The famed horror director took his first major leap into television with Hemlock Grove. Here, he discusses shifting focus of season two, what influences helped form his vision of the series, and how that vision has expanded as the show has continued.
On season two's sharp focus on Olivia Godfrey, played by Famke Jannsen:
"In the first season we were really matching the episodes to fit the book. We took 13 episodes and you could feel in certain episodes we were stretching it a little bit to try and get it to end where the book ends. And now in season two we could take the story in any direction we wanted and we could write for Famke in a way that we couldn't before...When you have an actor of Famke's caliber, you can start to think, 'Okay, in season two, what kind of wild arcs and character turns can we write for her?'"
On the developing relationship between Olivia and her son Roman (Bil Skarsgård):
"We love the relationship between Roman and his mother. I remember in the kitchen, directing the first episode, and they are talking about going to Bluebell's service. The refrigerator is open. She's right there. Then he passes her and you think, 'Oh my God are they going to kiss?' It's kind of like an aloof teenager who doesn't want to engage in a conversation with his mom. Just in that kitchen, in that house, the way she's dressed, what she's doing there that time of day, there's just something off. It's great.
"What makes it work on a basic level is you have a parent trying to force a kid to be something that they don't necessarily want to be, but they don't have a choice. You see the teenager rebel against it in this very strange Oedipal way, ripping the tongue out, going 'Shut up.' Teenagers watching the show relate to that moment of the son ripping his mother's tongue out. It's something that hits you on a primal level. I think it's fun to watch the boy become a man and not know how to handle his power. Realizing against his own will that they need each other."
On Hemlock Grove's Influences:
"Douglas Sirk is an amazing reference and one I haven't been talking about. Before I saw Written on the Wind, I wasn't aware of the joy of melodrama. In my mind I had categorized it as bad writing and bad directing. I hadn't understood its style in the way that you can read a romance novel to fulfill different emotional needs. Obviously, David Lynch took a Douglas Sirk approach withTwin Peaks. You have the heightened colors, everything was very very stylized."
On his approach to season two and working with Charles Eglee:
"Season one was about adapting the book it's based on. It wasn't about recreating the book. It was about taking the elements we loved about the book and creating a 13-hour movie. How are we going to bring Olivia to life? How are we going to actualize Shelley? What does the logo of Hemlock High School look like? Specifying the details.
Now that that universe is established, it's about going deeper with the characters. We felt in season one we were trying to fit the book to 13 episodes. There were times that we felt it dragged a little bit. We cut it to 10 episodes. Lots more story, many more events. Chic came on as a fan of the show. He wasn't there at the creation of it. He was watching as a fan. He came and said, 'As a fan, here's where I want to see it go.' Chic dove in and took the story to places we never thought of because we were too close to the story."