Killjoys Creator Talks World-Building, Payoffs and Her Robot Arm Girl

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They're back! Killjoys Season 2 Episode 1 was a rollicking good time, wasn't it?

TV fans fall hard for the cast, which makes sense as they're front and center and the faces of our most beloved shows. For me, however, the creators and showrunners are the real rock stars. Imagine my thrill at a chance to pick Michelle Lovretta's brain.

You don't have to look any further than the fact she's a life-long fan of genre entertainment herself to understand why her shows work. Michelle adores the worlds she creates, and her characters are real people to her.

I hope you guys enjoy this exclusive interview with the creative genius behind the world of Killjoys.

Michelle Lovretta - Creator of Killjoys

TV Fanatic: Showrunners wear so many hats. What's your favorite part of the process?

Michelle Lovretta: For me, development. Development is my first love. That's where it's just me alone, in the room, coming up with the world itself and the internal rules. It's the first time I meet the characters. I'm always the first person to meet them, obviously. That feels like this wonderful creative privilege.

Then I think my second favorite part is... I mean, I want to say the writing but the problem is that as you say there are so many hats, you never get to just do the writing on its own in any one day anymore. You're also doing meetings and you're doing post, and you're maybe popping into set. So it kind of interrupts your ability to just spend all day on a script. Which before I made a living at it used to be my favorite thing.

TVF: As a former songwriter/producer, we "creatives" are notorious for tinkering with our work. Was there anything about Killjoys Season 1 you wish you'd done differently or wanted to improve upon this year?

ML: No. I'm a very weird duck in so many ways. In innumerable ways I'm an oddy [Laughs].

One of the ways that I'm consistently odd, is I don't like revisiting things. I very rarely watch any movie or show again. Alien is one of the exceptions. That also includes my own work. I don't go back and watch my stuff, it's of the past. In a very good way, it's the foundation. I make those revelations of what worked or what didn't and what I'd like to do next year while I'm in post.

That's when I finally get to see them. I put all the layers in. I pick all the performances. We get the music. We get the effects. I sit there on the playback with all of our producing team, and I have a celebration of what that episode was. Where it succeeded and where it failed.

By the end of the season, I've done that with all 10 and that's what helps me develop the next season. I've already kind of had those revelations, but I don't go back again after that.

TVF: I'm always so curious about the process of world-building. Clearly research went into Lost Girl, as far as the fae etc. What about Killjoys? How did you decide on a dwarf planet with three moons and things like that?

ML: A large part of early development is instinct. The story, a lot of times, the pieces of it you've been working on through different other stories you've had in development. Things that you've liked and want to keep.

So for me, the main piece was really just the idea of I wanted to do a spaceship show because I love genre, and I had already spent a fair amount of time immersed in the fae and then witches. I really wanted to get more into science fiction. So that element was there.

The second part of it was that Space Channel was actually looking for some pitches and so yeah that definitely put it in the "space" arena, okay that's awesome. Then the third was just that I love action, and one of the other pitches that I had worked on was about a female bounty hunter called American Woman. So I still had that idea in the back of my head of loving the device of a genre engine which is something dear to my heart.

The shows I grew up with, you know the Buffy's and what have you, had that ability to go week to week with some kind of set format. So I wanted something that at the beginning allowed us that familiarity for the audience and then spun into something increasingly bigger and broader. So, the idea of chasing warrants, having a job in space was something that I hadn't seen in a while and that was appealing to me.

TVF: Where do terms like "Joy," "Hokk," and countless others come from? Any inside scoop or did you just like the way they sound?

ML: I'm a very phonetic and auditory person, so sound is important to me. Part of it is also I just love words. I play with words for a living and so the idea of what a word like Killjoy could mean... Well, you kill for joy. What is the "joy" element of that? It's something that I kind of just broke down for myself and it helped inform what the world would be.

Hokk was one of our writers Aaron Martin, writing Killjoys Season 1 Episode 3 last year. Which obviously was about going to the Hokk farm. That's a hidden little nostalgic homage to a Canadian commercial that a lot of us grew up with for a wine called Hochtaler. So it was basically, internally, in the story room us enjoying that little bit of a Canadian tribute to it.

TVF: How closely did you guys stick to the show bible this year? I know you've planed out five years of the show. Or did the writing organically take you in new directions?

ML: The way it's turned out, there's some big turns in Killjoys Season 2 you're going to see. All of those are things that were planned within the five years. Some of them have moved up earlier in that five year arc. You'll get some reveals. You'll get some new characters. You'll get a new direction, potentially, by the end of Season 2 throwing us into a very exciting possible Season 3.

And those are things that probably would have happened in my projection more around Season 3 or 4. So things are about a year earlier. There's a lot of joy and a lot of pain in Season 2, but it's all to a greater purpose. Nothing that we do is simply for shock value or for anything contrived. They're part of a larger evolution of where we're excited to see the story go in terms of its mythology.

TVF: Speaking of which, the world of Killjoys has definitely started opening up. Is that partly why Dutch, Johnny and D'avin have separate storylines this year? To allow you guys to cover more ground?

ML: It's not in order to tell the story, I go character first. So, it's more making sure that the characters are progressing and have interesting challenges and goals. We started them as bounty hunters. They're still bounty hunters, but they're real people to me.

They're three dimensional people with loyalties and ethical conundrums and they're in the middle of this building... war, is actually too simple a word for what's going on in The Quad. But they're in the middle of this building chaos, and so it was important that they get personally and emotionally invested. I think that's just the reality of who they are as people to me. I adore them and it was important to me that we be true, not just how good they are as partners, but how real they are as people.

TVF: Which leads me to our supporting cast of characters. Was it always part of the plan to feature more Pree, Alvis and Pawter this year, or did fan reaction help with the decision to flesh them out and give them backstories?

ML: No. This is actually an embarrassment of luck here, honestly, as a storyteller and as a showrunner. They were all written, right into the early bible stage, to be people who exemplified different factions within The Quad. Because if I'm telling a story that's both an adventure, and a sort of dystopian science fiction trope machine in some ways, it's only of value if there's people who are interesting to us. Charismatic. Challenging. Who each speak to a different part of those worlds.

So, every one of them was written early on. Delle Seyah, Khlyen, Fancy, Turin, Alvis... all of them speak to a different part of the greater world. Because I knew that I wanted to evolve that and expand it through multiple seasons. It takes time when you only have 10 episodes, to have enough camera time with any one of these great secondary characters. So you have to start them out early, but really what I was expecting was that some of them would tank. You know?

We wouldn't write them well enough, or we wouldn't gel with one of the actors and we would have to sort of say, "Okay not that person, bring someone else in." That didn't happen and to be 10 out of 10 on all of them kind of blows my mind. I am enormously grateful to all of those performers, because we now have this wonderful privilege in Season 2 and onwards where we have a history with all of these secondary characters. They can expand and grow and we'll give more of a shit about the stakes and the sides in this chaos within The Quad.

Clara: Robot Arm Girl - Killjoys Season 2 Episode 1

TVF: Let's talk about Clara (and Alice)... I fell in love instantly! Where did the inspiration for the character come from?

ML: It actually started last year, when we were at the very tail end of post-production. I was hanging around with our Season 1 VFX people, and had said stuff that I wish we could do. Obviously within time, within budget and within the fact that we're a TV show there are some things I assumed are going to be beyond our reach. I had said I really want to do a girl with a robot arm [Laughs]. Last year's supervisor Ed was like, " Oh yeah, definitely. We can totally do that. We will find a way to do that."

So this season's VFX people and prosthetics people had sort of that mantle handed to them. Where I said this is what I want to do, guys. How do we pull this off? I mean, that was a big practical piece that was built. It had an actual moving gun in it, and lights in it. Then some of it had to be entirely CGI, depending on what the shot is. We had to have an actress who was comfortable carrying that around.

It was just a really great combination and ultimately what it comes down to is, every season I look at it as my last and I'm like what kind of toys, selfishly, do I want as a writer... and I wanted a robot gun arm girl [Laughs].

TVF: Okay, so I've been theorizing in my reviews about the green-goo being a sentient life form. Will that be dealt with this season? I know we're getting history on Red 17 and the Sixes, but how about the goo itself?

ML: Yeah, that's definitely part of the puzzle pieces that Dutch and the team are going to start chasing. You're going to see their first steps down that path in Episode 203. You will get the answers of how these things tie together in Episode 210.

I will say that as a writing team, one of the things we organically do is we love paying things off. We love the fact that there are little things in Killjoys Season 1 that will come to roost in Season 2. We just don't have time for a lot of extraneous bullshit in 10 episodes. We want every episode to feel like it is its own separate adventure, but at the same time the little things we drop in each one we're braiding a much bigger story out of that. I think 210 is really exciting in the way that it answers those things.

TVF: Those payoffs are really important to fans as well. We hate to be left hanging by our favorite shows.

ML: First and foremost I'm a genre fan myself, so I get the agony and the ecstasy of that. I know the hunger and the impatience for, "tell me everything" but I also know you really don't want us to tell you everything.

You want time to make the guesses yourself. You want time to get some of them right. The satisfaction of knowing you nailed some. You also want the surprise of going, "Oh shit I didn't see that one coming." We try to do all of those things, but again it's just because we're telling the story for ourselves as genre fans within the room. So, we love that ride ourselves.

Still, there's nothing more exciting to me, although I've plotted out the seasons and what I think are the big turns, when one of our great writers comes in with a surprise saying, "What if it was this?" And then we factor that in. There definitely are surprises this season, and a whole lot of payoff.

Returning to Westerley - Killjoys Season 2 Episode 1

TVF: Do you ever wish you had a few more episodes to tell your story or is 10 the magic number?

ML: I would always love a bit more, like 13. I don't want too many. The old days it used to be, you know 22. Now because it's such a large canvas, I think the fans are starting to get a little hint of how big the picture is that I'm actually planning on telling. I couldn't tell you all of that in Season 1, I had to tell you a simple story of here's the world and this is the occupation of these characters. Because you would drown in exposition otherwise.

So, I see Season 2 as a complimentary bookend of Season 1 in some ways. From there we will spin it out into even further adventures. The only thing that I'm missing from 10, which I'd love to give the audience and we certainly try, for instance Episodes 206 and 204, I think they do a good job of being kind of stand alone.

All of us who love genre grew up with people who had to tell 22 episodes worth of episodic story, so there are certain conventions. They had these bottle episodes, or concept heavy episodes that we all recognize. I'd love to take my hand at those with the Killjoys cast.

I'd love to be able to have the... oh we did Black Rain, so we did the "everybody's trapped by the elements story." But you know, some of those fun old-school ones I'd love to be able to do. It is a challenge to find space for those, but wherever we can we pay homage to those old classic sci-fi conventions.

TVF: Are Killjoys novellas or eBooks between seasons an option?

ML: Yeah, I actually own the rights. My plan is eventually to write the novel. Having time has been an issue [Laughs].

I've been able to be a bit daring in where we go this season and how we end it, because I have the comfort of knowing I can pay that off for the fans. I'm hoping that our fanbase grows. That their passion grows. That our numbers grow and that we have a bazillion seasons. But I also want to protect the fans for the possibility that we won't, and that I won't leave them hanging. I've got the ability to continue some of these stories and my heart would always want to do that.

TVF: What can you tease about Killjoys Season 2 Episode 2 "Wild, Wild Westerley" and the status of Old Town?

ML: Episode 202 is returning to home, and finding home not quite the way we left it. It's the beginning of really emotionally, I think, compelling and classic science fiction type storylines. We're going to return to a lot of the old friends that we left there. It's our chance to check in on them, but also to expand their stories and to give them a greater role with our trio. So, it's full of all sorts of good stuff. There's some great comedy. There's some great Pree moments. It's also our trio back in unified form, which is always delightful to me.

TVF: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Michelle. This was an absolute pleasure.

ML: Thank you Hank, for your consistent support. We appreciate all your help getting the signal boost out for the show.

Killjoys Season 2 Episode 2 is titled "Wild, Wild Westerley" and airs July 8 at 9/8c.

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Killjoys Quotes

Dutch: Got any low level warrants I can knock out fast? Level 2s or 3s?
Bellus: Sure repos, transpos but shouldn't you concentrate on finishing your active warrant?
Dutch: What active warrant?
Bellus: The Level 5 warrant you signed on for twelve hours ago; one Kobee Andras.
Dutch: Bellus, Level 5s are kill work. I don't do those.

Dutch: Six years of working together, he's never wanted some 'me' time... Nah something's up.
Pree: Dutch, you work together, live together, do everything but sleep together and you're worried that he wants a little time apart. Bitch, how charming do you think you are?
Dutch: I know when Johnny's lying, Pree.