I Am Not Okay With This producers talk 'unconscious' Carrie homage and season 2 plans
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season 1 finale of I Am Not Okay With This.
A teenage girl with emerging telekinetic powers, covered in blood after being bullied in front of all her classmates at a high school dance. Sound familiar?
No, we're not talking about Carrie. Netflix's dark comedy I Am Not Okay With This ends its first season hitting the same notes as Stephen King's iconic horror novel and the classic 1976 film adaptation.
It feels like a perfect homage watching Sydney (Sophia Lillis) harnessing her newly discovered superpowers to take revenge on the jock tormenting her and outing her feelings for her best friend, Dina (Sofia Bryant), in front of the whole school. But in showrunner Jonathan Entwistle (The End of the F***ing World) and Shawn Levy's (Stranger Things) blistering, unflinching coming-of-age tale based on the Charles Forsman graphic novel, Sydney causes the blood to flow instead of the other way around. Since she doesn't have control over her powers, she explodes the bully's head, accidentally covering herself (and other students standing nearby) in his blood before he can read passages aloud from her diary.
The seven-episode first season ends on that grisly note, as Sydney and the rest of the shell-shocked student body run away from the school dance, traumatized by a gory scene none of them — not even Sydney — can explain. But it turns out that any and all echoes of Carrie were completely unintentional on the part of the I Am Not Okay With This showrunners.
"You know what’s weird but really the truth? Very much like the Duffers on Stranger Things, we never spend time declaring the homages we wanted to craft," Levy tells EW. "There are certain movies or references that come up as we’re developing the script, but not once in all my years on Stranger Things and not once during I Am Not Okay With This do we as filmmakers say, 'Now we’re going to do this shot like that one time in that movie.' I know people will find this hard to believe, but these influences are very strong but they’re more latent and unconscious than declared."
Entwistle agrees, adding, "It was completely on accident, strangely. We came to the image very early when talking about, if she’s not going to explode her own head, which she does in the comic, what are the opportunities for what we can do with Syd? What is the iconography of that conclusion? We came up with this, we liked the aesthetic, and then it suddenly dawned on me once we started that process, it’s a very cool image but it’s very similar to Carrie."
But Entwistle notes that while the image of Sydney covered in blood at a school dance is very reminiscent of Carrie, "that’s pretty much where it ends in terms of the story and what happens."
"It’s pig’s blood and it’s the prom," he says. "The similarities are there, but it was never a reference for the show. And neither was Breakfast Club. The true influence for the detention episode is actually the Dawson’s Creek episode in season 1. It’s interesting and fascinating and kind of cool that people are seeing these other references in the show."
Levy maintains that they never discussed doing paying homage to Carrie on the Netflix series. "I’m not sure we even realized how much it echoes Carrie until we saw Netflix’s proposal for our poster," he says. "That was when it hit us like, 'Oh wow, it really does tip the hat in that direction.' But it was never on the agenda in a declared, outright way."
Unintentional Carrie homage aside, the finale ends on a crescendo that the entire first season has been building toward — in other words, it ends right as things get going. And the showrunners had always planned on using the first season as a prologue for a second season.
"We have not been officially picked up for future seasons, we were never promised future seasons, but Jonathan and I and all of us who worked on the show wanted to bet on ourselves, and we really believed that this could be a very special and resonant piece of storytelling on one of the biggest platforms in the world," Levy says. "We knew this was going to be this mystery undercurrent throughout the season that would start subtle and would rise closer and closer to the surface, eventually puncturing the surface in the finale with the introduction of the stranger, who we still don’t identify. We always knew we wanted to end there, we toiled long and hard to find the perfect final line of dialogue for that stranger character, and we were betting on ourselves to have made a really good show and investing hope that audiences will respond to the series so we get the privilege of making more of them."
By setting up a new kind of superhero origin story in the first season, Entwistle is eager for the chance to continue telling Syd's story with another season. "I would love to be given the opportunity to open up the world," he says. "What’s exciting for the subsequent story is what does it mean for a young girl dealing with all these other things to also have to take on the mantle of superpowers? Not necessarily keeping them secret — how does she use them and what does it mean to let the good and the bad, the light and the dark in when she has the responsibilities of these superpowers? That’s the direction of the story I want to go with Sydney."
Entwistle knows roughly what a second season would look like, and shares a few teases about what fans can expect if Netflix renews the series. "I’m excited for people to see what it’s going to be like for Sydney to walk back into high school after what happened," he says. "Who knows what? Nobody’s going to really be accusing her, but she was the center of everything. I’m excited about what kind of crazy high school theories they can come up with for the reason for what happened at that homecoming. I’m also interested in expanding the superpowered nature of the world and what that brings to Sydney, both good and bad."
Levy adds that he's eager to expand the scale and scope of the "modest" series in a second season. "We very consciously stayed small in scope in season 1, and we hope to expand that canvas," he says. "As we learned in Stranger Things, I love to explore different dynamics between different characters because we can surprise ourselves by combining and pairing different dynamics and different characters in our cast."
I Am Not Okay With This season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.