‘NOS4A2’ Season 2: Exclusive Interview with Jami O’Brien

NOS4A2 Season 3
Jonathan Langdon as Lou Carmody, Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Chris McQueen in ‘NOS4A2’ season 2 episode 5 (Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden/AMC)

Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) is out for revenge, Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) wants to protect her young son, and Bing (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) remains obsessed with making it to Christmasland in AMC’s NOS4A2 season two. Airing on Sundays at 10pm ET/PT, thus far the current season’s delved into Charlie’s backstory and unveiled more about his relationship with the Wraith and Christmasland. It’s also allowed a tiny peek at the eight years that passed between seasons one and two, the period in which Vic gave birth to Wayne and fell in love with Lou Carmody.

Season two episode five, “Bruce Wayne McQueen,” was a turning point in the series. Charlie now has Wayne in his possession – the one thing that Vic McQueen loves the most. In a phone interview with showrunner/executive producer Jami O’Brien, she delved into how that sets up the remainder of the season and what Vic’s state of mind will be following the kidnapping of her son.

Episode five could have been a season unto itself. How did you squeeze so much into that episode?

Jami O’Brien: “It’s funny. I had no idea how we were going to shoot it, and I was kind of in awe of it as well. We always knew that we were going to do an episode that was about Wayne’s abduction and that we were going to dedicate an entire episode to it. We always knew that we were going to play with point of view in the season as Joe Hill does actually in the novel.

And then Tom Brady wrote it; he’s a phenomenal writer. He came in with the idea, he said, ‘This episode really is about Vic and Wayne.’ We’ve seen her kind of screwing up for a couple of episodes and so he was like, ‘I really want to explore that.’ I mean, she is his mother and they do have a deep connection though she has been making mistakes. So, it was his idea to do the back and forth Wayne point of view, Vic point of view, which I thought was really, really smart.

Yeah, it’s funny. Story-wise a lot doesn’t actually happen in the episode. Basically, if you were to summarize the episode you would say, ‘Charlie Manx and Bing come and try and take Wayne. Vic tries to stop them and fails.’ But I think it’s a testament to all the work on the episode how emotionally fraught it is.

I just think the entire team did an amazing job, starting with Tom’s script but also Hanelle Culpepper directed that episode. She also directed last season the penultimate episode which was Vic in the laundry chute, which was another one where I was like, ‘How are we going to do that?’

I think she’s really talented and the whole production team pulled together to knock it out. I wasn’t there when they shot it. I was in Los Angeles in the writers room and so when I first saw the director’s cut I was shocked in a pleasant way. But I was just like, ‘How the heck did they do this?!’

They did some things with stunts that we haven’t done in the series before. We had never seen Vic on the motorcycle before. We’d always done that with stuntwomen. And that last car chase…when you think about it, we’ve got an antique car, an antique motorcycle, both doing down the road with our leads on and in them – which is crazy! – and a gunfight happening. And then an SUV T-bones the antique motorcycle. That alone when I watched it when it was finished I was like, ‘I can’t believe we did that!’”

How does Vic move forward? What can we expect for the second half of the season?

Jami O’Brien: “Well, I mean you know when we left her, she’s in the hospital. Her family’s in the hospital and her bike has been hit. So, I think Vic McQueen’s first order of business is to get well enough physically to be able to get back on her bike. But I think that the only way that she’s going to be able to find Wayne is probably with the Triumph. So, the next order of business is fix herself and fix the bike is what is going to happen with her.”

Are we going to see any additional flashbacks to the eight-year gap between season one and two?

Jami O’Brien: “There is another flashback episode coming up that is another Charlie Manx episode.”

NOS4A2 Season 2
Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx and Jason David as Wayne McQueen in ‘NOS4A2’ season 2 (Photo Credit: Seacia Pavao/AMC)

After finishing up season two, has your opinion changed as to what Charlie would have been like without the Wraith?

Jami O’Brien: “I think, and we explore this more in the next Charlie Manx backstory episode, I think there is a darkness in Charlie that would have been there with or without the Wraith. I don’t think that the Wraith is what makes Charlie Manx who he is. He definitely has a relationship with the Wraith and there is a symbiotic relationship that’s formed between them, but first and foremost it’s his knife, like Vic’s motorcycle is her knife.

I think Charlie is Charlie is even without the Wraith. I think he would have found another outlet for his darkness.”

You’ve done a fantastic job of exploring Vic’s mental health and not glossing that over. Can we expect to see her really tormented following Wayne’s kidnapping? Are we delving more into her mental state?

Jami O’Brien: “Absolutely. I think one of the themes in the book and one of the themes in the show is addiction and mental health. Oftentimes on television I think that those things are simple. ‘I drink too much, I decide to quit, and now I’m better.’ I don’t think that that’s really how it works and that’s not really how it works for Vic either.

I do think that her primary goal right now, obviously, is to get her son back. And my hope for the character is that as she takes that journey, she’s kind of putting herself back together although I don’t think that she’ll ever be 100% healed.”

We saw that moving hug between Vic and her mom at the end of episode five. Will we see more connections between Vic and her mom coming up?

Jami O’Brien: “Yes. One of the themes this year – a big theme – is parenthood and intergenerational trauma and can we do better than our parents? Are we able to overcome the wounds of our childhood? Can we forgive our parents? Can we forgive ourselves? I think a lot of times we’re really hard on our parents until we become parents ourselves, right? And then we’re like, ‘Okay, I understand how you made these mistakes.’ You kind of see them in a different light.

To answer your question, yes, you will see more connecting between Vic and Linda. I think Vic has a different point of view on her mom now.”

Speaking of Vic, Ashleigh Cummings has really grown into the character. Has Vic evolved as Ashleigh evolves in the role?

Jami O’Brien: “I think Ashleigh’s always been phenomenal. Not maybe in a conscious way but I do think that writers, as we work with actors, get to know them and they can’t help but influence what you write.

The way that Ashleigh comes at that character I think is really interesting. Vic McQueen is a very complex character but one of the ways that you could describe her is a badass, kind of in the vein of a Sarah Connor or Ripley. And Ashleigh, though she appreciates those kinds of characters, she is constantly playing against that. She has always been more interested in Vic’s interior life, in Vic’s heart, in Vic’s wounds, and in Vic’s emotions. And I think that the result is not something that I expected and really interesting.

We kind of continue to write the character almost as though we’re writing some version of a Sarah Connor character, and Ashleigh continues to play against it. I think that that marriage – for me, anyway – is pretty spectacular. I think she’s amazing. She’s one of my favorite things about the show.”

* * * * * * * * *

AMC and NOS4A2 will host a panel during [email protected] featuring Jami O’Brien, executive producer/novelist Joe Hill, and series star Zachary Quinto. The panel will go live on San Diego Comic-Con’s official YouTube channel on Saturday, July 25th at 6pm PT.