There we huddled, a gaggle of horror enthusiast journalists, in an air-conditioned tent on the set of IFC’s Stan Against Evil. Excitement (and a great snack bar) kept us buzzing, anxious to hear what the cast and creators of this fun horror-comedy series had to say about Season 2.
Where we last left our heroes, Sheriff Evie Barrett, played by Janet Varney, had been transported to 1692 and was on trial for witchcraft. Because she died in 1692, Stan never met Evie, and he’s haunted by images of a woman he should know, but doesn’t. It’s a great shake-up for the series and will lead the characters down new, even more challenging paths.
“I think this season is better than last season, if that’s even possible,” said Deborah Baker, who plays Stan’s daughter Denise. “We get to peel back more layers and see what makes each of these characters tick.”
Like most TV series’, much of the first season of Stan Against Evil focused on world-building, and defining the rules and setting for the show. Season two will give fans a chance to really get to know Stan, Denise, Evie, and the rest of the residents of Willard’s Mill.
The season will also feature tons of fun new guest stars from some serious horror and comedy clout. Expect to see Anchorman‘s David Koechner as Evie’s ex-husband, The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, and Re-Animator‘s Jeffrey Combs. “As a horror movie fan,” series creator Dana Gould said, “it gives me a chance to meet these people.”
Georgia on My Mind
The state of Georgia was recently named the top filming location in the world, so of course, our intrepid reporters had questions about what it was like to film in the state. Janet Varney has filmed several shows in Atlanta and discussed how the city is ever-evolving.
“I love being here. I was on a show called Dinner and a Movie that shot at TBS on Techwood Drive for seven years,” she explained. “Atlanta has changed so much that parts of it to me are unrecognizable, but the heart of the city has stayed exactly the same. It’s this wonderful thing for me to experience. I keep coming back to the city; every time I come something’s different, but it’s still like coming home.”
For Gould, Atlanta has become a home away from home.
“From a technical film-making standpoint, the amazing thing about Atlanta, [is that] I think you’ve surpassed LA in terms of production right now. The crews are spectacular, you can’t get better crews, and it is fluid enough in that our show is set in New Hampshire but Georgia can look like New Hampshire,” Gould elaborated.
“You’re on the Eastern seaboard, you have the same landscapes, the same flora. From a versatile standpoint, I’m really close friends with a lot of people on The Walking Dead, I have really close friends down here shooting Ant-Man 2, it’s not even like you’re gone somewhere, it’s like you’re back home.”
History Come Alive
While Gould and Varney find comfort in Atlanta, John C. McGinley, who plays the titular Stan, instead found an incredible learning experience for his family.
“We home school our two daughters, so when we knew we were coming down here last year we switched the history component of their curriculum – they were on the Revolutionary War, so we switched to the Civil War and then my oldest, Billie Grace, got really turned on by civil rights,” McGinley said.
“So we switched it to the late 1960s. Then, of course, to be able to take them to the Museum of Inclusion and see Gandhi walking across the peace pond and to now have a 6-year-old who asks who that guy is and to be able to have a conversation about Gandhi. Then we went to the Ebenezer Baptist church. My daughters will never forget that, not ever.”
Keeping it Real
Stan Against Evil has a great cast, fabulous set, and a fun story, but it would all fall apart without the monsters. Enter Autonomous FX, who provide the series’ amazing practical effects. There is at least three months of preparation for each season, building incredible, tangible monsters.
Actor Mick Ignis plays several monsters on the show. Though he’s always covered by makeup, he’s a huge part of the show. He also has a tough gig – emoting through layers of latex.
“There’s so much personality, not just in the sculpt but also the color and the way you move,” Ignis explained while showing off an evil giant baby mask.
That personality helps the series’ other actors react to the various monsters Gould and co. throw at them, making for more authentic performances.
“For me, it kind of represents the fact that we have so many practical effects.” said Varney. “This is a thing I get to be grossed out by in person – it’s delightful to have it in the room with you.”
“It’s not a tennis ball on a string!” Gould joked.
“I can always tell when effects are CG,” Gould explained. “Sometimes they’re done brilliantly – the new Planet of the Apes movies are breathtaking and brilliant,” he said. “There are horror movies that I love, like John Carpenter’s The Thing and An American Werewolf in London. They’re timeless and the reason they’re timeless is that the effects are real. They don’t age like early CG, where it was state-of-the-art at the time but in retrospect, it’s garbage. Those movies are eternal because your eye is seeing what’s really there.”
Home is Where the Recliner Is
Seeing what’s really there seems to be a theme on the series, not just in special effects but also in the sets. Instead of filming on sound stages, Stan Against Evil is shot in an older home in Lithia Springs, about 15 minutes outside of Atlanta. The old home has been completely decorated for the series, including items like a discarded cross-stitch, pictures of a young McGinley, and more.
The home’s lived-in feel helps establish the actors in this world even more. The crew shoot outdoor scenes in the surrounding woods and fields, and this season will even see the cast fighting evil in a cabin (that just happened to be up the hill from the house).
While the house itself was interesting, getting to step into Claire’s “sewing room” was something special. The sewing room, which served as Claire’s witch-hunting base, is laden with all kinds of weapons, old books, and drawings of witches and monsters.
The series has already had some really great monsters, and this season promises even more. This year will boast a demon baby and a were-pony, for starters, but one creature from last year still holds Varney by the heartstrings:
“My favorite (monster) is still Murgatroyd,” said Varney. “It’s the first real monster we got to see as a cast, and we were blown away.”
I can’t tease apart Murgatroyd with that little pig. When I think about him, I just think of that little pig. What a joy,” she said.
“He really hammed it up,” added Baker.
But What About Mrs. Miller?
Claire has only been a memory so far, but this season we’ll see Stan’s wife in some form or another. Atlanta actress Susan Williams will play the late witch-hunter in the upcoming season and serves as Stan’s main focal point.
“Stan has no interest in battling anything other than the TV remote to get to the History Channel and polish off 12 beers,” McGinley said. “While last year the overriding objective was to always be getting back to my recliner, the objective this year is to get whole. The only way to get whole is to get [Evie] and then to go get my wife. So it’s a really clean trajectory.”
Stan’s goals seem clear to him, but Gould explained that things weren’t totally cut and dry.
“The arc of the season is Stan gets this idea – he thinks he can find a way to go back a year and save his wife’s life. If he does that, he’ll never know Evie. Like the kind of people John [McGinley] and I are, being upfront and honest doesn’t always come to mind,” Gould said. “He keeps this secret from Evie the whole season, of course, that she uncovers. He tries to go back in time and change the past, and you know how that always works out.”
Stan Against Evil returns November 1 at 10 p.m. EST on IFC.