NOS4A2 is keeping viewers on the edge of their seat for a second season, and leading the AMC hit is executive producer and showrunner Jami O’Brien. As NOS4A2 season 2 continues toward its terrifying conclusion, she spoke to Nerdophiles about the show’s continued growth and evolution.
Plus, how much has her pre-existing relationship with the network – she has worked on AMC’s critically acclaimed Hell on Wheels and Fear the Walking Dead – helped her in the process of steering this series?
Meet Jami and learn more about the inner workings of NOS4A2 in our interview before watching new NOS4A2 season 2 episodes at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on AMC.
Nerdophiles: What was it about Joe Hill’s original novel that made you so excited about it? What still inspires you about NOS4A2 every day that you go to work?
Jami O’Brien: Vic McQueen. It started with Vic for me. When I read the novel, I discovered pretty quickly that it’s set in Haverhill, Massachusetts, which is right down the road from where I grew up; I grew up in a town called Billerica, Massachusetts. And I immediately could identify with her. I identified with her family and I thought that the way in which Joe drew that family had such depth and nuance. I was immediately drawn in.
And then of course, there’s Charlie Manx, who is this really intriguing villain as well – a kind of vampire, but not in the same way that we’re used to seeing vampires. I thought he was really interesting. So I started with Vic and the other characters and went from there.
NP: Every TV series goes through a growing process between the first and second seasons. What were the discussions you had going into NOS4A2 season 2 based on what you learned in season 1?
JOB: This season is different from last season in a really fundamental way. In Season 1, Vic first encounters her power. She’s first coming into her power. She’s not aware of Charlie Manx when we meet her and he’s not aware of her. And so the beginning of the season is a little bit about unraveling the mystery of the world, the characters, both to each other and for the audience.
What we learned really quickly coming into season 2 is that that mystery is over. Vic knows what her powers are, she knows what Charlie’s powers are. She has a child and [Manx] comes to life and she knows he’s out to get him. So it automatically shifts gears. And just in terms of following the story, we found Season 2 to be much faster, much scarier and just more octane in the tank from [the get-go] than Season 1.
NP: Maybe the scariest thing about the show is that it’s Christmas all the time. And that it’s ruined everyone’s image of Christmas as a happy time.
JOB: (laughs) I think that you share that with Joe Hill. I’m actually a Christmas lover. I love Christmas and I think that Joe… I mean, he’s never stated this to me, but my suspicion from reading that NOS4A2 and also the graphic novel Race is that perhaps he finds it a little sinister.
NP: Which is something very cool about your show. Joe has a real involvement with the series; he’s not just a credit on the screen. How valuable has that relationship been for you as a writer and producer?
JOB: It’s amazing. I love the book; I think Joe has a huge creative imagination. He’s very supportive and he’s really smart, and he’s also really busy. Whenever he has time he is around and involved, which is fantastic. And then sometimes we lose sight of him for a while because he’s on tour with a new book or something. But he always kind of checks back in and he’s been invaluable.
NP: Something else that’s important is the network. AMC feels like a perfect place for this series because they cultivate shows that push boundaries, whether it’s this or Preacher or the Walking Dead franchise. Does having the show on this network make a difference?
JOB: it’s been an absolute pleasure. As you said, I’ve been working at AMC for a long time. I have two kind of main execs who I work with on NOS4A2 for the day to day. One is Emma Miller, who I’ve known since Hell on Wheels. And the other is Rafi Ruthchild, who I’ve gotten to know, and I love them both. They’re both really smart.
I think as a whole, the network is very supportive of its creatives and it’s been great. They’ll challenge you on things which is, I think, them being responsible. And when you walk them through it as a showrunner or creator, if you really feel it’s important and you can build a case for it, they will support it even if initially it’s a little scary.
NP: Did you pick up anything from your experiences in Hell on Wheels or Fear The Walking Dead that helped you in now running your own AMC series?
JOB: I think that every single staff that I’ve been on, I’ve learned something from. And every single thing is also kind of its own animal. What I’ve learned from working a long time on AMC, they do very different genres and very different shows and very different kinds of characters, but what all the shows that I’ve worked on have in common is that they start from character. Whether it’s a western or a zombie show or this supernatural horror show that we find ourselves on in NOS4A2, you can boil them all down to really compelling characters. And the story actually springs from character and not from the external, if that makes sense.
NP: What have been the highlights of NOS4A2 season 2 from your perspective?
JOB: I’m really proud of the entire season. I think that every episode we have is really kind of special. I really loved episode two, where we got to see Charlie Manx come back from the dead and learn a little bit about his backstory, and see Millie Manx kind of coming into her own as a character. That was really exciting for me.
Episodes three and four, where we’re with the McQueens a bit more, I really love. We get to see a really awesome Tabitha Hutter. Episode five is a really special episode; that’s the abduction episode. I’m very excited for folks to see that if they haven’t yet…there’s an act of television that is spent underwater and Tom Brady, who wrote the script, is doing really interesting work with point of view. So that’s a big, special episode and there are more to come.
I’m excited for folks to see more of Maggie in the back half of the season. We also have another Charlie Manx backstory episode that I’m excited about and we get to see more of Millie Manx.
NOS4A2 airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. on AMC.