The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: Interview with Chris Nee, Executive Producer, of Vampirina! #vampirina

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interview with Chris Nee, Executive Producer, of Vampirina! #vampirina

Disclosure: I attended the #ThorRagnarokevent and my expenses: flight, accommodations, transportation and some meals were be covered by Disney. All opinions, however, are always 100% mine.



Vampirina is the new girl in town! Join Vampirina “Vee” Hauntley and her new human friends as she brings spook-tacular fun from Transylvania to Pennsylvania! Whether making their own “Spine-Chiller” music videos or planning parties for friendly Transylvanian guests, Vee and her friends always figure out how to have fang-tastic adventures!

We were fortunate enough to meet and interview Chris Nee, executive producer, of the new Disney Junior show, Vampirina. She was great! We also saw one of the current episodes. Vampirina is a cute show that is perfect for kids of all ages. I also think adults will love it as well.

Vee and her family are different but that's okay. I think that the lesson of the show that different is okay. My favorite character was Gregoria, played by Wanda Sykes. I think it's because I love Wanda Sykes. But all the characters are great. I think the idea that Vee is a vampire and her friends accept her is very cool.

Here are some highlights from our interview with Chris Nee! And a featurette with the Ghoul Girls!



Her secret to writing shows that appeal to both children and adults.

I think it’s incredibly important because what I really want to do is bring families together to watch shows. I think those shows that so actively alienate the parents really create the separation in the enjoyment. For me, for whatever reason, I have a great ability to remember what it felt like to be a kid and that’s obviously what I’ve tapped into for twenty years working in kids TV.

I’m writing for myself. I’m trying to make myself laugh and I’m trying to work out my own stuff and remember my own childhood and remember those feelings and write the world that I hope we can live in, but I’m really writing for myself. I’m also a mom so, I certainly know what it’s like to want your kid to watch shows that the music is something you can stand because you’re going to watch it a lot.

Photo Credit: Allison Waken / AllForTheBoys.com

Gregoria:

I will say I really love Gregoria. Gregoria and Demi I added to the cast because, obviously the books are such a huge inspiration, but there’s a lot that’s not there in terms of building out a world that you can tell X amount of stories every week. I really wanted the comic relief and I really like intense specificity of character and you can see that on Doc [McStuffins] where everyone’s really solidly who they are.

I wrote Gregoria for Wanda [Sykes] having no idea she would say yes. That character was the biggest leap of faith because she’s a very cantankerous character for a preschool show. There were moments where I had to say, ‘I promise you it works in my head, it works in my head.’ It’s going to be her with this voice and Wanda's voice is Wanda's voice. And there’s no missing that.

Photo Credit: Allison Waken / AllForTheBoys.com

On how Vee can go outside during the day.

It is a very intense sunblock and we do talk about it in the episodes. Obviously you have to find a way to get past that piece. There had originally been a line in the pilot, which would have stopped a lot of Twitter chatter that addressed it and it just got lost for time because there was so much we wanted to do emotionally in that episode. But, it will come up later on and there will be episodes where if she goes outside it'll be very clear. There’s an episode where they go to the beach during the day.

There definitely are references to it. But, look, there were certain things where you have to get past it to be able to do this show and that was one we thought a lot about. And that seemed like the best way to do it.


The Girl Power Theme

I think we have had a lot of boy lead characters and it’s definitely something. When Doc [McStuffins] came around, Doc could have been either [a boy or girl], and I felt really strongly. I mean the story with Doc is that I created it for my son but I made her an African American girl. I really believed that was the representation that mattered. And we didn’t need another boy lead character and I was still making it for my son and I believed that he would still care about the character.

I could do both things and that it was more important to shine a light and bring representation that we know is sorely lacking on the screen. So, it’s definitely something that I feel passionately about and that will always be the case. I mean will there be a next character that’s a boy? It certainly could be a boy. It’s just these two, I enjoy being able to bring out what I know girl character’s can be, which is anything and everything.

Photo Credit: Allison Waken / AllForTheBoys.com

Importance of Vampirina’s identity:

One of the things that was interesting in tackling this was the idea that it is a fine line because obviously so much of the fun is about her keeping her identity secret. But, I also didn’t want that to be the focus. I think in 2017 it was not okay for someone to want, that her driving goal would be to hide who she was inherently as a character. And I actually went in to Disney and I almost didn’t make the show because I said, we have to be able to figure it out, this piece. For me to want to do it, that can’t be the story that I’m telling.

First of all, we really wanted to make sure that anyone who ever found out that she was a vampire, loved her anyway. That she was clearly okay with telling people who she was. I hope that we are you know, that we’re telling the story which is what we’re trying to tell which is, ‘this is not a family who’s ashamed of who they are in any way shape or form, they are worried that they’re going to scare other characters and that there’s going to be too much attention on them.’

Photo Credit: Allison Waken / AllForTheBoys.com

On the importance of being different:

It is a show where we say, ‘she is different and sometimes that’s hard to be friends with.’ We’re not saying that she isn’t different, we aren’t saying that everybody’s exactly the same and there’s never stuff isn’t being conveyed as a conflict because we’re coming from different perspectives. In fact, we’re saying that’s exactly what this is and yet you can still be friends, it’s important to be friends, it’s important to see each other from your perspective.

We have a huge country that’s really different. And maybe the only way that we’re going to get someplace is to say, ‘you’re different from me but let’s hear each other and I still want to be your friend through it. We can still find common ground, and I think for me, that’s what this show is about.
Different is acceptable.


On issues to be tackled in future shows:

I think fear is actually the greatest emotion that controls our lives, honestly. And I think for little kids, there’s so much that’s new for them and so you know, it’s easy to talk about the show from the perspective of, ‘she’s really different and her friends have to figure her out.’ But, she’s also in this world and she’s the new kid and she’s the kid who also knows she doesn’t quite belong.

We’re going to see a lot of that play out. Of [Vee] trying to understand what her identity is. Is she Pennsylvanian now? Is she Transylvanian? Is she allowed to be both at the same time? And how do you own that? And there’s some beautiful stuff coming up with Nanpire, which is the grandmother played by Patti [LuPone]. It is about what it's like to come in to a new place and how much do you take on, how much do you hold on to yourself?

I try to create worlds where you could have characters say, ‘I love you,’ and you don’t go, ‘yuck,’ that doesn’t feeling like he earned it. Right? And we’re gonna see a lot of that stuff play out.

There’s an episode where Gregoria accidentally gets given away with a bunch of antiques. And believes that after all these years, she has been thrown away, that she’s too old. That stuff is fantastic. It’s such a rich world for us to play in and lots of good stuff coming up.


VAMPIRINA  airs Mondays and Fridays on Disney Junior.


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