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Showrunner Sara Goodman On Bringing “I Know What You Did Last Summer” Back From the Dead

Monday, October 11, 2021 | Interviews

By RACHEL REEVES

If horror movies have taught us anything it’s that just because something is buried does not mean that it is dead.  While this idea can be expanded and applied to dark secrets, repressed trauma, literal bodies, and more, it can also pertain to the familiar franchises of yesteryear. However, it’s important not to forget that things brought back from the dead don’t always return the same. 

Now, Amazon Prime is throwing its hook into the horror reboot ring with an updated version of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Embracing the television format, this new series features a fresh, new storyline and a talented, young cast that includes Madison Iseman (Annabelle Comes Home), Brianne Tju (47 Meters Down: Uncaged), Ashley Moore, Ezekiel Goodman, and Sebastian Amoruso. While still based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 novel and the late 90s feature films, this latest incarnation injects the franchise with a healthy dose of originality and prescience. 

To dive into this new I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER project a little bit more, Rue Morgue went straight to the head creative in charge; Sara Goodman. As the project’s showrunner, Goodman was involved in every single aspect of the show. An extremely talented professional, Goodman’s years of experience on high-profile projects like Preacher, the original Gossip Girl, Rake, and Outsiders adds a level of polish and depth to the series that captivates and intrigues with ease. While you won’t find any spoilers here, Goodman’s insight into the show’s inner workings administers a tempting taste of what lies in store for audiences.

It’s been a while since the world has seen a new I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER project. What was it about this particular story that made you want to revisit and breathe new life into it? 

I think bad decisions are always timely. I also think it’s a very different world that we live in than it was in the 1990s or the 1970s when the book came out. And, that line between truth and fiction is blurrier than ever. Right and wrong are blurrier than ever, and it feels like we live such public lives now with social media.

At the same time, everyone feels more isolated and like they’re more hidden behind those personas. So I think what Lois Duncan did in the 70s and what the original movie did, it touched on those things, but where we are now, I think you could really go deep with that. That’s what was exciting to me.

In the past, the franchise has always been feature films, but this new story embraces the TV format. Why a TV series and what doors did that format open up to you and the story?

Well, I wouldn’t want to do a movie because I love the movies! I wouldn’t want to redo that. [laughs] I felt like there was a different story. One that could be told on television with different characters, with families, with the community, and with a lot more mystery and psychological repercussions from this accident. Not just from this bad decision, but leading into it as well as coming out of it. So for me, that’s much more exciting. Television is perfect for characters. You really get to know them whether you want to or not. 

Speaking of the characters, the original movies had such great young casts and this show really picks up that torch as well. What was the casting process like? Were you looking for anything in particular? 

It was super challenging to cast because I actually didn’t write it with anyone in mind. And, it was very important to me to find a cast that could hold it. You know, that could hold the franchise. We go much deeper and darker with these characters and so to make them—like Hawaii—shiny on the outside, but still able to have that depth, that’s not an easy thing for a young actor. I definitely saw thousands of people. But, with each one of these actors, when I saw them and did callbacks and all that stuff, each one became very obvious. The more that I met and worked with each of them, they just blew me away. 

You know, Madison has done some movies and Brianne has some experience, but I don’t think anyone’s seen Madison do what she does in the show. I mean, she’s amazing. And with Ezekiel, Ashley, and Sebastian, they had really done nothing. But, they just really brought it and they let themselves be lovable and hateable and irrational at the same time. I gush about them all the time because I really was just so impressed. 

While having ties to the original films, there’s a lot of big refreshing changes that the series makes; one of which is the location. Why did you choose Hawaii and what do you think that location brings to this story?

First of all, it’s an island so there is no way out. There’s just one way on, one way out. It’s also kind of a small town on crack because everyone knows each other’s business and there really is this sense of history of insiders and outsiders that exists there. And, I think most of us have only seen one version of Hawaii. 

You know, we see this beautiful tropical paradise where you go to escape. But, where we shot those nighttime cliff scenes at Lanai Lookout, I can’t tell you how many crew members came up to me and were like, “I had a car accident right here in high school.” I mean, it was scary! And those caves are real and those tides are dangerous. It has the most drowning deaths of anywhere in the United States! And, there are bamboo forests that you can’t really get through. 

So, there are all of these other elements that I feel like we haven’t seen, like where people actually live and that darker side. And culturally too, I don’t think we’ve really seen it. We just see this very glossy version when it’s really a fantastically haunted place. I was super excited to show it in a new way.

Another big but wonderful change is how queer and queer-friendly this new series is. As one of the main writers, why was it important to you to work that representation and perspective into the story?

I think it was incredibly important to represent kids and young adults who are this age, in terms of their sexuality not being defined in a lot of ways. And, that not being an issue for them, you know? It’s not a “Capital M” message. For me, what was most important, was that it felt real and that it felt honest. Which is, “Maybe I love this person.” And, “Maybe I love that person. I’m not really sure, but neither one of them really defines me.” [All of the characters] have these identity issues. Some of them are sexual, some of them are queer and some of them are not. There are all kinds of things that I think they’re dealing with and this is just on one thing on that continuum. And, they all accept it very much, which is my experience of what’s going on right now. 

Along with yourself as Executive Producer, there’s Erik Feig and Neal H. Moritz who were involved with the original films. James Wan is also included on that Producer list. As the showrunner, how important or helpful was it to have these original and genre-knowledgeable members of the crew involved with this new series?

You know, I’ve worked with Neal on Preacher and I’d worked with Eric before too. Eric and I pitched a movie like, when we were babies. Before the original movie even came out, I feel like. So, I think they came to me because they trusted me to be respectful, but also to reinvent something. And so that trust, I think was incredibly meaningful to me. And, you know, if I was going to be disrespectful, I certainly was going to hear about it. [laughs] I wasn’t going to take the story off the cliff. So, it was nice to have them! And, James is obviously a god in the horror community so, I think just the support for me doing my vision and what I wanted to do from those Executive Producers was very meaningful. 

Tell us a little bit about working on the music for this new series. Along with the great score composed by Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist, there are tons of killer songs mixed in that make the show feel so vibrant and fresh.

Well, that process is like, the most fun for me so thank you! I love Drum & Lace, who is Sophia [degli Alessandri-Hultquist], and Ian. They are just amazing. And, I think they were super down to create original stuff that wasn’t necessarily just straight horror feeling. I wanted to make sure we felt the wind of Hawaii. I wanted to make sure we felt the water. And, I feel like that is so much in their music; this sense of place. They also really give us these voices that are in our world that we don’t know where they’re coming from sometimes. So, they were amazing to work with. 

And then Aperture Music, which is managed by Tom [Wolfe] and Alison [Rosenfeld Moses], were the Music Supervisors. They started sending me music before we even started shooting and they were some of the first people I hired. I knew I wanted them to do it. And we did not have a big budget for music so, they just started inundating me with stuff. All I did was listen to music and make lists. I made lists of things that I liked, things I thought were good for different characters, or things I wanted to make sure that were at the party so that when we flashed back to the party, that could be someone’s specific soundtrack in their mind. It was all hugely important and I feel really proud of it. I think we also have some cool emerging people as well as some more established people. 

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER is available via Amazon Prime Video on October 15, 2021.

 

Rachel Reeves
Rachel is a record store nerd from Boise, Idaho with an obsession for horror soundtracks and all things creepy.