What could be worse than high school drama, navigating young love and living up to your parent’s high expectations? Having to hide that you come from a legacy of either vampires or monster hunters? And that you might be in love with a member of the opposing family? There is nothing like a star-crossed lovers’ tale quite like V.E. Schwab‘s First Kill. We recently got the chance to sit down with the author and showrunner Felicia D. Henderson about Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of First Kill and what it was like to bring this story to life.
Are you prepared for First Kill? The series is set to drop on Netflix starting June 10, 2022.
For those unfamiliar with roundtable interviews, they’re comprised of multiple journalists from different outlets. They usually run for about 15 minutes. Each journalist is granted at least one question.
V.E. Schwab and Felicia D. Henderson Interview
Julia Roth: First Kill is a short story and a great jumping-off point for the series. What was it like to expand on the story? Did you have ideas for how it would play out, or was this something you took a fresh look at for Netflix?
V.E. Schwab: Netflix bought and had me adapt my short story for the series’s pilot episode. Once they were happy with the pilot and we got our thumbs up, we were able to bring Felicia on and start a room as a team. What is so amazing about this was that there were one or two things that I was hopeful would play out, but the room helped expand it even further. It’s almost like breaking open a pomegranate. When you break it open, there are tons of little seeds inside to explore.
Getting to work in a room took me from being a single creator to a participant in something so much bigger than myself. It allowed us to take this beginning and look at ways that I, myself, would have never thought to expand it. That is one of the most beautiful things about this experience. Being a novelist is such a solitary profession, and the same as being a screenwriter. But to get to work in a writer’s room and have a team allows you to think so far beyond your own experiences and build a more diverse story.
JR: As a writer with stories, you give readers a way to build the stories in their minds with dialogue and descriptions. It’s a lot different to tackle First Kill as a show because now we can visually see the representation that you have given us. What was it like to define the visual aspects of the characters and situations and the world around them?
VES: You’re right; it’s both a feature and a bug. It was also, to me, one of the most exciting elements of it. When I write novels, not only is it solitary, but the sum total is there on paper. It is really up to the reader’s imagination. Here, we have this opportunity to expand and guide that imagination more. I was on set one day in what is Sebastion’s office, and there were business journal covers on the wall with him on them, and I started to realize that I had made a seed, and now these characters in the actors’ hands take on entirely different lives of their own and come to life.
I think that the visual language of it has been a group effort, and Felicia has helped that so beautifully. There was something truly unique about watching real people breathe life into characters that were only two-dimensional before. This was a bit of a tackle in casting for First Kill. Not because we were looking for people to fit the roles physically, but people we could look at and believe that they truly embody the character they are playing. They needed the energy of the character and the chemistry between them and the other cast members. Every step of the way has been an absolute joy.
Felicia D. Henderson: That energy you speak of is something that, from the beginning, included everyone and was there every step of the way. Everyone understood that this wasn’t just ‘taking a job,’ but bringing a certain level of energy to set and really bringing this story to life. Every single element needed to work together to tell the story, from the pictures on the wall to how the cast interacted together. Everyone came with their “A” game and took on the personal task of bringing this energy to set each and every day, especially during the hard days. We began filming during COVID and before vaccinations, and everyone worked together to make the set safe.
When Victoria visited the set for the first time, she was so excited about the business journal covers, and I kept thinking, ‘I’ve been staring at them all day.’ But she brought new energy to the First Kill set that got me energized. Every time we would bring something new to her, like what the school’s mascot would be or the team’s colors, she would act as if we had just given her a million dollars. It was such a massive boost to morale on set and for me to be able to help her expand this story and bring it to life for all of you.
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