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INTERVIEW: Chris Meloni gets ‘Happy!’ in Season Two

Chris Meloni
(photo: John K. Kirk)

How does one get Happy?

Well, you need a few things: good stories, good times, and good pals. And even though Nick Sax is none these things, you can still find all three in Season Two of SyFy’s twistedly funny show, Happy!

I had the good fortune to sit down with series lead and producer, Chris Meloni, and chat about the continued story of disgraced cop-turned-hitman, Nick Sax on his road to redemption paved with moments of the macabre and dark comedy.

Showcase Channel describes the story so far for us: Season 2 begins with Easter on the horizon – a season of hideous pastels, dye-stained fingertips and a general “who really gives a f***” attitude. A newly sober-ish Sax finds himself struggling with the demands of family and fatherhood. He has sworn to do right by his ex-wife, Amanda, and his daughter, Hailey, which means no booze, sex, drugs or killing. Happy, meanwhile, is resigned to keeping his partner on the straight and narrow while coping with the fact that a maturing Hailey can no longer see him. Sax’s fresh start will be tested by a familiar enemy: Sonny Shine, who is on a mission to Make Easter Great Again (MEGA) with the help of his demented Easter Bunny henchman.

I had to ask Chris how he got tagged for the role of Sax and what drew him to the character.

“Got sent the script … read it, and said ‘what the f*** did I just read? Let me speak to the director! And – head writer – Brian Taylor from the Crank films. What I took away from the meeting was ‘what is this world? What’s the tone of this world?’ And he was literally, like, ‘why don’t we just make it up together?’ “

happy-season-2-netflix
(Syfy)

The clear freedom that Meloni took from the meeting allows him to tap into the dark, yet comedic nature of this show. It’s a liberating look at the valuable role of the anti-hero in literature and Meloni delivers this character with a near effortlessly manner that entertains, amuses but also makes the viewer think deeply about the humanity that Nick Sax experienced in the first Season. In this new season, Sax has to reconcile with his ex-wife, establish a new relationship with his daughter and at the same time, evaluate his friendship with the imaginary blue unicorn that he can still see.

“I’ve never had someone give me an answer in this business (chuckle) with the inability to bullshit me! Or give me an answer! It was so refreshing … and I honestly believed we could make it up together!”

That’s the freedom needed in transitioning storytelling from paper to video. Comics to television is a huge change in the landscape of television and Happy is one of those productions that shows the success of continued storytelling form one media format to the other.

I had to ask Chris what he thought about that notion.

“Yeah! Truly – let’s build it together. I trusted him; ego-less but very clear, though, about when his gut tells him what’s right – which is very reassuring.”

But what about the character in that transition?

“You know, that’s an absolute personal feel. You know, I read it, and there were certain aspects of him that I didn’t just connect to – and that’s fine, maybe you can find a way in. if not, then find what’s truthful and is meaningful to Chris. I connected a little better to the script but that’s because I’m used to creating off scripts, as opposed to the visual and the graphic novel form.”

Being a fan of the comic and the comic creators, I had to ask Chris about if there was any influence from Grant Morrison or Darick Robertson.

“The final stake was when we did the screen test for clothing and make-up, costumes and wardrobe. And found THAT coat. We knew. I walked out with the scarf, and the gloves and THAT coat and even Grant Morrison went ‘oh my God … you’re f***ing HIM! You’re HIM, mate! I met Darick in Comic-Con – I’m a big fan of his. Grant, grant is a very quiet sage. He’s like the village elder who doesn’t say very much. He does his stuff behind the scenes with Brian; those two are in cahoots! But he is the one who gave birth to this. He’s the one who put hints into the book that we are going to expand into. The mythology is going to be expanded off of what Grant presents in the book but its not overt, in any shape or form.”

That begged the next question: what can we look forward to in Season Two?

“What can you look forward to? I know this is a sell, but I don’t mean it as such. My mind was blown – and I was in the Writers’ Room – as it was with the first season – I was like: wait, what are we doing? It’s like when Santa was using hallucinogenics in the snow globe, to get to Nick Sax; all of a sudden, you’re like building this surreal mythology, where the real and the surreal are mixed up! What is real, what is magic? Am I really seeing Happy? We’re playing with reality and we’re gonna build on that in Season Two and expand it even further!”

Speaking of Happy – I had to know what it was like to work with Patton Oswald? The fun these two performers had on the Happy Twitter promo was completely obvious.

“This is the sad thing about working with Patton Oswald: I’m not working with Patton Oswald as intimately as I would like. Which is to say, at best, I get in the booth in New York because we’re shooting it and he’s 3000 miles away in L.A. laying down tracks. I’m just kinda feeding him, sharing my ad-libs that I’ve already done or am thinking of doing – and that’s just how it goes – and I’m just talking to a picture of him. “ Chris said, in a sighing manner and waved in a wistful, melancholy way. After all, who wouldn’t want to work with Patton Oswald?

happy season 2
(Syfy)

In connection with working, I had to ask about favourite moments of the show.

“My favourite moment in Season One … I loved the hospital fight scene. I loved when I meet … I see Happy in the ambulance. I loved seeing my wife, Amanda and having a heart-to-heart. I mean, why didn’t you call me? And her … I thought that was so beautifully written; two people who just separated … the wounds are still open. Old hurts that have not healed.”

Is that on the road to redemption?

“Yeah, and I loved the ending. Lily and myself at her mum’s grave and the subsequent bathroom scene where I’m like: ‘I DON’T WANNA BE A DAD!’ and I always giggle at that. I really loved all of these moments and they were hard, and heartfelt; they were truthful. I was telling my old partner that ‘I appreciate you’ and these are very difficult sentiments to come out of Nick. You get to see his vulnerability and then there’s happy saying: ‘I’ll help you out, partner!’ “

But the show has to go on. Nick Sax brings chaos everywhere he goes. But it looks like in this season, he might be on the road to redemption. Will chaos get in the way of his redemption?

“He’s a man in search of redemption, but he’s also a man who doesn’t know shit from shinola! Redemption? That’s a big step, but he’s open to it. Sobriety? He’s open to that too. That’s a big step. He’s open to having a relationship with his daughter. I mean, it’s all so overwhelming. Nick is a profoundly limited human being in his abilities to survive in the real world, in the normal auspices of what it is that real people do. So, will he find redemption? I can’t tell you! So much of the drama is that he is a magnet for chaos; that’s where he lives.”

That’s a great story, a chance for a good time and, despite Nick’s limitations, he still had good friends in this show.

That’s how you get happy, folks.

Season Two premieres March 27th on SyFy. Get Happy! with the rest of us.

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About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.