Chucky’s Don Mancini on Why Horror’s Creepiest Doll Keeps Coming Back

Chucky’s Don Mancini on Why Horror’s Creepiest Doll Keeps Coming Back

Chucky will be back for more butchery and wisecracks — a second season of the hit SYFY and USA Network horror series starring the killer doll from the Child’s Play movies was announced this week. The finale of season one just aired, so there won’t be new episodes for a while, but that didn’t stop us from hopping on the phone with Chucky creator Don Mancini to learn more.

What follows is a lightly edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Cheryl Eddy, Gizmodo: When did you find out you were getting a season two, and did that affect the ending of season one at all?

Don Mancini: Just a couple of weeks ago — right around the time it was announced — is when we knew. I had learned from working with Bryan Fuller on Hannibal and Nick Antosca on Channel Zero that you want to construct something that is going to be satisfying as its own entity, in the event you don’t get another season — but at the same time, could function as something where you’re planting the seeds for season two. Ideally you want to do both simultaneously. So that was our goal. That’s all. We wanted it to work both ways just in case, because you can’t take anything for granted.

Gizmodo: What’s next for Chucky? Will we be seeing Glenda or Glen or any other fan-favourite characters? I guess what I’m asking is, what can you reveal about season two?

Mancini: I’m working on the script for episode one at the moment. But you know, there is a [story] bible, and I just pitched the season to the studio and the network, and I think we’re all excited about where we’re going. But I can’t say too much about it other than to stay tuned — and a lot of the characters that fans love and would like to see again, you just might see them.

Gizmodo: Will the characters that were new in Chucky (and managed to survive the season) be a part of season two?

Mancini: That’s also a matter of about which I’ve been instructed to say… stay tuned for! I mean, it’s television. We want to have fun with it. We want people to anticipate and wonder and voice what they want. That’s part of the fun of the storytelling process with the audience, and that’s one of the things I love about TV as opposed to movies where it’s kind of happening in real time. You have this dialogue going on with the audience and the fans, and I really enjoy that. It’s really fun. But this is part of it: that kind of suspense and anticipation of wondering what’s going to come through.

Jennifer Tilly being fabulously evil on Chucky. (Image: SYFY/USA Network)
Jennifer Tilly being fabulously evil on Chucky. (Image: SYFY/USA Network)

Gizmodo: Speaking of the fans, what kind of feedback did you get from Chucky fans about season one, and what is your relationship like with them?

Mancini: Well, you know, I listen and I monitor stuff. One of the things that I wanted to do with the series was bring the tone of the whole thing back into something that was approximate to Child’s Play 2, because I know that’s basically everyone’s favourite movie of the franchise. And I get that — I love that movie, too. So I wanted to do that, and related to that, we tried to make [Chucky’s look] identical to [his look in] Child’s Play 2 because I knew that’s what the fans wanted. So I listen to all of this, and I think about it, and I take it into account. But at the same time, part of the fun of it is subverting those expectations. It’s not just about, like, giving everyone what they want — of course, that wouldn’t even be possible — but I’m just always interested to hear what they like and characters that they like and what they like about those characters, because I’m a fan of it, too. I’m a fan of other cultural artifacts as well. And so I know how it works; it’s fun to participate in.

Gizmodo: Have you gotten any reactions from Hackensack, New Jersey, where the show takes place?

Mancini: Actually, I haven’t! But I’m super interested because I wondered, you know? Maybe they’re just too busy. Maybe they’re oblivious. I feel like at some point over the last eight weeks as the show was airing, I did Google Hackensack just to see, but I didn’t come across anything. I think the Hackensack that we depict is kind of interesting — and, of course, it’s a Hackensack of the mind. No relationship whatsoever to the real Hackensack, New Jersey other than its, you know, physical location and its very existence.

Gizmodo: It’s practically a character in season one.

Mancini: Hackensack for me, I established that in Bride of Chucky because I needed a place for the characters to go — they needed to have a destination for their road trip. And I like the word “Hackensack” because it just phonetically sounds like a place where a serial killer would be from, because it’s hack and sack — it just sounds violent. It sounds like stabbing! But beyond that, I was a huge fan of Richard Donner’s Superman, where of course Eve Teschmacher’s mother is from Hackensack [Laughs]. When Lex Luthor sends the two missiles flying, one of them is going to the San Andreas fault, and Superman can only stop one. And then the other one’s going to Hackensack, New Jersey and Miss Teschmacher says, “But Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack!” and he glances at his watch and then just shakes his head and walks away. That’s why it’s Hackensack! [Laughs]

Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), Jake (Zackary Arthur), and their little friend.
Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), Jake (Zackary Arthur), and their little friend.

Gizmodo: What do you think Chucky, the character and horror icon, brings to the table in 2021 that’s unique?

Mancini: I think that over the years with the movies we’ve done, we’ve found that we can plug him into different subgenres and different tones and now even different media, and he can work. He’s a very versatile character, and I think he’s evolved that way. I mean, part of it, hopefully, was good writing. You know, sort of deliberate planning. But he has evolved in such a way that it was partly because I just wanted to keep myself amused and entertained as a writer. And so when I was writing the different movies, I just wanted to reinvent it so as not to do the same thing over and over again. But I think that that has really helped us.

So to answer your question, I think that Chucky has this versatility as a character and that allows us to plug him into different kinds of metaphoric subtext. Because you always need that; it has to be about something. The monster needs to be a metaphor for something. When we started out in the ‘80s with the first Child’s Play, Chucky was a metaphor for consumerism run amok, say. But in this first season of the TV series, we used Chucky as a metaphor for bullying, which is a really potent issue in the zeitgeist, particularly as it pertains to teenagers, knowing that [teenagers were] going to be our our main characters. It’s important have that, and to set a stake in the ground so that everything, no matter how absurd it all gets, it remains rooted in some kind of reality. Beyond that, with this one specifically, I wanted it to have some real-life, 14-year-old angst and pain. I think that’s one of the reasons people liked it — and that’s something that I knew that the television format would provide an opportunity [for], to build in some real heart. I think we’re all — all the writers and directors and producers — we’re all super happy that that seems to have landed. People really seem to like these characters and the adventures they went on and the emotional arcs that they experienced.

Gizmodo: The tone of the show is unique because you balance gore with some very campy humour. But then there’s also those emotional moments, as you mentioned.

Mancini: Yeah. I think it’s just like, the different colours go well together. The different flavours go well together. For me, I’m always doing that with the movies, too — mixing more grounded, naturalistic stuff with the camp that inevitably comes from Tiffany and Jennifer Tilly. Finding the balance between horror and naturalism and comedy and stylization on the other two ends of the spectrum, that’s very interesting to me.

Will Tiffany return for season two? Mancini won't say, but it sure seems like a good guess. (Image: SYFY/USA Network)
Will Tiffany return for season two? Mancini won’t say, but it sure seems like a good guess. (Image: SYFY/USA Network)

Chucky’s first season is now streaming on Peacock; Chucky season two will hit SYFY and USA Network sometime in 2022.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.