Clone High‘s last original episode debuted on March 2, 2003. For those of you born after that date, no, that’s not a typo. It’s been more than 20 years since the sex-crazed teenage clones of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, and Cleopatra found themselves frozen in ice. Now the show’s creators (and members of the main cast) Phil Lord and Chris Miller are finally thawing them out at Max.
What are the challenges of reviving a comedy after two decades? How did they decide what historical figures would get in on the fun this time? And just how much of what we’ll see in this long-awaited second season was planned 20 years ago? We asked them about all that and more when we got a chance to speak to Lord and Miller about Clone High season two.
Nerdist: Obviously the world has changed a lot since you created Clone High. So while it holds up, I’m sure there are elements of the first season you loved then that you wouldn’t include now.
Phil Lord: Sure.
How does this revival maintain the original spirit and tone of the show fans have always loved while also appealing to an audience with different comedic sensibilities?
Lord: I feel like the show has always been strangely tenderhearted, even when it is comedically “going for it.” It’s got affection through all the characters, and I think that holds true now. There are things that I would want back (from the original). I would say, Chris, for me, number one, Mena Suvari’s forehead didn’t deserve a clap back. And there’s a long list, but-
Chris Miller: Yeah, there’s a long list of things. I don’t need to itemize them all. There are things I would take back today if given the opportunity, but we move forward often. But I also think there’s a lot of new stuff going on in the world. Just being able to have a show that can be silly and heartfelt at the same time, and try to skewer tropes and do twists on things, it’s still relevant as long as you’re just talking about the things that we’re thinking about today.
And I’m sure we’re crossing other lines that 20 years from now when we do the third one we’ll be like, “Oh, man, I wish we didn’t do that.”
Lord: Yeah, exactly.
We’re getting new historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Christopher Columbus, Frida Kahlo, and Confucius as main characters this time around. How did you determine which famous people to add to the mix?
Lord: We mostly focused on people that teenagers have heard of. But then, also, what would be good dilemmas for the characters to have?
[Showrunner] Erica [Rivinoja] focused on what would it be like to be Confucius and have to live up to this incredibly intelligent, insightful, clone father. How would that person try to parse himself into today? What if the pithy things he said were actually lame, but with a big heart? Likewise with Frida Kahlo. What if she was just unbelievably chill and knew how cool she was? I think we found really, really fun characters.
Miller: And it starts with a thought that’s funny, like, “Oh, it’s probably a bad time to be the clone of Christopher Columbus right now.” Then it evolves into a more three-dimensional character from that. “Oh, that would be tough. How would that person try and deal with it at this time?” And then trying to figure out how that person exists beyond that, it was part of the fun.
What other historical figures, at any point over the last 20 years, have you seriously considered for season two and why didn’t they make the cut?
Miller: (laughs) I mean, I remember we made some lists of people at one point, but this character set came from Erica. She developed these takes on these new characters and the writer’s room all worked together to figure out how they interacted with each other, what their relationships would be, what they really were beyond the quick pitch.
And, as needed, we would add to characters to stories. We’d be like, “Well, which historical figure could this be?” And then we’re like, “Oh, this could be Lady Godiva.” So you try to think about what the character needs are and then figure out, “Who would most interestingly or best represent that?”
How confident are you the revered historical figures—so not Columbus—who are now part of the cast won’t cause the same types of problems that Clone Gandhi did for you previously?
Miller: (they both laugh) Not confident at all.
Lord: You got to swing the bat.
Well, do you want to reveal anything? Is there any chance we ever see Clone Gandhi again?
Lord: Well, we’ve made a few nods to him during the season. And we did leave him frozen just in case there’s a season four. But yeah, for now we’re leaving him on ice.
How hard was that? Because he’s such a great character, obviously. And he’s such an important part of first season.
Miller: He did leave a-larger-than-his-size hole. Thankfully a bunch of the new characters could each pick up a different part of his personality. And it’s shaking up the dynamic as part of what these teen shows do. We’re going to throw some new things in there, and we’re always changing who’s dating who and who’s mad at who and trying to stir the pot a little bit. But obviously he was a lot of fun, but so are a lot of the characters.
The show is going to pick up where season one ended as everyone gets unfrozen. How much of what we’re going to see in season two is based on what you originally had planned for it 20 years ago?
Lord: Well, we did originally think they would wake up and not remember what had happened to them and slowly put it together. So in that sense the idea was that it would start the way the first season started. I think we held true to that.
Miller: That’s right. But mostly, we didn’t have a lot of specific plans for season two. We had a lot of kooky ideas, but it’s not like we had it all mapped out. “Here are the 10 episodes.” Or the 13 episodes. I don’t even know what would we do or how many episodes people make these days.
My last question, I think, is my most important. And not that you haven’t been honest, but I would like you both to be very honest. How much of this revival is simply an excuse for you guys to do the voices of Principal Scudworth, Mr. Butlertron, and JFK again?
Lord: (both laugh) The SAG Awards demand that we reprise these roles. I’ll say that it’s really fun to scream into a microphone.
Miller: It’s been really fun to revive those parts, to shake off the rust and just goof around. That’s really been one of the most fun parts of the whole thing.
I’m surprised you said shake off the rust. I had assumed you guys just do those voices all the time on your own anyway.
Lord: Only when we get in a fight.
Clone High returns with its second season May 23 at Max.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.