John Cho and The Afterparty Creators on Season 2’s New Genres and Characters

Eric Goldman
TV Streaming
TV Streaming

A highlight of 2022, The Afterparty returns this week for a second season on Apple TV+. From series creator and Executive Producer Christopher Miller – with the other half of Lord & Miller, Phil Lord, also serving as an Executive Producer – the series offers a comedic whodunnit murder mystery with a notably clever twist, where each episode not only has a different suspect telling their story and their version of what happened, but also presents that story as a different movie genre – complete with the camerawork and acting styles changing accordingly from episode to episode.

Interestingly, Season 2 doesn’t just bring back Season 1’s detective, Danner (Tiffany Haddish) to solve another murder, it brings back two additional central characters from Season 1, couple Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Zo? (Zo? Chao), who once more find themselves attending a gathering where someone ends up dead, leading to Aniq calling in Danner for help finding the new killer.

It’s far more common for ongoing mystery series of this sort to only bring back the detective character, but as Lord & Miller and fellow Executive Producer Anthony King explained to Fandom, for The Afterparty, they always knew they wanted to do things differently. Read on for more of what the EPs and new cast member John Cho had to say about The Afterparty Season 2, the many genres it tackles, and if things could go even further in potential future seasons.

Aniq and Zo? 4-Eva

Sam Richardson and Zo? Chao in The Afterparty Season 2

As Christopher Miller explained, The Afterparty team never really considered only bringing Danner back for Season 2, stating, “We really thought it would be important to have an emotional throughline. I think that’s part of the thing that makes murder mysteries tricky is that oftentimes you have a detective that’s just trying to solve who done it with a bunch of strangers, and you don’t have any real connection to it.”

Here, Miller noted, “We have these characters, Aniq and Zoe, Sam Richardson and Zo? Chao, and they’re so charming, they’re so winning, they have such great chemistry… It was a no-brainer to hang on to them and bring them back so that we had a new way through emotionally to care about Aniq solving the mystery so that his relationship with Zo? could go to the next level. And that felt like a good driver for the season.”

Zach Woods, John Cho, Zo? Chao, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Poppy Liu and Vivian Wu in The Afterparty Season 2

Aniq and his high school crush, Zo?, only became a couple at the end of Season 1, and he’s still trying his best to impress her family within Season 2’s setting, the wedding of Zo? ’s sister, Grace (Poppy Liu), where the guests include Zo? ’s father, Feng (Ken Jeong), mother, Vivian (Vivian Wu) and uncle, Ulysses (John Cho).

We didn’t meet any of Zoe’s family in Season 1, meaning Season 2 explains much more about the people who helped shape her life. However, John Cho noted that Ulysses, despite being beloved as the “Funkle” to Zo? and Grace in their youth, hasn’t been seen in years when the season begins.

Said Cho, “I had the privilege of sort of being the outsider in the family coming in. I think the onus was really on Ken and Vivian and Poppy and Zo? to create a nuclear family, but they did it so wonderfully. And I think it’s one of the highest degree of difficulty moves [in movies and TV], is to be a convincing family and to have that intimacy with one another. But I think they got there pretty quickly. And maybe it’s because we like each other so much, it was maybe easier to get closer, but they did a wonderful job of becoming convincingly intimate with one another.”

FINDING THE GENRES

Elizabeth Perkins and Paul Walter Hauser in The Afterparty Season 2

While Season 2 does allow for Aniq’s rom-com scenario to return for an episode, the other installments all delve into new genres – and in some cases, pretty filmmaker-specific homages to the likes of distinct directors like Wes Anderson and Alfred Hitchcock.

Season 2 brings in many new characters, including Grace’s ill-fated groom, Edgar (Zach Woods) – as with Season 1’s murder victim, Xavier (Dave Franco), Woods appears throughout the season in everyone’s recounting of what occurred – and Edgar’s mother, Isabel (Elizabeth Perkins) and sister, Hannah (Anna Konkle), plus wedding guests Sebastian (Jack Whitehall) and Travis (Paul Walter Hauser).

So which comes first while crafting the series – the idea for an Afterparty character and then their corresponding genre is figured out, or is there a genre The Afterparty creators would like to do, and then they come up with a character to fit that genre? Travis, for instance, gets a black and white film noir-inspired episode as his spotlight, but did they come up with Travis first or the desire to do a noir episode?

Said Anthony King, “I think it’s more of the first way where we start with the characters, because we want those genres to come organically out of who the characters are, so that when they start to tell their story, you go, ‘Oh, of course, this is film noir. [Travis is] a Reddit Sleuth and so it makes sense that he’s in this film noir.’”

Paul Walter Hauser and Anna Konkle in The Afterparty Season 2. Can you guess whose character gets a film noir episode and whose is Wes Anderson inspired?

King added, though, that once they know what genre they want to do for a character, they begin to work backwards to have that genre reflected in other ways, explaining, “The genre does start to inform the character as well. We were like, ‘Well, now that we know he’s film noir, maybe he’s in a gray suit.’ So we’re kind of getting a sense of that before you even start telling the story.”

The Afterparty has managed to have an episode in the style of an action movie and an animated episode, and Season 2 takes this heightened nature even further at times in terms of the different perspectives we’re seeing. So while the show doesn’t take place in a fantastical world, it does beg the question of just how far they could go and if they could somehow do episodes that were, say, science fiction or body horror based.

Said Miller, of pushing those boundaries, “It actually has been discussed. There are a bunch of genres out there that are like, ‘Man, how do you do a sci-fi story in this grounded world? And, you know, we’ve talked about a lot of these things. This season, the genres are bolder than they were in the first season. I mean, the fact that we’re doing a Jane Austen costume drama as one of them or a Hitchcock type of one, where they feel out of time a little bit, and the fact that I think that it works and tonally, the audience goes with it, that opens us up for potential future seasons and to be able to figure out a way to do some of these more outlandish ways of telling a story.”

THE MANY TALENTS OF JOHN CHO

John Cho in The Afterparty Season 2

While John Cho has managed to deftly go back and forth between comedy and drama his entire career, Ulysses is still quite a wild new type of character for the actor. Grandiose in every way, he makes his entrance on horseback – indoors! – and soon is revealed to have quite the long list of skills and affectations, with his spotlight episode including an intense romance… and a lot of dancing.

King said Cho was always their pick for Ulysses, explaining, “We had him in mind from the beginning. He was the dream cast for that part. And he is very unique in that he is so funny and we met him in comedy, but he is one of the most handsome men on the planet. And then he also has so much charisma, and we threw so many things at him. We were like ‘You have to dance,’ ‘No problem.’ He had to ride a horse. And then we’re like ‘Maybe you can ride it bareback?’ And he’s like ‘No problem.’ He just can do literally anything.”

Miller laughed, recalling that when he asked Cho if he could sing, the actor replied, “‘I can carry a tune.’ Meanwhile, like a month later, I see he’s in this movie, where he plays a professional singer. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s got an amazing voice too? What can’t he do!?’” Added Phil Lord, “He’s an amazing human being… Clone the man!”

John Cho in The Afterparty Season 2

For his part, Cho said he enjoyed the challenges The Afterparty threw at him, though he suggested perhaps it wasn’t as simple as it looked actually pulling them off. “I love riding horses but I haven’t done it a whole lot. It was just fun to be on a horse though it’s less fun, I guess, to do it indoors, to be on a horse indoors. I had to dismount the horse and go up on stage and sing a song all in one take. And I was like, ‘What am I doing??’ I think I use the rope to dismount the horse and then I was going up on stage singing a tune and doing a little little stepping. It was a lot to do but it was delightful.”

A notable thing about The Afterparty’s format is that the cast need to both create a distinct character and yet also make that character fit into the many genres they appear in throughout the season, since even as one character takes the spotlight for the week, you’ll often see the others appear in their version of events we previously saw. Cho said that was an interesting challenge, remarking. “That’s where you really depend on the showrunners and the creators and the director to guide you, like, ‘How do I modulate this?’ I found myself needing direction more than ever, just going, ‘What am I doing here? How do we do this?’ And the other thing about popping into one of these episodes is you want to do it economically, because it’s not your episode, and you want to be able to fit in briefly and seamlessly. So, you’re looking for help, and you’re looking for clues. It was a needle to thread.”

The Afterparty Season 2 premieres?July 12 on Apple TV+.


Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.
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