‘Chucky’ Creator and Cast on Why the New Syfy Series Is More Than Child’s Play
It’s playtime once again for Chucky as everyone’s favorite murder doll is getting his own killer television series. Creator and executive producer Don Mancini expands on the story of a horror icon that originally appeared in 1989’s Child’s Play. After six other films and a 2019 reboot, it turns out there is more to explore from the “Good Guy.”
For Mancini, the initial eight-episode season of Chucky provides the chance to really dig into the history of the slasher franchise and build from there. Familiar faces will show up, including Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), and Kyle (Christine Elise), Andy (Alex Vincent) and Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif). Even the original voice of the titular character, Brad Dourif (Fiona’s dad), is back.
At the center of this chapter, however, are new young faces and a fresh take. And believe it or not, beyond the bloody kills is a grounded narrative touching on real-life issues, such as bullying. The first episode takes us to Hackensack where a middle schooler named Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) picks up Chucky at a yard sale.
‘One of my favorite dialogues on the show is when Chucky is reading Jake’s diary,” Mancini said. “Where he goes, ‘You should call it [crush] Devon, Devon, Devon.’ Jake is embarrassed. Chucky goes, ‘Well, I have a queer kid.’ Jake is like, ‘And you’re cool with it?’ Chucky goes, ‘Well, I’m not a monster, Jake.’
“It’s fun to play with the expectation an audience has regarding a character so well-known,” Mancini continued. “I like to think over the years in the films we’ve dimensionalized Chucky with his family life, difficult marriage. He has a gender-fluid child. He is troubled by that in Seed of Chucky, but in the end, he accepts it. Chucky has become his ally in that way because as you say he is not a bigot, homophobic, racist. He is just a psychopath. He’ll kill anybody….These are monsters who show their human side, which I think is kind of fun. I think that’s part of the reason why these characters have lasted in the culture for as long as they have.”
Ahead of the premiere, meet the new teens of Chucky bringing the more than 30-year-old franchise into the next generation.
Jake is a budding artist who lost his mom and is stuck with an abusive dad. He picks up Chucky, thinking the doll parts would work well for his latest project. Arthur likes the relatability of Jake as the outsider, along with this sense that you don’t belong.
“I feel a lot of people can empathize with Jake because he is coming into his sexuality and is bullied because of that,” he said. “His dad does not support him. A lot of people might be going through that. I hope [the show can] maybe help them.”
Growing up, Arthur recalled never being allowed to watch the Child’s Play films. To get ready for the main role he binged the movies.
Played by Björgvin Arnarson, Devon is a True Crime detective mystery podcaster who befriends Jake. He sees something of himself in Devon.
“We are creative and too curious for our own good,” Arnarson said. “I think I kind of use some of that for Devon to be this guy who wants to know more about what is happening and knows about Jake.”
The Emmy-nominated Alyvia Alyn Lind goes from The Young and the Restless to primetime, playing the girl who makes Jake’s time a living hell at school. Lexy may be self-absorbed and the classic shallow popular kid on the surface, but Lind can also relate to the character on a deeper level.
“We are very driven. We will not stop until we get what we need,” she explained. “At the beginning of the series you don’t realize this, but she is very protective of the people she loves. She doesn’t seem like it but she will stop at nothing to protect them, save them and help them. I’m definitely the same in that way. I’ll do anything for my friends and family.” The comparison stops there: “I’m definitely not a bully.”
Lind looks at Jake’s struggles and the damage that can be done by bullies. Taking into account what she has encountered in her own experience, she understands how cruel kids can be.
“[Chucky] comes to you saying he’ll be your friend to the end to manipulate you. I’ve had to deal with so many bullies, just really not good people,” she said. “I think that Chucky is the perfect form of that. We get to see people being bullied by me and my friends [on the show], kind of the gist of me and Jake’s relationship in that way she never really felt bad for anything she has done. Until she realizes how much she is affecting Jake, and that gets to her.”
The actress enjoyed collaborating with the crew and cast — that is, except for the title star, who scared the you-know-what out of her.
“It was so creepy. You have this doll that starts coming to life,” Lind said. “It feels so real. Nothing is CGI. Everything is in front of you. It’s terrifying. There is this room with all these doll parts. I would always walk past it. You would see Chucky just sitting there staring at you. I can’t….”
Teo Briones plays Jake’s privileged, over-achieving cousin. It doesn’t help matters when he conspires against Jake with his girlfriend, Lexy.
“The way the show handles bullying is really cool. How it handles the bully as well. Junior and Lexy are the two main bullies of the show, but we also get to see their lives back home,” Briones said. “A little bit inside their minds. Why do they do the things they do? If you are going through bullying, you can watch the show and maybe use that to realize the reason this person is bullying. They are doing it because they probably have problems of their own. You can try to sympathize with them and maybe get to the root of the problem and help that person.”
Briones had never seen the Child’s Play movies before nabbing the role. However, watching them before filming put him in the right headspace. He slowly began to understand the responsibility these characters have to loyal viewers.
“I didn’t feel the weight of the legacy until halfway through filming,” he said. “I realized how humungous this franchise is and how fantastic the fans are. It made me more nervous….Then it also makes me super excited because now with the TV format we get to say a lot more with our characters and stories. It gave me a sense of accomplishment when we finished the show and got a sneak peek. I feel like we are doing the fans proud. I hope so.”
Chucky, Series Premiere, Tuesday, October 12, 10/9, USA Network and SyFy