When Charles "Chic" Eglee ("The Shield," "Dexter") inherited the showrunner seat on Netflix's hit horror series "Hemlock Grove" heading into Season 2, he was charged with helping to transition the show beyond its original source material, since Brian McGreevy's book only took them up to the Season 1 finale. That meant deciding what elements they needed to expand on and what needed to be dropped, all while retaining those eye-popping moments (sometimes literally) that fans expected from any series with executive producer Eli Roth's name attached to it.
And now that the show's second season is out on Netflix, Eglee says he's looking forward to hearing from the fans how well he and the writers managed to live up to those expectations. HuffPost Canada TV recently sat down with Eglee in Toronto, where the series was shot, to talk about his goals for the season, delivering on the blood and guts, and whether he's thought about how many more seasons he'd like "Hemlock Grove" to run.
HuffPost Canada TV: Now that you've had a little time to reflect on the season, what are your thoughts on it so far?
Chic Eglee: I think by about Episode 4, it's a rocket sled from 4 to the end. I felt that way on the page, and I'm feeling that as I'm watching the show. The first episode, certainly we kind of had to reboot the show and locate the characters. And also, I think the beginning in that first episode is a little slower than I would've liked. But that comes with the turf of re-piloting the show.
Because you had to expand the world of "Hemlock Grove" more this season?
Well, and locate everybody. Because they're all in different stages of their life, so how did they get there? There was just a bit of that shoe leather that went into the first episode, but then after that, I think we're on pretty good ground.
Was there one thing that you knew you wanted to laser in on this year? Was there an overall theme to the season for you?
That's a question that we're asking ourselves now. I had lunch with the writers the other day and stepping back from it all, it's "OK, so what was that season about? What's the big idea driving this show?" And sometimes you can only see that when you step back. So I'm very interested what people's takeaway is, specifically the granular aspect of the show. I was extremely interested in making sure that each character had a seasonal arc. And we sat with each character; each character had an index card of a particular colour and we arced each character for the season. And then of course, we wanted to have a character arc within each episode, so that there was a sense of completion in each of the hours. Then all of it adding up into a seasonal arc for the character. So that's certainly, in terms of the mechanics of the show, a goal that we set for ourselves.
Did you look at how the fans reacted to Season 1 at all to help decide what storylines or characters you wanted to play up on this season?
Not really. I watched Season 1 to obviously get a sense of the world and the characters and found it all very inviting, but I wanted to have a pure reaction to it. So it's not like we looked at a laundry list of fan reactions of Season 1 and said, "OK, well, we did this, this and this..." Now, Season 2, I'm very interested in seeing what people are [saying]. I'm just reading the social media, I care much more about that than about the critics per se, because I think some of the old media critics aren't going to warm to this material particularly anyway. And it's interesting to see, were we right? Did we deliver on the expectations of the show? So certainly that's part of the calculus and I'm sure that will factor into some of the choices we make next season.
I asked Famke Janssen this too, but who do you think finds it more comforting that this a show where the dead don't necessarily have to stay dead: the writers or the actors?
I don't know if that's really true ... well, I guess it is true to some extent. I think you have to be very careful. The question strays, I think, into a much larger discussion about what constitutes the supernatural, and it's actually a term I don't like to use. I approached this, whether it's ever told to the audience or not, to design a set of rules, a certain sort of a discipline that we as writers live by. Because if you can just do anything, then you're telling the audience that nothing matters. Last season, for example, one of the choices we made, the roofie eyes thing, when Roman put the hoodoo on somebody? We wanted to retire that.
I noticed that actually. Why was that?
Just because it's an easy button. Why doesn't he do it whenever he gets in a jam? So that's one of the adjustments we made. Because we want the audience to feel as if these characters are living by the laws of gravity.
I know that a lot of attention gets paid to all the gross-out moments and the gore, but to me, it seems that the weirder this show gets from a psychological standpoint, the better. What's your approach to balancing the blood and guts with the drama?
You know, the gore part of it is in some sense the least interesting to me. Certainly you want it to be there, because I think when it's "Eli Roth's 'Hemlock Grove,' " you're making a promise to the audience and you want to be able to deliver on expectations. But I didn't want any of those moments to come off as being gratuitous. Those gore moments should erupt from the fabric of storytelling, whether it comes out of character or whether it comes out of the exigencies of story. But it shouldn't just be a standalone "Hey, look what we can do!"
Episode 1, for example, we clearly wanted to make a promise to the audience in the first episode that we're going to deliver on the [werewolf] transformation, which was so groundbreaking last season and they did it so beautifully. But we want to obviously not just replicate what was done, recalibrate it so there's a psychological and emotional reason why that happens. It happens because he's got to get over on these guys, it's a grift; and then it's done differently, because it's a partial transformation instead of a whole one. So, when you have those moments, for example, Episode 5, when [Roman's] mouth goes [wide], it's an internal musing. But at the same time, that was intentionally over-the-top, with the French music and 75 gallons of blood, because it was poking fun at one of the tropes of that horror genre.
So this was not conceived of as a "horror show," because I don't really know anything about horror. I don't know the tropes of that genre, it's got certain rules. Do characters do horrific things? To be sure. Do they see horrific things? Sure. But all of it has got to have some dramatic and emotional resonance. We wanted to have those " 'Hemlock' moments" to deliver on the promise, but not just to have them come about out of nowhere.
So do you have an ideal number of seasons in mind for the show to run, or are you still expanding the world at the moment?
That's a little bit like saying, do you have an ideal number of years that you would like to live in your life? [Laughs] In television, you take each season as it comes. I'd love the opportunity to take these characters further. That's the great thing about television, the novelization of storytelling. So, sure, I would love the opportunity to go more, but I couldn't tell you.
The other thing is, we certainly don't want to overstay our welcome. There's nothing worse than watching a television show that was at one time a great show and then it's overstayed its welcome because everybody's getting paid a lot of money or something. The minute it becomes either not fun or not interesting is when we should pack up shop and get out of town. With "The Shield," for example, we were very mindful. That was the writers' room and Shawn [Ryan, the show's creator] sitting there going, we don't want to overstay our welcome, and looking at each other, is this really a time when we want to leave? I would love to have that opportunity on this show.
You can watch "Hemlock Grove" at any time on Netflix.