Dead Boy Detectives Interview: Showrunners Steve Yockey & Beth Schwartz On Season 1 & Beyond

Disclaimer: This Dead Boy Detectives interview contains plot spoilers for season one, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Dead Boy Detectives show-runners Steve Yockey and Beth Schwartz had a lot to live up to. With Neil Gaiman’s works being deeply loved by readers, adapting them from print to screen is no small feat. Furthermore, Dead Boy Detectives became officially in-universe to Netflix’s The Sandman series in the middle of the creative process.

In speaking with Yockey and Schwartz, I am quick to inform them that they’re free to discuss spoilers, since the interview won’t be shared until after the show’s Netflix release. Their response is to compliment the multitude of movie posters visible on the wall behind me through the virtual screen.

LadyJenevia: This is a spoiler interview so please don’t hold back any of the details you feel like sharing.

Yockey: First of all, we love House of Gucci! That’s A+!

Schwartz: Also Grease 2, which doesn’t get enough credit.

Yockey: Yeah, Grease 2 has Cool Rider, come on!

LadyJenevia: I think we’re best friends already!

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L to R) George Rexstrew as Edwin Payne and Jayden Revri as Charles Rowland in episode 1 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Ed Araquel/Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: To start things off, Steve, Dead Boy Detectives is connected to Netflix’s The Sandman. What are the logistics of of mapping out the story for the season as well as getting permission to use characters and performers from this other series?

Yockey: Everything went much more smoothly than you would imagine. We started off on a different network when we were being developed so Beth and I made the choice, when we weren’t allowed to use Sandman characters, we made the choice to still set our show in that world and just kind of work around the IP to make sure we didn’t get in any trouble or step on any toes. Then when we moved to Netflix, Netflix came to us and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun now that you’re on Netflix if we had some crossover stuff and we did some Easter eggs and cameos?’ and we were like, ‘Yes, yes!’ and then we just had to talk to Neil [Gaiman] and Allan [Heinberg] from Sandman about… ‘Here’s specifically what we would like to do,’ and they were on board so we got to do what we wanted.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L to R) George Rexstrew as Edwin Payne and Lukas Gage as Thomas The Cat King in episode 2 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Beth, one of the big parts of this season’s story is Edwin’s sexuality as well as romantic yearning. Since he’s from the Edwardian era originally, how did this time period influence the way that you mapped out this part of his identity and his character arc?

Schwartz: Steve and I had a lot of discussions about this in terms of, during his time where he was brought up, it’s not just a time period, it’s everything about… culturally, he didn’t think that it was a possibility for him to be gay. It that wasn’t even something that was a choice for him. Steve and I talked about that a lot and that really sort of cemented in my head. In season one when he starts meeting new people and the Cat King specifically, he’s starting to see that, ‘Oh, maybe this is a choice and maybe this is who I am,’ so that is sort of what sparked his journey.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L-R) Max Jenkins as Kingham and Caitlin Reilly as Litty in episode 2 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Steve, the Dandelion Sprites initially seemed like they were just there to be hilarious snarky comic relief but the season actually ends with it being heavily set up for them to come back. What incentivised you to keep them in play in the story?

Yockey: Well I mean, Max and Caitlin are fantastic in those roles but we sort of wanted them to be a Waldorf and Statler in The Muppet Show, the two old guys in the Opera box who kind of comment on all the action and make fun of everybody. I think we’ve achieved that, definitely, only with a lot more swearing. We just knew that they are linked to Niko and so if Niko’s story is going to continue, so is the Sprites.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Yuyu Kitamura as Niko Sasaki in episode 5 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

LadyJenevia: Speaking of Niko, as a Japanese woman, it’s really fun for me to get to actually see a Japanese main character on a new series. For Beth, or either who wants to answer, what steps did you take to ensure that the story didn’t fall into tired stereotypes for your lead characters since they’re all from these different ethnic and LGBT+ groups?

Schwartz: That’s a great question. We had a very diverse room and with a lot of different voices, and I think that we were very careful. All of our characters are so unique, and not just their ethnicities but their personalities. That’s where we went to first, was them as a character. Niko is so specific in terms of her backstory, and her season long journey of hiding from everything and then she ends her journey by being the real hero, showing up for her friendship group, and saving her friends at the sacrifice of her own life.

Yockey: It was important just introducing, like, there were small elements of kawaii and stuff like that in it but it was more important to us that she was this very specific individual dealing with separation from her mom because of grief, dealing with losing her father, giving her these realistic things. Yes she also has Spiral Academy mangas on her shelf and yes, she has a… we weren’t allowed to use Yuri on Ice so we made a poster version of a tennis anime. She has things that a Japanese girl would enjoy but also a very specific life beyond that.

LadyJenevia: Thank you so much for answering my questions. I had a great time watching the show and I will just say goodbye with ‘Father, Son, and House of Gucci.’

Yockey: Oh yes, you nailed it! That’s perfect. It was a pleasure, thank you.

Schwartz: Thank you!

Dead Boy Detectives is available to stream now on Netflix.

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