Grant Morrison Interview

Grant Morrison’s comic Happy! was an unusual choice for a TV series. The initial limited run had to be expanded considerably, especially since Nick (Christopher Meloni) survived the first season, leaving room for a second season. So Happy! is back in all new uncharted territory.

Nick has retired from the force and Happy (Patton Oswalt) is now his imaginary friend, having disappeared from Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo). Smoothie (Patrick Fischler) and Sonny Shine (Christopher Fitzgerald) have a new evil plot involving Easter, so Nick and Happy will have to stop them. And it begins with suicide bomber nuns.

Morrison called from Scotland to speak with /Film about the new season of Happy! It was just announced that he is helping Ezra Miller write a new script for The Flash movie, and he’s also a writer and producer of USA’s Brave New World series. Issue 5 of his new Green Lantern comic is out now and Happy! returns Wednesday, March 27 on Syfy. Naturally, we talk about all of this in the interview.

Are you in uncharted territory in season two since Nick lived?

Very much so. We didn’t know, obviously, early on in season one that he was going to live and we also didn’t know what we would do in those circumstances. We kind of had a road map for season two but once we got driving, we got into the real estate. Everyone knew what the basic goal was but the trip is outrageous.

Has it been different writing Happy! as a show first now that you’ve passed the comic?

I think in a lot of ways it easier in the sense that, because we’d seen the actors and how they work in the first season, it was a lot easier to write for Chris Meloni’s voice for instance, or Christopher Fitzgerald’s voice or Patrick Fischler. I think everyone felt a bit more comfortable with the characters. Certainly one of the things about season 2 is that all the characters can be way more dense and complex. I think they’ve got a lot more fun things to do so I think people are going to like that.

Now that you’ve heard Patton’s voice, is it easier to write Happy?

Very much, in the same way that having scene Chris as Nick and all the other actors as these characters. When you’ve got the voice of Patton in your head and it’s so distinctive, it really does make it easier to write the dialogue. In fact, it’s hard to stop writing the dialogue because it runs away in your head.

Was Easter the next logical holiday?

Yeah, we kind of wanted to do the whole theme of rebirth. Nick’s trying to start a new life so there’s a lot of new life metaphor and symbolism in there. Easter, because it’s such a kind of lame-ass holiday, the one no one cares about, we deliberately felt that we would put it on the map again. I think this is the most Eastery Easter thing there’s ever been.

Is Easter universally considered lame-ass?

Not necessarily the meaning of the holiday, but I think the holiday itself is not up there in the league of Christmas or Halloween, holidays that people love most. I’m not saying the underlying meaning of the holiday is any less important, but I think it’s certainly the one that people pay less attention to.

Kids like the egg hunts and candy though.

Yeah, all that stuff, but it goes back. The traditions go back to the pagan world so we’re kind of bringing in everything and all the Easter traditions from different countries and different times. It is a very ancient festival. It’s the festival of the solstice when the spring comes in, so there’s a lot of stuff in there that was kind of fun to worth it.

Has it been different dealing with Happy and Nick in the spring and when Nick’s not a cop anymore?

Again, it added a new twist. We saw them in the winter. We saw the bleak kind of noir version of it. This is the two of them as a partnership trying to make sense of their new circumstance they find themselves in. Nick’s trying to stay straight and narrow which, as we’ll see, is not so easy for him. Happy’s trying to find a place for himself. Imaginary friends don’t usually outlive their kids. Suddenly he is moving on so he doesn’t quite know what he’s supposed to be. It gives us a completely different dynamic from season one that enriches the character. It takes them in places I don’t think people would expect to see them go.

Is there more focus on Happy and Nick together since Happy’s disappeared from Hailey?

Yeah, again, everyone gets a really good story arc but very much. Happy and Nick are the team on the show. It’s pretty much around them and how their relationship changes, adapts and slows and sometimes goes in reverse. They’re very much the focus of the show. As I said, I think everyone’s got a really good story arc. It’s very interwoven.

Is the guy in the Easter chocolate more f***ed up than anything you did in the comic?

Maybe, probably it is but there are other things in the show, he’s kind of low on the scale of things that are outrageous to see on television. Not necessarily because of violence, there are some things are just so weird and unusual and abstract, no one’s seen anything like them before.

I think it’s the most effed up thing I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot.

Yeah, well, that’s good because there’s something for everyone.

Where would you rank the suicide bomber nuns?

Again, honestly, they come on first so they’re one of the first things you see. It’s an interesting sequence but the stuff in the upcoming episodes is way beyond any of that. The nuns are about 4 or 5 on a scale of 11.

Is there a backstory to the kid whose imaginary friend is the poop emoji?

A lot of the imaginary friends don’t have kids. There’s a bar where they gather. He may be one of the ones who’s been abandoned. I imagine he would have been. As far as I know, we don’t really delve into any backstory of kids with poop emojis but the poop himself might have an interesting story to tell.

Is the musical sequence an example of something you couldn’t have done in a comic?

Well, yeah, music obviously doesn’t work very well in comics. That combination, the kineticism of it, that’s one of my favorite sequences. It’s so brilliant and so funny but no, that was the kind of sequence made for the screen and certainly made for television.

Did you write the episode for Ann-Margaret or did you have that character and then think about casting?

The character was there and ultimately Ann-Margaret completely owned it. By the time the character had been created and written, it was so much like Ann-Margaret that only Ann-Margaret could have played it.

Was the army of imaginary friends last season new to the show?

No, the army of imaginary friends was actually in the book. It happened at the same climax of the story where they all attack Santa Claus, but again we only saw them for a little sequence in the comic book. In this, a lot more of them are fleshed out. The Bo Peep character gets a much bigger in this. We see a lot more of them so they start forming a gang of their own. They’re having their own little soap opera behind the scenes.

What crazy stuff is coming up this season?

There’s so much crazy stuff, I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say. Certainly, episode seven I want to point people two. Episode nine and 10 are just off the scale. It just gets more and more outrageous and there’s more heart to it. There’s more black humor. There’s kind of a bit more of everything and I think that’s what makes it feel like a much richer brew than the first season.

We learned you’re going to help Ezra Miller write a script for The Flash. Have you started that? Are you outlining with him?

The story is true but beyond that there’s not really much I can tell you, other than watch this space because they won’t let me.

Right, but they were going to do Flashpoint at one point. Are you working on something completely different?

We can’t even talk about it. I wish I could tell you. Give me a couple months and we’ll be able to tell you everything I’m sure.

I know how it is. What can we expect from issue 6 of Green Lantern?

Issue six is set on the planet Rann. It’s the midseason finale for a lot of the plot threads we’ve been building up with the Controllers and the Blackstars come to head. Hal Jordan’s on the planet Rann and has been tasked with killing his friend Adam Strange so we tie that together as well. And then it leads into the next few issues. They’re all one off stories. They’re all quite very different storytelling styles. So this one is the end of initial strand of this and the next six go in quite different direction.

How gratified have you been with the feedback on Green Lantern?

Oh, it’s been fun. I’m just working with Liam Sharp and Liam is just so inventive, so brilliant, it’s so much fun to just write stuff for him to do. It’s been a kind of imaginative flourishing in comics that I haven’t had for a while, just working with someone that good.

DC’s Doom Patrol series is very influenced by your work. Have you enjoyed that?

I haven’t seen the show. I’ve got a bunch of them to watch but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve certainly heard a lot about it and it seems to be very much influenced by the work that Richard Case and I did. So it’s great but for me I think it’s important to note that this kind of material is becoming mainstream. A while ago, I’m sure people would’ve thought you couldn’t make The Doom Patrol. I pitched it as a movie a few years ago. They just thought it couldn’t possibly be made so I’m very gratified to see that stuff like that, stuff like Happy!, stuff that’s way more imaginative and pushing the boundaries and basically stuff created by me and my friends is doing really well right now. I think people need that imaginative stuff. I think they’re slightly tired of things being more pedestrian.

What was the angle of the Doom Patrol movie you pitched?

It was very much in the same vein as I’m sure a lot of the stuff that we’re seeing. They used a lot of the material that Richard and I created and wove it together into a tighter more concise story but I think there’s been a lot of the same stuff, The Cult of the Unwritten Book and Mr. Nobody.

Have you stayed involved in the Brave New World series?

Yeah, I just came out of the writers room. That’s where I went after Happy!. I did a couple of stints in the writers room for Brave New World and just working on an episode right now in fact. I’ve been very much involved in that and they’re starting up production soon.

Was that a tough adaptation for ongoing series?

In a sense because the book is more about ideas. The story, to be honest, is pretty weak and the female characters aren’t great. As a work of detective fiction, as a work of satire, I think it’s unparalleled. For us, the fun was to just see what can we do about adding more story to it, more character to it to look at it in a new way.

Does Brave New World need any updating in 2019?

No, we’re so close now. That’s part of what makes it interesting is the fact that we are so close to the real world. We have virtual reality and augmented reality. So in the book that Huxley wrote in 1932, the idea of pleasure drugs and we’re talking about everybody’s happy now. It’s the idea of controlling, not through coercion and violence but through conditioning and through appearing as though there’s permanent bliss.

Are you working on anything else before you’d do season three of Happy!?

Well, hopefully everyone loves season two so much that we get a season three. Brian [Taylor] and I and everyone talk about where we’re going next. We have a very clear path. People will see as we go through the second season. There’s a lot of great guest stars. Amanda Palmer, and when people see what she’s doing, it’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot of unexpected stuff and it weaves into potential future seasons so let’s leave it at that.

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