Showrunner Alison Schapker on Altered Carbon Season 2, Anthony Mackie, and Poe

Altered Carbon Season 2 brings a new sleeve for Takeshi Kovacs, and this time he’ll be played by Anthony Mackie (Black Mirror, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). In the last season, Kovacs finds out that Quellcrist Falconer could still be alive. In this season, he continues his search to find his long lost love. With a new sleeve, the series also has a new showrunner with Alison Schapker, who has worked on The CW’s The FlashAlmost Human, FringeAlias, and Charmed. Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with her about working with Anthony Mackie, developing Poe, whether we’ll be seeing a season 3, and more.

Some spoilers ahead.

Nerd Reactor: What was the process like bringing Anthony Mackie on board?

Alison Schapker: When I joined, season two had already sort of begun, and Laeta Kalogridis really had her eye on Anthony Mackie from the time I came on board. And I absolutely concurred. He’s such a phenomenal actor. He really came in and just made Takeshi Kovacs his own. I will say we tried to give him a lot of runways to do that. We wanted to find Takeshi Kovacs at a different moment in time or give him room to both honor Joel’s performance, which we all thought was so spectacular, but also allow us to deepen our understanding of Kovacs.

So I think of Kovacs in season one is the Kovacs who has nothing left to lose. He’s been woken up after centuries and forced to work for Bancroft. He lost his love Quellcrist Falconer and the world that they were fighting to create. The world he’s woken up in is everything he hates. He’s tough on the exterior and his heart is very buried, but it’s so clearly there.

And the Kovacs we find in season two that gets embodied by Anthony Mackie in a new sleeve is much closer to finding Quell. I think that was the promise at the end of season one when he walked out of the Raven and knowing that her DHF to be out there. This is a Kovacs who actually has a ton on the line and a lot to care about. So I think that allows Anthony to embody the character in a new way and see new sides to him. And he really built on Joel’s performance and made it his own and we were super thrilled.

Courtesy of Netflix

Nerd Reactor: Poe is a fan-favorite character, and he had a sad death at the end of the last season. How does he make a return for season 2?

Alison Schapker: Kovacs has pretty much figured out how to reboot him. But it came with a glitch. He’s glitched. He’s imperfectly recreated. It’s the computer equivalent of somebody who has memory loss or is glitching, and the only way to fix him would be to wipe him clean and start over. He doesn’t want to do that, and that becomes his storyline for season two – whether or not to reboot. Kovacs did what he could and cobbled him back together.

Nerd Reactor: Poe was more human than the actual humans. Did you capitalize on that even further for the second season?

Alison Schapker: Yeah, Chris Connor is another phenomenal actor. One of the things Anthony said was how Chris Connor really just raises everybody’s game. He was a fan favorite, and he’s a writer favorite. We adore Poe. We wanted to explore his character more in season two, so we were able to give him an arc. Kovacs has so much on the line and because Poe, quite understandably, is reluctant to let go of his own past. Poe is trying to hold on to himself. Kovacs has to make some difficult choices this season that actually forces Poe to go on on his own in hopefully a surprising way that fans will go on a journey with Poe as well.

They’re like an odd couple or married couple. They’ve been traveling together for 30 years. As long as they haven’t come close to finding Quell’s DHF, I think Kovacs is willing to put up with Poe’s glitchiness. It’s not until we hit the season that the stakes get raised, that it takes on a more serious tension in their relationship. But yeah, they have a different rapport because their friendship is so seasoned at this point.

Courtesy of Netflix

Nerd Reactor: Were you able to maintain the violence or did you wanted to focus more on the story?

Alison Schapker: We certainly didn’t shy away from violence, but we wanted it to come from the story. I would say that’s the philosophy of Altered Carbon. It is a violent world, there’s plenty of sex and violence in our world, but it’s story-driven. In season one, the story took us to the Red Light District, which took us to certain kinds of violence that leans more into sexualized violence. And in season two, it’s a different mystery. It’s a mystery about what happened to Quellcrist Falconer, what is going on with her, what is the secret in why she’s behaving the way she is and what’s happening on the planet. I think for fans of action, Kovacs finds himself in plenty of violent situations, but it comes from the story so we did what we felt the story demanded.

Nerd Reactor: Takeshi Kovacs’ original body has more screen time in the second season.

Alison Schapker: We knew that was coming. We purposely from the very beginning designed that as the midpoint of the season to pivot and amp up the second half of the season. Will Yun Lee is another incredible talent, and I think very much has the soul of Takeshi Kovacs in his performance. He comes back. To have more than one sleeve of Takeshi Kovacs was exciting for us.

Nerd Reactor: Season 2 of Altered Carbon has 8 episodes. Was that a conscious choice?

Alison Schapker: I’ve come from network shows, so I’ve got a lot of 22s. Coming into eight, I’m really conscious of pace, I think, and I wanted to make the most of the eight that we had. I can say that it’s consciously paced out. Every episode I tried to give its own character almost and have its own pace within the episode, so even location wise or what characters we were focusing on or what cards we were turning over. We really set out to craft the pacing of the season, and so people felt like they were on a ride. My husband is a sound designer, and he always says, “If nothing is soft, nothing is loud.” I tried to slow it in places so that it could feel fast. I think a lot about pacing.

Nerd Reactor: Will there be a season 3?

Alison Schapker: There’s nothing I want more than a season three. I have definite ideas for it. I really hope that we get the reaction that merits that. I love so much the ending of season one when those boots walked out of the door, and I remember leaning forward in my chair being like, “Oh my god, who’s going to be the next Kovacs?” I wanted that feeling at the end of season two. We set the table, we’re ready to go, we hope that the reaction merits it, we’ve had nothing but great support from Netflix and from Skydance, so we’re crossing our fingers because we want to do it.

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John Nguyen
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