11:00 am EST, February 28, 2019

‘The Dragon Prince’ creators talk Dark Magic, relationships, and Runaan

Following the return of The Dragon Prince, we got to sit down with creators Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond to discuss some of our burning questions from season 2.

This interview contains major spoilers for The Dragon Prince season 2.

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From discussing what went into designing the cutest baby dragon in all of Xadia, to the potential return of Runaan, relationships of all kinds, and something not-quite-revealed from the incredible flashback scene, there was plenty to run through in our chat.

Here’s what Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond had to say about the recently wrapped season.

In terms of Zym’s design, how did you make such a freaking cute thing? Seriously.

Justin Richmond: I think we took Thunder, and were like, okay, well we know that this is what his dad looks like. And then we sort of tasked Bardel with figuring out, okay, what’s the cute, puppy dog version of that? And then Andy Poon, the art director, came up with some designs that we loved.

And then on the sound design side, it’s partly sound design, and it’s partly Jack [DeSena.] He did some vocals that they then took, and I don’t know whether they actually used them or not. I think they took what he was kind of mocking up and sort of made it into its own thing. It’s not one person’s voice, it’s not sound effects. It’s kind of a bunch of stuff together to turn it into Zym.

Callum can do magic now. Does that mean that humans can do magic? Or is Callum special, or…?

Aaron Ehasz: It means that Callum can do magic. It means that, maybe, it might mean that Callum is special. Or it might mean that the elves’ beliefs and the world’s beliefs that magic, and who you are, and what your destiny is is restricted, was wrong. It might mean that potential and who you can be is actually much more in your control than you thought. But it’s a combination, because at the very least, Callum is pushing that boundary and doing something remarkable.

JR: Imagine that there was a shortcut that you could take very, very easily. It’s easy to see how you could very quickly cut off much harder paths to something, right? So I think there’s a little bit of that as well.

Are Callum’s feelings toward Dark Magic going to become more negative now that he has his own non-Dark Magic, and he’s suffered the consequences of using Dark Magic?

AE: I think that, sometimes, the hero goes into the abyss before they can come out of it. I think he explored something dark, explored something that maybe he wouldn’t feel good about, but he may understand more clearly what he does now and what he’s accomplished having experienced the depths of a different kind of choice. So, I think it’s more about his character and the range of understanding he has. I do think you can’t mess with something like that and not have it stick with you. There’s something about it that will stay with him.

Moving forward, how are Claudia and Soren going to be impacted by everything that happened? How’s their relationship with Viren going to change?

AE: I really enjoy that we were able to see them less as the villain’s goofy kids, and realise, hey, there’s a real family dynamic, there’s a real emotional history that’s motivating and driving both of them. And, the tasks that [Viren] gave them tested both of them. Not only their loyalty to him, but to each other, and the outcomes are complicated. I mean, the questions are a little bit like, well, how does Viren respond when he finds out the choices they made? And what they’re returning with? And that’s the question that they ask at the end of the season. There’s a lot tied up in that family dynamic. Seeing how Soren and Claudia either grow through it, or find themselves kind of confined or trapped by those emotional patterns is where we hope to go with their story. Because obviously, when they go back to Viren, it’s going to be a very different situation all around.

And how did you approach Soren’s injury and Claudia’s attempts to heal him?

AE: [Soren] suffered what should have been permanent damage. It should not be easy to reverse that. And so we wanted it to be clear that Claudia had to really make sacrifices. The cost was high to be able to reverse something that severe. Even though it brought him back to zero, the net was that you had to pull her into having done something really dark to be able to do that. She had to sacrifice something to reverse that, so there was a cost.

JR: I think it says something about Claudia, about how much she’s willing to sacrifice for family, that was important to us.

In terms of Viren, he is in a sticky situation. So, is he in as bad a position as it seems? Or are there maybe other plans in the works for him?

JR: So, when Runaan says, “you found something worse than death,” he wasn’t kidding. And I think Viren did not take that seriously enough. So, Viren is dipping his toes into something that he doesn’t fully understand, for reasons that make sense, in terms of what he’s trying to accomplish, because he’s been cut off from much of the systems he thought would allow him to do the things he wanted to do. But yeah, Viren’s in hot water a little bit, in terms of that relationship. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.

Can we expect to see Ezran return to the capitol? Or are there more adventures before he gets back to be King Ezran?

AE: Ezran is going with Corvus back to the castle, back to the capitol, back to claim the throne and accept responsibility, and change things from there. We’ll see that. He’s headed back there. I’m very excited for it, because they are about young people making different choices than their parents, making choices based on their vision for what the world could be, what they imagine it could be, despite historical conflicts, and things that have been passed down from other generations. So here’s Ezran, with a chance to challenge those things, to really do that. I think Queen Aanya foreshadows those kinds of themes. But, Ezran’s really going to have to face it, and face those conflicts, and I think he’s this beautiful, strong, young king, and he’s going to be tested, but I’m excited to see it happen.

JR: Viren seems like the kind of guy who’d just let it roll off his back, right?

There were a lot of relationships mentioned or suggested this season. There’s Harrow and Sarai, Callum, Claudia and Rayla, Aanya’s mothers. Can we look forward to seeing more of that going forward?

JR: Yes. We’ve said this before, we’re sort of led by the characters. So if that becomes an important piece of the character’s story, then yes, we’re definitely going to do that. And if that turns out to not be something that shows up in their arc, then it doesn’t. So we’re sort of a little more organic, but we’re not against it. If it becomes a piece of the story, then yeah. You will definitely see that.

AE: We have an idea. We know where the story is going, we know the big picture of the myth of the universe and where the real evil lies, and how certain things are going to be revealed. We have this big plan. But what we don’t know, we’re following the characters along, and if they get to these stages we have some sense of the moments they’ll have, but we get there with them live and figure it out. How do they feel? What is their choice here?

Season 2 was really a place where— I think we did not know as clearly what Ezran’s choice was going to be until we got there. Because at first we were like, obviously we thought they were all going over the border. Then we got there and were like, no man, Ezran is growing up and he’s going to want to face this. Then, once we realised it, we realised that was his path and we let him lead us where he’s going. Even though we had not— when we initially conceived of it, he was going to the border with everybody. But when we got there, and we knew everything that Ezran knew, we knew he was turning around. So as much as it changed our plan, we let Ezran lead us back in that direction.

What can we expect to see in Xadia? This is going to be our first real exploration of this magical land.

JR: What do you want to see in Xadia?

So many dragons. All the dragons.

AE: Yeah, we’re going to see some dragons. We’re going to see some crazy plants. Some adorable, cute animals.

JR: Lots of crazy wildlife.

AE: All of this is still in progress. We’re going to see more about the elves and elven culture. Different places. We have some things to show. We started to get a taste of that in season 2, with meeting sunfire elves. Yeah, there’s a lot to see.

JR: The broadening of the world is really exciting, for sure.

On the Breach, we wanted to ask how that will develop further. Because it doesn’t seem like peace is happening so much there. Nobody seems to be communicating well. It doesn’t look good.

AE: The Breach, the idea is that, for many years, humans figured out hey, there’s this place we can cross into Xadia if we need to, and so, two things. One, secret place where we can go over to Xadia if we need to for some reason. Two, oh wait, they can cross over this way too, so we better make sure if they ever do cross over that we can defend it and prevent an invasion. And so that’s what Amaya’s job is, most of all, protecting the human kingdoms.

So, there is some activity, obviously, at the Breach. Elves have figured out what’s going on, and, with the way it’s initially structured, there are fortresses on both sides of the Breach protecting it. As you know, by the end of season 2, the side on the Xadian side has fallen. So now, the elves control one side and the humans control the other. And the question will be whether they can break through the Breach.

I will tell you, there was a scene, and ending to that arc, that we had intended to have in season 2, that was not a good ending, that we pushed over into the future. So that’s something that we’ll find out about.

JR: Everybody watch it so you can see what happens.

AE: But yeah, things are starting to bump against each other at the Breach.

In the flashback, Sarai was amazing. Should we take everything we saw in that story as face value? Or is that Viren’s interpretation of what happened?

JR: She’s dead. She’s really dead. That is the truth of what happened. We’re not playing any games there, I don’t think.

AE: There is one scene, I’m just going to cause trouble, where we don’t know everything that happened in the scene.

JR: Okay, that’s fair.

AE: There’s a little more information than right now.

JR: But, overall, other than that one shot, everything you see it what happened.

Going back to Aaravos for one second. We’re assuming there’s a reason why he seems to be telling this story — we see his hands at the beginning of each episode in the opening sequence.

AE: Yeah, so he’s a Startouch Elf, and they are closest to the heavens of the elves. They’re kind of the most god-like, in the sense of they span much more time than more Earth-bound or Xadia-bound elves. So yeah, he has this thousand year perspective. This kind of mythic role. So he’s like this mythic character who now, suddenly, is kind of popping up in this contemporary story.

JR: And obviously, he’s bad enough that they tried to literally erase him from the books.

AE: He’s complicated.

JR: He’s interesting enough that they tried to erase him from the books.

AE: He’s disliked. That’s not the same as bad.

He’s a pragmatist like Viren! In terms of relationships, we were really happy to see Aanya’s Moms. Do you guys have in mind more LGBTQ+ relationships?

AE: You know what, it’s always– the hard thing is, you asked earlier about relationships in general. And, if the characters lead us into relationships, we go there. But if we’re telling a story, and relationships aren’t happening, then they’re busy with other stuff. There are definitely characters, and main characters, who identify as non-straight, or gay, or lesbian. The challenge is always, when you point them out, you don’t want to make a promise that there’s going to be a relationship. It’s a challenge, because I think it’s an area where those identities are really underrepresented and underserved, and that audience deserves to be represented. And they deserve to be even angry at the lack of representation.

So it is a sensitive area sometimes, but from our perspective there are probably characters who people are like, ‘I think that character might be gay.’ And they’re probably right. Hopefully we have the chance to tell the story and you get to see those identities manifest in relationships and in the story. But we are letting the characters lead us. We’re being patient with the characters. So that’s where it’s like, we don’t want to over promise, but what we can promise is that our cast of characters are diverse, and they do have diverse identities, including different orientations. But we’re going to let the characters lead us into relationships, or not-relationships, in their own time.

JR: It’s a balance of, we’ve only got 22-minutes per episode. Given infinite time, and infinite money, you’d still want to get to those places whenever you could. But we’re very cognisant of it, and we’re trying to tell an authentic story that includes all types of representation. And, god willing, more people watch the show and we get more season of this and we can go to those places, if the characters take us there. That’s what we’re trying to do, and be authentic to that.

Oh, just one last question. Runaan. Fan-favorite. We don’t see him this season. Will we see him in the future?

AE: There is an important story with him that we want to tell. So… yes.

‘The Dragon Prince’ season 2 is available to stream now on Netflix

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