It’s been a rough year for animation—not because of a dearth in quality of material; if anything, there’s more great series and movies to watch in 2022 than ever before. But as the industry faces mistreatment and mishandling by corporate interests, it’s getting harder and harder for ideas to thrive. Which is why it’s so good that one of the year’s best is getting a second run.
That is of course, Netflix’s Dead End: Paranormal Park, an adaptation of the comic series DeadEndia showrun by the series’ creator, Hamish Steele. Telling the story of Barney, a young trans boy looking for acceptance after troubles at home in the form of taking a job at a nominally haunted theme park, the series took our hearts when its debut season hit Netflix earlier this year. Now, just in time for Halloween, it’s been confirmed that the show will return for a sophomore season.
To find out what fun awaits Barney, Norma, and the rest of the crew when they return, we spoke to Steele over email. Check out the interview below!
James Whitbrook, io9: Congratulations on the season two announce! How does it feel to finally have that out in the world?
Hamish Steele: Amazing! I was so excited to announce another season because even in the last couple of weeks I’ve really felt the fandom growing and growing. I see so much fan art and tiktoks and theories flying around—it feels great to give this good news to everyone.
io9: The first season came out as we really got stuck into this horrifying wave of assaults on trans rights that is still ongoing. What’s it meant to you writing and championing Barney’s journey during all this—and seeing the reaction to him when the first season hit Netflix?
Steele: When the show was pitched back in 2018, I naively thought that maybe things would be better when it came out, that Barney wouldn’t be such a big deal. Now I don’t know if it came out at the right time or the wrong time, to be honest. Especially making a show in the UK where transphobia feels like our main export, it at times felt scary to be so visible. But it also makes me proud that we were able to be one production company where we could make our team safe and make it clear where we stood. When I created Barney in the original webcomic, I didn’t think twice about making him trans. He represented boring normality to me, to contrast the fanatical demon world. It took a while for me to adjust to him being so unique as a TV protagonist. For a lot of viewers, both kids and adults, he might be the very first trans person they really get to know. I’m really glad the response to him has been so positive.
io9: By the end of season one, Barney and Norma had largely dealt with some of their bigger personal struggles. What challenges will they face in season two?
Steele: Barney and Logs will take their relationship to the next level and we’ll get to see them trying to make being boyfriends in a world filled with ghosts, demons, and zombies work. Part of Barney’s struggle will be the pull of wanting a normal life with Logs, but still being so caught up in the supernatural. For Norma, she’s shifting her special interest to demonology and begins a podcast with Badyah, who she may be developing feelings for. I’m a little nervous about some of the fans seeing Norma’s storyline this season. If people have read Book 2, they might know what I’m talking about. All I’ll say is I’m really proud of the story and it comes from my own experiences. I hope it’s very relatable even if it’s not the most sunshine and rainbows direction people were hoping for. Our show has always tried to have one foot in reality, even with all the paranormal shenanigans. Sometimes things don’t always have happy endings, but fighting through the pain and coming out on the other side is what is important.
io9: What can we expect from the angels, the mysterious villains teased at the climax of the first season?
Steele: Why do you say villain? What about a mysterious masked creature zapping away season one’s big bad makes you say villain? Ha ha! Well yes… Season two will be about what’s upstairs rather than just what’s down. We’ll get to meet some angels but we’ll also explore the demons more and explore more of their planes. One angel we’ll be meeting was a major character in the books but wasn’t in season one. That’ll be Fingers, played hilarious Jamie Demetriou. He’s now a season regular, appearing in all the episodes. But again… friend or foe??
io9: Can fans expect the show to play with more genres as we go into the new season, like with the musical episode in season one?
Steele: Yes! We do feature a couple more songs and we have a whole Sports Movie episode when Barney joins the Demon Wrestling Federation. Our season finale will be even more epic than last time. But we also have some episodes which feel way more like proper sitcom plot lines than in season one. We also have two kind of experimental episodes later in the season, which take place at the same time from two different characters’ perspectives.
io9: Where do you hope Dead End goes beyond this—do you see a future where it goes beyond what was laid out in Deadendia?
Steele: There’s three books (Book 3 is on its way, promise) so I would love three seasons to tell the full story. But it’s up to the Netflix gods. I’ve also had ideas for spinoffs but I don’t want to get anybody too excited. What matters at the moment is that season two is an even bigger hit than season one.
io9: You’re going to be discussing more about the show at Gayming Live Online this weekend. Given the importance queer themes have in Dead End, how important is it to you to keep highlighting the series at outlets and events like these?
Steele: Honestly, I always knew there’d be some hate for the show from bigots and the right. It never concerned me—haters gonna hate, etc etc. What did matter to me was making sure that the community we made this show for, knew it existed. Because I know so many people would love this show if they only watched a bit of it. I come from fandom. I’ve been that queer animation fan watching Rebecca Sugar streams and drawing Adventure Time fan art. So it only feels right to be that person for others and engage as much as possible with the kinda fandom I know I would’ve been a part of if this wasn’t my show. I love doing events like this and talking to queer-focussed media because I know they get us, and I don’t have to put the LGBTQ+ 101 kid gloves on.
io9: The animation industry has found itself rocked recently between Netflix’s own cost-cutting methods and the recent crises at Warner Bros. As you showrun your own series, what’s it been like for you navigating these news cycles of corporate mismanagement, and what do you hope industry executives learn from the backlash there’s been to this mistreatment of animated series?
Steele: I mean it’s not great! And honestly, I worry that this “backlash” isn’t being heard at all. Most people aren’t on Twitter, most people don’t read news about the entertainment industry. And while a lot, lot, LOT of trust has been lost this summer from workers in this industry, I worry that all they care about are the customers who haven’t heard about any of it. So we need to keep being loud and keep demanding better treatment. I feel lucky to the point of survivor’s guilt that I’ve been able to drop 20 episodes of animation this year. My heart goes out to all the crews of all those cancelled shows. I really hope there’s a brighter future on the horizon.
Dead End: Paranormal Park returns to Netflix on October 13.
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