Runaways Showrunner Interview

One of the new seasons of TV available for holiday binge-watching is Marvel’s Runaways season 2. Hulu’s Marvel series picks up when the sons and daughters of parents in The Pride actually run away. Season 2 introduces their new home, The Hostel, and some familiar faces from the comic books.

Showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage didn’t want to discuss details from later in the season, even with a spoiler warning, but spoke about some of the early developments facing The Runaways in season 2. So consider this a minor spoiler warning for the earlier episodes. 

Schwartz and Savage spoke with /Film by phone this week about the second season of Marvel’s Runaways. The complete 13 episode season is available on Hulu right now.

Are you able to develop Karolina (Virginia Gardner)’s sexuality as more of a storyline this year?

Schwartz: Yeah, I think the Karolina/Nico (Lyrica Okano) relationship is going to be one of the main emotional cores of the season. It’s going to tackle all sorts of elements of Karolina’s story, her sense of her identity, sort of larger truths about where she comes from and what she is. Obviously her relationship with Nico and her sexuality is a huge part of that.

Did the comics ever deal with Gert (Ariela Barer) being off her medication while she’s on the run?

Savage: No, that was a story that we developed. It felt like it was part of her character. We set up her meds in the first episode and thought it would be interesting to see what would happen, how someone who is dealing with anxiety and how that would be a pressure point for possibly having her reach back home. And then in the Marvel world, how it would affect her psychic link with a dinosaur.

Schwartz: It was also a story that Ariela really wanted to explore as well.

Yeah, it would be a modern reality of running away and not being able to go to your pharmacy or doctor.

Savage: Exactly, and obviously a very real story for a lot of people who are on the streets not of their own volition.

What ways are you able to let that intersect with the comic book storyline?

Schwartz: Well, the Gert and Old Lace relationship and connection is obviously a huge part of the comics so we wanted to look at that dynamic that was built, created by Brian K. Vaughn and look at that relationship and what would happen if you had a psychic link to a dinosaur and you went off your meds. So the effect it would have on you would potentially have the same effect on the dinosaur.

Season 1 slowed down the comic arc and got to the confrontation with the parents in the season finale. Does the faster pace of season 2 burn through more of the comics?

Schwartz: We definitely cover more ground in the comics but we’re also now treading new territory. So in some ways we’re advancing the comic and in other ways we’re starting to now advance our own path. There’s still overlap. There are some major characters that come into the show in season two that are from the comic and are going  to really have a big impact in the story. There are still things that will definitely mirror the book. We’re making our own path for us. The number one criteria is to always honor the spirit of the comic, if not every story beat.

Savage: And we were lucky to have Brian K. Vaughan in our writers room again this season for the first month where we went over all of our big arcs  and talked through our stories. He was very excited.

Was it a response to any feedback you got on season 1 that you wanted to increase the pace of season 2?

Schwartz: I think it was always the intention that we wanted to use this first season to really built out the relationships between the kids and the parents and really delve into those dynamics and understand the parents, make it difficult for these kids to run away. It’s something that when they do that, there’s no going back and it’s going to completely blow up their lives. They are not prepared for that. So we thought we needed to earn that, always knowing that when we did season 2, now it’s war. Now it’s hit the ground running and now everything is going to start to move. That’s always been the design of the show as we saw.

Did you need season 1 to establish all of those things so that season 2 could be so fast paced?

Savage: Yeah, especially with regard to the parents, we wanted to make sure we spend a good amount of time with the parents so those characters become really full. The audience would know who they were and understand their points of views so that if you saw them less in season 2 you would still completely be able to follow what they were thinking, why they were making the choices they were making, you’d remember exactly who’s who and it would feel like all of that has really paid off in season 2.

Schwartz: From the creation of the comic, it’s always been the story of these six families. So we wanted to be able to take the time to make sure everybody knows and understands who these six families are.

What was the thought to bringing Topher in from the comics?

Schwartz: Topher’s the first kind of kid that the runaways meet after being on the run who we feel like could be one of them and realize he’s not what he seems. He’s something different, something darker and that it really teaches them how to become, not more cynical, but more savvy or street smart. That was a story we really wanted to tell. Ours is not a world that has vampires per se, but we felt like there was a way to tell the Topher story and honor, again, the spirit of what he was in the comics but in a way that can be even more impactful to our characters, and to Molly more specifically.

Savage: Yeah, the character was very charismatic and very street smart, who kind of shows a different way of being a runaway, someone who’s much more savvy and manipulative. Even when the kids find out how dangerous he is, he’s still someone who’s kind of suffered tragedy. What’s happened to him isn’t really his fault. And at the end of the day, he’s just a kid too so playing with all of that

Later in the season, when you bring another character from the comic books in, how do you decide when you need more characters from the Brian K. Vaughan world?

Schwartz: Well, we have so many characters to service as the core to the show. So if we’re bringing a new character on, we want to make sure that the story’s in a place where we can service that character and not jam too many people in all at once. So it’s very deliberately built that you meet Topher early on and then we meet another incredibly important character from the comics towards the end of the season.

Savage: And we really have to have a good understanding of how the new characters are going to affect the stories of our core characters. I think we learned that lesson in our non genre storytelling, that audiences aren’t interested in characters that come in and drive the story if that story isn’t ultimately affecting and moving forward the core characters.

An interesting scene is in episode 3 where Alex is with a girl asking if it’s okay to kiss her, and is this okay as they continue while she just wants him to go for it. I bet a lot of teenagers are having that conversation right now so what did you want to say with that scene?

Savage: That Alex is a good kid and understands active consent.

Schwartz: When you have Gert as one of your close friends, you’re very aware of active consent and being respectful.

With blowing up the family, is season 2 also about which runaways want that reconciliation, want their parents back?

Schwartz: I think as the season goes on, we see that every kid still has some connection, some feeling for their parents, some desire to reach back out or some need from their parents. Just because you’ve left home, this is true of kids going away to college, doesn’t mean you don’t need your parents anymore or don’t occasionally get homesick or bump up against that. That’s something we also wanted to keep alive. Any one of our kids could end up being a mole.

Do some of the parents genuinely just want their family back, independent of what The Pride wants?

Schwartz: 100%. The Wilders, for instance, have their own agenda, set up at the end of last season. They were calling the police. They wanted to get the kids rounded up quickly. They wanted to get Alex back and they were out. That was their plan. So Pride’s always been a collection of individuals who don’t always play very nicely as a team. First and foremost for every member of Pride is getting their kid back.

Savage: And that Pride story changes over the course of the season because of the way the Jonah story evolved. So how the kids can relate to that changes alongside it.

With Victor in his suspended world, are you able to use any of his backstory from the comic books in there?

Schwartz: It’s a story that’s pretty unique to the relationship between him and Jonah. It gives James Marsters a great opportunity to show his comedic side and see a softer side of Victor as well.

In this age where every show is getting rebooted, how often do networks or producers talk to you about bringing back The O.C. or Gossip Girl?

Schwartz: It has come up. We are honored, obviously, that people still are talking about the shows and remember them fondly but we have no plans at the moment. The next thing we’re doing is Looking for Alaska which is John Green’s first book, as a limited series for Hulu so look for that in the fall.

So you’re staying in the Hulu family.

Schwartz: Very much so, we love being in the Hulu family.

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