The His Dark Materials panel at Comic-Con at Home debuted a season 2 trailer and dished on what to expect when the series returns!
His Dark Materials season 2 is one of the few returning fall shows that will not be too affected by the pandemic. The cast virtually gathered to deliver not only a new trailer, but also a bit of exciting daemon-related news during the His Dark Materials Comic-Con at Home panel.
The cast — including Daphne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Scott, Amir Wilson, Ariyon Bakare, as well as executive producer Jane Tranter and writer Jack Thorne — shared some thoughtful reflections about their characters and had an insightful conversation on the journey that awaits us in season 2.
Here are the highlights from the panel discussion!
‘His Dark Materials’ [email protected] panel highlights
Before we get into any of the specifics, watch the trailer. Maybe watch it multiple times. There is so much to soak up that I promise you will be rewarded for taking the time to pause, rewind, and linger on the gorgeous landscapes and cast.
‘His Dark Materials’ season 2 trailer
Ahead of the panel, three new cast members were announced for season 2. Simone Kirby joins as Dr. Mary Malone who studies Dark Matter at an Oxford that is world’s away from Lyra’s Oxford and is fascinated with a substance she does not know is Dust. Terence Stamp steps in as Giacomo Paradisi resident of a Cittàgazze, which we will be visiting in season 2. And Jade Anouka rounds out the casting as Ruta Skadi, Queen of a clan of witches we have yet to become acquainted with. These actors have had the difficult task of keeping a lid on their role in the series for over a year since the series filmed seasons 1 and 2 back-to-back.
Perhaps the most exciting bit of the trailer — yes, even more exciting than the many, many scenes of Andrew Scott — are that Will and Lyra are united. Things are about to get very, very interesting. If you’ve read The Subtle Knife, you know. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat.
Adapting a fan-favorite is no easy task
In adapting the novels by Philip Pullman, the cast and creative team have pulled off a Herculean effort to please both new and returning audiences. Tranter noted the positive feedback of season 1 saying, “The most gratifying thing is that fans of the book, have become fans of the television adaptation…The fans of His Dark Materials are passionate, and clever, and engaged and they have lots of really good things to say.”
This of course, comes on the heels of the creative team deciding to shuffle a bit of plot around from the books to introduce parallel storylines earlier than expected. Notably, the early reveal of Boreal crossing between worlds and being the vehicle to add more to Will Parry’s backstory early on. “[Watching fans put it together] was one of the most interactive and exciting audience experiences we could have hoped for,” Tranter added.
Jack Thorne, who wrote every episode of season 1, said that the hardest part of lifting this world from the page to the screen was the denseness of Pullman’s world. In addition to making sure that the audience was engaged, Thorne said that the series is a “sofa show,” one where the entire family can sit and enjoy and understand what is going on together. “It was a bit tricky, but amazing. Philip is a wonder and trying to justice to him was the hardest job of my life, but it was also a wonderful job,” said Thorne.
And don’t worry, Pullman agrees that the team has pulled off a stellar adaptation.
Stepping through the veil to season 2
Wonderful scripts and costumes and staging and CGI are nothing if the actors are not in place to embrace the wild and mystical world of Pullman’s novels. Daphne Keen’s Lyra and Ruth Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter were two of the standout casting decisions in season 1. The mother-daughter duo navigated the complexity of their arcs in ways that I still find myself thinking about months after the finale. Throne even noted that he enjoyed being able to trusted the actors to do the unwritten work, his favorite scene being Mrs. Coulter sitting next to Lyra’s draining bath in His Dark Materials season 1.
Going into season 2, Keen said that Lyra is not going to be the same Lyra we left on the top of the mountain. “In season 2, [Lyra] realizes that the only things that gave her stability were the alethiometer and Roger, and now he’s gone,” Keen said. We can expect to see a very reserved and untrusting Lyra as she enters an unfamiliar world, but, Keen noted, “Will brings her back out into the world and into Lyra.”
As for her her mother, Wilson’s Coulter is set on course for a journey of self-discovery in season 2. The complicated woman who can carry out such twisted, evil acts and still have you hurting for her, finds herself set against the barriers of being a woman and what that means for her future now that all of her missions have failed.
“The best characters in fiction, and the ones for me to play, are the ones you never truly understand,” Wilson said discussing the joy and challenge of playing Mrs. Coulter. “She’s constantly challenging me and confusing me and her intentions are always mixed up from moment to moment. What was really joyful to play with in [season 2] was to get underneath her circumstances more, and see what she’s had to deal with as a woman in a very male world, and the sacrifices she’s had to make and at what cost, really the cost of losing her daughter, choosing something over her daughter.”
While Wilson notes that Pullman does provide the space for the exploration of Coulter’s character in the books, there is more freedom in the series to go further. “Jack [Thorne] really sort of dug into [the why] and I think that’s a really great angle to to see Mrs. Coulter. She does such horrific things and you need to sort of balance that with reasons why or potential reasons why.
The journey in season 2 is going to be one to watch, especially because, as Wilson noted, her fully realized arc in season 3 depends on it. “By season 3 we see her as a completely different person so you need to find the journey through 3 seasons to discover how she gets to where she is by the end of the books. That was really glorious to dig into this season and she’s on this journey of self discovery on her own in season 2 and so it’s about her relationship to herself and her [daemon] monkey.”
Surprisingly, Wilson’s first introduction to the books was when she was up for the role.
The boys are back
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton may be the all-consuming topic of his life right now, but Lee Scoresby has a longstanding role in his life as well. In fact, he and his wife were reading the series together when they were dating and, as he said, “we fell in love with the world while we were falling in love with each other.”
In season 2, Miranda noted that he missed his on-screen partner in Keen’s Lyra. When we last left them, Lyra was tossed from Lee’s balloon and he spends this season searching for her, keeping the promise he made to protect her, even if it came at low financial gain. “In season I’m looking for her character and we were filming in literally different worlds, so I would leave the sound stage that contained the world I was in and I would run over to the world where Will and Lyra were and be like, ‘Whoa! This is amazing! See you at lunch’,” Miranda said.
Lee’s journey in season 2 will focus on his connection to Lyra, describing it as, “This girl got dealt the worst hand when it comes to parents, I’m going to do what I can to have her back. That’s really how he spends the second season, just doing his best to have her back.”
Meanwhile, Boreal has quite a few irons in the fire. The question is, which one will he choose to use in season 2 and can we trust him? “His internal drive is ambition,” said Bakare. “He wants to be at the top, his thing is that he always felt like he was the outsider in everything so he wants more power…he has no sense of feeling, he does not care about anyone else besides himself and he will step on as many toes as possible.”
Andrew Scott showed up in a photo and brief video clip in season 1, which he said hopes won’t be the height of the enthusiasm for his character. (Note: the photo and casting caused quite a stir, but based on the trailer alone, his actual presence will not be a disappointment.) Beyond working with Miranda for a majority of his scenes, Scott noted that he will also form a bond with his daemon who is being played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (!!!!!!!!!!!!).
“So much of the stuff that’s so beautiful to me about the books and the series is the relationship with the daemons…I’m really thrilled about [the casting of Waller Bridge] because it’s all about companionship and friendship and loyalty and that’s what I feel about Phoebe in my real life,” Scott said.
Pandemic slow down?
Though some filming was impacted by the pandemic, Tranter noted that the entirety of His Dark Materials adaptation of The Subtle Knife was completed. “Our main unit had wrapped just before Christmas in 2019, and we had one stand alone episode that we were filming in March that was separate from the other seven episodes,” Tranter said.
Thorne, with the blessing of Pullman, wrote the outlying episode exploring the whereabouts of Lord Asriel between books 2 and 3. “It looked at what Asriel had been doing between going through the anomaly at the end of season 1 and where we see Lord Asriel at the beginning of book 3 The Amber Spyglass…but for us that meant we could continue post production on the seven episodes and just put the stand alone episode to one side.” The standalone episode was slated to film in March and may be revisited at a later date.
For all the latest news and coverage of season 2 and beyond, be sure to bookmark our His Dark Materials season 2 guide!