Charles “Chic” Eglee is a no-nonsense kind of guy. The former showrunner of The Walking Dead, Dexter and The Shield, Eglee was also an executive producer on Dark Angel. No stranger to genre, Eglee spoke with Nerdist about showrunning season two of the Emmy-winning genre series Hemlock Grove and explained the appeal of new media storytelling with the Netflix model, being in charge of a series that already exists, and a new word he learned: “retcon.”
For someone who has worked in all kinds of television, from network to basic cable to Showtime, how was the experience of working within the Netflix model for Eglee? “[With] new media storytelling…there are some minor differences. One of them is that we don’t have to worry about the literacy of the audience in terms of the show mythology. ‘Who’s seen it? Did they watch last week?’ Because of binge viewing everyone is sitting down to watch it in a couple of big bites. So that just means we don’t need to recapitulate blatantly how people arrived where they are. In broadcast TV it’s often said that a perfect scenario is a couple of characters sit and talk about what they’re going to do. Then they go do it and come back and talk about what they just did. Binge viewing takes that burden away from you and I think it’s actually very freeing.”
What was Eglee’s approach to telling a much larger story in season two? Said Eglee, “We have an ensemble show and if you’re honoring each of the characters, it’s just a lot of story. There is an external element to the show that wasn’t there last season, what we call the ‘Big Bad.’ That’s a motor and an engine for the show. I think we derive [a sense of] event from that. There is a larger scope. Things certainly exist beyond the confines… everything takes place behind the proscenium of Hemlock Grove but there are larger forces impinging upon the place. A bit of the outside world is being invited in.”
Regarding the mythology of season one, Eglee notes that his take on the follow up season is more about the characters in Hemlock Grove. He explained, “[T]he show this season is character-based. It’s really anchored very specifically in the dilemmas and choices the characters are confronted with. I’m much more interested in that than in the high concept, [than] the supernatural. I don’t happen to think this is a supernatural show. I don’t think there’s an element of magic at all in it…Things we don’t understand, we make up words for. I would say that’s the case with upiers. Upiers are not magical beings. And very specifically, because I think the minute you create a world that is wholly mystical where anything can happen, you’re telling the audience they don’t have to take things that seriously. The whole thing starts floating about three-feet off the ground. What we’ve tried to do this year is to taking the existing mythology and, this term I just learned but you all probably know, ‘retcon’ it.”
But Eglee was also very aware of the responsibility to the fans and to the universe that come with working on a pre-existing series, saying, “Inheriting somebody else’s show is daunting, because you’re being asked to take care of something you didn’t create. It’s like watching somebody else’s child, really. It can be heartbreaking. I had an experience some years back on Dark Angel where the network took exception with where we had gone on the show and intervened, that’s the polite word, to redirect it and change it into something that show didn’t want to be. I’ve had to be—and want to be—incredibly mindful of that. The other thing about being a showrunner on a show someone else has created is that it’s great, they’ve set the table for you and have invited you to this party and it’s a great opportunity. It’s what drew me to the show. I looked at it, I watched it—a very evocative world. It looked beautiful. The art direction and production design was fantastic, the way it was shot. It was a very inviting world. And then there were all of these wonderful actors in it. I just wanted to honor the vision that Brian created and explore the opportunities that were presented by creating this world.”
Season two of Hemlock Grove starring Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron, Dougray Scott, Joel de la Fuente, Tiio Horn, Madeline Brewer and Madeleine Martin as Shelley, premieres with ten episodes only on Netflix Friday, July 11th at 12:01 AM PT.