One of our favorite pieces of original content to hit Disney+ in 2023 has been the ongoing Goosebumps series. Playing off the classic and beloved book series while telling its own original story, Goosebumps brings together five friends who experience horrors far beyond anything they ever thought possible.
I got the chance to speak with three of those five friends – Zack Morris (Isaiah), Miles McKenna (James) and Will Price (Lucas) – about their experience working on this new series.
With the SAG-AFTRA strike officially over, the three stars are just now getting their first chance to publicly speak about this new series.
“It's nice to finally be able to express the kind of experiences that we've been through,” Morris said. “All the highs that we had, all the incredible moments. It's nice to finally be able to share that as well as the finished product. It's just a really proud moment, I think, for all of us.”
“This is something that, I mean, we all worked so hard and long on, and was such a chapter marker I think, in all of our, not only careers, but our lives like this was just such an adventure,” McKenna added. “So to finally be able to share it with others, and fully be like, ‘go watch this, please,’ is like, so monumental.”
Price also took the opportunity to thank the many people who worked on the series.
“Also just post writer's strike and actors strike, it feels particularly exciting, just because the show was made by real people who worked long hours,” Price said. “And it's a privilege to get to now talk about it and talk about people's hard work.”
The series has been well received, earning a 76% critics score from Rotten Tomatoes. Part of that can be attributed to adapting the beloved material of the book series and the three stars were certainly well versed in these stories prior to shooting.
“I definitely read the books growing up. And I remember in elementary school and middle school, too, you just look around the room and you'd see different kids with the Goosebumps books open, and you'd be like, ‘which one are you reading?’” Price laughed. “So it was definitely, always a part of my understanding of the property. But you know, upon doing the show I definitely learned more and it was really exciting. While we were filming, the writers would write in a bit of lore, and I'd be like ‘that's great.’ And then, you know, I'd come to find out that it was one of the like hundreds of books that existed.”
“I think, for me. Goosebumps was one of those things that was just always around. You were always in and around Goosebumps, from reading the books, but something always stuck out for me not only the content inside the books, but the cover art,” Morris added. “That was always something that was kind of indented in my brain, and the logo and the writing of the word ‘Goosebumps’ and then, of course, the show into the movies that were made by Rob Letterman who also helped make this show. It's been a part of either someone's childhood or someone's adulthood. It's always been around, and I was definitely exposed to it from a young age. So yeah, to kind of be a part of that history and be a part of that brand is, it's a real pleasure.”
It was also a chance to revisit those childhoods for these young actors.
“Yeah, getting to film the show was, really like getting to be a kid again,” McKenna said. “It's just like turning the page and reading the books that we did as children. And you know, seeing the different twists and turns that it takes. So yeah, it was super exciting.”
With all of them being fans of the franchise even prior to creating this new series, I had to know if there were any stories the show didn’t get to that they wished they could explore.
“I think season one serves as a very complete set of stories, and it works really well, so I wasn't left wanting for anything in season one,” Price said. “But I do think there's so many books to continue to explore if we get the chance to. I love a summer camp movie, or like a summer sort of Spielbergian-esque story. So I'd love, I think ‘Camp Jellyjam,’ something like that. That'd be a lot of fun.”
“There's just so much more story to tell,” McKenna added. “I would love them to explore the whole werewolf lore. I would love to dive into that, especially seeing what they did with the mask. You know, going back and forth from CGI effects to practical effects like seeing what they could do with all the lore of the werewolf would be great.”
Later on, though, McKenna remembered another icon of Goosebumps lore he wants featured in the series.
“Who's the skeleton? Was his name Curly? You know the skeleton with a pink Mohawk, and like the green? I want him,” McKenna laughed. “That's I want. I want Curly, the skeleton.”
As for Morris, he was happy to get to work with perhaps the biggest icon the many Goosebumps story.
“I think, for me. I was, again talking about the cover art and talking about the stories, the original stories, I think Slappy for me was something that was, when you think Goosebumps, you think Slappy,” Morris said. “So the fact that we got to be able to work with a Slappy and they made a Slappy – It was like a 3D printed Slappy – it was dope. So the amount of stories that haven't been visited with Slappy yet, there's a whole Slappy series, so they can continue that. And that would be great. But yeah, there's so many other stories that we would like to kind of work around a little.”
He also went on to explain that the cast was unaware they would be working with Slappy prior to the beginning of filming.
“When we were first working on episode one, I didn't know Slappy was going to be a part of this show. We were still kind of working it out, and I was focusing on what we had to do. So it came as much as a surprise to us as it did to the audience,” Morris said. “So when it finally happened, for me, I was just like ‘this is dope.’ Slappy is such a staple figure in the Goosebumps world so to have like a new version of Slappy, like I said he was 3D printed, they had this puppeteer who had done some crazy stuff with aliens, and he did some wild stuff so to have him operate a Slappy which is completely original, for our show was just very, very dope.”
He went on to say “he was also heavier than you'd expect,” which drew some jealousy from McKenna who never got the opportunity to hold Slappy.
“There’s so many iterations of Slappy, from the cover art to the animation to the movies and the original TV series, I’m biased but this is my favorite Slappy that I think we’ve seen,” McKenna said. “There is something so creepy and like distilling about his face. Also, he was so much larger then I imagined him to be. Like this was like a man. This is like a full man. It was really, really like, really creepy and I think there's something so other-worldly about him.”
As for Price, it was off-camera antics of Slappy and his handlers that stood out in his memory.
“He'd sometimes get wheeled around in a little cart. You’d be eating like a croissant or drinking a coffee and you’d see Slappy get wheeled around in like a little wagon,” Price laughed.
“Slappy was a real diva,” Morris tacked on.
Given the chemistry the cast had in the series and the energy they had brought to this interview, it was clear they had a great time creating this show.
“It was a real family vibe. It was a real tight knit, I'm going to say family and I mean it,” Morris said. “We all made kind of a conscious effort to be with each other outside of filming hours. And we were filming long days. Don't get it wrong. Sometimes we were doing like 18 hour days, which is a long time to be with people. But it didn't feel like a long time. And then, after that long day, we would then either go to Ana [Yi Puig’s] apartment and we'd either play cards or would go for dinner or hang out. And so we were with each other like so much. But it didn't feel like so much. It felt right. Those relationships built very naturally, and it wasn't forced. It was a very natural thing. So the more that grew the more the relationships on screen kind of grew, and the more fun we could all have together.”
Price credits that family dynamic for how well they were able to work together when shooting this show.
“I think the five of us built up a lot of trust that maybe if someone was coming in and they were a little bit down that someone else would come in and pick up the slack and carry you through it,” Price said. “I'm really proud that the show feels like a group of five friends, because that's what it felt like when we were in Vancouver.”
McKenna added that there was a level of comfort within the cast that allowed them to be themselves.
“What's the saying, like the the testament of a really good friend, is someone you can be quiet with. Like how many times we would just all sit and just be like silent or like, I've fallen asleep on someone, you know, after a long day,” McKenna laughed. “So yeah, it definitely was like a family affair, for sure.”
As for the fun moments they had during shooting, I asked the stars about their favorite scenes to shoot.
“We had that really fun fight scene in episode 3. I'd say it was one of the most strategic days on set I've had not just on this show, but that I've ever experienced,” Morris said. “The stunt coordinator planned out every moment for the whole fight sequence, and he recorded the fight sequence with with his other stunt performers and showed us a version and said ‘okay, this is what you’ve got make. I've already made it, and we've now just got to make it with more expensive equipment and more expensive cameras.’ So then, throughout the day we were just checking off every single shot we had. So then, by the end of it, we knew exactly what it was going to look like. We knew all the beats, all the moments. It was just a creative machine.”
McKenna added that the use of practical effects really affected the way they had to shoot some of these scenes.
“It wasn't just CGI, like after effects. It was so much practical effect. So it's like, you know, when this James explodes and you guys are covered in this, we're actually going to shoot you with this, so there's no going back,” McKenna laughed. “So it's like you have to do it in one take and then we continue on. And then it's like half the day is spent with sticky stuff all over you, you know, as if it just happened.”
Morris also pointed out that he and McKenna had some fun doing their own stunts whenever they were allowed the opportunity.
“There was a brilliant moment where, and they kept it, I'm so happy they kept it, it was the wide shot where you see James and Isaiah jumping over dupes and attacking dupes,” Morris said. “It was like a continuous shot, and for that moment. I think, Erin O'Malley, the director said ‘okay, we're gonna get your stunt doubles to do this.’ And I remember me and Miles were looking at each other like, ‘I wanna do this bit, I promise I can jump over and I won't get hurt.’ So then we did it, and it looks so cool. So I'm so happy we kind of stuck to our guns and we said, ‘you know what I'm doing a Tom Cruise in this moment, man.’”
As for Price, it was the scope and scale of this giant production combined with a moment of pure luck that stood out to him.
“One thing about shooting in Vancouver, the elements, you know, are are always at play, and I remember it being the first time I realized that, this is a big show, because we had this like this massive crew, all of these background performers and it was raining just ungodly rain, and everything was wet,” Price said. “And I just remember, there was a huge crane that was like sweeping the field, and there was football going on, and Rob [Letterman] was in this crazy hat, and was like yelling things trying to orchestrate it all and then to see it on camera was incredible because it adds to this like drama and the rain almost feels written in, but it was just simply the elements sort of collided it and allowed for this very dramatic scene to take place.”
All of that cast chemistry, combined with beloved source material and a well-timed rainstorm has added up to an incredible new series on Disney+. And while the future of the series beyond this week’s season finale is uncertain, it’s clear the stars of the show are ready for more.
You can watch the first nine episodes of Goosebumps on Disney+ now with the season finale set to debut on Friday, November 17.