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

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It’s not as terrifying as when the candy runs out, or when you’re set upon by a horde of inflateable dinosaurs, but it’s pretty close . The new Goosebumps series on Disney+/Hulu is a spine-chilling delight sure to give you a thrillingly terrifying time this Halloween night. At New York City Comic Con earlier this month, we caught up with the show’s creators, Rob Letterman and Nicholas Stoller, as well as co-executive producer Hilary Winston, in roundtable interviews to discuss bringing this eerie delight back to life for a new generation.

In our NYCC roundtable chat with LettermanStoller, and Winston, we talked about how they chose the books for the show, what they thought of the Jack Black movie, and whether there could be any future cameos or tie-ins. We got some insight into their hopes for more seasons and adaptations, including SlappyWorld, and how they balance making a horror show that’s fun for both kids and adults.

The interview with Rob Letterman, Hilary Winston, & Nick Stoller about Goosebumps

[Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Beware and abandon all hope, there are mild spoilers for Goosebumps ahead. ]

Interviewer: “Was there a process for choosing the books for you guys? And were there some books that you were hoping you could maybe fit into the arc this time around that maybe you’re holding onto for next time?”

Rob Letterman: “Yes, and yes. I’ll dive in. So we’re very hopeful for more seasons, obviously. And if there are, there’s so many books. So by design, the show is able to keep going and keep mining all the different books. And then as far as this season, once we cracked the big idea of making it serialized and following five teens, and almost the first five episodes being origin stories for five characters, and where we wanted to go with it, then we started mapping what were the best books to those characters. And then, without making them too similar. We liked jumping different sub-genres of horror as well.”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah, I mean, one of the books that we tried to get, but it fell out was The Girl Who Cried Monster.

Rob Letterman: “Yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “That was a really fun one that just seemed… The idea of a teacher turning into monsters is very scary. And that came in and then we realized it didn’t fit in.”

Rob Letterman: “It got too stalkery.”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah.”

Rob Letterman: “It didn’t work, yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “And it just didn’t fit into the overall. It became repetitive with what happens with the Justin Long character. But I think there’s so many stories in the Goosebumps canon that we would love to get to do more.”

On guardrails, kid-friendly horror, and raising the stakes

Ayla Ruby: “Sure. So this is horror, but it’s kid-friendly horror. Can you talk about whether or not there are already guardrails? What that process is? If you have kids, if they had opinions about it? I have a child with very strong opinions.”

Rob Letterman: “It’s weird how they have opinions, right? Just as a parent. They’re like, ‘Really? You have an opinion about everything?'”

Hilary Winston: “Your kids watch a lot of episodes.”

Rob Letterman: “My kids watch a lot of rough cuts and share their opinions. I don’t know. I’m doing something wrong. Yes, sorry.”

Rob Letterman: “What was it? Remind me before I forget.”

Nick Stoller: “He forgets.”

Ayla Ruby: “It’s horror, but it’s geared towards-”

Rob Letterman: “Yeah, and I think this show’s aged up a bit.”

Ayla Ruby: “Yes.”

Rob Letterman: “So the original series was really middle school, but we found we wanted to increase the stakes. We wanted to go deeper. We wanted to have more coming-of-age type of thing, going into adulthood. And also, there’s fans who grew up on the books, who are still fans of the books in their thirties and forties that we want to speak to. And so it’s just a bigger audience now and it’s just about the right place to…”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah.”

Hilary Winston: “There’s really nothing scarier than high school. So no matter what we told, no monster is scarier than your everyday life. And so this really is a safe, scary show where nothing is so graphic that when the episode ends, it’s going to stay with you. It’s just really a fun ride. And when it’s over, it’s over. And so, I think that’s why it makes it good viewing, where you can really enjoy the complex, deeper stuff with the parents’ story. And maybe the kids don’t enjoy that part, but they like the scary stuff. But when it’s over, it’s over. And I think that’s…”

Nick Stoller: “And Disney told us to just… We were like, ‘How careful should we be?’ And they were like, ‘Just go for it. We’ll tell you when you’ve gone too far.'”

Rob Letterman: “That’s true.”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah. And we were saying that the thing that’s always scariest is the thing you don’t see. Once you see the monster, it’s never as scary as the noises and whatever, the lights turning on and off. All that’s much scarier. Like the Poltergeist, the chairs. That chair moment.”

Rob Letterman: “The stack.”

Nick Stoller: “The stacked chairs is the scariest moment.”

Hilary Winston: “Yeah, yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “It’s absolutely terrifying. It’s just a stack of chairs. It’s literally…”

Hilary Winston: “It doesn’t keep you up at night. Yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah, that’s true.”

Goosebumps 2
Isaiah (Zack Morris), Isabella (Ana Yi Puig), James (Miles McKenna), Lucas (Will Price), and Margot (Isa Briones). Goosebumps (Disney+/Hulu).

On balancing the fun for adults and children

Interviewer: “We got to talk a little bit about how you changed, I guess from the Jack Black movie was a little bit more serious with this one. How did you go about coming up with concepts to make it a little more like we were talking about, good for adults and fun for children at the same time?”

Rob Letterman: “Well, I think the movie, which was amazing, by the way.”

Nick Stoller: “Good job, Rob.”

Rob Letterman: “That’s a meta concept about Goosebumps. I think when we start talking about the series, we wanted to really embrace the books in a deeper way. It’s serialized. It’s not an anthology series. But we wanted to follow characters living with these stories and totems a bit more. And the books really lend themselves to that. They’re very cinematic, the books.”

Nick Stoller: “Our tone is pretty earnest. It’s not a very self… I mean, there’s certainly Easter Eggs around, and we’re using the stories. But it’s an earnest tone. And we’re trying to be funny. We’re trying to do this other stuff, but it’s not a self-aware show. That isn’t where the comedy’s coming from.”

Rob Letterman: “And we want to do something fresh. There’s a lot of stuff on Goosebumps, but want to be different. So just a grounded, gritty, realistic vibe felt like the right way to go.”

Hilary Winston: “Yeah. Even if you look at the movie, the old series, next to the pilot of this episode, the series that Rob directed, you just visually… It’s so different and it just telegraphs that we’re in a different Goosebumps.”

Nick Stoller: “I think, some of the movies we grew up with, too, if you think about The Lost Boys.”

Rob Letterman: “The best.”

Hilary Winston: “Oh, yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “That’s about kids. It’s the best. And it veers between being just this brother story that’s kind of fun. And then the very scary, dark vampire story.”

Rob Letterman: “We talked about that.”

Nick Stoller: “We talked about Lost Boys a lot.”

Rob Letterman: “Talk about that’s such a perfect example of that.”

Hilary Winston: “Yeah.”

Nick Stoller: “And I was like, ‘They should also be dressed exactly the same.’ And you were like, ‘No, that’s not what I’m saying.'”

Rob Letterman: “And the guy with the saxophone had a shirt on in the beginning, we talked about.”

Nick Stoller: “Yeah. We talked a lot. A lot.”

Rob Letterman: “He was oiled down.”

Nick Stoller: “He was oiled down. And I was like, ‘We got to get that oil down, guys.'”

Rob Letterman: “We did a deep dive.”

Nick Stoller: “And you were like, ‘No, I don’t think that that’s appropriate.'”

Rob Letterman: “But the ponytail was good.”

Hilary Winston: “I was like, ‘Guys, we need to get back to the script.'”

On potential cameos by R.L. Stine or Jack Black, plus more seasons

Interviewer: “If, knock on wood, there is a new series or maybe a movie spinoff, would R.L. Stine be maybe doing a cameo, or maybe playing himself, or maybe Jack Black again playing R.L. Stine?”

Hilary Winston: “All those things.”

Rob Letterman: “All great ideas.”

Hilary Winston: “Yeah, yeah.”

Interviewer: “I was going to say, ‘Call me.'”

Rob Letterman: “That’s amazing. It’d be nice just to be able to do a season two. Keeping it pretty humble here. But yeah, it would be awesome for this thing to take off and continue. It’s an amazing sandbox to play in, Goosebumps.”

Hilary Winston: “Even for spinoffs, like you’re saying, there’s so many things even within the Goosebumps book world, there are spinoff book series. Slappy World, and stuff. It would just be really fun to see all the places that this could go.”

Rob Letterman: Goosebumps anime. Come on, guys. We’re at Comic-Con. You should have have pitched that.”

Hilary Winston: “And you had a question, too. I feel like we have enough time for him to have… Okay.”

On how the cast shaped the show Goosebumps

Interviewer: “One of the benefits of television as a medium is the opportunity to grow with these characters. How did the cast and their performances shape the narrative, particularly, and what happens?”

Hilary Winston: “You should talk about the cast.”

Rob Letterman: “Okay. Well, first of all, we got so lucky with the cast. They’re so good. The performances are incredible, elevates everything that we did on the page. And we got to know them early on, and they got to know each other. That friendship on screen is what was happening off-screen and evolving simultaneous with the episodes.
So it’s really interesting for us to watch the episodes, because we’re recognizing, ‘Oh yeah. They started to become really close at that point.’ So I think that influenced the writing quite a bit. And we always try to lean into the actors and what they bring to it, and hear their ideas.”

Nick Stoller: “And observe wherever their chemistry is.”

Rob Letterman: “Whatever their chemistry is. We just kind of right towards it.”

How to watch Goosebumps

Goosebumps is now streaming on Disney+ . New episodes are live on Fridays, with the latest “You Can’t Scare Me” premiering on November 3rd. 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.

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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:

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