Cons & EventsFeaturesInterviewsOn Location

NYCC Interview: Pavun Shetty & Conor Welch Talk ‘Goosebumps’

Share this:

If you’re looking for a frightfully good time this Halloween evening, Goosebumps on Disney+/Hulu is the perfect way to get your scare on. Earlier this month at New York City Comic Con, we caught up with executive producers Pavun Shetty and Connor Welch in roundtable interviews to talk about reanimating this spooky delight for a new generation.

In our NYCC roundtable interview with executive producers Pavun Shetty and Connor Welch, we discussed the transformation of Goosebumps from an anthology series to a binge-worthy serialized story. We also chatted about breaking new ground with these familiar stories from the R.L. Stine books, the physical humor of the show, and the talented cast, including Justin Long. Additionally, Shetty and Welch shed light on how the show has stayed so inclusive and authentic.

The interview with Goosebumps Pavun Shetty & Conor Welch

[Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. There are spoilers for Goosebumps ahead. ]

Interviewer: “I was really surprised when it got to episode two and it’s not an anthology. We’re not meeting a new cast of characters. Was that always the plan going into it, or was that something that came through the development process?”

Pavun Shetty: “I mean, we were lucky to have access to all of the Goosebumps books through Scholastic. And so, it was a real challenge to figure out which ones we were going to pull from. So we knew for the first half of the season, we were going to pull from some of the most popular ones. So you’re right that they’re not pure anthologies. But for the first five episodes, we do come straight from five of the most popular books. And the issues in the books align with the issues the teenagers are having.”

“And after that, for the second half of the season, it’s just pulling from all of the books when the kids come together.
So we knew we weren’t going to do a straight anthology because we wanted to have an ongoing situation, ongoing teen drama, ongoing stuff with our cast that people kept driving through the season with. But we wanted to take as much as possible and throw it together.”

Conor Welch: “Yeah, and it was important that it’s sort of binge-worthy, for lack of a better term these days, especially since it’s on a service like Disney+. So we wanted to have an arc and a mystery, and keep an audience coming back for more, wondering what happens next, as opposed to the previous TV series or the movies or the books that were anthological, close-ended episodes.”

Interviewer: “It definitely works.”

Conor Welch: “Oh, thank you.”

On developing Goosebumps for television

Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about the process of deciding to bring this iconic book series to screen again? What was development like? How did that all work?”

Pavun Shetty: “Yeah, I mean, good thing for both of us is we actually grew up reading the books so we were fans before we even started working on the project. And my company, Original Film, produced the movies. And so, Rob Letterman directed the first movie, and Rob and I, Neal Moritz, started talking about as a show. And we knew if we were going to do a TV show, we wanted to take these iconic stories and do an elevated take on them because we knew how beloved they were.”
“And we went to Nick [Stoller] and Conor [Welch] because all of us had worked together before to really put that together. And they came up with a version of the show that we all felt good about, that Goosebumps fans like us would actually like, but new people who hadn’t read any of the books would appreciate, too. And so that was always top of mind in development.”

Conor Welch: “Totally. And because there had been a TV series before, because there had been two movies, it was super important to us that this have a reason for being, and not tread on territory that had been tread on before in previous adaptations. So that was one of the reasons we aged it up a little bit, put it in high school instead of middle school, why we made it serialized as opposed to anthological. And yeah, we wanted it to be surprising and entertaining for fans and for folks who didn’t maybe know as much about the books.”

On aging up Goosebumps so that the cast is in high school

Interviewer: “I just want to say I really enjoyed the show and I love that, like you mentioned, the premise it’s not an anthology, but that it’s also a little more adult-themed. So I think it’s being that we grew up with it as kids and now as adults, we can enjoy it. I really like that. So I guess, how did you guys go with the concept of making it a little more adult-themed, and like you said, now they’re in high school, and making it a little darker in a sense as well?”

Conor Welch: “Yeah, well like you said, I grew up reading them as well. My 11-year-old daughter is reading them now. So the endeavor was to create a show that we could both watch and enjoy together. But the line is tricky, right? For it to be funny and scary for adults, while also being funny and scary for kids.”

“Disney was super helpful in making sure we were toeing the line, getting right up to it, and never going over the line. So, the scares were very much tension-driven and never gore or blood and guts type stuff. And the jokes, I think, were generally elevated and had some edge, but never getting inappropriate. But yeah, it was definitely a tricky dance, because there’s not a lot that me and my daughter can watch and be entertained by together. So finding that sweet spot, yeah, that was the dream.”

Pavun Shetty: “The kids in the books are in middle school, and our kids are in high school, and we did that intentionally because high school is the weirdest time ever. It’s super awkward. It’s super messy. It’s super funny. But it’s also really scary, even without these things happening. That’s a ripe territory for doing any type of story. So, having the high school kids there.”

“And then we really wanted to talk about their parents, too, because the parents play a huge role in the show. And we wanted to talk about the relationships between the kids and their parents, the relationship between the parents themselves. And you realize that, in the show, the kids are having to clean up the mess that their parents created. And so, there’s a lot of adult dynamics built into that without being too alienated.”

Isaiah (Zack Morris). Goosebumps (Disney+/Hulu).

On casting the actors in this Disney+ series

Interviewer: “There was also such a talented young cast at the helm of this project. What was that casting process like, finding those actors that can play well, both the drama and the comedy? Which was the hardest role to cast for?”

Conor Welch: “Gosh, they were all difficult because we wanted new faces in those roles that maybe would be a surprise to an audience, to introduce folks for the first time. And we needed there to be a chemistry with them, which is really difficult to find until you’re actually shooting. And we needed to find kids that were close enough to the teenage experience that they could lend some authenticity to it.”

“And once they were cast is when we really started writing towards and around them, with their input. It was important to us that it felt as true to the contemporary high school experience as possible. And as 40-somethings, we’re not as plugged into that these days. So they were instrumental in making sure that their characters felt real and that they gave a lot of their personal energies towards, which was great.”

Pavun Shetty: “And the first person with cast was Justin Long for that role. And he’s perfect for it because he’s done so many comedies, coming-of-age movies and shows. But he’s also done a lot of horror things. And he was just coming off Barbarian when we shot this. And so, he’s kind of perfect as a person who’s seamlessly goes between comedy and drama. And in the show, his body is taken over by 16-year-old kids. There’s a lot of physical humor there, too, and he really threw himself-”

Conor Welch: “Literally.”

Pavun Shetty: “…literally into the role. And so we lucked out with him. And the adult actors, Rob Huebel and Rachael [Harris], just so funny. They’re all comedy people and they bring so much comedically, but they’re also really good dramatically, too. So we lucked out with the entire cast.”

On deeper cuts and future seasons of Goosebumps

Interviewer: “As fans of books, were there any deeper cuts that you either thought to give them for the first season, or you’re saving for maybe another season?”

Conor Welch: “Well, we luckily have access to the whole series. So, yeah, there’s a lot of things. I won’t speak specifically, so as not to give any spoilers. But yeah, this one draws from five of the most popular of the canon for the first five episodes. Pulls some Easter eggs from others throughout. But yeah, we hope to draw on many more for hopefully many seasons to come.”

Interviewer: “So many.”

Pavun Shetty: “Yeah.”

Interviewer: “Really.”

Conor Welch: “I know. I know. Truly. A deep, deep well.”

On being inclusive and authentic

Interviewer: “I love that this show is inclusive. You have a queer character and it’s very incidental. Was that always the plan? And how did you take steps to make it feel authentic without virtue signaling?”

Pavun Shetty: “Yeah, I mean, like Conor said, the characters were written, and then once we cast the show, the actors themselves brought a lot their own personality and experiences to the role. And so we just kind of let them bring whatever they’ve experienced in real life to the role and wrote around that. So we never tried to do anything that we hadn’t experienced ourselves. We just let them bring it, and then they were just so good and real and authentic and it worked out in this sort of environment. So they just really did it themselves.”

Conor Welch: “Yeah. And it wasn’t to be important, even though I think it is, but just to be as close to the actual authentic high school experience that’s going on now.”

Pavun Shetty: “Yeah, that’s what high school is like now.”

Conor Welch: “You know? So, yeah, that was it.”

Interviewer: “Yeah. And I think it strikes an amazing balance. I mean, as a queer person, it’s so great to see more really great representation.”

How to watch Goosebumps

Goosebumps premiered on Friday, October 13, 2023 and is now streaming on Disney+. The 8th episode of the season, “You Can’t Scare Me” will be available this Friday! Are you already watching Goosebumps? Did you read the books as a kid? Let us know what you think of the new series on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

Interview: Rob Letterman, Hilary Winston & Nick Stoller Talk Goosebumps

NYCC Goosebumps interview

Goosebumps Review: A Worthwhile Reinventing of a Childhood Favorite

Goosebumps Review Banner

Book Review: Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. 

Goosebumps: House of Shivers: Scariest. Book. Ever. Banner

Share this:

Ayla Ruby

I am a writer and interviewer based somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. I love all things nerdy - but Star Trek and Spiderman have special places in my heart. Find me at @TulinWrites on Twitter. And visit my other website for more reviews and interviews:

Ayla Ruby has 170 posts and counting. See all posts by Ayla Ruby