7 Questions with… NOS4A2’s Jami O’Brien: ‘It's Downton Abbey with vampires!’

BT TV talks with Jami O’Brien, the creator of the AMC supernatural horror series NOS4A2, about the show’s chilling return to screens.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 7 July 2020 - 4.55pm

The wait is almost over for horror fans. NOS4A2 returns to UK TV this week on AMC for 10 new episodes of soul-sucking chills and supernatural thrills.

Premiering on Tuesday, July 7 at 9pm, excluisve to BT TV customers, the show has won critical acclaim for the performances of Ashleigh Cummings and Zachary Quinto as the troubled artist Vic McQueen and horryfying child-abducting vampire Charlie Manx.

Season 2 begins with an eight-year time jump and we catch up with Vic as she struggles to conquer her demons and bring up a son. And as we saw at the very end of season one, Manx was only temporarily halted by Vic and he wants personal revenge for her attack – he wants her eight-year-old son Wayne.

BT TV caught up with the TV show’s creator Jami O’Brien to talk about how she brought the popular Joe Hill novel to life and find out some secrets about the new season.

1. Did you use the time-jump at the start of season 2 to change anything?

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic in NOS4A2 season two AMC

It gave us an opportunity to reinvent the show a little bit. It gave us an opportunity to revisit these characters down the road, to see how they’ve grown, and how they haven’t.

I think it’s a better, faster, scarier second season.

Season one, we had a supernatural story that was a mystery. And a mystery by its very nature, moves a little slower. It was creepy, but it was about getting to know Vic, her powers and weaknesses, Manx, and his powers and weaknesses and them getting to know each other.

But this season, they know each other, we know them, and we really hit the ground running. We have a lot more gas in the tank. There is no mystery to unravel. It’s more a straight up action, adventure horror.

2. The show looks incredible. Are there any scenes you particularly love?

Season 1, the laundry shoot scene. It was an iconic moment in the book. I was really excited when we figured out how to do that. Hanelle Culpepper directed that episode. She also directed a big episode – I don’t want to spoil it – but a similarly iconic moment in the book that we tackle in season 2.

When the script came in, it was written by Tom Brady and it was amazing, but I had no idea how the heck we were going to shoot any of it. The answer is you get Hanelle Culepper to direct it. She did a phenomenal job and I can’t wait for people to see it.

3. What’s scary in a book isn’t always the same as what’s scary on TV. How did you go about achieving scary moments while keeping the spirit of the book?

Christmasland in NOS4A2 AMC

That’s something we’re constantly exploring. There are a couple of jump scares in the show, but it’s not really a jump scare show. There are a couple of gory moments, but it’s not a gore show. It’s not a body horror show.

For us, it was about creating a sense of tension of dread, which I think is there in the book as well.

Joe writes in such a cinematic way, he’s always playing with ideas like, what’s on the other side of the bridge? Where is Vic going to? Why is there a candy cane out in the middle of the street in July? It’s about creating that sense of dread and the uncanny. That’s something we do have in common with the book.

4. Ashleigh Cummings remains incredible as Vic in season two. Why is she so good in the role?

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic in NOS4A2 season two AMC

It’s a tough role to play. On the one hand, she’s a kid with an internal sense of class inferiority, she doesn’t know where she fits in the world and she’s on the brink of adulthood and she doesn’t know what that means.

But at the same time she has to grow quickly into someone who takes on Charlie Manx, played by Zachary Quinto, a really powerful actor. And I think Ashleigh has this tremendous ability to be grounded in her performance, but she also brings a vulnerability where she hands you her heart all the time. I don’t know how she does it, but I think she’s fantastic.

She and I talked a lot about Vic. There are aspects of Vic you might compare to Ripley or Sarah Connor. She’s tough, she rides a motorcycle. But Ashleigh was always interested in finding the less masculine strengths of Vic. Even though she has a leather jacket and is bombing around on a motorcycle, she is playing against that idea a lot of the time. I think that makes her performance really compelling.

5. I read that it was the character of Vic which made you want to make this TV show. Why do you find her so compelling?

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in NOS4A2 season two AMC

I think it’s that she’s a flawed character. She makes a lot of mistakes. The title of the first episode of season two is Bad Mother. On American TV you don’t get to see flawed mums very often – they’re not allowed to be flawed. But Vic definitely is.

She’s courageous, she’s full of heart and she’s trying her best and I think there is something about her courage, despite her flaws… you hope you will be like that. Her ability to strive to do the right thing, despite not being a perfect person is what I love.

6. Episode two tells us the backstory of Charlie Manx – what can you tell us about it?

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx in NOS4A2 AMC

It was a ball. Episode two was a lot of fun to shoot, even for Zach! He spent a lot of time in the make-up chair for episode two, but at the end of the day he really enjoyed it.

I think episode two is the closest thing we have to a monster movie and as you say, it’s the backstory of Charlie Manx.

Someone described that episode to me as Downton Abbey with vampires. I thought that was kind of cool.

7. What’s the biggest challenge of making NOS4A2?

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx in NOS4A2 AMC

The biggest challenge is that we’re a hugely ambitious show. We’re trying to make a big supernatural, fantasy, horror.

The other problem is we shoot in Rhode Island. In January. And the weather in Rhode Island in January is very, very, very cold.

NOS4A2 season 2 starts on Tuesday July 7 at 9pm.