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Freakish creator teases 'new level of tension' as the teens 'struggle to survive' in season 2

Plus, check out an exclusive new trailer for the Hulu original series from AwesomenessTV

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And then there were six.

When AwesomenessTV’s teen horror-drama Freakish returns to Hulu for its second 10-episode season Oct. 18, audiences will find high school students Barrett (Tyler Chase), Diesel (Adam Hicks), Grover (Leo Howard), LeShawn (Melvin Gregg), Violet (Liza Koshy), and Zoe (Meghan Rienks) reeling from the death of one of their own in the season 1 finale.

“It does give them a new resolve as to how much they have to fight to survive,” series creator and writer Beth Szymkowski tells EW.

Locked down in their high school after a chemical plant explosion in their town rendered them, along with Natalie (Aislinn Paul), some of the remaining survivors, they were able to protect themselves from exposure; anyone else who came in contact turned into zombie-like “freaks.” Pregnant Natalie, who was dying from a drug they thought would protect them from the dangerous chemicals, sacrificed herself to the monsters to save her friends.

Rachael Thompson/Hulu

In addition to the ever-present freaks, which aren’t technically dead — “There might be more to them than just, they’re dead and they’re going to eat you,” Szymkowski teases — the remaining six are joined by more survivors, which brings “a whole new level of tension” as relationships are tested, trust is earned (and lost), and threats continue to manifest all around them.

Above, check out the exclusive trailer for Freakish season 2, and below, read more from Szymkowski about how quickly another main character might meet the same fate as Natalie, how she strived to make this series different from others in the genre, why the freaks aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill zombies, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the world of Freakish it’s been just a matter of days since the chemical plant explosion, and season 2 picks up where the first left off. Looking at the big picture of the new season, what is this core group of survivors up against?
BETH SZYMKOWSKI: It’s still very much a struggle to survive, but now after the first season, they realize that it’s bigger. They’re not just fighting the “freaks” outside — there were people out trying to kill them, so anything you do from then on has to be much more carefully planned. So it’s still a struggle for survival but also realizing no one is going to rescue them, so they have to take matters into their own hands.

Because these are high schoolers who arguably haven’t really “lived” to gain many of the survival skills necessary for a situation like this, is it fair to say you and the team used that naiveté to your advantage?
Yeah, oh, absolutely. They are high school age, but I don’t think anybody is ready for an apocalypse. I don’t know that I would be much better than they would be. I think the interesting thing about the show is, we take high school skill sets, high school characters, the tropes — the cheerleader, the brainy kid, the bully — and see what they’re like when they’re not in their element.  The cheerleader doesn’t have all her people around her, so what other skills does she have to take it to a different level? At the core of all we’re doing is seeing how the skills they already have that are kind of stereotypical, when they’re stripped of all the trappings of a normal high school, how can they use those to their advantage to survive.

Rachael Thompson/Hulu

Natalie sacrificed herself at the end of season 1. How quickly might we lose another one of the core group?
I can’t give any spoilers, but this is a dangerous world they live in, so I don’t think anybody is ever safe.

What are the residual effects of her sacrifice? How will that change everyone’s approach to survival? 
One, I will say I love Natalie and her death broke my heart too. It doesn’t change their approach to survival as much as knowing they were in jeopardy not just from the freaks, but I think it does give them a new resolve as to how much they have to fight to survive and you have emotions ripple through the characters’ relationships, certainly with Diesel — it has a huge effect on him moving forward.

This season also brings with it the discovery of more survivors. What can you tease about how that will change things?
It’s an interesting dynamic because you have a group of kids who have started out kind of not knowing each other and being suspicious of each other who have now formed a pretty unified group; there certainly are tensions but they are essentially a team. But in their efforts to go out and realize they have to save themselves, they do come in contact with other people in the world, and that brings a whole new level of tension because they have different approaches to how they want to get out of there and who they should trust. It does also affect some of the romantic relationships in the group.

Rachael Thompson/Hulu

Trust seems like an understandably huge issue.
Yeah, trust is a huge issue because a lot of people in the group have secrets, and how the secrets are revealed have ripple effects for when new people are introduced and what’s revealed to them; it will affect how they interact with each other.

Let’s talk about these “freaks,” because something that really got my attention was this noise one of them makes in a scene with Grover: It’s so animalistic and primal and reminded me of something you’d see in a nature documentary about how animals will warn each other about danger or call for help.
That’s an interesting question, because one of the things that makes our show different from the other zombie-type shows out there, in addition to it just being more about team dynamic and what people bring that goes against their stereotypes, is that our “freaks” are technically not dead — they’re not like zombies where [it’s a human who] gets killed and then comes back to life. They’re not technically dead, so the idea that there might be more to them than just, they’re dead and they’re going to eat you — they might be able to communicate with each other, which brings a lot of story possibilities.

There are rabid fans of this genre who may feel like they’ve seen it all. With that in mind, what was your biggest struggle in making something that was fresh and brought new ideas to the genre?
It all comes down to the characters and putting characters in situations that stretch who they are while still struggling with the interactions of being teenagers, and I think that naturally gives it a freshness. It’s a survival story, but it’s more about how the kids have to put aside their preconceived notions of each other to move forward. The “freaks” in our case, that’s the obstacle, but it could be any obstacle. … When I set out to do this show it was really … I didn’t set out to do a zombie show; I set out to do a show about characters whose normal safety net is gone. So from the very conception of it, that was a huge part — it was that first, and then we’re going to put these characters that will be very challenging and the zombies came later.

“Put aside preconceived notions of each other to move forward”: I know this is a show about these zombie-like “freaks,” but that really struck me, and maybe even speaks to a bigger picture, metaphorically speaking. 
From the interactions I’ve had with fans and our cast, it does seem like that really rings true for people — people being true to themselves. We’re all about people having to figure out what they’re really all about.

All 10 episodes of Freakish season 2 will be available to stream Wednesday, Oct. 18, on Hulu.