On Friday, Netflix premiered Everything Sucks!, a high school comedy set in Oregon in 1996. I liked it a lot, especially as it calmed down a bit on the ‘90s music and pop culture references and focused on its collection of appealing, if often sad, characters.
I spoke with the show’s creators, Ben York Jones (who also plays AV Club supervisor Stargrove) and Michael Mohan (pictured above with stars Jahi Winston and Peyton Kennedy), about the series’ origins, why it starts off in this particular year, ‘90s pop culture they hope to get to in future seasons, and more, with some spoilers for the season coming up just as soon as the fake mustache works like a charm…
Where did the idea for this come from?
Ben York Jones: Mike and I started working together about five years ago, and few years into our collaboration, realized that we wanted to tell a coming-of-age story. And so we figured what better time to set that than when we were both in high school, which is the 90’s. As the idea developed, we realized it would be an ensemble piece, it would be a period piece, and it would be in the vein of what we’re most comfortable with, which is kind of honest, handmade-feeling stories about people dealing with their emotions.
It’s a combination of two types of characters you don’t usually see in these kinds of stories. At the forefront, you have a girl coming to terms with being gay, and you have a black film nerd, neither of which are that that common within the genre.
Michael Mohan: For Luke, very early on we realized that all the qualities that make Luke who he is — like you said he’s a movie nerd, he’s super magnetic and charming, he has a crush on an unobtainable girl — none of these qualities are race-specific, and so in that regard it would be almost regressive to assume that he would be a white character. Really, the question for us is just why not make him a young man of color? And what was great when we were developing it, we really worked with Jahi and Claudine, who plays the mom. So when we were rehearsing their scene, we’d rewrite the dialogue together so it felt more authentic to their experience. That’s how we dealt with that.
Jones: As far as Kate goes, the show being first and foremost and ensemble piece, we just really felt that it would make for the most compelling of coming of age stories for her. We hadn’t really seen it in the way that we wanted to do it. So that was the motivation.