BEWARE OF SPOILERS IN THIS ARTICLE AND VIDEO ABOUT SEASON 1.
Even “The Afterparty” creator Christopher Miller expresses surprise at how quickly devoted fans of the Apple TV+ comedy murder mystery were able to unearth some of the clues and puzzles embedded deep within the show.
“There’s a group of folks on Reddit that got really into all the hidden coded messages and puzzles and ciphers that were nested into the show,” Miller tells Gold Derby during a special “Making of” roundtable discussion about the process behind “The Afterparty.” “Because it was a real pain in the butt doing some of these.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Case in point: In the show’s euphoric third episode, titled “Yasper” after the character played by Ben Schwartz, a quick shot of a T-shirt led to a complicated cipher that when decoded ruled out Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) as a suspect in the death of pompous pop star Xavier (Dave Franco).
“People got it and solved it within a half-hour of the show coming out,” Miller says. “It seemed complicated to me, but it wasn’t too complicated for this group.”
Not that Miller and his team of collaborators – including cinematographer Carl Herse, editor Joel Negron and writer and songwriter Jack Dolgen – were upset the enterprising Reddit community solved the case. The mystery, Miller says, “has to be something that you could have figured out.” But it also has to work on two levels.
“If you’re just a casual viewer, [the reveal] would be surprising,” he adds. “But if you are an intrepid viewer who watches and freeze-frames things and pays attention to every detail, you should be able to figure it out – which a bulk of that intense Reddit community did, which is a sign that it works, right? Because I would say that, for regular viewers, maybe 20 percent of people figured it out. But for that Reddit group, they had got it on lock, they saw all the little details, all the little clues.”
Told across eight episodes, the first season of “The Afterparty” centers on the mystery of who killed an obnoxious pop star after his high school reunion. Initially, everyone is implicated and each suspect tells their version of the night’s events within a specific genre. The soft-hearted lead, Aniq (Sam Richardson), imagines himself as part of a romantic comedy. Aggressive bro Brett (Ike Barinholtz) is the star of an action blockbuster. Yasper sings and dances his way through a joyous musical, which includes three original songs co-written by Dolgen. (“It was so fun to write because the character point of view is so specific and so rich, and it was so clear,” Dolgen says about the Yasper episode.)
As viewers now know – spoiler alert – it’s ultimately revealed that Yasper is the killer, having snapped in a fit of jealously over Xavier’s success. (The former best friends used to have a ska band together, hilariously known as Skape Diem.) The result is a heartbreaker, not just for Aniq, Yasper’s good friend and confidant throughout the series, but for the audience as well. As played by Schwartz, Yasper is eminently likable and sweet, a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and lands some of the best punchlines in the entire series.
Schwartz is such a “goofball and a sweetheart in real life,” Miller says, “and on the show, he’s the same. We certainly were playing with that. You wouldn’t think that the dramatic move of a killer is this goofball.”
As Negron says, they also made sure to select takes of Schwartz’s performance that were exceedingly normal. “We didn’t want to tip it off at all,” he says. “Throughout the series, we just did intentionally pick the least suspicious pieces of him that we could.”
“The Afterparty” will return for a second season, which is currently filming now. Richards, Haddish, and fellow Season 1 co-star Zoe Chao will return to the show with an entirely new cast of supporting characters around them. Sadly, Schwartz will have to sit this one out – Yasper, after all, ends the first season arrested for murder – but the actor did try to figure out a way to come back.
“He pitched me that day one: We gotta go to the mind of a killer to figure out who a killer is,” Miller says. “I was like, ‘Maybe… maybe.’”
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