Harold Perrineau and Jack Bender Talk From Season 2 at ATX TV Festival + A Preview of “Forest for the Trees”
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
I could tell you that the wind down of Season 2 of From is a leisurely one as we reach episode 8 on Sunday, but that would be a lie. Instead, the stakes increase and the mysteries deepen, and there’s a whole other level of, “Excuse me, what now?” looming. And remember how Scott McCord broke all of us in “Lullaby?” Well, get your binkie, because he’s going to do it again.
“Forest for the Trees” finds the crew at the clinic facing a new wrinkle with their houseguest and then somewhat outed for their activities. Marielle faces new psychological horrors with her withdrawal and Boyd has to answer to Donna. Jim weighs a Hail Mary with Randall’s help while also giving him ammunition for his brand of crazy when Donna interrupts their conversation with Sara.
Jade is hell-bent on getting answers about the caves from Victor, but it’s Ethan and then Tabitha who unlock an even bigger trauma that Victor’s been hanging onto all these years. And Elgin’s terrifying bath time reveals another evolution in the town’s playbook. Once you think you know the rules, there are no rules. It’s a packed 46 minutes written by John Griffin and Vivian Lee and directed by Brad Turner.
Last weekend at the ATX TV Festival, I had the chance to sit down with series directing producer Jack Bender, who directed most of this season’s episodes, and series star Harold Perrineau for a wide-ranging conversation about the show.
There’s a term in TV land vernacular for an episode of a show that’s set all in one place — it’s called a bottle episode, and From is that, to a certain degree, but the bottle is an entire town that’s disconnected from the larger world. “It’s very much a show in a weird bottle. I say it’s a small show about big things, but it’s also like a mirror for these people, surrounded by trees. You can’t get out,” explains Bender.
“Every time Boyd is trying to follow a path that he thinks is gonna lead the flock home, he’ll hit a reflection of himself on another mirror and the repercussions will be worms in his arms and this and that and self-doubt and all that stuff.”
“Every step gets more complicated and yet it does bounce off all the characters. And I think Jeff [Pinkner], our showrunner, and John [Griffin], who created the show, and is the head writer, do a great job of how to spend time with everybody, but not make it seem like that’s what we’re doing.”
For the first six episodes of the season, we watched Boyd unravel before he finally purges the worms from his blood and get back to himself. Perrineau acutely felt the challenge of portraying that panic and uncertainty. “It was a really tricky way to do it because after the first season, even though Boyd doesn’t know where he is, he’s really surefooted, like, ‘We’re gonna do this. Let’s go. We’re gonna go figure this out,’” he shares.
“But when he comes back, it’s all gone. And even in playing it, just because of the way that I work, it’s scary. I went up to Jack once and said, ‘I don’t think I’m doing this right. It’s all just scary.’ [And he said I was], but it just feels so off kilter, and you have to trust that you can take that ride. And so for me, I just kind of trust it. I know I’m in good hands and then I do it. But it’s not fun. [He’s] hitting the mirror.”
And slamming into that reflection again and again only amps up the terror for Boyd, and us at home. “This season is really scary, but not scary for the same reasons it was last year. It’s scary because Boyd is off kilter because nobody knows what’s happening,” Perinneau points out.
“Because Randall showed up. That’s really scary. And Jim and his family and Tabitha are doing something weird. And who is this weird kid Elgin. All of those things I think are great and scary. And for me, really fun because the more we get into it, the more off kilter it’ll be as the audience, as as our Fromily, is watching it.”
During our chat, I mentioned that I think of Boyd being the captain of this very strange ship, and Bender laughed and told Perrineau Boyd finally got that boat he wanted, “Except, there’s a hole here [and you think], ‘I’ll plug this and I can plug this and now that I’ve plugged the holes, I’ve got these worms…’” Perrineau added that that’s the job, saying, “That’s the leader. It doesn’t get easier as the world gets messier, which is what we’re kind of all living through in our own way.”
As the producing director on the show, Bender helps shape the overall narrative, and we can blame him for the boogedy ballerina. “There’s no question that Jeff and John share with me and I contribute to what the recipe for the season is gonna be. And there were a couple of instances where [I proposed doing something we haven’t done yet]. The ballerina was one of those experiences,” he says.
“The guys wrote, ‘There’s a music box.’ I got with our prop guy, who’s a genius and a sick puppy. He’s brilliant. And I said, ‘Okay, what’s the music box?’ He said, ‘Well, it should be one of those old ballerinas, but make her have one leg, maybe a broken leg.’ So we go with that. And then when I shoot Boyd in that scene [at the beginning of the season], it’s so brilliant what he does, studying that ballerina.”
“And I said to the guys, ‘The ballerina can’t be done. Wait until you see this on film.’ And I [edited] the scene, [and thought], ‘The ballerina’s gotta come back in the show. We can’t drop her.’ And then they started inventing…”
New episodes of From start streaming at 3:01 am ET Sundays on MGM+ online and via the app and on Prime Video, where you can watch the first seven episodes this season so far. New episodes air linearly on MGM+ Sundays at 9 pm/8c — join the cast for the weekly live Tweet! All ten episodes of Season 1 are streaming online on MGM+ for free here.
In Canada, you can stream Season 1 and the latest episodes on Paramount+ via Prime Video subscription channels. If you missed any of our conversations for Season 1 and my new chats for Season 2, they’re all here. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Heather M.
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