EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Invincible Season 2 Executive Producer Simon Racioppa Discusses The Return Of Invincible
I had the chance to sit down with the Executive Producer/Co-Showrunner of Invincible, Simon Racioppa. We discuss the success of the first season, and what’s ahead for Season 2. Below is a transcript of the interview, you can also watch the interview on our YouTube Channel.
Mark Grayson as Invincible from Invincible Season 2
Thank you, Simon, for speaking with me today. I am so excited to talk with you because you are working on one of my favorite shows right now called Invincible. First I want to say congratulations on Season One! Season one’s gigantic success. How was it seeing the feedback from the fans? To see them respond the way they did to the first season?
I mean, it was incredible, right? I mean, like, we make the show for people to watch it. So every time you make a show like you get so caught up in just like watching it over again, like making tweaks working on it, there are 100 different things to do all the time. That you, you have no idea how it’s going to do when it comes out. As you know, lots of great shows, don’t find an audience, and lots of terrible shows. Sometimes do find an audience, so it’s a roll of the dice. So when season one came out, people seemed to like it, and people seemed to enjoy it. That’s like the best thing in the world. So, you know, like, and also, like, it’s just a nice validation to like, you know, the team and myself and everybody that hey those last two years of our lives actually, like, it’s worthwhile people like it.
Yeah, cuz you wrote on, I believe two episodes in season one, it was episodestwo and seven, I believe for season one. Yeah, that’s very crucial. Episode Seven is very crucial. Was that, like a daunting task to take on that big of an episode? Especially what it’s leading to.
Yeah, Episode Seven was actually a lot of fun to write was one of the easier scripts I’ve written for Invincible, because at that point, so sort of like six, seven, and eight, those three episodes, I forget. But if you actually look at the kind of happen in like, 24 hours, it’s like, very short time. Yeah, they’re really tight. So the nice thing is six kinds of keys, everything off. And then seven was really just like, dealing with what has to happen next. Okay, we’ll Cecil will find out about this, then he would probably do this. And then Debbie would know, and then this would happen. So it was nice. In that sense. It was always very clear what kind of things were going to happen next. And it was again, about finding like interesting ways to get those ready. And then to set up the final episode of the season, you know, which was the big reveal
Were there some indicators like things you had to hit like beat wise, when you were going into that script for episode seven? Or was it like, like, take your own interpretation of what you think was going on, folks? I know you guys are following closer to the invincible comics.
Yeah, we break. I mean, every episode is broken down. You know, we have a great writing team on the show. And even you know, in season one, it was a little looser. But you know, we always know, you know, where an episode is going to end. And when an episode starts obvious, because usually we pick up after the episode that came before you know, where it’s going to end. And then you’re like, Okay, well, I know kind of the key points where I’m going to hit to get to that point. And then you kind of often try and surprise yourself a little bit as you get there. So you’re like, Okay, I know I’m getting to this goalpost at the end, I know what the final scene of the episode is. But what’s a cool, interesting way I can do to get us there that maybe you haven’t seen before, that’s still hits, all those emotional beats that you want to hit. So a lot of it is pre-planning beforehand. And then you find out a little bit more like you find a little bit extra when you’re actually writing the script.
I was curious because I think now thinking more about what season one was, and what season two has basically started to offer us. And I was curious, like, what is your favorite aspects in terms of writing? Is it more about the character moments? Is it the, like, overall story narrative? Or is it something more specific that you really enjoy writing?
Oh, for me, I the stuff I like to write in the show, and I’m very lucky, you know, being you know, co showrunner with Robert being the executive producer, I can kind of pick and choose the places that I want to do, you know, the scenes that I want to do. I like big, juicy emotional scenes. You know, I like scenes where a character is breaking down or characters brought right to their, to their breaking point, or like, you know, like emotional scenes of like, you know, like two characters who hate each other meeting again, for the first time. Like, that’s the kind of stuff that I find the most interesting, like, I like writing action and things like that. But to me, it’s like the big emotional moments that are the most fun to write. And then the best thing about that is then you get to hear Sandra Oh, or JK, or Steven, bring those to life in an incredible way and just bring your own interpretation to your words. And that’s the best part of the job is seeing them take a scene that you imagined in your head and you write the words for and then just take it and make it real and usually in like almost always with our crew with our sorry with our cast, and then just an absolutely incredible way. So yeah,
I’m curious, is there any interpretation for like, improvising? what you’re actually doing? Or is it more so like sticking to the script and maybe not because like you said, like once you have in your head and then they start saying and maybe there’s something will click and go, let’s try it. Let’s try this. Let’s let’s try something else. Does that happen often?
No. I wouldn’t say super often but it does happen. You know, some of our actors like Jason Mantzoukas is a great example, and Ben Schwartz are talented improvisers and incredible comedians. And sometimes they have funnier roles. So they get to play a bit more with those lines, right, and get to like maybe kind of riff a little bit. So I’m happy to let all of our actors play off script, as we go through the process of recording an episode. Even Sandra has, you know, we’ll talk about the scene, we’ll talk about lines. And she’s like, I think makes more sense of Debbie came at it like this. And we’re like, that’s a great idea. Let’s do that. So it’s less about like ad-libbing. And it’s more about making adjustments sometimes for the actors. And sometimes they they have obviously they bring they they embody the character. So they bring incredible ideas and interpretations to the scene as well. And it’s about finding that middle ground, sometimes like what works, we usually always get it as written as well, just so we always have that base level of it. Because you can find some find yourself sometimes sometimes you do an ad-lib, which sounds great at the time. But then when you put the episode together, it can kind of feel out of place sometimes. So we always get it as written. And then we let the actors play and discover and explore a little bit and we get to pick and choose between all that great stuff into what we think makes the best episode.
Well, because you mentioned earlier about how you love writing big emotional moments between characters. Well, then you really must have loved the season two premiere, because that just hit me so hard, because it’s been a while since season one we’ve had way for a while. And then I’m sitting there going, Wow, they’re not letting up on this, like the aftermath of what occurred at the end of season one. What was the biggest thing that you wanted to tackle? were its marks kind of like back and forth on his emotions? The pulling of does he need to still be invincible? Is it more So Mark’s mother? How 20 years of her life is just over like? Or was it the whole world? Like what was the thing you most wanted to make sure audiences kind of connected with in the episode?
The key thing was Mark and Debbie’s relationship and the relationship to Nolan. And what they were feeling because we’re picking up a month, basically, after the end of season one, even though it’s been like two years in the story, it’s only been a month. So I don’t know why everyone says this has taken so long. I wanted to make sure that everything that happened in season one is still fresh in our character’s mind because it has only been a month and I feel like to do anything else would be kind of dishonest with the story and dishonest to the audience. Because, you know, everybody goes through tragedy in their lives. You know, at some point, unfortunately, some of us have more, and some of us have a little bit less, but everybody has those experiences. And often they do not go away in a month. You know, and they can they can last for years. And I feel like a betrayal and a tragedy of the scale of what happened to the end of 1.08. Mark and Debbie are going to be dealing with that for years. So I wanted to make sure that that felt really true and honest. And then when we came back to them, we were really aware that like, Oh no, that is still fresh. And that is not going away versus you know, where it’s like, oh, it’s a new season and everything’s clean. Like like clean slate. Let’s just pick up Oh, superhero adventures. Like that’s not what invincible is. Everything has weight, everything has consequences. And I wanted to make sure that when you come back into season two, you’re like, oh, yeah, season one that’s not gone away. Like that is still there.
It’s still very much impactful to the rest of the world. And you see that throughout the first four episodes, you see that emotional weight on everybody, and then you’re just tacking on other storylines. You’re also introducing new characters. How was it to… Okay, so we established a majority of the characters that we’re kind of focusing on in season one, and now we’re going to bring forth a bunch of new characters was that a daunting task to now try to include new characters into the mix after a big cast you’ve already kind of assembled throughout season one?
I mean, introducing new characters is always fun. But it can also be a challenge. You know, because you don’t want to overcrowd a show, you don’t want to overcrowd. Like an audience has to remember who people are to have to remember character names and stuff. You want to give every character like if, if someone’s just there to be a generic superhero, then they probably shouldn’t be in the show, right? Like when you introduce a character, they should have a story they should have meaning they should have some sort of some sort of emotion that you’re using them to try and get across to the audience. So you know, we have a large cast. So it’s sometimes the trickiest thing is making sure everybody has enough screen time. That said, we do introduce some characters early on in season one that are in season two, sorry that we’re not going to give you their full story in the first couple of episodes their story is going to come out later in season two, or you’re going to actually maybe see more of them in season three and beyond. So you know, there are going to be characters that maybe you’re like, Oh, I wish we had some more time with that character in season two in these first couple episodes. Don’t worry, it’s coming. We’re not going to introduce Yeah, it’s not we’re not introducing and everybody gets their moment in the sun. It’s just maybe it’s not right now maybe it’s in the season, maybe it’s in maybe it’s in three seasons, hopefully, fingers, maybe
Maybe the character that I was most interested in. And that has been officially confirmed and revealed as Angstrom Levy. I feel like that is a game-changer. When introducing the concept of that kind of character with the multiverse aspect, does that completely free you up to do a lot of potential ideas? Or are you like, trying to restrain it to where we’re not going to just allow anything and everything to occur? Because this could change the whole entire show completely? If you go off the rails, and it’s go crazy, all this multiverse,
Obviously, you know, like, multiverses are a big hot thing right now. Marvel is doing it, you know, DC is doing Flash too, it’s everywhere. I would like to think that ours is a little more restrained. And a little more character-based. You know, we’re not doing like, this isn’t like invincible to the multiverse, there’s not the season and the sum of the seasons about, you know, we’re not going back and showing you like the 1970s version of Invincible or the 1980s. Or, you know, we’re not doing that our Multiverse just comes out of angstroms powers. That’s his power set, like what his abilities are. But why it’s there, and why it’s in the show was because of what Angstrom went through. And I’m trying not to spoil too much. So you’ll see some of that you’ll see a lot of that in season one. And that will explain his character, but it’s like, the multiverse is just something he kind of he kind of does. So it’s it’s an element of our season. But I would say Angstrom comes first his desires, his wants, his story is what drives the multiverse, not the multiverse driving the season. If that if that kind of makes sense. A little bit of sense
Yeah. Because it’s a part of the storyline. It’s not so much like taken over because, you know, I was expecting Okay, so what are we going to do with this and realizing the actual how you’re purposing and how you are using multiverse I’m like, I like this, it’s a little different than what you’re expecting. And I think that’s the coolest part. One final question. I do have not so you’re not so much your favorite character, but who is your favorite character to write in terms of dialogue, or just in general, like just playing with that character?
You are gonna get me in trouble here. Obviously, I love writing all of our actors, and all of our casts. I love writing all the characters I mean, some are little like, you can have a little more fun, like, obviously, like, writing Sandra’s dialogue is one of my favorite things to do. Because, again, she just performs it’s so so well. And you know, you get to you get to really like give other characters shit from her perspective, which is nice. But if you’re just talking about weirdo fun dialogue, it has to be Machine Head in season one, because he’s just this like, kind of off-the-rails crazy. You know, superhero mob boss, super villain mob boss. And we just had a lot of I had a lot of fun with this dialogue the whole team did. And it’s just kind of ridiculous. So you’re, you’re kind of not bound in so much. And he’s obviously not a primary character. He’s, he’s a secondary character. So we don’t have to worry so much about like, Oh, my God, what’s he going to say next week, we can just have a ton of fun with him. So it’s like, I love writing his dialogue because you can just go crazy. And then Jeffrey Donovan who plays him, you know, he’s even been Burn Notice and Fargo and a million other amazing things. Also just performs it and like goes nuts on it. And that’s great. So he’s kind of he’s kind of fun, because it’s just this super weirdo guy with super weird dialogue played by the super great actor, and it’s just like a joy to do. Yeah,
Yeah, I actually forgot one thing, because what I love about Invincible so much is the action. When you’re writing a script, obviously, there are different teams working on the show. Do you kind of coordinate with the actual animators in terms of like, how do you write action? Like do you like to think of how it’s going to look? Or do you have a generalized idea? And they’ll take it and kind of run with it, and you’ll have your certain beats placed within it? How does that work?
Sure, obviously, the whole team contributes, like there’s like, there’s something I like to try and remind people that like, you know, we’re having this conversation here. You’re talking to me, but there’s like 300 people working on the show, and other people. Yeah. And all of them contribute in innumerable ways and are all crucial to the show’s success and everything like that. So there’s like, hundreds of people that I don’t want to forget about that are just amazing. And like we you know, the show lives or dies by its crew. And we have an incredible production crew. For this case, though, like I tried to be very specific on the scripts about what we want to have happen on screen. And I sort of talked about, like, if you want to be a screenwriter, what you’re trying to do is actually describe on the page, what you’re seeing on the screen, not what’s happening in the scene, if that makes sense, right? So you kind of imagine yourself watching the show, and you’re like, oh, and then this happens. And then this happens. And then this happens. So we try to be pretty specific. But then we have a lot of latitude also for our artists and our board artists and our directors and our designers to interpret that as well, so we try to give them a good really good framework. Because, you know, it’s cruel and awful if we were just like, you know, you know, invincible fights, you know, rampage, and it goes really poorly for invincible and he gets knocked out. Like, that’s not enough for that we would be bad at our jobs. It’s not enough for the director, they’d be like, Well, what kind of fight Is it? Where is it? What happens? Like, is he does he gets on the ropes does he win easily, you have to give a lot more so we try to really spell it out. And then again, the director and board artists for that sequence, go through the script, they read it, we do meetings beforehand, where we kick off every episode, we’re, you know, myself and Robert, we sit down and we read through the script with the team. And we’re like, this is what we’re thinking. So it’s like, This is a downtown fight. And like, we figured, you know, like Titan, you could like smash through the store and come out, and then Mark kind of comes down and we kind of paint out. And they’re like, oh, yeah, great. What happens if this maybe if we could do this and a bus could come in? And we kind of do this like very hand waving kind of thing in our production offices, and get an idea of what that sequence could be in all of our heads. And then they’re like, great, and then they go off and start to direct it and draw it. And then they bring back early versions of that in animatic form, which is like, you know, storyboards, sequences put together to video. And we go back and forth on that until everybody’s happy with that kind of a sequence. So it’s a real team effort. But yeah, it starts with a pretty clear description on the page. And then as interpreted along the way, we lots of back and forth between, you know, myself and Robert, and you know, Dan Duncan, who’s our supervising director, and then whoever the director is of that episode and the board hours of that episode, so a lot of people, Corey is always there to a lot of people involved in this.
Well, I’m glad that it’s a big team effort because that shows the dedication you all have in terms of making it the best it possibly can because There are like places where they kind of write out roughly what they want. And then the animators have to kind of go in and do something and try to figure it out. But I’m glad that there’s a good effort on the team. And as you mentioned, there’s a lot of people that work on the show, And I’m glad that you mentioned that because it takes everybody it’s not just you know, one person doing all the work that will just never happen. Never happened. But I thank you so much for talking to me today. And what do you hope people take away from season two of Invincible? Without going into spoilers people get ready.
Hopefully, just enjoy. Like, the thing I’ve been sort of saying is that, like, you know, it’s asking a lot to ask for an hour of someone’s time. You know, today when there are a million other things you could be doing, you could be going out for a walk, playing with your kids, playing a video game, reading a book cooking dinner. So I’m asking you for, you know, an hour of your time each week, so eight hours for season two eventually. And I hope we’re giving you something back that makes an hour worthwhile. We’re giving you hopefully a good story that makes you think, hopefully, something that makes you feel you know, sad and happy and fun and like make you laugh a little bit of everything that hopefully is going to stay with you for a while longer than it takes to watch the show. So that’s what we’re trying to do. And that’s what I hope people get from season two of Invincible is that like that was a great hour and I was happy I spent it watching Invincible.
I think I can safely say people are going to feel that because this is pretty big… guys get ready. It’s really intense. But obviously no spoilers!
Thank you, that’s kind of you to say that.
Check out the video interview below as well!
Invincible returns onNovember 3rd on Amazon Prime Video!