that mean? For Maddie now, who has crossed the doctor essentially and is in the wind and has always wanted normalcy or says she’s always wanted normalcy – she may have an opportunity to try that, but again, what are the consequences? Not just the external consequences but the internal consequences of what happens when you marry four different people and you have to fall in love with them a little bit when you’re actually fooling them. And then when you try to have a real relationship, can you? That was always the plan.
How do you work the logistics of this season considering the characters all went in different directions? How challenging is that?
Adelstein: If you remember in season one, there were two storylines. There were the Bumblers and then Seattle, and then they crashed together. They’re even more dispersed at the beginning of this season and that presents certain challenges but also really great opportunities in being able to follow something for a long, good, juicy stretch and then see what somebody else is up to without feeling the need to check in with everybody just because.
Brooks: We can say that the Bumblers are a little bit in exile in the beginning and spend a little time in Mexico. To some extent, season two is kind of like a road movie and the opening up of the show in terms of locations. I’m really excited about that as we expand the terrain of it and I think that’s going to open up the show in a big way.
What was the biggest challenge you had in writing season two that you didn’t have during season one?
Adelstein: That sort of high-concept idea of three people who were in love with different versions of the same woman and want to find her and have some kind of revenge or satisfaction – that story we told. We’re not interested in having season two be about them still being in love with these fake characters. That’s a fun challenge, to leave that behind and still run off of everything that we set up at the end of season one. … The jigsaw puzzle of it, it’s always challenging but it’s the big, fun part of the show.
Does that lead to a change in tone or structure? What changes have you seen in season two?
Adelstein: The stakes seem higher now because there’s a lot more physical peril. If the FBI is after you and the doctor is after you, intent to do violence, that puts everything in more of a pressure cooker.
Brooks: What’s fun is going deeper into the characters. I think that it feels, in a way, meatier because we know them now. We know the characters, we know the actors and that’s really been fun digging into it.
Adelstein: There are things that we don’t have to spend any time explaining because the audience is familiar with these people and then when you put them in the various combinations of however they interact, they already have the history that the audience can draw up and that we can draw upon. As Adam said, it’s richer.
Brooks: The first season, we had many flashbacks and we enjoy that as a structural thing but also because we feel that there are backstories that reveal present stories. The past contains a lot of information and secrets and rich stuff about these people and how they got to where they are.
What can you say about Maddie in season two? Where do we find her and what’s her head space?
Adelstein: She has two problems: She has the FBI and she has the doctor after her. In her running, she is going to give this idea of not being a con artist and trying to see if she can be a normal person a go.
Brooks: It’s going to take her on a very interesting, unexpected route that will be both dramatically revealing and funny.
Does Maddie have a new persona in season two that you can tease? Can you say her new name?
Adelstein: We can’t say her name yet. We’ll see her in a variety of new personas in order to live her life and then when she has to get certain things done, she’s going to need to play pretend. And the Bumblers are going to have to use the skills that they learned and maybe some of the skills that Maddie taught them on the road and see how hard Maddie’s job really is.
What can you say about the doctor’s presence this season?
Adelstein: We want to understand what makes him tick, not just because it’s interesting, which it is, but also because understanding why he does what he does would be the way for the people who are fighting against him to understand his potential weaknesses.
Brooks: Because he’s part of all of their lives now. He looms large sort of like the Wizard of Oz.
Because it’s such a serialized show, how far in advance are you planning now?
Adelstein: There are things that organically bubble to the surface that you say, “Well, that deserves more exploration and hopefully we’ll have the time and room to do it.”
Brooks: And in the same way that where the plot ends in the first season suggests all kinds of possibilities in terms of narrative tension and what might happen, we have a similar setup by the end of the second season where there will be…
Adelstein: …lots of questions and lots of answers.
Brooks: Everybody is going to be very interested to see how things are resolved.
Do you know how the whole series ends at this point?
Adelstein: There have been two things that have been floated that are both fun and interesting, but we don’t have to make that decision for like eight years. (Laughs.)
Imposters returns Thursday, April 5, at 10 p.m. on Bravo.
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