How Christopher Miller and Phil Lord turned ‘The Afterparty’ movie script into its ‘best self’ as a TV series [Exclusive Video Interview]

[WARNING: The interview above and following story contain spoilers about the Season 1 finale of “The Afterparty.” Read at your own risk.]

“The Afterparty” was originally written and announced as a film a decade ago, but Christopher Miller is happy the movie never got made. “I don’t think it would’ve been as good as the series version,” he tells Gold Derby (watch above). “One thing about it was it was something I wrote 10, 11 years ago now, and it was a fun script doing a ‘Rashomon’ murder mystery. But the issue was when we looked at it again, each person’s story only gets seven minutes in a movie version when you need to be under two hours. There wasn’t time to really dig deep into the characters and get to empathize with them and have fun with how they tell the stories.”

The project was reconceived as a TV series and the end result is a genre-mashup whodunnit Apple TV+. Set at an afterparty of a 15-year high school reunion, where pop star Xavier (Dave Franco) has plummeted to his death, the murder mystery comedy features eight episodes told in different movie genres as the characters share their versions of the night’s events, aka their own “mind movie.” Miller wrote multiple episodes and directed all eight, while his creative partner and fellow executive producer Phil Lord co-wrote the sixth episode, a slightly deranged animated installment told from the perspective of Zoe (Zoe Chao). In adapting “The Afterparty” for TV, a lot of details, understandably, changed, but the core mystery and the killer, Yasper (Ben Schwartz), never did.

SEE ‘The Afterparty’s’ Dave Franco ranks the ‘douchey colors’ of Xavier

“I think it really opened the show up to be its best self and let each episode be super different and give you time to empathize and tell a fuller story with more style,” Miller continues. “We sort of blew it up and put it back together. A lot of the bits are the same, but something that was written in the early 2000s is gonna need to change…. While a lot of the details and the characterizations evolved, the clockwork of the mystery remained the same.”

Not only did the killer never change, but they were also never interested in pulling a “Clue.” The 1985 film based on the board game was released theatrically with three versions, each with a different ending. The home release, of course, includes all three endings. “I have a very hot take on that,” Miller says. “First of all, we both love ‘Clue.’ We talked about ‘Clue’ a lot. It’s a wonderful movie with some of our favorite actors in it and it was a seminal piece of work for us, but I was frustrated with the concept of ‘Clue’ when I watched it as a kid because they told you that there was no right answer. They told you that you might get a bunch of different endings, so what’s the point in trying to solve the mystery if it’s kind of arbitrary whodunnit. What’s fun about a whodunnit to me is you watch it and try to look for the clues along the way and solve the mystery.”

“We say that as huge fans of the film ‘Clue’ who appreciate how funny it is,” Lord adds. “But it is true that in most comedies, the plot is not very important. The character relationship stories are super important. Witness the ‘Jump Street’ movies who have very rudimentary, some would say infantile, plots. But the parlor game of watching a murder mystery has to deliver on that. That’s literally a parlor mystery and they have to deliver on that otherwise you do feel ripped off.”

Production on Season 2, which is set at a wedding, is currently underway. New cast members include John Cho, Elizabeth Perkins, Zach Woods, Paul Walter Hauser, Poppy Liu, Anna Konkle, Jack Whitehall and Ken Jeong, alongside returning stars Chao as Zoe, Sam Richardson as Aniq and Tiffany Haddish as Detective Danner. And Miller is here to debunk one popular theory.

“I can tease that it is not Zoe and Aniq’s wedding. It is another person’s. I’m here to drop that news,” he shares. “Exclusive: It is not Zoe and Aniq’s wedding. They are attending a wedding where a murder happens.” Season 2 will also feature completely new genres, in addition to Aniq telling “a story again in a sort of rom-com sequel.” Oh, and prepare for multiple four-legged creatures. “There’s a lizard. There’s a dog and a lizard in the show. And a horse. There’s a horse, a dog and a lizard. There’s a lot of animals in this season.”

And maybe after Season 2 wraps they can finally make a real “Private Eyes” film, the Hall & Oates biopic starring Xavier as Daryl Hall and Channing Tatum as John Oates? “The ‘Private Eyes’ film has been much discussed,” Lord states. “The other thing that’s important to us is that it’s written by Xavier and Channing Tatum. It’s their vanity project that they’re writing and producing, and that it’s basically, like, half of it is the movie and the other half is, like, a ‘Lost in La Mancha’-style documentary… And like struggling to get the rights to the songs and having to rewrite and make up Hall & Oates songs.”

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