Warning: General spoilers ahead
It’s been over 5 months since that season 1 finale, and I’m still reeling from it. Gasp #1 — Murphy shed his skin. Gasp #2 — Doc is shot. Gasp #3 — Cassandra is bitten by Murphy and comes back totally badass. Gasp #4 — Multiple nuclear warheads are heading straight for Citizen Z and his North Pole outpost. I swear I was on the verge of a heart attack by the time that finale was over. I mean, who wasn’t? Even now, the fandom still has nearly 4 months to wait before Z Nation returns for season 2, and we finally get some answers.
Fortunately, Showrunner and Executive Producer Karl Schaefer took some time out of his crazy-busy schedule to talk with me last week about where we left off with season 1, what to expect going into the new season, and just chat about a few things fans should definitely be excited about as the show enters its sophomore season.
TV GEEK TALK: The one big thing on most of the fans’ minds is how quickly going into the season 2 premiere will we find out what happened to our beloved characters. Is this a question that will be answered fairly quickly, or will we have to wait to find out the fate of some of the characters? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Karl Schaefer: “Season 2 picks up exactly where season 1 left off. All will be revealed. Who got killed, who lives. You’ll find out in episode 1 of season 2.”
TV GEEK TALK: What about that crazy Dr. Kurian? Will he be making a return visit anytime soon?
Karl Schaefer: “Yes. And, he survives in a very spectacular fashion.”
TV GEEK TALK: Well, that’s interesting because I had seen a photograph on Twitter, at least I think it was a photo but it could have been a portrait. It was a picture of Dr. Kurian, and he appeared to be very disfigured. Am I on the right track here?
Karl Schaefer: “Yeah, that was a picture that had gotten leaked. It was of Dr. Kurian during a make-up test. So, the answer is ‘yes.’”
TV GEEK TALK: Season 1 was about getting Murphy to the lab in California in order to try and create a vaccine. But, in the season finale, serious doubts were raised as to whether such a lab even exists anymore. That said, what is going to be the focus or theme for season 2? Will it still be the same?
Karl Schaefer: “Well, season 2 will be somewhat the same in terms of plot, and they’re still generally trying to get Murphy to California. In terms of theme, though, if season 1 was about how the world was trying to rebuild itself. I mean, every week we were seeing a different group of people in a different area trying to somehow recreate society but failing miserably. So, last season was about rebuilding society, and this season is about finding the cure. Everybody is more desperate. You will see after the nuclear bombs are set off, kind of like a holocaust, everybody that is left is even more so in survival mode. They can kind of see now that ‘Hey, we might not make it as a species. We might be the last ones to be alive.’ It’s really looking like that, and everybody’s desperate for a cure. So, this season everybody’s looking for a cure, and Murphy’s identity kind of blows up, and that makes for a whole new level of danger for our characters because everybody’s after Murphy now.”
TV GEEK TALK: Now that season 2 has begun production, are there any changes we should expect to see going into the new season that fans should be excited about? Any new zombies?
Karl Schaefer: “Oh, yeah. We’ll have zombies in every episode and different kinds. And, really really cool and dangerous ones. Some really funny ones. But, they’re always scary and very bizarre. Our effects team, the Synapse guys, have really hit it out of the park this season. So, yeah, we have like signature zombies in every episode.”
TV GEEK TALK: Oh, yeah, like in season 1 for instance with the nuclear zombies. That was really cool and one of my favorites.
Karl Schaefer: “Yeah, very much like that. All around I think the show is going to feel like a big step up, and everybody knows what they’re doing this go around. I think we kind of found the show after a few episodes last season, and everybody came back knowing, ‘Yeah, this is how we all can make it better.’ A lot of our directors this season are also writers. So, you have a lot of really strong writer/director filmmakers getting to make their own episodes of Z Nation, and so, they put everything into it. So, every episode is going to have its own signature spin a little bit too.”
TV GEEK TALK: In season 1, you had several very interesting storylines. Tobias and his family of cannibals. The Sisters of Mercy cult. The guys over at the FU-Bar. Can you hint at some of the new storylines we might see going into season 2?
Karl Schaefer: “Well, I will tell you that Sketchy and Skeezy will be back. We have a great Mississippi River episode that they’re featured in with 10K, kind of a whole Huckleberry Finn thing that we’re doing. So, they’re coming back, but we’re also doing other storylines and adding lots of new characters this season. Emilio Rivera who played sort of the biker gang leader in “Sons of Anarchy,” [is joining us]. Total badass and great actor. He’s coming on to do a 6-episode arc, and we’re just having a blast doing it. A very cool character and a survivor in the apocalypse.”
“We also have lots of continuing storylines. One character played by Matt Cedeno, he’s coming on as a series regular and has sort of an antagonistic role. He tags along and shadows our characters. He’s also one of the guys after Murphy. He’s great, and we’re having a good time with him. And, all of the other characters, there’s just some really tense, emotional episodes. I will also say that pie-girl comes back.”
TV GEEK TALK: You know, I was wondering about that. The actress, Sara Coates, had tweeted something about being on set and being pregnant in a trailer? And, I remember that it was hinted in the Sisters of Mercy episode that maybe she was pregnant with Murphy’s kid.
Karl Schaefer: “[Laughs] That’s one of those areas where you will just have to wait until the episode, but I will say that Sara Coates is coming back, and as crazy as her performance was in that [Sisters of Mercy] episode, this will definitely top that. Yeah, she’s got a great arc that she’s coming back to do and adds a whole new dynamic to the show for a couple of episodes. This season is just going to be non-stop action and intense, emotional stuff. I think we figured out what works for us and what we can do. And, everybody’s into the characters now, and we can get right to the gore and scariness. I mean, there’s like some really intense episodes. For instance, Doc has some really hard-core scary zombie action in an episode very early on. And, Mac and Addy are back too.”
TV GEEK TALK: That was actually one of my questions as well. For a while, Mac and Addy were just out there, and fans were beginning to wonder if they were even coming back for season 2.
Karl Schaefer: “They are and in a very big way. They’ll be back, and there will be lots to do with the 2 of them. Their storylines come back together this season, and they do finally get away from the Sisters of Mercy.”
TV GEEK TALK: Another big thing on fans’ minds is Murphy. How you have developed this character is utterly amazing. I mean, here’s a guy that most people couldn’t stand at the beginning of the series, and by the end of season 1, he had become a fan favorite. Can you hint of the path Murphy will be taking in season 2?
Karl Schaefer: “Well, I think the thing to expect is the unexpected because he shed his skin at the end of the season finale. So, it will be a whole new Murphy that comes back. He’s still transitioning into whatever he’s going to become. I think like all of the characters but Murphy in particular if you look at how far his arc is going to go, and that he now knows that if he bites people, you turn into a blended human zombie that he can control that seems to be almost impossible to kill. There are things to do with his blood besides a vaccine, and that becomes a big part of season 2.”
TV GEEK TALK: You know, I was going to ask you if Keith Allan got a raise because of all the make-up I’m sure he’s going to have to wear this season after shedding his skin and all of that.
Karl Schaefer: “[Laughs] If you know the Asylum, you’ll know that the answer is ‘No.’ [Laughs] But, he’s having a great time and doing a fantastic job. Keith Allan is just a great actor and in the right role. I can’t imagine anybody else doing it. And, he’s actually got an interesting story. He was acting, writing, small budget horror movies and stuff like that. Then, he came to audition for us, and it was kind of like a courtesy audition. But, then he turned out to be really good! Then, he made it to the next cut, and he finally makes it to the final group that is sent to the network. Of course, they didn’t know he was the office dude [Laughs]. And, they loved him. Since then, he’s just been fantastic and is having such a great time because it’s a really good character. I mean, he gets to say like the worse things but the interesting thing about his character is even though he does despicable things, if you analyze them he’s actually doing the morally right thing. If you listen to the stuff he says, it always turns out to be true.”
TV GEEK TALK: Now one actor who kind of spilled the beans (well, maybe) on Twitter that his character wasn’t killed off was DJ Qualls. He posted a photo of being in NYC for the Upfronts and said right out that they didn’t kill his character off. Now, was DJ being serious in that tweet or was he just joking around because I know that the actor does have a very “unique” sense of humor.
Karl Schaefer: “All I will say is all will be revealed in that first episode. But, yeah, everybody’s favorite characters will be back in some fashion. Let’s just put it that way. [Laughs] So, you’ll just have to tune in to see what happens to good ‘ole DJ Qualls.”
TV GEEK TALK: Anything else you would like to say about season 2, anything that will get the fans super-excited over what’s to come?
Karl Schaefer: “I just think it’s turning out great. We all had the chance to step back and look at season 1 and figure out what we did well and what worked well and what the fans liked. We can just feel in the show how much fun we’re having and how hard we’re laughing as we’re making it. Because it really is like a 150 people trying to make something entertaining and funny and weird every week and having a good time doing it. And, I think that’s going to show in season 2.”
One last, but very important, question I asked Karl was does the series have a season 2 premiere date yet. Unfortunately, the answer is “No” but it will be sometime in September just like the series premiere last year. What’s more and as the title of the article teased, Z Nation is actually getting 15 episodes (as opposed to the standard 13 for Syfy) in its sophomore season which should tell us all the confidence Syfy has in the show and its continued success. The only Syfy drama in recent years that has gotten more than the standard 13 episodes is Haven who got a double-season order of 26 episodes this past year. Congratulations, Z Nation, this is great news!
Another big announcement is that Z Nation will be at San Diego Comic-Con in July as part of Syfy’s television lineup. Last year, zombie fans were somewhat disappointed when the show didn’t make an appearance at SDCC even though it was premiering in September. But, this year, it’s official with the series getting its own Comic-Con panel. What’s even better news is that I will be onsite at SDCC for TV Geek Talk , and so be sure to check back in July for coverage of the event.
In the meantime, Karl Schaefer’s son, Daniel, is a photographer for the series and was gracious enough to send me the below behind-the-photos of their filming for season 2. Production for season 2 just began on April 21st, and so all of these photographs are from early on in the season. Check them out and enjoy!
And, pay particular attention to the photo of Keith Allan and Pisay Pao (it’s the 8th photo below). We don’t get to see their faces, but I have confirmed that the 2 people in the pic are Murphy and Cassandra. Just look at what Cassandra is wearing! I can’t wait to find out the story behind that photo!
SEASON 2 BTS PHOTOS
All photos courtesy of Daniel Schaefer
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com