Goosebumps EPs Conor Welch & Pavun Shetty On Adapting R.L. Stine For A New Generation

Summary

  • The new Goosebumps series honors the original books while bringing a fresh approach, appealing to both longtime fans and new audiences.
  • The show combines elements of horror and comedy, balancing scares with levity and creating a relatable and enjoyable viewing experience.
  • The cast, including Justin Long, brings depth and humor to their roles, and the show blends practical and CG effects to create a cinematic and grounded feel.

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The new Goosebumps series is based on the acclaimed young adult horror novels by R.L. Stine. The series follows a group of five high school students who begin investigating a dark secret about the town’s history. As they learn more about the tragic passing of teenager Harold Biddle, which took place three decades ago, they uncover shocking truths about their parents’ pasts.

The new Goosebumps series was developed by Rob Letterman and Nicholas Stoller. Goosebumps stars Zack Morris, Isa Briones, Miles McKenna, Ana Yi Puig, Will Price, Rachael Harris, and Justin Long. The first five episodes of Goosebumps premiered on Disney+ and Hulu on October 13, with the remaining five episodes debuting on subsequent Fridays.


Related: Every Goosebumps Book & Inspiration Used For Disney’s TV Show

Screen Rant spoke with executive producers Conor Welch and Pavun Shetty about the new Goosebumps series. They explain why they decided to move away from the anthology storytelling style and how they were inspired to incorporate five of the iconic books into one story. They also praise the cast and share the importance of capturing the tone of the Goosebumps world while connecting with new and old audiences.

Conor Welch & Pavun Shetty Talk Goosebumps

Justin Long in Goosebumps

Screen Rant: How does this series honor the original series while bringing a fresh, updated approach to the storytelling?

Pavun Shetty: That was the most important thing for us because, like you, both Conor and I grew up on the books too. We read them growing up. I mean, I remember sneaking into my sister’s room who’s a little bit older and stealing the books off her shelf and reading something. And the feeling you get when you read a Goosebumps book is that you are reading something that you shouldn’t be a part of.

It’s a little bit too old for you. And I think we wanted to embrace that when we were doing the show. And we also wanted to bring in a new audience, and an adult audience too, that felt like they were seeing issues on screen that they could identify with also. So we endeavored to have a high school cast and their parents at the exact same time. And our audience hopefully are people who read the books, but are also new people who are discovering the books for the first time.

Conor, can you talk about some of the exciting challenges you guys faced when you guys got to adapt the iconic Goosebumps stories for a modern audience?

Conor Welch: Totally. I mean, just living up to the potential, right? Because this is a series that I read growing up, my oldest daughter reads now, her friends read now. Everyone to whom I mentioned that I’m working on this show knows and love those books. So the bar was super, super high. Not to mention the fact that, while not in the writer’s room, R.L. Stine blessed us with getting to use all of his books, and sort of was reading the creative and watching some cuts and stuff. So the bar was crazy, crazy high.

But we really wanted to make a show that was elevated and sophisticated that honored the source material, but felt like it needed a reason to be and needed a reason to be right now. So we wanted to veer away from the anthological nature of the book series and of the original television series and really create a show that would be pulling an audience through from the beginning of the series until the end. So we changed or came up with the new architecture of how to use five of the more popular books as launching off points for each of our five main high school characters.

And then about halfway through, bring them together, realizing that they’re being haunted by totems that probably are connected, and working together to figure out how to solve the mystery. So yeah, it was important to us to have sort of an elevated mystery that kept an audience wondering what would happen next.

There’s a ton of little Goosebumps Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the whole series. How did you guys know what you wanted to add in to sprinkle those Easter eggs throughout the series?

Pavun Shetty: Yeah, I mean, we were lucky enough to have access to all of the books, and we picked some of those popular ones to start with. But we do, like you said, have a lot of little Easter eggs. Slappy is a huge part of the series, and he’s an iconic character from the Goosebumps franchise, and he becomes a big part of our first season. So we knew we wanted to have Slappy in there, and there’s little things that we wanted to tease that only people who have read all the Goosebumps books would see, and we’re hoping, like you, that they recognize them.

But I think the mystery thing you brought up is actually the most important thing, and it allowed us to plant these seeds. These kids go to a Halloween party, and it’s at this creepy abandoned house, which is a staple to a lot of Goosebumps books. They walk down a creaky staircase, which is a staple to a lot of Goosebumps books, and then they find themselves at the center of a haunted mystery. And all of these different things they find there impact them in a really grounded way with the issues they’re having them. So the first order of business was picking stories that really impacted our kids on a personal level and lined up with the issues they were dealing with. And then we were just lucky enough to be able to pull from everything else and throw them in appropriate places.

Ana Yi Puig in Goosebumps

I want to talk about the cast for a second because the cast for this show is absolutely incredible. It’s diverse, and they’re so unique. Miles McKenna, Zack Morris, Isa Briones, and Anna Yi Puig are fantastic in this. What did they bring to their roles that weren’t necessarily on the page?

Conor Welch: Yeah, we really lucked out. We literally auditioned hundreds of teens and young adults. And it was important to us that they were kind of discoveries, right? That they weren’t super familiar faces at the core. And it was also important to us that they embody their characters in surprising and unexpected ways. We were very intentionally trying to deviate from the tropes of Breakfast Club-type high school experience where there’s the jock, and there’s the pretty girl, and there’s the wallflower. So it was important to us to subvert all of these tropes.

And so our Zack Morris, who plays Isaiah, the sort of center of the pilot episode is the jock. He’s the football star. He runs the school, but he’s also very kind. He’s very compassionate. He’s open to everybody. He’s not just your jerk jock. And so we wanted that to be the case through all of the characters, and we were super, super lucky to cast a group of kids who just lit up the screen, man, and who just found a chemistry very, very early on in the process that allowed us to take things that were working and run with it, to take certain dynamics that had extra chemistry and run with that. And it was really just a fun thing to watch unfold that you don’t get every time.

I love Justin Long. I feel that he is one of those actors who can make you love him or hate him depending on the character he plays. He’s one of those chameleon type of actors, and he plays Nathan in this, and he’s so good in this and he’s been killing it lately. Talk to me about working with Justin Long and bringing him on such an iconic property like Goosebumps.

Pavun Shetty: We lucked out with Justin. He’s incredible. I had gotten to work with him before on a show called New Girl, so I knew how funny he was, and I’d obviously seen him in a lot of movies, and he’s been in a lot of iconic coming-of-age comedies, but he is also been in a lot of great horror pieces, Jeepers Creepers. He was just coming off Barbarian where he was an unlikeable guy, but also was easy to follow and super compelling. And so he is extremely good at switching between comedy and horror on a dime. And I think that was super important to our show, because we try to do that as well.

And he’s also really good at physical humor. He can throw himself down a flight of stairs, he can throw himself into lockers, he can do anything we asked him to do. The character was a 16-year-old kid, has possessed his body, and so he had to battle that mentally, but also physically, and he really embraced that. And so we were super psyched that he came on board to do this. And he really loved the books too, so he knew the material well.

Conor Welch: It was really lucky. Yeah. It was important to us because the series attempts to really tow that line between scary and funny, and traverse back and forth fluidly. It was important to us too that all of the actors, the youngsters, but also the adults, could land a joke and could lean into the real drama and emotion. So Rachael Harris as Nora, Rob Huebel as Colin, these are folks from comedy backgrounds who have just exceptional timing when it comes to a joke, but also have a real depth and a pathos to them. So it was really fun to watch and get to work with them as well.

Mr. Bratt looks around a door menacingly in Goosebumps 2023 trailer

This show does a really good job of blending CG and practical effects in such a great way. Can you guys talk about the approach of blending those effects together? Because this feels like a very cinematic Goosebumps, especially for a series.

Pavun Shetty: Right. Rob Letterman who created the show also directed the first movie, and he directed the first episode here. So he is very adept at special effects, and that was particularly appropriate for this show where he has a long history with it. And he made it clear that all of the scares and all of the effects and all of the hauntings going on in the show needed to feel grounded, because for the characters who are going through real life issues, these things should feel real to them. And I think when you have VFX and other elements that are too heightened or too far removed, it takes you out as a viewer.

And we wanted to make sure that everyone was as invested with our characters personal issues as they were with the hauntings that were going on to them. So all of the effects were grounded. We wanted to make sure they looked as real as possible, even though there’s trolls and giant worm monsters and you’re going back and traveling through time, but it really needed to feel like it fit into the world that we created.

Is there anything from the original books that you wanted to include but maybe quite couldn’t for timing restraints or maybe even story purposes, but you would like to revisit in another Goosebumps type of series, maybe next Halloween?

Conor Welch: Let’s hope so. Yeah, I mean, luckily R.L. Stine and Scholastic gave us access to the entire canon. So yeah, the first five episodes are sort of built on the backs of five of the more popular books. There’s some Easter eggs pulled maybe a dummy down the line, pulled from some of the other books as well. But yeah, I mean there’s just so much depth of storytelling that exists within this series that it feels like there are many, many, many more stories to tell with this group.

Pavun, you’ve worked on another classic horror remake with I Know What You Did Last Summer. Did that experience at all help you prepare for something like Goosebumps?

Pavun Shetty: Well, it did because, again, that was more of an adult horror that didn’t have a lot of comedic elements in it. And I think with Goosebumps, what’s inherent to the books that R.L. Stine originally did was that there was always comedy. I think almost every chapter ended with a punchline. And comedy and horror are linked so well together. I mean, anytime there’s a jump scare when you’re watching something, you immediately laugh afterwards.

And so I think we really wanted to make sure that we balanced the comedy and horror really well together with these books. So yeah, I mean, horror plays really well everywhere. There’s a reason that there’s so many horror movies and people like going to them together. So with this it was actually a little bit easier because there was comedy with it, but it’s also more challenging because the source material is just so beloved.

Conor, I feel that Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark? were great entryways for me to get my enjoyment of horror. What are you hoping young audiences take away from this iteration of Goosebumps?

Conor Welch: Yeah. Well, I hope that first of all, it feels relatable, that the issues that these main characters are going through feel tangible and relatable to them. I hope that it’s a little scarier than they expect in the way that the books were, that you kind of go like, “Should I be reading this? Should I be watching this?” But you can’t wait for the next one. And I hope that they are laughing the whole way through because I think when there’s some levity in between scares, it just makes for a more interesting ride.

Pavun, you also were an EP on The Boys, which has been expanding its universe more in a ton of ways. How do you see Gen V kind of fitting into the main series, and how much further can a series like The Boys go beyond Diabolical and Gen V?

Pavun Shetty: Just like Goosebumps, there is a lot of source material and there’s a huge world that we’re trying to expand. I think with that show, we only went forward with it because we wanted to do a show that honored The Boys, but also felt like it was a new cast of characters and dealt with new issues. So that’s a college show. And there’s plenty more after that that we could pull from. But I think we want to be really careful with the types of shows we put forward. So it doesn’t seem like we’re just throwing stuff on screen just to capitalize, because we really love The Boys, and the world of The Boys and the fans really do too. And I think a little goes a long way.

And so it was interesting because Gen V comes out this weekend, that’s a college show, but Goosebumps is a high school show. And just developing both of those at the same time, seeing the difference of high schoolers and colleges being in college and what those are like, it was quite an interesting juxtaposition. And while Gen V, they’re dealing with hard R issues, blood everywhere, and gore, Goosebumps, it’s scary, and it’s a very different tone that we’re going for. So it was fun to try to do both of those things at the same time.

About Goosebumps

Disney's Goosebumps with Sloppy the Dummy

A group of five high schoolers embark on a shadowy and twisted journey to investigate the tragic passing three decades earlier of a teen named Harold Biddle — while also unearthing dark secrets from their parents’ past.

The first six episodes of Goosebumps are available now on Disney+ and Hulu.

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