Andrew De Angelis Talks Killjoys “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” [Exclusive]
Andrew De Angelis is one of the Killjoys writers who joined the show in the third season and stayed on through the end of the series (which is shooting now and will air next summer). Last season, he wrote “Necropolis Now,” and this past Friday, brought us his second episode, “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” I chatted with De Angelis today about writing for the show, creating Yalena, and giving us a window into Pree and Gared’s marriage and the softer side of Turin.
De Angelis came to script writing after a circuitous path through Bachelorâ€™s and Master’s degrees that had him on the road to a healthcare career. A surprise comment from an instructor during his Masterâ€™s work and Toronto’s SARS outbreak were just the kick he needed to redirect him.
“My path was really different. I grew up watching TV and loved TV and it was a huge part of my life. I never considered working in it. My parents were hard-working immigrants [so I went to school with that in mind],” he says.
“[Part of the Master’s] involved a year in Milan. The program was in English and one professor was an American from New York. She assigned us a journal writing assignment, and I hate journal writing [especially] when it’s imposed upon you. I get resentful. So, I wrote something for me that was entertaining.”
“She read it and told me to keep writing. After the term, she said, ‘I think you should be writing [instead].’ That was the first time I heard that. I always enjoyed it, but never took it seriously. [So, I ignored that advice] and came back to Toronto and got my first job.”
“I was working at the second hospital to get shut down and quarantinedÂ [during the SARS outbreak] and it was an office job I hated. It was so early [in the epidemic] that we thought it was airborne and there was no cure and we were all going to die. Obviously, it went away, and that was a real wake-up call.”
“I thought, ‘If I have to die doing a job, I’d rather do a job I like.’ I started writing…short stories, articles, and a novel, and none of it was clicking for me. Someone said, ‘TV,’ so I tried to write a spec for Family Guy and I just got it.”
“I understood the structure and all of it. There was a bit of intuitiveness to it. I read, but I’m not an avid reader, and I thought, ‘If you’re going to write novels, you should read a lot of them,’ [however] I am a consumer of TV. [Writing for TV] just made sense.”
“I took some courses to get better at it. I applied to the Canadian Film Centre and got in on my second try. Coming in, I had no industry connections and the CFC is a shortcut to all of that. You know everybody you need to know, and they know you.”
One of those first industry contacts was Karen Troubetzkoy, who is now an executive producer on Killjoys. “My first job was right out of the Film Center. Karen [liked my writing and we got along and she] said if the show she was working on got greenlit, she’d give me a job,” he recalls. “True to her word, she did. She hired me as script coordinator and in the second season as a story editor, and I’ve been riding a lot of luck ever since. That was 10 years ago.”
“Killjoys was going into the third season and they were looking to expand their writers room and take some chances on writers. My experience up to then was only half-hour [series]. They brought in writers who maybe only had half-hour experience or [hadnâ€™t written] sci-fi. Karen suggested me and Michelle [Lovretta] read my sample and interviewed and hired me and I think she’s regretted it ever since.”
De Angelis was immensely grateful to be invited back for the fourth and fifth seasons, and to know he’d be involved in completing the series. “First and foremost, to be asked back is just great. That was really nice. It was good in so many ways. The chance to close out a show is so rare. How many people get that chance? It’s like winning the lottery,” he explains.
“It was amazing to watch it happen and be a part of it. To come back to this room…It is, without a doubt, the most supportive room, the kindest room, the friendliest room, the sharpest room. They’re so smart. Everybody’s so great.”
“We spent a lot of time together, in a room, at a table, just breaking stories. Even now [that I’m done], absolutely in a heartbeat I would do it again with all of them and I think I can safely speak for all of the room [that they would, too]. To get along that well and like each other that much after three seasons, two of which were back-to-back, is saying a lot about the quality of the people. In a lot of ways, the writers room was [our] chosen family.”
Killjoys took that found family on the road Friday in a writers room panel at Fan Expo in Toronto [which will be released on the Writers Guild of Canada’s podcast]. De Angelis loved meeting the fans. “It was awesome to see [them] and hear what the show means to them,” he says.
“This show resonates with fans on a deeper level and it’s nice to be part of a show that makes people feel good. It was a nice perspective. Credit to Michelle for creating that kind of world and Adam [Barken] for continuing to shepherd it on.
In “O Mother, Where Art Thou,” we met Yalena. De Angelis says that introduction had been brewing for a while, and her arrival in episode 407 made perfect sense and served the story for Aneela, Dutch, and Khlyen. “When we were in the room and talking about Season 4 and what we wanted to do, the things we wanted to reveal, the talk of, ‘Who is Aneela’s mom?’ came up quite a bit,” he shares.
“[We thought] it would be fun to explore, if it fit [the story]. When we were breaking the episode, we wanted to go back to some kind of origin for The Lady. We had this thing of Khlyen going back to this place to the pool, and that someone would be there protecting it.”
“One of the things I loved was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with the knight, and [so we thought about], ‘Who would it be?’ I said, ‘I have an idea, and itâ€™s kind of crazy, and this is a fire-able pitch…what if it’s Aneela’s Mom?'”
“We talked about bringing her back and showing it. [We took time] to consider that from all angles because it’s a huge commitment and agreed it would make sense for her and their journey and what she did and how she fits in. We went from there.”
One of the intriguing dynamics of introducing Yalena is that she’s the first person we’ve seen Khlyen defer to, and De Angelis said it was absolutely intentional that Yalena be as fierce as her daughters. “She was Aneela’s mother, and to some weird extent, Dutch’s mother–two of the strongest, most badass characters we have on the show. So, she has to be the baddest of all of them,” he points out.
“If Khlyen is going to defer to anyone, it’s going to be her. You can see Dutch and Aneela in her. She’s the Queen, the head of the 10th family. Khlyen married into this. If he’s going to listen to anyone, it’s going to be her. Karen [Glave] came in and just really nailed it. She took what was on the page and elevated it.”
“She and Rob [Stewart] worked together to make that dynamic work really well. They found it. Our cast are just unbelievable. It’s a joy to watch them work and take what’s on the page and make it work or elevate it. They really bring it every time. It’s a testament to them.”
The episode revealed a lovely insider’s look at Pree and Gared’s marriage and the strength of their bond. “It was also a chance to show that they’re in love and they see each other in a way no one else does. When you’re in love, you see the best of them, that no one else does, or that people have forgotten,” De Angelis points out.
“Gared sees [in Pree] a warlord who’s capable of all kinds of stuff. Pree sees that Gared has a good heart and is fiercely loyal. When he sees those kids and he’s going to go off, Pree is the only one who can connect with him and tell him they’ll come back. Gared believes Pree, where he might not believe anyone else. Because they’re truly in love, and know each other better than anyone else, that works.”
The episode also gave De Anglis an opportunity to continue the progression of softening Turin a bit, interacting with Weej, who, similar to Jaq, is new at this humanity thing. “We all love Turin. We talk in his voice. We say ‘God Damn it’ in the writers room. It’s always nice to show another side of a character,” he says.
“He’s too cynical and jaded to let his guard down with anybody. I don’t think he’d ever trust anyone enough to do that. With Weej, there’s no motive. He’s new to the world. Turin recognizes that this is the one person where I can let my guard down, sort of open up just a hint, and he’s not going to make fun of me or make a joke about it.”
“We created a safe place for Turin to show what’s still in there. I think all our characters are good, and Turin is a good guy. He’d just never show it. With Weej and no one else around, he can let his hair down.”
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