How the Elite showrunners 'root for' but 'plot for new ways to ruin' the characters in season 2
If you need something to fill the Euphoria shaped void in your television viewing, may we suggest Netflix's Elite? The Spanish language teen soap dropped its eight-episode second season on the streaming site on Friday and much like its first season which premiered on Netflix last fall, it promises even more deliciously unhinged drama.
Season 1 follows three students going to a ritzy private school on scholarship after their public school collapses — Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Nadia (Mina El Hammani), and Christian (Miguel Herrán) are sucked into the lives of the rich after stepping foot into Las Encinas, the most prestigious private school in Spain. Of course, this leads to sex, drugs, and the murder of Marina (María Pedraza), a rich popular girl, which happens in flashbacks. Season 2 picks up right after season 1 ends, with Marina's murderer known (to the audience at least), and the aftermath of her death on all the characters. But this being Elite, a wonderfully chaotic soap, yet another mystery is eminently on the horizon in season 2 — the disappearance of a beloved character.
Showrunners Darío Madrona and Carlos Montero talked to EW about season 2, the universality of teen shows, and those shippers out there.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you guys feeling about the amazing reception about season 1 and moving that forward with the premiere of season 2? And coming off that, did you guys already know how season 2 was going to play out?
DARÍO MADRONA: It feels great, of course! It also has put us under a bit of pressure during the making of season 2. Now we have an audience that is anticipating the show, that seems to be very excited about the new season — and we don't want to let them down. But you can't have one without the other — you can't expect to be successful and not feel under the spotlight at the same time. While plotting season 1 we were very aware of the possibility of a second season, so we decided that the ending would be… semi-open; you know who the killer is, but the wrong person has been jailed for it. That way, if we only had the one season, the audience wouldn't feel cheated with a big cliffhanger with no payoff; but if we were to have a second season, there was enough material there to keep going: Is the killer going be found out? Will there be justice for the guy who was wrongly accused? We knew that would be the main story of season 2 — and it is, I think!
So where does the show go after Marina's murder — why make a disappearance the center of it instead of continuing with Marina's story line? How are you guys planning on keeping the action of the show sustained and creating new intrigue for season 2? Is a central long mystery always gonna be the structure of the show?
CARLOS MONTERO: I won't get into spoilers, but Marina's death and the disappearance of season 2 are not unrelated — the disappearance may or may not be a direct consequence of the tragic events of season 1, but they are definitely chapters of the same story. The choices the missing character makes, at the very least, are very influenced by what happened in the first season and Marina's death. We did want to keep the flash-forward structure of season 1, but we definitely did not want to do a completely different, new case. A lot of crazy stuff goes down in Las Encinas, but two completely unrelated deaths in a few months felt a bit much, and it's not the show we wanted to make. For us, it's all part of the Marina saga, so to speak. And her story line is definitely continuing in season 2.
From what I've seen so far of season 2, the show has doubled down on more of its controversial threads. Are you ever afraid of backlash? Do you guys ever feel like there are limits to what you can show or explore?
MADRONA: We are actually, honestly, not very aware of being controversial. It's not that we have a laundry list of hot topics to explore; we just are looking for interesting conflicts for our characters in 2019, and that sometimes means talking about issues that are out there right now, that people are talking about. It's difficult to not be afraid of backlash, with the internet being such a megaphone for people's grievances these days — with all the good and bad that brings. But if it were to happen, I hope we would welcome it as an opportunity to have a conversation about those issues, and how we deal with them in teen dramas. We like to say that, even if ours is a show set in school, it is not a didactic show — we bring those issues to the table as a way of starting a conversation. Hopefully backlash is not the only way to start it, though.
For us, the limits come mostly from finding the right way to bring up a subject matter. For example, we are very interested in the issue of consent — as most people are these days — but we have not found the story line that feels organic to our characters and deals with it in an interesting way we can feel comfortable with, so that's off limits for now.
How do you guys feel the new characters introduced fit into the fold of the group? Everyone on this show has a secret — how will the secrets of the new characters change things at Las Encinas?
MONTERO: We were worried that the second season could become a misery parade after the death of Marina. So it was important for us that the new characters would bring energy and life to the show. They did not know Marina — well, Valerio did, but finds a way of not feeling sad for very long, if you get my drift — and bring some fresh air to the school. This was very important to us, because we see a lot of shows where the characters seem to be very down the whole time. And it's difficult to care about if people thrive or fail, live or die, when they seem to be the dead-alive anyway. Because we like for our different stories to mix throughout the season, the new character's secrets will affect not only their lives, but also other people's lives — in very important, drastic ways.
There are so many shippers of various couples on the show (I'm a Guzman/Nadia person myself) — who are you guys rooting for and will there be new pairings this season that might surprise viewers?
MADRONA: As writers, we root for all of our characters, we want them to find happiness… While at the same time finding new and interesting ways to keep them apart from all the things that would make them happy, including the person (or persons) that are just right for them. This is a long-winded way to say: We root for all of them while at the same time plot for new ways to ruin their lives. It's a balancing act, for sure. I think a few pairings will surprise people this season — some of them were difficult to pull off on paper but the chemistry of the actors is just so great that we do think it works wonders on the screen.
The lineage of teen shows is pretty clear in America. In making this show were you inspired by any of those shows, or is this show Spain-focused and those themes are just universal?
MONTERO: We are not very avid watchers of teen dramas these days — we're pretty old, we're Dawson's Creek fans, you know — but we definitely are aware of what's being done and have seen a bit of all the great teen shows out there, mostly in order to not do what they do, to bring something new to the table. I think the show is Spain-focused for sure, but we also wanted the themes to be universal and understood in every culture.
One thing that I found very interesting is that after the release of the first season, I read a couple of comments from people saying that the show presented a very "Americanized" reality, with the posh uniforms, the lockers in the corridors, the school dance at the end of the school year, the trophy… things that admittedly are not very common in Spain. But that came all from our research — it's not that we were trying to be American, it's that some very posh schools in Spain are doing things the American way because parents and students have all seen those U.S. movies and TV shows and that is their idea of a "cool" education. It's their way of attracting customers/students, almost as if the brochure for the schools had a "As seen on TV" sticker in it. A lot of things "American" about our show are in there because in Spain we also take a lot of things from American culture in our everyday lives.
Some big stuff happens with Christian pretty early on. Will we get him back?
MADRONA: Who knows? I do, but I'm not telling, sorry!
You guys already got renewed for season 3. What's working with Netflix been like and do you already have an idea of what going to happen next?
MONTERO: Everybody asks what is like working with Netflix and I am afraid the answer is really anti-climatic, so apologies in advance: It´s been good. We work together trying to make the best show we can and we have a good relationship with them. Honestly, there is not that much of a difference from working with the Spanish networks we have developed shows in the past for, really. And no, they don't give notes based on algorithms — so far!
We are working already on season 3 so we definitely know what's going to happen!
With Marina's death and Nano in prison and the early reveals of season 2, how do you guys feel about the body count of Elite? How do you go about offing people essentially?
MADRONA: There is a lot of crazy stuff going on in our show, but for us it was important that still felt realistic in a way — we always saw Elite as a drama with some thriller elements, not the other way around. That means we only kill the minimum amount of characters necessary to keep the story moving forward, and the maximum a school like Las Encinas could have without having to be closed down for business!