Interview with Channel Zero's Nick Antosca

Channel Zero kicked off its second season on September 20th. If you haven't had a chance to catch up with the series, its an American horror anthology television series created by Nick Antosca, who serves as writer, showrunner, and executive producer. In a similar vein to American Horror story, it delivers the horror on Syfy. The storylines for the series are based on popular creepypastas.

This season follows the story of No End House, where a young woman and her group of friends visit a bizarre house of horrors. They are challenged to travel through six rooms, each one apparently more disturbing than the last. They begin to question if it really is a tourist attraction, or something more sinister.

Nick Antosca was nice enough to stop by via conference call, and drop some spoilers about the remaining episodes, and do a little explaining.

I hope everybody's caught up with this season, its such a brain twister and I love it. First, lets talk Aisha Dee who plays Jules and I just think she adds so much to the role and it’s so important, as a friend to Margot. If you can, kind of speak on that a little bit.

Yes. Aisha is an amazing actress. Her casting was really a wonderful piece of luck because she auditioned early on and I said, “she’s amazing.” And then we were told that she was going to be unavailable because she had just got hired for a pilot and so we couldn’t get her. So for six weeks I was saying to the casting director, “Find me another Aisha Dee. Find me another Aisha Dee.” And we saw all these people and then I was told, “Wait, actually her pilot will finish shooting right before you guys start shooting No End House, so she’s going to be available.”

So we brought her in to chemistry test with Amy Forsyth, who had been cast by that time, and they had a wonderful chemistry test. The casting director, accidentally left the camera on between the scenes so you could see them hanging out together and see the immediate chemistry that they had. And we just knew that they were perfect together, that Aisha was amazing. They became great friends in real life and Aisha brings so much to the role, as you say. She’s one of those rare actresses who can make anything work. She is truly a natural. And I think she’s going to have a really long and interesting career.

For the role of Jules, we needed somebody who could be a bit mysterious, but who could also be deeply warm and human and the Margot/Jules relationship is arguably the core of the story. I mean Margot’s relationship to her father is the one that is most prominent, but as you watch the entire season, her bond with her best friend really comes to the surface and becomes her lifeline.

Yes. I totally see that. And kudos for getting John Caroll Lynch too from American Horror Story. He’s really cool and playing kind of creepy, but also nice at the same time. I mean, that’s quite a range.

Or, as I call him, John Caroll Lynch from Everything. He’s been in, like, every movie, and we’ve been a fan of his for years. Steven loved him and he was at the top of both of our lists to play this role. And he was also kind of a great mentor to the younger cast -- Amy, Aisha, Jeff. Actually, Ward -- who plays Seth, his first role out of college was a small role on a TV show with John Caroll Lynch. So he was really excited to work with him again.

The husband that Dylan killed. What was the purpose of him trying to keep Lacey? Was it because he’s a cannibal trying to suck her memories or just - is he just weird like that?

No. That’s exactly right. When people come into the house -- in the House World, as we call it -- they have projections. Those projections -- which you could also call cannibals – are actually those memories that eat other memories. There’s something drawn from your psyche, from your subconscious, and it can manifest as a person, as it does in Margot’s case, as her father, or in Lacey’s case as this dream husband figure. Or it could be multiple people, or it could be something else entirely -- something stranger and more abstract.

In Lacey’s case it is this idealized husband figure, and just like Margot’s father, it wants to keep her in House World so it can feed on her memories.

And what can you tease about Episode 4?

Episode 4 is our Wizard of Oz episode. Strange as that may sound, it’s the episode where our characters have to make a dangerous journey and where somebody’s true identity is revealed.

So it gets creepier. That last episode is pretty damn creepy. And I love that every episode is getting darker and darker, which is always a wonderful thing. I have a question. If you die in the house, you die in real life?

Yes. Do you want to ask another question? That’s a pretty simple answer.

Can anyone from inside the house upset the house? Like, let’s say for example, if some reason John Caroll Lynch decided to step out into reality or could he do so?

It’s possible, but it’s not the natural order of things and it’s dangerous both for the entity that leaves the house and for anybody that they come in contact with, as you’ll see in episodes to come. I won’t get into too many details about the rules of how the house works and how its digestive system works, but all the information that you need is in the show if you really want to try and work it out.

The series seems to be chock full of clues, can you speak on them, and maybe what people should kind of keep an eye out for?

The show is full of clues and full of Easter eggs. The world of the No End House is also full of glitches. It’s not complete reality. It’s a cobbled together reality, and you can see clues to that -- some of them overt and some of them very subtle - all throughout Episodes 2, 3, 4 in particular, and six. Like I said, you don’t have to understand exactly how the house works in order to enjoy the show or follow the characters’ emotional journeys, but if you really want to figure it out, there are a lot of sign posts and clues buried in the episodes.

Is it safe to say that the house needs memories to survive?

I would say that’s a pretty good theory.

Talk to me about Jules and the ball that’s sucking her memories. Does it seem like she’s in pain or is it she’s getting some kind of pleasure out of that? It just seems a little iffy to me? I don’t know if you could clarify that or is it just the way that Aisha just, like, interpreted that scene?

It’s a combination of both. We call it the embryo. That is something that ties into Jules’ past and experience. In Margot’s case, her projection is something very literal. In Jules’ case, it’s something a little more abstract and mysterious. And Jules is a very closed-off, repressed person who is afraid of emotion and vulnerability. What the projection is doing to her in those scenes causes both pleasure and pain.

That’s fair. And have we seen the last of Margot’s dad?

Oh no. Of course not.

What exactly is inside that body that John Caroll Lynch is chewing on?

In the world of the show, what’s inside the body is memories. We call those things flesh memories and they represent people, things, or experiences that he’s feeding on. In terms of reality -- of like the production reality -- what’s inside that body is a kind of horrible tapioca with chocolate syrup and some edible dye on it. It was created by Sarah Sitkin who also built the husk that it’s contained in and John Caroll Lynch was a very good sport about it.

It looks almost like a pomegranate.

We wanted it to have an organic elemental feel. It should look like something that’s kind of familiar and internal and disturbing. And you should be not quite sure what it is but grossed out by it.

You did a great job with it.


So we have J.D. coming up to very different kind of ending than I was expecting, so was it always the intention to have the character added to - basically his whole personality, let’s just say, like, flip for this show or did it kind of, as you were writing it, just kind of develop a little more for him to have almost a split personality?

Well, first of all, are you - in terms of his ending, do you mean in Episode 2 or in Episode 4?

Let’s say Episode 2. I’m not sure how far everybody is.

Yes. That was always the intention. The idea comes from a desire to see how the house would manipulate different people’s memories and different people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. And, you know, some people see lost loved ones. Some people see entities that represent other things. And we thought it would be interesting for this character to see a version of himself, the version that he aspires to be, and then be killed by that version. The ironic thing is that normally when you see a doppelganger story where somebody’s doppelganger kills them, it has a very different outcome than what happens in No End House.

My only regret about writing that character is when I wrote it, I didn’t know who would be playing it and I wasn’t entirely sure we could get a terrific actor for it, and I think that Seamus did such a great job that I wish I had written for him. I wasn’t able to because we block shooted. But had I known how good he would be, that character would have even more to do in probably Episode 3.

In Episode 3 when they’re in the school, J.D.’s character seems to be reverting back, which he was shy and then he had the doppelganger so he’s, like, really strong, and then he kind of seemed to revert back. Was that supposed to be to just blend in with his friend or was it more that his doppelganger wasn’t quite sure how he’s supposed to act.

It’s more that the doppelganger isn’t quite sure how he’s supposed to act. I found it interesting and funny, the idea that this alpha doppelganger wouldn’t even be very alpha, that he would -- in a social context -- revert to the same dynamics that the original person had. And that’s the thing that I would’ve liked to play more with, but I think Seamus did an amazing job.

I agree with you, he's amazing. The whole scene with John and Margot and her finding the head -- pretty much -- of her mother in the trash can, was he even remotely genuine as far as his reasoning for being obvious about that? I mean, is - was he really expecting her to just do whatever, tie into the rest of her memories?

Well I think he is - he’s earnest in the way that a junkie family member might be. I mean, you could have a loved one who genuinely cares about you but also is an addict and really needs your money, and they might plead with you in the same way that he pleads with her there. So I think it’s a balancing act. Like, he does love her and he really feels the feelings that he’s expressing, but he’s hungry.

There seem to be several nods to different movies like “Matrix” and “Poltergeist” -- was that intentional or was it to show the glitches in the house?

There are definitely homages in the show to movies that I love. Is there something specific that you’re referring to?

The closet, it had a very “Poltergeist” feel to me. 

Yes. You know, the closet wasn’t deliberately a “Poltergeist” reference, although I can absolutely see the connection. The closet was designed to show the imperfections underneath the surface of the house’s false reality. We wanted to show that this is an incomplete world. This simulation has flaws and glitches and it folds in on itself sometimes. So you could go through a doorway somewhere and find yourself at the bottom of a pool, and there are going to be other strange, unfinished spaces too.

And also things jam together that shouldn’t fit together, like when Dylan finds his wife he says, “This is our house, but this isn’t our street and it’s not our neighborhood, so how’d that get there?” It’s like the house is taking memories from different people and fitting them all together into one big puzzle.

And then are there, like, a bunch of Easter eggs in Margot’s room? It’s really hard to see it because they go through it so quickly, but I didn’t know if there are a lot of Easter eggs

There are. There may even be Easter eggs in Margot’s bedroom for seasons that haven’t aired yet.

Oh that’s just mean.


In reading the Creepypasta though this was based on, it’s sort of a brief story, and it paints kind of a tone but doesn’t have a whole lot of background context, and I’m curious if you can talk about what it was about that story that sort of captured your imagination and what the process was for developing something so brief into something that could be told over the course of the season.

Yes. Absolutely.

That’s why I love adapting Creepypastas because they’re simple, great horror ideas that mostly give us a lot of room to invent. So from a creative standpoint, it’s sort of the best of both worlds.

What particularly attracted me to No End House was the idea in Brian’s story that when you come out of the house and you think you’re going home, you think you’re safe, you start to realize that reality is not trustworthy. And you start to wonder if you’re still inside the house.

So the journey inside the haunted house is exciting in and of itself, but to me, the existential horror of leaving and not being able to trust reality opens up the world and provides a great canvass for the kind of horror story that I wanted to tell. And that’s what we look for in future season too -- ideas, images, and a great sense of dread in the suggestion of the larger terrifying mythology.

And it also gives us a lot of a very fertile ground for powerful character story and when you’re adapting a very short story into a full season of TV -- or a six-episode season of TV -- you need rich characters.

Unlike the title of the second season here of Channel Zero, will the season itself come to an actual end or is it going to be kind of left open for interpretation?

No End House has a very definite end.

The story has a complete arc and Margot had a complete journey. Not everything will be explained. Some things will be explained and other things will be left mysterious or ambiguous, but there is a full, complete journey to the season.

Last question how involved or not involved was Brian Russell with the story as far as taking it from his Creepypasta to the show’s production?

Brian is in the loop. The writer’s in the original Creepypastas don’t work in the writers’ room, although interestingly -- just by coincidence -- Brian lives in L.A. and works in the writers’ room of another TV show. I think he’s a script supervisor there. Or a script coordinator. And we were in touch throughout the process.

I sent him the pilot script to get his thoughts before we got going and then just kind of kept him in the loop all the way through. We introduced the show together at Comic-Con at a special screening this summer. And he got the links to the episodes shortly before the season aired. Yes, I like to keep the Creepypasta authors involved.


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