If you haven't seen “In the Flesh” (the second season premieres Sat. March 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET), the good news is that you can still catch up. The first season is just three episodes, currently available for streaming on the BBC America website, and fans of zombie movies will catch on quickly. What might come as a surprise to horror buffs is that this show takes the idea of zombies a step further — oh, don't say zombies, by the way. They're people with PDS — Partially Deceased Syndrome — who can be treated for their brain-chomping tendencies.
I spoke to series creator Dominic Mitchell about how season two will be continuing the idea of zombie re-integration as it takes place 18 months after the first season ended. For those who sense more of a political slant this time, Mitchell say that's purely intentional. While suicide victim Kieren will still be at the center of the action, expect a bigger story (befitting six episodes instead of three) that Mitchell considers “first chapter” of the series.
In watching the first episode of season 2, I saw parallels to American issues, but are there themes that are strictly British we should be aware of?
I always thought its at its core about otherness and the fear of otherness. In series one, we looked at that in Kieren's experience. We're getting a bit more political in season two, so you can take it as a comment on immigration at the moment and other people and minorities. I want to tackle that using the genre tropes. I think maybe there's a debate about immigration in America as well.
The political parties reminded me of some we see here in the States.
I don't want to say Victus is such and such party; I want it to represent a single issue party that's sprung up from a fear. There's always a truth to these kinds of things. A part of a population feels its voice isn't being heard, so I thought there'd always be a backlash to the PDS sufferers coming back into society, and that is the protest against the living. You can see ties to single issue backlash parties in real life.
You've said season one is almost a stand-alone, and season two is going broader. Because you had such a small order for the first season and hadn't done television prior to this, did you chart out where you wanted to go with this for the long haul?
I kind of did do that. Before it was even commissioned, the BBC commissioned me to do a series bible. I went hell to leather, and it's 100 pages long, it has maps, all this stuff. I wanted it to be a returnable series. BBC Drama North that produces the show, we didn't know what the BBC was going to ask, whether a pilot or a six episode series, so I had a big, massive bible, and there are characters in it we can get to far, far down the line. We had many discussions about, do we set it to a series or a massive cliffhanger, and we said no, we want to make it self-contained in season one, and really focus on Kieren and that family. I feel now that's the prologue, and “In the Flesh” series two is the first chapter. I always had this vision of the show going on and on and on.
In season one there's a lot of fear and mistrust among the living. In season two, we're seeing a lot of resentment among the undead. Are we headed to war?
Hopefully the tension is going to build, because there is a fragile peace there. People feel that the undead, as long as they're wearing the makeup and complying with the living's wishes, are acceptable, but, Maxine Martin and Simon, Amy's boyfriend, coming in are going to stir up all this emotion. Everyone's been sweeping it under the carpet, which is a very British thing to do… they're not talking about Bill or Rick, they've buried it. It's going to become quite a volatile place without giving anything away. Kieren is partially alive and partially deceased, he literally has one foot in the grave, so his question becomes iis he going to try to pretend to be living or is there a middle ground or will he take off his contacts like Amy.
In season one, Kieren really struggled with killing Lisa. At one point, he sees her in the woods, though it could be a hallucination. Is there any chance she's coming back?
Because there's no body, there all these unanswered questions, so it's definitely in the background.
As you mentioned, we have Maxine Martin (Wunmi Mosaku) coming in as the local MP and a Victus party member. What can you tell us?
I don't want to give too much away, but Maxine is harboring secrets and it's made her quite reactionary.
Is season two moving away from Kieren being the main focus?
Kieren is essential, but we have more to play with, so we can shine a light more on the other characters like Amy, Jem and Philip. We get more into Jem's psychology, which is how do you go from being a teenage war fighter to going to school and being a school pupil with people who might not know what you've done. She goes back to high school and she's the oldest one there at 19, and she's dealing with what anyone who was 14 and had to right in a zombie war would deal with, really post traumatic stress, because the things she did were horrifying but ones she had to do, to defend her family. We get much more into that. We get much more into Jem's character and other characters.
“In the Flesh” was your first television experience. How involved were you in the process?
In the first series, when [Jonny] Campbell the director came on board, it was fantastic actually. I went into casting, I saw the tapes and things like that, so they made me a real part of the team. I find that stuff so interesting. So when Emily Bevan first came in and read as Amy, I said that's the girl. It is different in England, the way things go in England versus America. The door is very open, so to talk to your producer and director a lot, that's important.
While this is a BBC America and BBC Drama Production North co-production, how would you feel about a fully American remake of the show with American actors?
I would be open to it, definitely. Because the issues of otherness or mistrusting government and of feeling alienated are as much American issues as they are English issues. I'd be really fascinated where to set it, maybe Alaska or something. And yeah, I think it could work. It could be interesting. I think it would have to have its own character. It's very British, “In the Flesh.” I say more “In the Flesh,” the better.
What would you say are the big picture themes of season two?
Our main theme for this season is belief — belief in yourself, in ideology, in community. So that's the overarching message. It may sound preachy, but that's the core theme of the season. We're going to see how belief affects Kieren, the community and other characters on the show in a good way and a bad way. It's not a message, but an examination.
Since season one was a closed story, are you going to give us a cliffhanger at the end of season two?
I don't want to leave you guys hanging, so some stories do end, but with some stories we close some doors but leave some windows open just in case. Hopefully at the end of episode six you're going to be satisfied. If it was to go on, you'd have those episodes and you wouldn't feel cheated, but you will want to know more because I want to know more. But in a good way, not in 'why didn't they get to that bit' way. There'll be enough tantalizing stuff, I promise.
Season two opens with some pretty intense — and violent — stuff. Should we brace ourselves for what's next?
The second episode is a roller coaster ride. We get to see Maxine's plans, and we get to see a zombie rave, which is awesome. We get to delve much more into the characters and why they're there. It's a real roller coaster episode. One of my favorites.
Of course, we're not supposed to say zombie, are we?
It is politically incorrect to say zombie, yes. Don't say that to Amy and Simon. It's a tricky one isn't it, all these names, PDS and rotters and the undead. Someone is always going to get insulted.