Happy! returned last week, and I had the fortune to sit down with star and executive producer Christopher Meloni to discuss Season 2.
Below, we talk about Nick trying to turn over a new leaf, the relationship with his daughter, and a new holiday-centric threat in town.
I was so stoked to see that the new season is off to a bonkers start. At the same time, set against all that insanity is Nick making an effort to be a better person. Can you talk about that rebirth theme and trying to be do better for Hailey while being drawn back into the chaos.
I had never put it in that context, but it’s obviously there. Easter, a time of rebirth. At first, I thought Nick Sax was a bull in a china shop. He can’t get out of his own way. He’s the kind of person — and I’ve known a few of these people — that wherever they go, they just attract trouble. He’s a trouble magnet. That’s where we get a lot of fun and shenanigans.
In Season 2, you’re introduced to Nick trying to turn over a new leaf, trying to stay clean and sober, and figuring out how this world operates. He’s been out of it for so long because of the drugs and alcohol, and by the nature of his chosen profession. He’s juggling a lot of balls. To be a better person? I don’t even know if he knows what that means. That’s also the funny part. You see this very competent guy in one world, but as soon as you make him the fish out of water, it’s funny to see this big confidence, no holds barred man be at a loss.
One thing I noticed in the first episode is that Hailey is showing more and more traits that are like her father. She’s strong-headed and that defiant. Is that something that continues, and does it cause tension between father and daughter?
Yes, and Bryce Lorenzo who plays Hailey does a magnificent job. They wrote such great stuff for her this season. She’s Nick’s guide and she’s also his foil at times. One of my favorite scenes in Episode 2 — which was the one I directed — is where she and I have a really poignant moment. It’s a lovely, painful, heartfelt moment of two people hurting each other unintentionally and intentionally. It sets up a new dynamic for the relationship. It’s a really sweet, painful, outrageous moment between Nick and Hailey.
Happy is still around and a constant part of Nick’s life, but there are some changes happening. I never knew imaginary friends could go through puberty. Do those imaginary hormonal changes have an effect on Nick?
It’s bad enough that Nick is trying to navigate this new world. But then also having this thing that he has relied on — Happy saved Nick’s life in Season 1 a couple of times — is now this petulant, sullen teen who thinks they’re all grown up. What are the rules? Nick thought Happy was some dopey imaginary friend. I’m not even quite sure Nick believes he is there. We skewer the sullen, angsty teen tropes through Happy.
It’s a whole new ballgame this season because it doesn’t rely on the comic books for its story. There’s a new story based around some of the characters we met in Season 1. As an executive producer on the show, did you have a role in coming up with potential storylines once you found out Happy! was renewed for a second season?
No, that is all Brian Taylor who helped Grant Morrison adapt this for the screen, and a group effort in the writers’ room. I was there, but absolutely wasn’t the guy they looked towards for story ideas. It was more educational for me.
As I see it, and what you said about this rebirth and resurrection, that’s the basis for many myths or religions. This season was about filling out the players in this myth. It was the expansion of the characters, their roles, their histories and how they interact. It’s also the greater question of “What or who is Happy?” He’s an imaginary friend, but we’re going to expand and connect him more deeply and fully into the larger mythology. I was shocked and so appreciative of how seriously the writers took what sounds like a silly story. It’s a silly story, but its underpinnings are strong, solid storytelling, a la Star Wars. There’s a whole world, and the beginnings of Season 2 are the beginnings of the greater mythology being built out.
This season revolves around Easter and a campaign to “Make Easter Great Again” that brings Sonny Shine and Smoothie back into the picture. Nick doesn’t connect with them in the first episode, so can you tease if he’s surprised that they’re back again to cause trouble?
Everyone is going to be surprised. There are a lot of surprises ahead for everyone as there was for me when they were breaking the whole story arc this season.
Merry McCarthy’s left the law behind and is on a new journey in real estate which is very advantageous to Nick when he’s looking for places to stay. In the first episode, we see that she can’t quite shake that investigative bug. I’m guessing that she teams up with Nick to figure out what’s going on.
Yeah. Without being a spoiler, the greater theme is that Season 2 is the ramifications of the damage done in Season 1. You’re going to see that a lot with Nick’s ex-wife, Amanda, with Merry and Hailey. And with Blue.
You mentioned that you got to step behind the camera for the second episode and worked on a powerful, emotional scene with Bryce Lorenzo. What was it like to film an emotionally charged scene while being cognizant of everything going on behind the camera?
You do the homework before about where you want the camera set up. This was a stationary scene which is usually the case. You don’t want a movement to distract from emotional moments, and emotional moments are not usually on the move. The scene was obvious in that it’s beautifully painful and truthful. If you get a scene like that, the emotion is right there. The truth and the pain of it is on the page. I was blessed that it wasn’t difficult.
If Happy! is renewed for a third season, will it also be centered around a holiday?
Yes. Once we run out of options and we’re up to Season 11 and Arbor Day, then we’re going to have a problem.
Images Courtesy of Showcase and Syfy