Nancy Drew showrunners reveal how COVID affected production, plus what to expect from season 2
It's going to look like business as usual for Nancy and her "Drew Crew" on Nancy Drew this season. But behind-the-scenes, it was anything but.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the television industry to shut down early last spring, Nancy Drew, along with all other TV shows in production, had to end its season earlier than anticipated. "[Episode] 118 became our season finale even though it wasn't designed to be," showrunner Melinda Hsu Taylor tells EW.
The season 2 premiere was "originally called 118.5," Hsu Taylor reveals with a laugh. She and showrunner Noga Landau did some creative restructuring to make sure it effectively kicked off the new season. "We were able to set up some of our big story arcs for the season, remind the audience who these folks were, what their problem was with being hunted by this supernatural serial killer essentially, and also, bring the audience into the world of the Hudsons and some splashy exciting set pieces. And also debut the sparks of romance to come between Nancy and [her new love interest] Gil [Praneet Akilla]!"
While the cast and crew had to continue contending with the pandemic after returning to production, viewers won't be able to notice onscreen. "Fortunately for us, the superpower of our show has always been our core cast and how they interact with each other. So with the testing protocols, they were able to be in scenes together in small groups, which is really the magic of Nancy Drew anyway," she says. "We were really able to lean into the things that already worked wonderfully for us."
Below, EW got the Nancy Drew showrunners to preview what fans can expect from season 2, when the planted backdoor pilot for the potential Tom Swift spinoff will air, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How much will season 2 focus on season 1's dangling Aglaeca curse mystery?
NOGA LANDAU: Without giving too many spoilers away, the Aglaeca story launches the season, but it actually has many twists and turns that keep it as a thread that keeps going throughout the season in ways that you don't expect while a bunch of new mysteries move in and take over. So the season is not just about the Aglaeca, it's about parts of the Aglaeca but also a whole bunch of new mysteries that come sweeping into Nancy's life.
MELINDA HSU TAYLOR: And we're also about to do some more standalone [episodes] this time around because we wanted to design it so that it was a lower barrier to entry. Season 1, which I love and I'm so proud of, was about a unified mystery that became two unified mysteries. There was a lot to keep up with week to week, in a really fun way. And this season, we have more of a kind of chapter feeling, where there's definitely through-lines through the whole season and there are so many payoffs for the evolving relationships, but you can also drop in to literally any episode this season and feel like, "I'm getting a really compelling and enjoyable story ... I feel like I got that story's end also in these 42 minutes, but now I want to keep watching because there's this other stuff going on in the background."
Since there isn't a time jump between the season 1 finale and the season 2 premiere, Nancy hasn't unpacked her feelings about finding out she's actually Ryan Hudson's (Riley Smith) daughter. How is she going to handle that realization moving forward?
LANDAU: She has a lot to reckon with because not only does she have to go at it from the Carson [Scott Wolf] side of things, reckoning with the fact that her parents basically stole her and raised her as their own — for good reasons, or sympathetic reasons — but then they kept this massive secret from her. But also, it's reckoning with the Hudson side of her. Not only does she find out that she has a different biological family than she thought she had, but they're also evil billionaires who themselves come with a lot of baggage and secrets. Nancy is going to, over the course of this season, slowly find herself being drawn into their orbit in a way that she couldn't have predicted.
How are we going to see that conflict playing out between Carson and Ryan?
HSU TAYLOR: Oh, they're so fun! We love any scene with the two of them. They're great friends off-screen, but their sparking and head butting and different worlds are so fun to watch play out in scenes. We will definitely see them come together in a way because they both care about Nancy. Ryan very much wants to prove himself to her, and Carson is trying to rebuild his fractured relationship. But they'll also grow in friendship, in a weird kind of buddy, mismatched-Odd Couple comedy with each other, because Carson, in a lot of ways, becomes a father figure to Ryan over the course of the season — not in the sense of like taking care of him exactly, but just kind of modeling the kind of behavior that Ryan hopes he can find in himself.
In addition to the Aglaeca curse hanging over their heads, George (Leah Lewis) and Nick (Tunji Kasim) are determined to keep their new relationship a secret heading into season 2. Since secrets always come out on TV shows, how is that going to go for them moving forward?
LANDAU: The Nick and George romance is one of the love stories that we're most excited to bring to life because it's really honoring who the characters are in our show, but it's also so different from how it was in the original canon. I don't believe that Ned Nickerson and George ever hooked up in the original version. [Laughs]
HSU TAYLOR: I'm sure they did not!
LANDAU: Not to spoil everything but their relationship gets truly tested this season, right at the moment when they're most falling in love with each other, that's the moment when there are forces that are really driving them apart and complicating their lives. At the beginning of the season, they're facing the fact that they might get killed by the Aglaeca. And that's a really bad time to be in the throes of a new relationship. [Laughs]
The so-called "Drew-niverse" is expanding this season with a backdoor pilot episode for the potential Tom Swift spinoff series. When will that episode air?
LANDAU: It's going to be episode 15 of this season, and we can't wait. It's so exciting; we're going to be shooting it soon. We're just in prep for it now. It's really about weaving in another genre into the Drew-niverse, the genre of sci-fi that Tom Swift is going to bring, but done in a way where it fits perfectly into Nancy Drew's world of supernatural entities and mysteries.
What are you most excited for fans to see from Nancy Drew season 2?
LANDAU: I am most excited for fans to see Nancy's character journey now that she has to live with all the blowback from the mysteries that she solved about herself in season 1. What I'm most proud of about this season is that we didn't just wrap it all up with a tidy bow and shove it under the bed, we lean fully into what would happen to someone on every level, to their psychology, to their self-identity, to their relationship to the people around them in the world if they found out that they weren't who they thought they were. And how would that create further mysteries and issues moving forward in their life? I'm really proud of the fact that we leaned fully into the very, very messy nature of Nancy's life, and also how she manages to work through that and come out the other side a grown and different person.
HSU TAYLOR: I'm really excited for folks to see the rest of the core cast really get a chance to shine in some individual episodes that highlight their stories. It's always an ensemble show and Nancy Drew is always solving the mystery in these episodes. However, there's an episode that really takes you into Bess' [Maddison Jaizani] experience, there's an episode that really focuses actually on ... well, no spoilers but Ace [Alex Saxon] has some really great stuff happening this season and we will learn a lot more about family. And then we also have episodes where George gets to do things that you don't expect her to be able to do and same for Nick. We really spend a lot of time with Nick this season in a wonderful way, and explore different facets of his experience in the world.
Having written this season in the middle of a pandemic and over the summer of the protests of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon and awakening has given us a lot of opportunities to look at our storytelling responsibilities, for lack of a better word. We have a way to express things in the world and invite people to share a different perspective. It's a way for people to face the world in a different way that is both entertaining, because you want people to feel better at the end of the hour than you did when you started it, and gives you a perspective, a window into other people's experiences that, in a way, makes yours more whole at the end of it.
Nancy Drew season 2 premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.
The CW updates the iconic teen sleuth for 2019, making Nancy (Kenney McMann) flawed and real in this supernatural thriller.