The teen heroes of Hulu’s Runaways spent an entire season working up the nerve to put their money where the show’s mouth is and actually run away. But the time that was put into actually fleshing out their characters was something the show’s co-creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage wanted to take in order to make the second season sing.
When we caught up with Schwartz and Savage recently, the creative duo opened up about what it was about Runaways’ characters they really wanted to elevate in the show’s second season to make it feel like an evolution of the first and not a rehashing. As much as the show’s creative team understood the necessity of raising the stakes, they were also adamant about keeping close to the source material’s emphasis on the ways that family can be both a source of both strength and emotional strife and how understanding that is ultimately what makes people powerful.
Giz: With a cast as large as Runaways’, there are so many moving parts you’ve got to keep track of. Thematically, where were the places you wanted to take both the kids and the parents for season two?
Josh Schwartz: The first season was spent setting up our world, our families, having the kids making this terrible discovery, and really earn that moment where they end up blowing up their lives to run away. We knew that once they went on the run, that we had to really hit the ground running and begin telling the story we wanted to tell. The first season was all about kids vs. parents, but this time around we wanted to focus on the Runaways vs. the Pride with all the cards on the table.
Giz: It felt like there was a lot more depth to the members of the Pride this season compared to the last and even compared to where they’re at at this point of the story in the comics. What were some of the new elements of their characters you really wanted to emphasise?
Schwartz: There was an allegorical quality to the Runaways comic book that Brian [K. Vaughan] and Adrian Alphona used to explore the relationship between teenagers and their parents—that idea that there’s a moment when all kids learn that their parents are fallible or, you know, super villains. But what you come away from the book feeling is that, like so often in life, is that everything the parents are doing is for their kids’ own good. They just don’t quite understand or agree with their methods.
Stephanie Savage: For us, the parents are all on that slippery slope, you know? They’re constantly thinking to themselves “I made this evil decision with someone in order to get ahead in business and now I owe them and I’m lying to cover up my crimes. It’s an internal struggle that we all deal with in one way or another, but it’s so much more interesting to tell that story through the heightened reality of the Marvel Universe. They’re all villains, but they’re people like us.
Schwartz: That’s why we felt like we needed to give the Pride parents a more nuanced, morally-grey space to exist in this season. We want people to know that they’re more than capable of doing bad things and that they’re killers willing to get their hands dirty, but it’s always because they want to protect their children. None of them planned on becoming villains and we wanted to make that obvious, but that’s just where their lives ended up taking them.
Giz: Obviously, family is a big theme for the show, but it’s interesting how this season really brings the parents together as a unit while the kids find themselves drifting and being torn apart from one another was that intentional?
Schwartz: Those moments where you feel like the Pride is falling apart, the Runaways are getting stronger, and then all of a sudden the tables are turned—the Runaways are splintering, and the Pride is finding a newfound focus and ruthlessness to achieve their plans.
Savage: It was important to tell that story from the kids perspective and highlight they’re one another’s found family, but that family’s still going to be complicated, or [not] agree about everything. People are still going to keep secrets from one another that end up fracturing their group just as they would in biological families, and learning that fact’s such an important part of growing up.
Giz: You can really feel the influence of the more recent Runaways comics being reflected in this season, how did you go about striking that balance between the original comics run where the events of this season take place and Marvel’s newer things like Nico and Karolina’s relationship?
Schwartz: Well, you know, I’m not sure if Rainbow [Rowell] knew what we were doing, and it’s not really like everyone working at Marvel gets together to line all of these things up, and so I really think that both the TV show and the comics came back to that relationship because it’s so compelling. We didn’t take a cue from the book but it feels like a lovely sort of echo.
Savage: Right, but also, queer relationships are just something that happens in the world. Both the comics have always reflected that and we wanted the show to as well.
Giz: I wanna change gears for a sec and talk about the Gibborim—it’s been really cool to see them reimagined as, well, a culty, Scientology-esque organisation that’s a reflection of Karolina’s sheltered-ness. With her running away from the church this season, what kind of presence is it in the Runaways’ lives?
Schwartz: The church is definitely where Jonah finds his sanctuary, which was always going to keep it somewhat relevant to the story, but it really folds back into Karolina’s life as the series goes on that gives her life a much larger significance than she was ever fully aware of, and for now, that’s really where we wanted to keep things. The church is there, but there’s still so much more to it that we wanted to keep hidden.