Over the years we’ve posted dozens of exclusive interviews but for us, this interview has become one of our all time favorites.
For those of you who watched season 1&2 of Syfy’s Channel Zero the name Nick Antosca is very familiar. He’s the creator and showrunner of the creepypasta anthology which just finished production on the 3rd season titled Butcher’s Block and has been green lit for a 4th season. But what about Don Mancini? Yes, he’s the creator of ‘Chucky’ and the man behind the highly successful Child’s Play franchise over the last two decades, but did you know Don Mancini also worked on Channel Zero? We caught up with both of them one afternoon, and here’s what they had to say about Channel Zero and their collaboration on other projects.
DB&B: Nick, Don, thanks for taking the time to speak with us at Dead, Buried, and Back! I have several questions I’d like to ask, but feel free to answer them as you like either separate or together if you wish.
DM: Great to speak with you, John.
NA: Likewise, glad we could make this work.
DB&B: So guys, I’d like to get some backstory on where and when you two first collaborated on a project. From my initial research you both have worked on multiple projects together correct?
DM: Nick and I watched a lot of horror movies together over the years and we’ve swapped some scripts but by total coincidence we both wound up in the writers’room one day on Hannibal which was my first job in TV. It was my first time in the writers’ room. I came in a few weeks late on the project but knowing there was a a familiar face in the room made me feel at ease. I remember calling Nick the night before and asking him how all of this works and what do we do in the writers’room.
NA: Yeah, Don and I ran into each other a bunch of times prior at parties and that kinda thing and one day in the writers room of Hannibal, Brian Fuller came in and he said do you know Don Mancini? and I said yeah, and he said okay, just wondering…cool… can he write? And I was like, sure, and soon after that Don was on Hannibal. So we had fun collaborating on Hannibal and then became good friends. When Channel Zero got ordered, I spoke with the network and said there’s somebody I really need in the writers’ room and when they agreed, I called Don. Don and I worked on several episodes for season 1 ‘Candle Cove’ until he became involved with the new Child’s Play. But hopefully he will be returning soon to Channel Zero.
DM: I sure hope so! I love working on the show.
DB&B: You both have expressed your passion for the 1978 Brian De Palma movie,The Fury. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077588/ When did you start working on the Fox TV adaptation?
NA: Right! So, this all started when I went to a meeting and the executive there said do you know the movie The Fury? I said not only am I familiar with the movie, I’ve read the book and I have a close friend who is obsessed with it (DON LAUGHS). Getting back to the writers’ room on Hannibal, Don said there were two novels that really influenced him and one of them was The Fury. I told the executive, let me make a call because I would be really excited to work on this but there is somebody who is pretty much essential for this project and we need to see if he’s interested and available. Then I asked the executive do you think there’s a series from this book? The executive said, “Yes, of course” so I called Don.
DM: I remember that conversation because it started with a volley of text messages and my initial response was don’t tease me!
NA: So we went to pitch it to Fox and they bought it there in the room and we had a great time developing it,wrote a script, and took the mythology from the book and adapted it to the series. Unfortunately what happens in TV, the show was pushed of for the ‘Exorcist’ series or so we were told,and since they had one genre thing,they didn’t want to do two. Now, I really like the Exorcist, it’s a good show but I was disappointed and I hope eventually we can get it off the ground.
DM: Yes, the script is really good so our fingers are crossed.
DB&B: Since The Fury was a trilogy, was your script based on all 3 books or just the original?
DM: We only used the first novel to build the pilot.
NA: Yes, we only secured the rights to the first one but that was still plenty of source material. There was literally a treasure trove of material and tons of incidents so we were good.
DM: And we were so into the original charters Robin, Gillian,and Peter but with the trilogy there were new characters and the plot changed a little so we were quite happy working with the initial story.
NA: We also understood they were trying to adapt it for some time ever before we heard about it and my understanding is that whoever was working on it never read the novel.
DB&B: That’s crazy!
DM: Right? I mean, what’s the point?
NA: Yes, it seemed to be a lazy adaptation of the novel.
DB&B: Now Don, I need to take a second to let you plug Child’s Play because the new film ‘Cult Of Chucky‘ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3280262/ has been released and I’m a huge Chucky fan. Also, you told me in every Chucky film you have payed homage to The Fury (Don and Nick laugh) so I’ve got to know more about this.
DM: With nods to the Fury, in some of my interviews over the last 30 years, I have talked about it. In Childs Play 2, when Chucky blew up, we shot it in the same way John Cassavetes died in The Fury. We shot it from multiple angles so it had that great effect. In the most recent ‘Cult of Chucky’ there was a visual moment where the lead character Fiona Dourif who plays Nica,she becomes possessed by Chucky as she pops out of the wheel chair without using her arms to assist her. In the Fury, Robin forces Nick to stand telepathically right before she makes him seize then explode. It’s very marionette like and we did it with wires then painted them out later. It was a great technique which worked well. So yeah, one of the things Nick and I did, was to use the mythology of psychic realm where Gillian and Robin can meet, but it wasn’t shown in the movie of course. Nick and I were also inspired by Hannibal’s hallucinations. I remember in the opening scene of the Fury pilot, Nick came up with this great idea of having it rain blood just as Robin and Gillian are kissing.
NA: There was a lot of stuff in the novel where they were childhood playmates so we figured we’d put them at a playground and as they shared their first kiss then blood would fall from the sky. That was a lot of stuff to play with for a series.
DB&B: I’d love at some point, to see the script for this and maybe eventually the pilot.
Now spinning off that topic and getting back to Channel Zero, as your sitting in the writers’ room looking over various creepypasta stories does your budget restrictions influence which stories you will work on?
NA: Yes, but only in a minor way. We can’t use major special effects or an exotic location but outside of that if we can shoot it in Winnipeg,which hasn’t been a problem for any of the first 3 seasons it hasn’t been an issue. The kind of work we do doesn’t use too much CGI. Fortunately for us most creepypastas are very simple and take place in small towns or rural areas. Our only issue is if we can’t find the author, we can’t secure the rights and that can create issues.
DB&B: I understand. by the way, season two was phenomenal. I enjoyed every second with the story and visuals. I know there are dozens of reviews about the season, but I just wanted to throw in my two cents while we were on the subject.
NA: Thanks, we appreciate it. I love knowing the show has a good following and some great support.
DM: When we choose a creepypasta, that’s a major point to consider. We wonder if it Will it be creepy or scary enough.
NA: It also needs to be very psychological and have an impact. Those are our criteria. We don’t want to make a horror show that you see on any other series.
DB&B: Obviously you have accomplished that and right now there’s lots of good buzz about season 3 titled Butcher’s Block so I can’t wait to see the first trailer.
Don, will we see you returning to season 4 now that you’ve completed your work on Cult of Chucky?
DM: It was funny that when Nick was filming season 3 we had a sort of ceremonial passing of the torch (Nick laughs hysterically) at the studio and we all live in the same loft up there during the shoots because we share the same crews in Winnipeg. I was on the set of season 3 for a day or two, unfortunately “Cult” took up all my time so I didn’t have any direct involvement with that season. I can say this much and I’m completely impartial to season 3, but it looks great so you can definitely print that (Nick laughs). Everybody is going to love Butcher’s Block next year when it airs.
NA: And I hope that in any event we get additional seasons beyond the 4th so Don will return to them.
DB&B: So who’s decision was it to hire Rutger Hauer for Butcher’s Block? He’s an icon in several horror films that span 3 decades and it’s exciting to see him in the series.
NA: That was actually because we wrote this character that was charismatic and striking but serious and we had a list of legendary actors who we were sure would work but we didn’t think we could get but producer Harley Peyton suggested him. As soon as he said that we were like “Wow, that’s a great idea!” Then he sent him the script and we heard that he was really into it so we got excited. Don and I had dinner with him and another actress this past summer in Winnipeg when we were up there and I will say that was one of the most interesting dinners of my life.
DM: Absolutely. That was one for the ages.
DB&B: Speaking of Butcher’s Block what can you tell us about the upcoming season? Any teasers?
NA: Butcher’s Block is not like either of the first two seasons of Channel Zero. I’ve said this before that more than anything,style wise, it’s a fever dream in a dying city. Predators that prey.
DB&B: Nick I read someplace that you stated the next season isn’t particularly bloody or gory right?
NA: Actually, the truth is Butcher’s Block has more “red” than the other seasons.
DB&B: Where are you at with respect to the 4th season? Do you have a title?
NA: We’re writing it now. We started writing season 4 during season 3 in the writers’ room. I know that seems confusing a little, but it’s working out. As far as a title, we’re keeping that under wraps for now.
DB&B: Okay, aside from Channel Zero, what future projects are in the works that you’re both collaborating on?
NA: Oddly enough, we are, but I’m afraid I can’t talk about it at the moment.
DB&B: No worries! Keep cranking out the great projects. Our readers will definitely continue to follow your work in the future. So before I let you go, who would you like to thank or plug for helping you out on your recent projects?
NA: Well, Don has been a huge influence on many of my projects and I’m so thankful for that. Also Harley who was a producer with Don,and Brian Fuller of course.
DM: I would like to thank Fiona for introducing us back in the day. That was huge for me. She’s the best.
DB&B: Nick, Don, thanks so much for speaking with me today. I really appreciate it.
DM: I’m glad we could do it! We’ll definitely talk again after the holidays for sure.
NA: Yes, I had a great time and I look forward to hearing from you again, John.
About Nick Antosca: Nick Antosca (born January 23, 1983) is an American author of literary fiction and screenwriter. He is the author of five books, including Fires (2006), Midnight Picnic (2009), and The Girlfriend Game (2013). He is also the creator and showrunner of the horror anthology television show Channel Zero.
About Don Mancini: George Donald Mancini (born January 25, 1963)is an American screenwriter and film director. Mancini was the executive producer of Bride of Chucky, and he directed Seed of Chucky as well as Curse of Chucky and the latest installment, Cult of Chucky. Along with Michael McDowell and Clive Barker, Mancini is one of the few openly gay writers in the slasher film genre. In 2007, he won the EyeGore award for career contributions to the horror genre.