Home Before Dark showrunner Dana Fox previews season 2

Home Before Dark returns to Apple TV Plus today, and the TV crime drama based on real-life young journalist Hilde Lysiak has a brand-new mystery in store. So what will fans get sucked into this time?

The new season begins with Lysiak’s fictional counterpart Hilde Lisko (Brooklynn Prince) finding out about an explosion at a local farm, and she soon uncovers that the incident has ties to a major corporation, creating a David and Goliath-esque battle between the young reporter and the huge business.

Showrunner and executive producer Dana Fox spoke to Precinct TV about the construction of Home Before Dark season 2 and what went into crafting Hilde’s next case.

Precinct TV: Apple TV Plus renewed Home Before Dark for a second season before the first had even finished airing. How much did that early renewal influence the making of season 2?

Dana Fox: The thing that was so great was having these amazing creative partners, in Apple and in Paramount and all the incredible writers that I had surrounding me…You’re not auditioning for each episode as you do it, you know you’re going to get 10 episodes. [That] was such a gift, and it was so freeing. Because when it’s a mystery and you’re trying to plot it out, you have to figure it out all the way to the end, so that you can go all the way back to the beginning and then keep going again. You don’t know what the beginning has to be if you don’t know what the ending is. So it was really, really interesting to go through the process, and then realize you immediately had to loop back and go through the process again.

But it makes for exciting and fun television, because you get to go really richly into the characters. You get to go really deeply into setting up really small things in the beginning that you think are just small. You can set those up and make sure that people know that they’re there, so that when they become important and a big deal later, you feel that you’ve been set up for that…Knowing that I could do a cliffhanger in the beginning of season 1, because I was going to have a season 2, was amazing. Just to know that I could be like “What?” at the end of season one, and then people were going to come back for the second season.

PTV: In all of TV, but particularly in the mystery genre, there’s become this grey area on what actors get told about story and even what they want to be told. With Home Before Dark, how did you decide which parts of the mystery to tell people about ahead of time, or did you?

DF: The actors on our show are so incredible that they can really learn their lines and go super deep very quickly. But I really try to hold back the mystery staff as much as I can from them, because I feel like I want them to only know what their character knows. I don’t want them anticipating something that’s coming down the road on their faces. They’re all great actors, so they could probably absolutely fake it, but there was something so authentic about their performances and I think part of it was that they were honestly like, “I genuinely don’t know how this is going to turn out.”

They could deliver these kind of nuanced, interesting moments early on in the mystery, where sometimes I would think Jim [Sturgess]’s character [Matthew Lisko] was going to get sad about something, but he got mad about it instead. And I was like oh, that’s really interesting. I didn’t think of it that way, but I actually really like that. They were frustrated because they didn’t know the answer, and it’s like well, that’s what you would be if you were in this actual story. You would be frustrated that you didn’t know the answer.

I would always say to the actors, “Look, if there’s something that you feel like you need to know to try to give your best performance, call me. I’ll tell you what I can tell you about it, for sure.” But for the most part, they all didn’t want to know, especially with the mystery stuff. They were more interested in knowing stuff that had to do with their emotional arcs. They were sort of like okay, but am I going to end up here? Am I going to end up there emotionally? And I would sort of give them a good sense of that without giving any of the spoilers away.

PTV: Speaking of emotion, Home Before Dark has done an excellent job of developing all of the main characters, and not just the ones who serve or who lead the mystery. How do you balance the character development with the whodunit?

DF: That is something we all work really hard to do, because we always want it to feel really real. And so we would always be like oh, remember, so-and-so had that one line in episode two, where they said this—let’s show that now, so that you realize that these things are all real. Frank [Michael Weston] has a sister, and when there’s a moment where they have to show up for something, the sister is there. You don’t just leave the sister because you’re done with the sister plot point. People in life have family, and those family members are around them sometimes. So it was really satisfying to just dig really deep.

And for me, I think a big part of it is just fully believing that the people really exist. I 100 percent think that they’re real. I think that they will go on forever, because they’re totally real people. So much so, to the point where it’s always really hard for me to switch gears into casting…On this show, we did it with John Chu, who is the absolute best of the best. And I would have to switch over from being a writer who believes these characters exist, to saying oh, an actor is going to play these characters. Because I’m like, “No, but they’re real. They’re real people. Right?” And it’s like, “No, Dana, they’re not real people. They’re people that you invented in your crazy brain with your friends, the other writers.” (laughs)

It’s just a really good exercise, I think, to really believe that they exist. When you really believe they exist, then when you’re breaking another season, you’ve never necessarily seen that person’s house, but I know what that person’s house looks like in my brain, because I had to imagine it to get here. It’s that kind of thing that helps to make the characters feel richer, I think. To make the world feel like the show is really happening and these things really exist.

PTV: Home Before Dark season 2 has been described as “an environmental mystery,” which is an uncommon angle for a TV crime drama. What made you want to bring that kind of a story to the show?

DF: We were looking for a mystery that would feel as emotional as the one in season 1. Where we started with it was that I had a lot of infertility as an adult, and I had to have seven IVFs [in-vitro fertilizations] to have my kids. I had a couple of miscarriages, and they believe that part of that might’ve been environmental. They told me that it was because I grew up in Rochester, New York, near where some chemicals were being dumped into the water and then into the air in the ’70s and ’80s.

We started from that point and me sort of saying, “That’s a really personal mystery to me.” That was a personal mystery that I had to solve to be able to have my kids in the end. It felt very profound and deep to me, but it was fundamentally a story about corporate malfeasance and about all of these bigger things that felt really grounded in an emotional truth. We started to talk more about the environment and how much we were inspired by Greta [Thunberg] and how she talks about the planet and climate change. How she stands up and says, this problem is not actually a gray area, as all you adults are claiming it is. It’s not impossible to solve. We have to start solving it.

I was really inspired by that, and I think we all were. And so it was the combination of those two ideas that started to float around in our heads. Sadly, if you look at the news, there’s a lot of stories like the one that we end up talking about in season two, and I think it’s something that we all have to reckon with—that decisions that were made long before our lives are coming to roost now, in a way that feels really like fertile territory for an emotional mystery.

Home Before Dark season 2 is now streaming exclusively on Apple TV Plus. Watch now with a 7-day free trial.