[This story contains spoilers from the season two finale of The Afterparty, “Vivian and Zoë.”]
In the finale of the second season of The after party, viewers learn two things about the killer and one about the deceased, Edgar the groom. Let’s start with the latter.
Edgar (Zach Woods) traveled the world to find his bride-to-be Grace (Poppy Liu)’s world-travelling uncle Ulysses (John Cho). But Odysseus does not want to be part of the wedding. Why? Because his forbidden love will be there at the wedding, whom he wants to forget on his journey around the world: Vivian (Vivian Wu), the wife of his half-brother Feng (Ken Jeong). However, Edgar forces Odysseus to act and lets him participate.
However, Edgar had to learn the hard way that it’s best to leave people alone, and that nothing means no either – as viewers of the Apple TV+ series found out by the end that Ulysses is Edgar’s killer (though not with Intention). What Ulysses did not anticipate when attending the wedding was that in an attempt to kill his half-brother, the poisoned drinking glass would be inadvertently swapped, causing the longing uncle not only to lose the chance at his lost love’s hand, but to lose it as well losing Edgar.
The Hollywood Reporter We sat down with executive producers and showrunners Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Anthony King about the second season of the whodunnit crime series to analyze how they’ve used comedy to structure a killer’s opening and ending stories—and if they did plan or not a third season.
Chris and Phil, you both seem to have a smooth transition between the worlds of animated and live-action film in your writing and production work. Would you say the same is true if you’re doing a comedy like e.g The after party and its genre leap?
Chris Miller: We like to find different ways to tell a story. And we like to mix media, like for example [Spider-Man: Across the] spider verse, There’s these different animation styles, and there’s even a little bit of live action. And in a way it’s very similar to this series where each episode represents a distinct style of filmmaking. Each episode is completely unique and bespoke, and they all live together. One sees himself as a film noir person, the other sees himself living in a Wes Anderson film. And these people are together and it’s similar to what we did spider verse, where there is a cartoon pig and a noir character. I guess we never like to commit ourselves to a certain way of telling a story.
Phil Lord: I wonder if this is due to the fact that there are two of us involved in our creative process. It always requires, “Well, that’s how Phil sees this scene. That’s how Chris sees it.” Maybe it’s a premise that there’s more than one way to do something? And maybe a lot of these projects are about multiple viewpoints and alternate universes (laughs) somehow comes out of it.
Anthony, how was the writers room? Was it like a war room?
Anthony King: (laughs.) It’s funny, the room is a mix of very funny people but also people who like mysteries. And in the writers’ room so much time is spent figuring out how we relate to the characters and, as you learn more about them, empathize with them and understand them better. But on the mysterious side: how can we lead you in the wrong direction, lead you in the right direction and not let you overtake us? So there’s a lot of constant debate because it’s all happening in real time and people’s stories are crisscrossing. There was so much to say, “Well, that’s a good idea…but that means we have to rewrite four more episodes to make sure everyone is in the right place at the right time.” So there’s a lot of weird stories going on where you can bang your head against the wall.
Miller: There were more spreadsheets than one normally sees when writing.
King: Most comedies don’t have spreadsheets!
Anthony, besides an episode you’ve written, did you have a favorite story or genre?
King: You obviously love all of your kids equally, but I think I really loved how the Ulysses episode came about because it was like reaching for the fences for TV to try to do something so epic, visually to tell a rich story that spans the globe. But also this kind of comedy, which is played so close to the waistcoat and so straightforward, but is still absurd, is simply one of my favorites. And I thought Vivian [Wu] and John [Cho]and ken [Jeong] Everyone just blew it away. It was so funny and yet so heartbreaking.
How did you decide who should write which episode and focus on which genre?
Miller: That’s really fun. What we do is we develop the episodes pretty well and figure out the basics of all episodes — what genres are there, what characters are there, what twists are there — and then we ask the writers and writing team to list which three episodes would they want to write and in what order. So everyone can anonymously choose and submit which episodes they want to write. And every year so far, it’s emerged that someone was dying to write “that” episode, and we’ve been able to match those episodes to people. And Anthony and I sort of took care of the rest.
It went really well. And once a writer is assigned that episode, they become that character’s defender throughout the season. “Isabel wouldn’t, and here’s why…” (laughs). They have been very protective of the character they are writing about. That is very sweet.
Mister: You’re becoming an expert, aren’t you?
Did you know early on who the killer would be? If not, how long did it take you to figure out which character would be the killer?
Mister: I think Chris told me and then I forgot! So when I watched episodes, I thought, “Am I supposed to know who the killer is, or am I supposed to watch this without knowing?” Then I think he told me again, and I got it forgotten again (smiling). It’s leaving my mind
Miller: Phil is great to work with because things can always seem new. He has Find Dory Illness (laughs).
Mister: (Laugh) If you ever need a clean read on something send it to me.
Miller: Anyway, we build the mystery: we find out what the murder is, and then we try to cover it up. It’s such a process. It always starts with the murder itself. It was about knowing who the killer was.
Was it difficult to hide from the cast?
Miller: We didn’t tell the cast if they were the killer or not. Before we did anything, we’d give them all ten scripts and we’d say, “Please, here’s some reading so you can understand who your character is.” Killer?” Could I be the killer? Maybe I’m the killer!” And then they say, “Ah, I’m not the killer.” And then, the killer, we mentioned to them that they were.
King: We sort of did the opposite of what we did in season one, where the killer doesn’t seem to have much of a motive in season one; So we kind of went the other way this season.
It’s clear that producing a series like this is complex, but what, if any, simpler ways are there to pull this off as some kind of melodramatic comedy?
King: It’s a very complex show. I don’t know if there are any! If you think of a smoother way, please let us know (laughs). It’s so many things at once. I think that’s what makes the show unique and appealing. We don’t sail through.
Miller: The secret is to cast great people who are multi-talented, do many different things and styles, and can add a lot along the way. They make our lives better and easier by improving the substance. Many of the lines improvised by Zach Woods, the murder victim, that made it onto the show are some of the funniest lines of the entire season. They are all so talented and they get it very quickly. The Wes Anderson thing is very tricky. It can feel like one SNL Parody if you overdo it.
How do you choose the right ensemble for such an undertaking and, if you think about it, get it right the second time around?
Miller: A lot of them are people we thought would add fun to the party and wanted to work with. We wrote the parts for a lot of people. Paul Michael Hauser was the name that popped up early in the room and it was said he’d be perfect! We sort of wrote a whole part around him and we were like, “God, if he doesn’t want to do that, I don’t know what we’re going to do.” And similarly, with a lot of the characters, we had someone in mind and we had someone in the sense that we thought we could convince him to say yes. And we were right!
will there be one After the party season three?
Miller: I really hope so…
Mister: Your lips [to God’s ears]…
Miller: Let’s solve this strike first. And let the AMPTP make the authors a fair offer. And then we can solve the third season The after party Secret.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.