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The Afterparty creators on crafting the perfect murder… mystery

To celebrate the release of The Afterparty season 2 on Apple TV Plus we sat down with Chris Miller, Anthony King, and Phil Lord to talk about murder most foul.

Aniq, Zoe, and Danner in The Afterparty season 2

Murder can be delightful. Not to commit, of course, jail seems like a terrible place. But to watch a conniving killer plot the (fictional) murder of some poor innocent soul from the safety of your couch is one of life’s twisted pleasures. That’s the reason so many of us tune into murder mysteries series like Poker Face, Only Murders in the Building, or the brilliant Columbo.

One such show that transfixed audiences around the world in 2022 was the Apple TV Plus series The Afterparty, a marvelous murder mystery created by Christopher Miller (who’ll you’ll probably know best as one half of Lord and Miller, the brains behind the Jump Street films and Spider-Verse movies) that dealt with a killing at a high school reunion afterparty. The Afterparty was a macabre masterpiece that balanced big thrills with even bigger laughs and was easily one of the year’s best comedy series.

Oh, yeah, did we not say? The Afterparty is a comedy that lovingly pokes fun at the trappings and cliches of this most gruesome genre. Now the idea that someone could laugh at something so ghoulish may seem strange, but the whodunnit as a genre has been around for centuries, and someone needed to revive this slightly cold cadaver for the small screen. Clearly, the kiss of life worked because The Afterparty was a huge hit (It may be one of the best TV series of 2022), so big in fact that Apple announced The Afterparty season 2 soon after the first wrapped up.

So what is it about homicide and humor that makes them go together like a knife and blood? Well, according to Anthony King, a writer from the first season who’s made the leap to executive producer, the answer’s simple. Comedy and tragedy have the same emotional root.

“I think there’s nothing as dire and dark as death,” King told us ahead of The Afterparty season 2 release date. “You have to counterbalance that by having comedy playing against it. I think in a murder mystery, typically, part of the mystery is not only who killed them but why? What are the emotional connections? What are the relationships with all of these people? That’s the basis for any good comedy. So [murder] is a pretty good setup for comedy.”

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“Yeah, when the stakes are high, being able to have to puncture that with a laugh makes things a lot easier,” chimed in Miller (as in Chris Miller, he was there too, did we not mention?). “That’s why gallows humor is a thing.”

Of course, a good joke’s only as good as the actor who delivers it, and one thing that made The Afterparty stand out was its staggeringly talented cast. The show had more stars than a wizard’s hat, including Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Ben Schwartz, Ilana Glazer, and Jamie Demetriou. Each of the actors brought their A-game to the show, and it made what was already a captivating watch even better.

The Afterparty season 2 cast

How, then, could season 2 top that? It was something Miller admitted had him a little nervous. “The experience of shooting [season one] was such a joy, and everybody got along so well,” he explained. The chemistry was just very natural, so if you’re bringing up a whole new cast of suspects? [You wonder if] it’s going to work like it did the year before. Is it going to be as much fun? Are they going to like each other? Is it going to have the same natural chemistry?”

To Miller’s delight, it turned out he had nothing to worry about. “We had so much fun,” he laughed. “They really do love each other, and you know, they’re still chatting away on their text chats together. Because it’s just when you get a bunch of talented, good people together. You know, good things happen.”

Aniq, Zoe, and Danner in The Afterparty season 2

For King, though, the thrill of bringing in a stable of new actors for season 2 — Poppy Liu, Zach Woods, Paul Walter Hauser, Anna Konkle, Jack Whitehall, John Cho, Ken Jeong, Elizabeth Perkins, and Vivian Wu play our new lineup of suspects was one of the things that made him most excited to work on the show.

“[The cast] was one of the real thrills of both seasons because these are all actors who are used to carrying their own shows and starring in their own shows,” he explained. “They’re all on set rooting for each other, like really caring about not just their own performance, but each other’s performances in the show and how they all work together. And that doesn’t always happen. So it’s pretty thrilling.”

Tiffany Haddish as Detective Danner in The Afterparty

So how do the creators find their could-be culprits? Well, according to Phil Lord (Yes, of course, he was there as well), they actually start writing with a certain actor in mind. “We’ve been lucky enough to get most of the people that we had written in mind,” Lord said. “And if someone was unavailable, there was always another person that we love just as much. We can adjust the character in that way. ”

Still as exciting as all the new faces are for the team, The Afterparty’s beating heart remains Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao, who play our heroes Aniq and Zoë. We first met Aniq and Zoë in season 1 and watched them fall in love while trying to solve a murder (Hey, I’ve had worse dates), with the whole series culminating in their big kiss. For Miller, Lord, and King, they were the perfect throughline into The Afterparty season 2.

The cats of The Afterparty season 2

“A lot of it is about how appealing Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao are in real life and on the screen. They’re the kindest, funniest, sweetest people,” Miller said. “You can feel that when they’re performing, and their relationship was something we’re really rooting for in the first season, so it seemed like a perfect emotional throughline for the second season as well. Plus, neither of their characters died or went to jail. So that was good.”

Of course, Aniq and Zoë weren’t the only familiar faces to return. Tiffany Haddish is also back as the kooky but brilliant Detective Danner, who helped solve the case in season 1. Like Richardson and Chao, there was never a world where The Afterparty season 2 happened without Haddish.

Edgar at his wedding in The Afterparty season 2

“She’s essentially the Columbo of The Afterparty,” joked King. “She’s got to solve that next case. It was fun trying to solve the puzzle of how to get [Danner, Aniq, and Zoë] all back together in the first episode of the season and playing on how we ended season one with her giving a business card to Aniq and saying like, ‘Call me if you ever want to be on the force and instead having him call because there’s another murder.'”

So how did they solve the issue of getting the sleuthing super team back together again? Well, nothing gets old friends together like a wedding, of course. “[The wedding] was in the original pitch to Apple of the first season saying, like, this is a standalone murder mystery that takes place at a high school reunion, but you could do another season at a wedding,” Miller laughed. “So it was built in from the beginning, and we decided it was a good enough idea that we should do it.”

So what’s next for The Afterparty team? Well, that would spoil the mystery, wouldn’t it? But let’s just say when I asked about a murder mystery set at a press junket, they didn’t say no! The Afterpart season 2 is available to watch on Apple TV Plus now.

If you love great TV, check out our list of the best Apple TV Plus shows; we’ve also got a list of everything new on Apple TV Plus this month. If you just want to keep up to date on Aniq’s new case, though, be sure to read our The Afterparty season 2 release schedule guide.

Looking for more news on your favorite shows? We’ve got you covered. We’ve written everything you need to know about The Reacher season 2 release date, the Severance season 2 release date, and the Ahsoka release date.

Finally, if you’re just looking for something great to watch, give our list of the 101 best movies of all time a read.