From Dusk Till Dawn post-finale interview with showrunner Carlos Coto (exclusive)

By Jes Vu

From Dusk Till Dawn ended its second season on a high note Tuesday night with the epic battle against Carlos at Jacknife Jed’s, the Gecko brothers leading an organization of culebras, and Santanico driving off into the distance. But after all this and the show’s shocking cliffhanger, where will this lead us in the upcoming season? Nerd Reactor got to talk exclusively with From Dusk Till Dawn showrunner Carlos Coto to discuss developing this season, the finale’s big cliffhanger, and hints to where our characters are headed in season 3.

This season was so heavy on the mythology, and it was even refreshing that it’s not European-based for once. What was it like developing this mythology and world?

For us, it was completely and utterly liberating because there were no constraints. It comes from the lesson learned in letting the characters drive the story instead of the mythology. So instead of saying “Oh, what are vampires? Vampires are from Transylvania, and they’re European… and they’re sexy and speak with British accents.” Rather than leave the mythology, we led with our characters and our place. All our characters are Latino. It’s a Mesoamerican place—it’s a pyramid under the club. It’s obviously Mesoamerican-based. If they’ve been there that long, it’s obvious no one from Transylvania a thousand years ago gave them the “bug”—again, logic to a degree, but also honoring who the characters are. Why transfer this European thing onto their culture? Why not let their culture be vibrant, be real, and be what it is.

Considering diversity has been a hot topic in mainstream media, especially with Effie Brown and Project Greenlight, do you think having Latino representation contributes to the authenticity of the show?

The cultural accuracy you see in From Dusk Till Dawn only happens if you have a staff that reflects that culture, or at the very least someone at the top like Robert or myself or Diego who ordered that to be the case. [laughs] Guess what? This is where the culture comes from, this is what we’re going to be. It really does take having Latinos in a position of power to make those Latino stories real. That goes the same for anything else, so we’re just constantly looking for that. And that’s not to say we don’t use non-Latinos because guess what? The Gecko brothers aren’t Latino. So it’s a multicultural show in that way, which is fun. The show actually uses—as far as its currency—North American pop culture. [The Gecko’s] movie references come from crime movies, crime saga stuff, and genre stuff from American crime fiction that’s very film noir. It’s fun because at the very same time, if you think about it, film noir and crime fiction is a uniquely American creation.

The finale itself, particularly the showdown at Jacknife Jed’s was reminiscent to a rock musical—it’s very distinct, sound-wise. What is the process in choosing the music?

Early on, Diego [Gutierrez] found this Mexican rockabilly site online. We tickled it a little bit in the first season, but we didn’t do much. Then we found a place for it in Jacknife’s. But the biggest influence though music-wise is Robert [Rodriguez] himself as you know had written all these songs for the movie and the show. He has this band called Chingon that has a certain sound. He and Carl Thiel, who’s our composer, have worked together a long time. That sound sort of permeates through the show. It’s a very specific sound—It’s a “Robert” sound, but to me it’s also a very specific “Texas” sound. Again, it’s another way for us to culturally honor the show.

Seth and Richie are very much the spine of From Dusk Till Series. Now that they’re working together again in the finale, leading a pack of culebras—what will it look like going forward?

The conclusion at the end of the season was as much as we try to be on our own, we need each other. But now in this new reality going forward, if we’re going to be together what’s that going to be like? Now that A) You’re different, and [you’re] a different person and B) I’m in a different organization now.

The main thing we wanted to do was here we have Seth Gecko who was very much like John Wayne and The Searchers—he hates Indians right? So what would happen when the guy who hates Indians becomes the head of the tribe (even though [Seth] is sharing it with Richie?) Once we saw that, we realize that was a great dynamic for the two of them to be at the top of the organization with Seth being the guy who gets to call the shots, and everyone looks to him because he’s always a leader. But if everyone around him is a snake, how does that work?

It really seemed appropriate that Scott be the one to decapitate Carlos at the end considering their relationship. What was the choice behind ending his story this season there?

That was sort of a natural ending for him because he had been under Carlo’s thumb for so long for the whole season. I think Scott’s journey will continue. Scott, like everyone else, has his own search for identity and much of his search for identity has been about father figures and who defines me and who tells me who I am. That journey’s going to continue—I think it’s going to have less to do with father figures going forward. I think he’s tried that, you know? He’s always been sort of a reluctant son to Carlos. At a certain point, you have to find your own way. As much as he’s been on the journey, he’s still at the early steps of it.

But the key moment for him is when Carlos says, “You’re adopted.” It’s very cruel, but in Carlos’s mind, tough love: “No, you’re actually not her brother. You are, but you’re really not. And you need to figure out who you are.” What Carlos says in that scene isn’t exactly wrong. I always tell writers, “You’re always as good as your villain.” Your villains are always good if they’re right. I always use the example of Khan in Star Trek II. Captain Kirk left him on this planet and never checked on him. He has a right to be very angry—He lost his wife and his entire crew. When you watch the film, instinctively you’re with him. What he’s doing is wrong, but what he’s saying is not wrong—what he believes in isn’t wrong.

The show’s been promoted as such a male-driven series, however, your female characters are very prominent and you’ve also hinted to a female Lord. What are your thoughts on the strong response from the female fanbase?

I feel like it’s about having strong characters period. Santanico was this fantastic villain in the first season. She’s such a great character—how can you not make her a main character on your show? Season one was very much designed to platform her as a main character of the show to earn that place in the pantheon of characters. To be honest, I’m not surprised by the female response to show because I knew all along that our two female characters were going to be major spines of the story. I also know Sonja was going to be a major character with her own spine. And as you know from the finale, there’s a female Lord coming. We don’t lead from gender, but we want to have different characters from all different backgrounds and insights. It’s all about honoring what you create and being true to that. We could have done a female Lord right away, but I actually wanted to make that a surprise. I thought it was funny—again, in the culture that we live in still, all men are Lords. It must be like Superman the movie right? It’s just a bunch of old guys on the wall going “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” It’s all men, right? [Laughs] I think that I not only appreciate the female viewers, but they appreciate that we’re honoring the emotional reality of all these characters. They respond a lot to Seth and Scott too and Richie as well.

Do we call Eiza’s character Santanico or Kisa now? You mentioned on Twitter that Santanico has not solved that question herself.

That’s part of her journey either accepting Kisa or accepting Santanico. Who is she? That’s going to be a continuing thing because there’s also in her this notion that she’s a “monster,” that she has to eat humans, and that’s not what she was at the beginning. She’s still trying to hold onto what she was, or she’s going to try to become comfortable with who she is. That’s part of her eternal struggle that we need to “dramatize.”

Considering Santanico’s story this season to reclaim back her name and power, her ending parting ways with Richie and driving off seemed fitting though bittersweet.

Any other traditional show would have been: “Oh, she’s Seth’s girlfriend now” because Seth helped her. She’s going to be with Seth now—“Thanks for being nice to me Seth. I need to be with a man, I’m going to be with you.” And it’s like what? She’s a queen. [laughs] She’s no stranger to managing people, male and female—She’s a leader. And that’s another struggle that’s interesting with her character, which is also unresolved. It has nothing to do with her identity; it has nothing to do with being a woman. It’s this notion that people looked to her as a goddess and as a leader. She’s like, “I’m not a leader.” And that’s a very interesting emotional struggle for a character to go through, and that’s also something we want to explore.

Even being defined as a goddess and placed on a pedestal is dehumanizing in a sense for Santanico too.

It’s this thing also “I don’t want to be defined by you. I don’t really want to be defined by anybody.” But at a certain point I need to define myself, and what’s that definition? Can I live with that? That to me is the essential journey for any good character, right? Especially on this show, and especially for her. It’s the same exact journey Kate’s on. Who am I and what responsibilities do I have to other people, and can I live with what I’ve become? Everyone has that same journey. Everyone makes their choices and has to live with it.

How did you approach Santanico’s story this season considering how much of it centered on her being a victim of abuse?

We approached [Santanico’s] story pretty much as a victim of PTSD. It wasn’t just “rape,” which is the easy thing to go to—It was being a prisoner. I took a lot of inspiration from Unbroken, which I read. The struggle that he goes through when he comes back?—He goes insane because he just wants to get at everyone who imprisoned him. He can’t function. In that story, his wife ends up taking him to a Billy Graham rally and he’s like “What? Jesus? What?” [laughs] Whatever it was—it broke him out of his thing. [Santanico’s story] was very much a story about someone who had survived some kind of PTSD and would they deal with that? She was so fixated on [revenge], and she never really solved it. That’s the point of that storyline.

One of the biggest parts of the episode was Kate’s death. There weren’t sweet goodbyes—her speech was pretty brutal to Richie and Scott. What were your thoughts leading to that?

We thought it was really important that she lose her faith, so she’d be in that place when the [Santa Sangre] gets inside her blood. She’s basically like: “Screw you, and screw everything.” It sets up some very interesting stuff for us. The temptation is always let’s do a sweet goodbye because she’s our sweetest character. That’s the point of the show, or any good show. You want the universe to break them somehow, so they have to fix themselves. She just keeps giving to [Scott.] That was key for us setting her up for cool stuff next season.

What was bigger than her death was the cliffhanger in the finale setting up her resurrection via the blood from the Santa Sangre. What will we see going into season three in regards to that?

She basically gives up on faith and gives up on her journey and makes a really dark choice to basically push Scott away and push Richie away. The second major event is she gets that blood inside of her. So going forward: what’s it going to do? We saw what it did to the prospect [Gary Busey’s character]. But she’s a different person, right? But she is also in a different place. For us, it was really about creating a new way to challenge that character, and she’s definitely going to be challenged. It was a fun cliffhanger.

 

Except waiting a year for a new episode to find out what happens won’t be as fun. Fortunately for us, From Dusk Till Dawn has been renewed for a third season on El Rey Network. To relive the experience, you can find From Dusk Till Dawn season two on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Playstation Network, and Xbox Video.

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