Interview with creator Don Mancini and actors Zackary Arthur, Brad Dourif, Devon Sawa, and Jennifer Tilly of “Chucky” on Syfy by Suzanne 9/13/21
This was a very fun press panel for TCA about the new Syfy show “Chucky,” based on the “Child’s Play” movies. I was surprised at how my question was answered, but that’s okay…that’s part of the fun of interviewing – you never know what kind of answer you’ll get!
I’m not really a horror fan. I don’t mind some shows, like “Supernatural” or “Legacies,” but I find horror movies and many of the shows to be very depressing and too gross, so I avoid them. The “Chucky” first episode is not too gory, but apparently it does get more so, judging from what said here.
Also, I like to root for the hero, and in these type of shows, the horror entity (in this case, Chucky) usually wins. Or at least, he’ll kill off an awful lot of people before he dies.
NBCUNIVERSAL SUMMER 2021 TCA VIRTUAL PRESS TOUR
USA & SYFY Chucky
Zackary Arthur, Actor, “Jake Webber”
Brad Dourif, Actor, Voice of “Chucky”
Devon Sawa, Actor, “Logan Wheeler”
Jennifer Tilly, Actor, “Tiffany Valentine”
Don Mancini, Creator/Showrunner/Executive Producer
Virtual via Zoom September 13, 2021
I asked this question: I haven’t seen any of the “Child’s Play” movies, but I assume that they have a lot more gore and violence than the TV show. Was that a decision you made, or did the network tell you not to make it too gory? Or how did that come about?”
They all laughed when I said that, which was a bad sign. Don Mancini, the showrunner, replied that I should just wait. In other words, it does get a lot more gory and violent. Oh, that’s too bad. Well, now I know not to watch any more of the shows. Stars Zackary Arthur and Jennifer Tilly chimed in to add that they have a whole “blood team” that works on the movie. Mancini continued to say that it was important to him to retain “all of the aspects of the franchise that the fans love, one of which is the gore, the other of which, of course, is Chucky’s propensity for dropping f-bombs. And the networks SYFY and USA, when we pitched the project, assured us that there would be no compromise in these departments.” He went on to explain that when he worked on “Hannibal” for NBC, and “Channel Zero” for Syfy (both for NBC/Universal), he was surprised at how far they let him push the envelope on this sort of thing. He mentioned that there will be “no compromises” in that regard. He went on to remind us that in the first episode, the first death that Chucky causes has no blood because he’d heard his new buddy Jake say that he doesn’t like seeing blood. He chuckled, “that’s Chucky’s idea of being thoughtful.”
Mancini was also asked if he’d ever thought of exploring the childhood of the original murderer, Charles Lee Ray (the ghost that inhabits the Chucky doll) for a movie sequel before. He concurred that fans have been wanting to see that for decades. this was one of the reasons he wanted to do a TV series, where there’s a lot more time to delve into his background and other “storytelling.”
Another reporter asked about other stylistic changes between the movie and the TV show. Mancini replied, it’s very important to me, and I try to have a different overriding, governing aesthetic for each film” and now with the TV show. This is the first time they’ve presented Chucky during the Halloween season. He wanted to really have a “luxurious and glamorous
autumn look with fall foliage …that became the central aesthetic principle.” This gave them some challenges because they shot it during the spring and summer seasons. They had to have trucks bring in artificial fall leaves for them to spread around the set. They had also shot drone footage least year of the fall outdoors, outside of Toronto, where they shoot the show. He added, “it looks like a Halloween horror movie as directed by Dario Argento or Brian De Palma. At least, that was our goal.”
Tilly praised their production designer and cinematographer, who made the show look beautiful. She feels that it looks very different from “Cult of Chucky,” which took place in the winter in a mental institution, where it was very sterile. She says that the set design looks very expensive, and maintains that it is, indeed, expensive. She was surprised at how much money they have for the series. Devon Sawa added in his two cents that he, also, was shocked when he arrived at how big their budget must be, since there were so many departments, and how many people that were working in them. He also praised at the beautiful job they did on the look of the show. “It looks stunning. It’s so beautiful to look at.”
Then a journalist asked Sawa and Zackary Arthur, who are new to the franchise, what their perceptions were before they joined, and what questions they’d had. Sawa admitted that he was already a fan, having grown up with the Chucky series of movies. He leaped at the chance to audition for it. He piled on the kudos to both Chucky and his voice, Brad Dourif, calling them “legends.” He said, Chucky belongs on the Mount Rushmore of horror with, you know, Krueger and Jason.” He was thrilled to be part of this show. Mancini jokingly gave him a hard time for not mentioned the script, too, but Sawa seriously added, quickly, that the script was great, too. He also loved playing twins in the show.
Tilly jokingly asked Arthur, “Do you have anything flattering to add about Don to that question?” and he replied that he always does. Then he continued in a more serious vein that he wasn’t allowed to watch gory movies when growing up, but he envied the cool kids in school who watched and loved the Chucky movies. Tilly added, “Yeah, now they’re all losers,” and he replied, also joking, “Yeah. That’s what happens when you watch violent movies.” He also said that he felt very cool auditioning for the series.
As they joked more about Mancini, he playfully told them to stop it. Tilly mentioned seriously that they’re lucky to have Arthur, and that Mancini had told her what a great actor he is. She gave us an example of a scene where he and another actor, Bjorgvin Arnarson (Devon), kiss. She explained, “They have a moment of human connection. And everybody on the set was
weeping because it was so touching.” She also said that she was excited about working with Sawa, whom she loved in “Final Destination.”
A journalist mentioned the 2019 remake, which none of them participated in. He/she wondered if doing the TV series was a way to reclaim it. Tilly answered that the TV series was already being considered long before that. Even though the film did very well, she compares it to the “New Coke vs. Classic Coke” situation. She thinks people will like the series better because they have the original Chucky, Brad Dourif, who thinks that he wouldn’t do the remake without Mancini. Dourif corrected her, though, saying, they didn’t call him, but he would have done that. Mancini joked, “Great story, Jennifer, but it never happened.”
Tilly went on, saying that the wonderful thing about the franchise is how loyal the fans are. She expressed that they’re twice as fanatical as Trekkies. The internet helped her realize how much of an icon Chucky is and how he and her character, Tiffany, are loved worldwide. She’s very grateful to Don for writing her so much into the TV show. She would have been happy to just have a tiny part, but he gave her much more. She gushed, I can’t help but blurt out things like, ‘Thank you, Don.
Thank you for the wonderful scripts. And thank you for putting me in the television series.’ Because his writing is so
amazing.” She also let us know that Brad Dourif’s daughter, Fiona, appears in the second half of the season, and we also see the return of Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and Kyle (Christine Elise).
She also added that the show’s story is “just such a beautiful coming-of-age movie. I mean, you kind of don’t even need Chucky because the relationship between Zackary and the other kids is really just you’re rooting for them. You want to know where it goes.” She praises the actors who play the teens.
Another person from the press asked Arthur and Sawa whether they were worried when they signed on to the series whether their characters would be killed or not by Chucky. He/she also wondered if Sawa asked to play twins. Sawa had a funny answer: “Of course, my worry was dying on the show because both my characters are giant assholes.” He agreed that you do hope for the “best death scene possible” or that one of them will live.
Tilly added that she never worries about dying because Tiffany dies in every movie, and yet Mancini keeps bringing her back to life (just as he does with Chucky). She says that the franchise is “magical.”
Mancini jumped in the question to say that they also re-use the same actors frequently in other roles. He claimed, “We were doing that before Ryan Murphy started doing that with the repertoire company he put together on ‘American Horror Story.’ So even if someone dies, they can come back in another role.” He started that with Tilly in the 90’s. She’s gotten killed as both a person and as a doll, and brought back for four movies as well as the series. Brad has also died once or twice in eveyr movie. He half-joked that “if Zack and Devon play their cards right, the sky’s the limit, regardless of what happens to their characters.” Brad Douriff agreed to what he said.
Tilly hinted that a line of dialogue in the series refers to this point. She didn’t want to mention more due to spoilers.
She boasted that she’s been suggesting to Mancini for 30 years that they tell the origin story in a better way than they did in the movies (with younger actors). She and Dourif agreed that the fans will be excited to see this. She added that there is a lot of fan fiction about it — “the two of them before they became dolls.” Tilly teased that Don is the biggest fan of the “Chucky” franchise than anyone. She cites bringing back Andy Barclay as an adult as one example of the lengths Mancini goes to. She thinks that there is a lot more of a “throughline” in their franchise because of using the same actors, and that brings more “emotional impact.” Dourif added that it’s really worked well on “an acting level,” which he finds surprising. He added that he found Alex Vincent to be “hauntingly good.” He suggests that really living with the franchise may have affected him and his work… “Things get inside you and they mean something.” He mentioned that his daughter, who grew up with “Chucky,” did really well, probably because she “grew up in the house of Chucky.” Tilly and Sawa praised his daughter’s acting, which leds to Dourif joking that he done a great job of fishing for those compliments.
Tilly went on some more about how much she loved the first “Chucky” movie she did. She was not interested in it at first, but the writing in the script impressed her as did Brad Dourif’s acting as well as his daughter’s. She mentioned in passing that he was nominated before for an Oscar (For “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1976), which I’d forgotten. She had also never done voice-over, and she said it was a lot of fun, and they let them ad-lib there. She said, enthusiastically, that Brad is brillint. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m a doll and you’re a doll. Let’s knock this off and go spend our paycheck.’ He really took it seriously.” She gave an example from their filming of “Bride of Chucky,” where she dies, and she saw him cry in the booth, and she was crying, too. She points out that she’s learned from fans that they’re more often rooting for Chucky instead of his vicims because “They identify with his struggles” and love him.
Arthur answered the question, saying that he doesn’t worry about being killed off because he and Chucky are “buddies” who would “team up.”
Dourif was asked at what age he let Fiona watch his “Chucky” movie and whether he’s surprised that the franchise has lasted so long that she could play major parts in it.
Dourif first answered that no actor thinks that any movies or show will end up that successful. You just have to take it one at a time. It’s never a sure thing. He added that Fiona’s friends in school wanted him to talk like Chucky and do the laugh, so it was already a part of her life. She was very young when she came to the studio with him, when he had to do some additional dialogue. He was screaming and yelling while his character was being burned alive “in agony.” She got very upset and left, so they had to stop, so he could find her and reassure her that it was okay. He added, “So, she had her first kind of traumatic experience around me doing Chucky pretty young.” Tilly then make some jokes about his daughter being terrorized and having to go to therapy.
The last journalist asked Dourif to tell us the process in which he found the voice for Chucky. That’s a great question.
Dourif responded that he’s constantly having to adjust his Chucky voice because as you age, your voice changes. Mancini helps him and tells him what to adjust, such as getting higher in certain places. He added that Chucky originally was from Chicago, but now he sounds more like he’s from New Jersey. He will sometimes watch “Cult of Chucky” and mimic the voice he used there before they shoot again. Mancini said modestly that he doesn’t have to give Dourif any help.
In the new CHUCKY television series, an idyllic American town is thrown into chaos after a vintage ‘Good Guy’ doll turns up at a suburban yard sale. Soon, everyone must grapple with a series of horrifying murders that begin to expose the town’s deep hypocrisies and hidden secrets. Meanwhile, friends and foes from Chucky’s past creep back into his world and threaten to expose the truth behind his mysterious origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster. CHUCKY is produced by UCP and executive produced by creator Don Mancini, David Kirschner, Nick Antosca and Alex Hedlund. Harley Peyton will also serve as executive producer. Mancini, who penned the film franchise, wrote the television adaptation, will direct the first episode and serves as showrunner.
CHUCKY is produced by UCP and executive produced by creator Don Mancini, David Kirschner, Nick Antosca and Alex Hedlund. Harley Peyton will also serve as executive producer. Mancini, who penned the film franchise, wrote the television adaptation, will direct the first episode and serves as showrunner.
Jake Wheeler, “CHUCKY”
Zackary Arthur plays Jake Wheeler in the new SYFY/USA Network drama “Chucky.”
Arthur was brought up in Los Angeles amongst a creative family whom all share a passion for the arts. As a young child, Arthur fell in love with the cinema and at the age of 6 quickly found the avenue of acting that he wanted to pursue.
Arthur’s career jumpstarted when he got one of the young leads in the feature film “The Fifth Wave,” opposite Chloë Grace Moretz. His television debut was a recurring role on the Emmy Award-winning Amazon series “Transparent” for all five seasons.
Arthur has subsequently starred in 30 film and television projects, including starring roles opposite Jim Carrey in “Kidding,” Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair in “Mom and Dad,” Natasha Henstridge in “Hero Dog: The Journey Home.” His latest film, “Jill,” is expected to be released shortly.
Chucky (Voice), “Chucky”
Brad Dourif does voiceover for the role of Chucky in the new SYFY/USA Network drama “Chucky.”
Dourif, who has been the voice of “Chucky” throughout the film franchise’s long run, won a BAFTA Award and earned an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the Oscar-winning film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” starring Jack Nicholson.
Dourif is also known for his role as Grima Wormtongue on the “Lord of the Rings” franchise. Other film credits include “Halloween,” “Jungle Fever,” “Color of Night,” “Murder in the First,” “Alien: Resurrection
On the TV front, Dourif received an Emmy Award nomination for his supporting role as Doc Cochran on the beloved HBO Western “Deadwood,” which ran for three seasons. Other TV credits include “Once Upon a Time,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Criminal Minds,” “Psych,” “Law & Order: SVU” and many others.
Logan Wheeler / Lucas Wheeler, “Chucky”
Devon Sawa plays Logan and Lucas Wheeler in the new SYFY/USA Network series “Chucky.”
Born in Vancouver, Sawa is an industry veteran having got his start in such films as “Casper,” “Now and Then” and “Little Giants.” He’s co-starred in the horror franchise “Final Destination” as well as “Idle Hands,” “SLC Punk,” “Punk’s Dead” and “Hunter Hunter.”
On the TV side, Sawa has had roles on “Nikita,” alongside Maggie Q, as well as “McGyver,” “Hawaii 5-0” and, coming up, “Magnum PI.”
Sawa lives in Los Angeles, with his wife and two children. He is an avid athlete and trained MMA fighter.
Tiffany Valentine, “Chucky”
Jennifer Tilly is reprising the role of Tiffany Valentine in the new USA Network/SYFY drama “Chucky.” She has recurred in the Chucky franchise throughout the years, starring in the “Bride of Chucky,” “Seed of Chucky,” “Cult of Chucky,” and “Curse of Chucky.”
Tilly received an Academy Award nomination for her role in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” and earned an American Comedy Award nomination for “Liar Liar,” opposite Jim Carrey.
She has two films set for release: “High Holiday,” a stoner comedy co-starring Cloris Leachman and Tom Arnold, and “Sallywood,” a parable of Hollywood based on a true story. Also this year, Tilly will co-star in the Disney Plus series “Monsters at Work,” reprising her role of Celia, Billy Crystal’s long suffering girlfriend.
Tilly’s film credits include “Bound,” “The Getaway,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Dancing at the Blue Iguana,” “Bride of Chucky” and “The Doors.”
On the TV side, Tilly has appeared on “Modern Family,” “Hill Street Blues,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Moonlighting,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Drop Dead Diva,” and “CSI.” For the last 11 years, she’s been doing voiceover work for Fox’s “Family Guy.”
Equally at home on stage, Tilly has many theater credits under her belt, including “Tartuffe,” (LA Public Theatre) “Boy’s Life” (LAAT), “Baby With the Bathwater,” (LAPT) and “Vanities,” (Dramalogue Best Actress Award). She received a TheatreWorld Award for Best Newcomer for her performance in Second Stage’s “One Shoe Off” at the Joseph Papp Theatre. On Broadway in 2001, she co-starred in “The Women” with Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Johnson, and then returned to Broadway to co-star in “Don’t Dress for Dinner” in 2012.
She appeared with Miranda Richardson in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Wallace Shawn’s play “Grasses of a Thousand Colors” at the Royal Court Theatre in London. She then reprised her role in the American premiere at the Joseph Papp Theater.
Tilly is a skilled poker player and won a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker in 2005.
Executive Producer, “Chucky”
Don Mancini serves at the showrunner and executive producer for the new SYFY/USA Network drama “Chucky.”
With the “Chucky” franchise, Mancini has created one of the most terrifying and iconic horror villains of all time. The redhaired, freckle-face doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer slashed his way into the pop culture zeitgeist in 1988 with the premiere of “Childs Play.” The franchise spawned six sequels, all of which Mancini wrote.
Mancini is not only a standout figure in horror, he is also one of the only franchise creators that has been attached to his creation for more than 30 years, and has no plans of slowing down.
Additionally, Mancini served as a writer and producer on “Hannibal” and “Channel Zero” as well as co-writer on “Tales From the Crypt.”
Proofread and Edited by Brenda