The Flight Attendant Showrunners On Charting New Territory In Season 2 [Interview]

"The Flight Attendant" was a hit both critically and commercially, cementing HBO Max as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to creating original content. The series stars Kaley Cuoco as titular flight attendant Cassie Bowden, a woman who wakes up to find herself at the center of a murder mystery. "The Flight Attendant" aired its eight-episode first season back in November 2020 and its sophomore outing is finally about to land. The show was created by Steve Yockey, who has stepped up as showrunner for season 2 alongside Natalie Chaidez. Prior to developing "The Flight Attendant," Yockey worked on shows such as "Awkward" and "Supernatural." Chaidez, who joined the production for season 2, had just come off of acting as showrunner for "Queen of the South." While season 1 of "The Flight Attendant was loosely based on the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, season 2 will see Cassie embark on a whole new set of adventures.

/Film sat down with Yockey and Chaidez to discuss the evolution of the series, Cassie's sobriety, new characters, and more.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

"I was really excited to tell the story of someone's recovery"

"The Flight Attendant" was initially conceived as a limited series. At what point did you realize you weren't done with the story?

Yockey: I think we always talked about, even from the beginning when it was a limited series, that if in success, somebody wanted to do another one of these, that it would be another eight episodes that were sort of like a new book or another Cassie Bowden as the flight attendant adventure. So the runway was always there.

But I think when we got to the end of season 1 and HBO was sort of talking to us about what that would involve, I was really excited to tell the story of someone's recovery, of someone's journey of sobriety, because I don't think it's as easy as we got to the end of season 1. She has a white chip, she's been sober for one day. Everything's better. And I also don't think — when you stop drinking, that doesn't make all the other problems go away. So that felt like real emotional territory to explore, and that opened the door to me to doing another one of these. And then Natalie came on board with the idea about doubles. And I was in. I was immediately all-in.

The show was markedly different, but the book did act as something of a roadmap for season 1. What was it like to not have any of those ties in season 2?

Yockey: I mean, it was good because people had enjoyed season 1 when we had gone off the map a little bit. And then in season 2, we could design the mystery around Cassie's emotional journey rather than having to make things fit from the book, so that actually gave us more freedom, I think. I don't know. Natalie, what do you think?

Chaidez: Yeah. I mean, of course season 1, it was brilliant, but I think it was really fun to kind of move Cassie forward and go off book. And what happens at the end of the last chapter, I think was exciting and fun and an adventure. The scary part was maybe, how do we make it as pleasing to the audience, and how do we live up to how great season 1 was? But I hope we delivered.

"I think we're always just trying to find what's the emotional heart and then build out from around that"

You touched on this a little bit already, but we spend so much time in the depths of Cassie's alcoholism in season 1, but that plane had to crash eventually. So when you decided to explore another season, you said Cassie's recovery was always at the heart of it. Can you talk more about that?

Yockey: Yeah. I mean, listen, we tried in season 1 to be as authentic as we could about the fact that Cassie was a functional alcoholic who hit the bottom of the barrel because of the murder and all of these things. So, it just felt so natural to, if we're going to dive back into this, let's dive into the real logistics and real-life temptations and challenges someone faces when they're trying to exist as a sober lifestyle.

I think we captured it very well, and we had sober writers on staff, and we had sober producers that are involved with the show. So we had a lot of voices kind of helping us stay on the right path in terms of presenting it authentically against the backdrop of this wild story.

But as long as you can keep the emotions grounded, or something like Annie and Max's relationship story, which is just a quiet, small, heartbreaking story set against the backdrop of ... all kinds of craziness. So I think we're always just trying to find what's the emotional heart and then build out from around that.

"It was part thematic and part wanting to explore that in this really surreal visual way"

I had a question about the mind palace, because I have seen you refer to Cassie's head space using that term, and I thought that Kaley's performance in those scenes this season was spectacular, but I was wondering what gave you the idea to return to that space, but with these multiple versions of Cassie?

Yockey: Well, I'll start off and then hand it to Natalie. We knew we had to have the mind palace in some way shape or form because it's part of the show and it just wouldn't be the same show if you weren't accessing that narrative. So I was still trying to figure out exactly what that would be, when Natalie came on with this idea of doubling, which I'll let her talk about, but I just got so excited.

Chaidez: So it was just, character-wise, we ended at the end of season 1 with Cassie admitting that there was this dark part of herself. And so, at the top of season 2, it's like, "What do I do with those other parts of myself?" So the mind palace and all the Cassies are really a manifestation of that. Once we had that idea, creatively, I think, we came up with all the multiples. Someone called them "the Cassettes," which I thought was genius.

So it was part thematic and part wanting to explore that in this really surreal visual way. And then also, just giving Kaley the opportunity to flex, and giving Kaley the opportunity to do all these nuanced performances of all of these different Cassies, which was like really, really exciting to watch. Just the nuance in her facial performance, in her body and her voice, was just really, really genius. And I hope people really appreciate the level of technique and everything that she put into that, because it was really, really great. Really special.

"I have a soft spot for the Diazes"

Meeting Sharon Stone's character, Lisa Bowden, was particularly exciting. Did you write the role of Cassie's mom with her in mind?

Yockey: No. We wrote the role, and we knew we had to get an actress that was going to go toe-to-toe with Kaley and really deliver. And then we found out that Sharon Stone was a big fan of the show. Then we found out that Sharon Stone might like to be on the show. And then we threw the role at her and were like, "Please, please do this." Then, we managed to make it work out. And we're better for it because she did an amazing job.

There were so many new characters this season, from Grace, to Benjamin, to Brenda. Did either of you have a favorite new character to write for?

Yockey: Grace was my favorite. Grace and Carol, the nemesis flight attendant.

ChaidezI mean, I love the Diazes. I have a soft spot for the Diazes because they're so — they have such crazy style. They're so in love, they're such bad killers. I just love them. So I think they were kind of a fun addition this season.

The first two episodes of "The Flight Attendant" season 2 are streaming now on HBO Max.