[Spoilers for Season 1 of Everything Sucks! follow. Read at your own risk!]
By now, you've probably made your way through Netflix's extremely bingable high school series Everything Sucks!, a charming light-hearted drama that covers topics like sexuality, romance and all the pains of being a teenager no matter the decade. And although things end on a (mostly) happy note, there are still some lingering questions we have concerning the kids at Boring High School.
To wit, what's up with Luke's (Jahi Winston) dad Leroy (Zachary Ray Sherman)? And going further, how did producers handle Kate's (Peyton Kennedy) storyline of a teen girl coming to terms with her sexuality? TV Guide talked to the show's creators, Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, to get some answers.
Kate's coming out story is wonderful, and a major part of the season. How did you go about capturing that experience?
York Jones: To me, taking on a character like Kate, who is a 15-year-old girl grappling with her sexuality identity in 1996, is a real challenge for Mike and I and at the same time I think that we worked really hard to open up our empathy channels. And it's a lot of the similar thinking of being an actor, if you're writing a character like that, where you try and put yourself in their shoes and you talk to people who have been through a similar experience, and you do your best to be true to the character, get yourself in their head a little bit if you're able. We had a tremendous amount of support from our entire writers room, which was seven strong and fairly diverse in that capacity, and it's a shared authorship of Kate's arc.
In the finale, Kate doesn't tell her dad she's a lesbian. She's about to, but she doesn't. If you've thought about Season 2, what will that next step in her journey be for her? Will she feel that same level of confidence she had in that moment or will it be drawn out a little more?
Michael Mohan: We certainly don't want to count our chickens before they hatch, but obviously her not telling her dad was a very intentional choice. We felt that there was honestly a great deal of story still to be found in that process. We don't know what it will look like, should we be fortunate enough to get to explore it, but we know there are a lot of decisions that have to be made on her behalf before she can really assuredly come out to her dad.
York Jones: I think one of the things that was really important to us with the first season was that we didn't want to shortchange her emotional experience during this timeframe, because in earlier incarnations of the show we did toy around with, "What if she came out in Episode 5?" Ultimately, that wouldn't have done the character right, and it wouldn't let her be in the driver's seat of her own [story], you want to make sure that she's able to tell her own story, and I think that in Season 2, keeping Kate in the driver's seat and keeping her in control of her own narrative is really important to us. It's one of the things we took away from [when] a representative from GLAAD came to our writers room, learning about that perspective and seeing what the tropes were and trying to avoid every single one of them.
Luke's race is never mentioned once in the show, and I found that very refreshing. Was the character always meant to be black, or did you go through the casting process completely open and find Jahi Winston was perfect for Luke?
Mohan: Our intention was to have Luke be a character of color in some part, because we also wanted Sherri (Claudine Nako), his mom, to be a woman of color. And it's honestly as simple as we don't see it enough. And if we were in charge, we decided that's what we wanted to see.
Expanding on that, Luke's dad Leroy, by all appearances, is white, and Luke doesn't appear to be biracial. How was that decided and will we learn more about Leroy if we get a second season of Everything Sucks!?
Mohan: Narratively speaking the only thing I can say is wait 'til you see what happens in Season 2. In terms of the Season 1 of it all, the one thing we'll say is we really wanted the show to focus — we wanted to limit the number of characters that we see, so we can be more intimately involved in each and every single one of them. So it was a very deliberate choice to only have three adult leads, being Luke's mom, Kate's dad and Leroy. And if you're only going to have three adult characters, we just didn't want to have the quote-unquote deadbeat dad character be the only black adult male because it's a bit of a trope. So that was reason enough to make Leroy not black.
Leroy is both a good and bad influence on Luke it seems, and in the finale, he returns as the big cliffhanger. What will his return mean for Luke and Sherri?
York Jones: It's a question we're asking ourselves right now. [Laughs] One thing we did want to incorporate into Season 1 is that even though Leroy is kind of introduced to us as not such a great guy, a guy Luke and Sherri have distanced themselves from, he and Luke do share a lot of traits, for better or worse. They're both really excitable, obviously they're both really into movies. And we wanted that to provide some form of internal struggle for Luke in the way of identity.
The final scenes with McQuaid were really devastating. Please tell me he's going to be OK!
York Jones: McQuaid (Rio Mangini) is gonna be fine. Mike's shaking his head. [Laughs] I think he's gonna be fine, Mike isn't so sure.
Mohan: The point of drama is to torture your characters as much as possible, I'm sure if it's not through that, I'm sure we'll find other ways to turn the vice. But he's a smart kid, he just needs to loosen up.
Everything Sucks! is now streaming on Netflix.