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Monday, October 14, 2019

Behind-the-Scenes of Nickelodeon's 'Are You Afraid of the Dark' Revival

Nickelodeon is preparing for the return of The Midnight Society with the all-new Are You Afraid of the Dark? three-part limited series event based on the ‘90s kids’ cult classic, reimagined for a new generation this October, and to celebrate, Mashable had the chance to go behind-the-scenes at the filming of the new trilogy! Check out what they discovered below!:

Fresh horrors from a classic: Behind-the-scenes of the new ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark'

The 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?' reboot is a carnival of horrors. | Image: Nickelodeon

Submitted for approval of the Midnight Society: Our story begins in a darkened Vancouver warehouse. Fog pours in, illuminated by eerie blue shafts of light escaping from the basement below. A ring master's stage lies at the end of the vast expanse, embroiled in flames. A girl runs past, dressed all in white, terror in her eyes.

This is what it's like behind the scenes of the Are You Afraid of the Dark reboot.

For those who grew up on the original '90s run of Are You Afraid of the Dark, some of those stories remain still seared into our brains decades later: Skeletons jumping out of pools, getting trapped in a mirror, losing your ability to speak in a haunted library, a grinning monster that distorts your face forever.

Or just the sound of wind chimes in the opening credits, as the light from a flickering match goes out.

Lyliana Wray is captivating as protagonist Rachel. | Image: Nickelodeon

From what we saw on our set visit for the upcoming limited series premiering Oct. 11 on Nickelodeon, the reboot continues the original's beloved legacy with fresh horrors that new and older generations won't be forgetting any time soon.

"I wanted to capture exactly how terrifying it felt to watch it as a kid," said showrunner BenDavid Grabinski who was a huge fan himself growing up. "When you look back, it's the isolated moments, those images that are the most long-lasting."

Some of it is enough to make you ask, wait, is this still a kids show? But the reality is, in 2019, the threshold is higher, with access to hardcore adult horror just a button click away for anyone.

Some of it is enough to make you ask, wait, is this still a kids show?

"The general rule was not to put in anything that'd keep a kid up for weeks," said Grabinski, before adding mischievously, "But maybe it takes a little longer to sleep the first night."

Despite raising the bar to meet modern standards though, Are You Afraid of the Dark still serves as that "gateway drug" into the genre, giving kids a taste for more mature horror down the line.

It's exactly what happened for nearly every adult crew and cast member on set, who all grew up to go into the business of making horror.

Both the reboot and original were shot in Canada. So much of the Canadian crew feels like it's a literal return to the neck of the woods that spooked them as kids — like a scene we saw shot at a schoolyard with real kids playing in the background, right across from a cemetery.

It not all nostalgic reverence, though. The reboot doesn't retread the original's stories or characters.

"When you think of Are You Afraid of the Dark, what comes to mind is the Midnight Society, kids around a campfire telling stories. But after that, the beauty of the show is it's a blank slate," Grabinski said.

There's no explicit connection to the original group of kids, though Grabinski likes the idea of many Midnight Societies having existed forever all across the country, each operating independently.

The reboot's three-episode arc follows one in the small town of Argento, Oregon (horror aficionados will find many other easter egg references like that). When Rachel, a shy new girl played by Lyliana Wray, arrives at Herbert West Middle School, a member of the secret society sees her drawing nightmarish doodles and invites her to audition.

The reboot is, "much darker, much more dangerous."

Rachel tells the story of the Carnival of Doom. The next day, it comes to town, seemingly sprung into reality from her imagination, bringing with it a barrage of other metaphysical horrors.

But, Grabinski insisted, this isn't a straightforward stories-come-to-life situation like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or Goosebumps. A bigger twist is afoot. "Then the mystery becomes, well, then how is it happening? How is this real? Needless to say, you’ll find out."

At the center of the nightmarish carnival is Mr. Tophat, a villain described by Grabinski as "an evil Master of Ceremonies with a great costume and a little bit evil Willy Wonka."

The reboot is, "much darker, much more dangerous. It's right out of any great horror movie," agreed Rafael Casal, the talented multi-hyphenate writer-director-actor from Blindspotting that's now bringing Mr. Tophat to life.

As we talked on the warehouse set of a nightmare sequence, he excitedly ran his hands along the elaborate sequins of his flashy costume, remembering how the original show shook him to his core.

"You needed to stay up late for Nick at Night, the house would be dark, and that opening title sequence with the music," he grabbed his chest as if reliving it right then. "It reminded you of the collective horror from every past episode."

Into the woods we go ... | Image: Nickelodeon

What made Are You Afraid of the Dark so effective wasn't jump scares, Casal said. It was bringing a Twilight Zone-like psychological horror to the everyday fears kids deal with at school and throughout this frighteningly transitional time in their lives.

Having identified with the horror as a kid, he's now itching to play the opposition, an embodiment of the fears the kids face — and ultimately conquer.

Both he and Grabinski joked they'd know they did their jobs right if, for the rest of his life, Casal walks down the street inspiring looks of gleeful terror from young people. He's still thinking of which line he'll whisper back at them to creep them out.

"It reminded you of the collective horror from every past episode."

What makes a great villain, Casal said, is "someone who's wildly unpredictable. You can't understand the origin of their behavior, why they are the way they are. And add a third layer of creepiness: being nice."

Mr. Tophat, who seems to share a twisted longstanding mental connection with Rachel, is as charismatic as he is unsettling. "It makes you ask, what happens when this niceness goes away? What's beneath it?" said Casal. "And the longer he's nice to you, the less you trust it."

It almost sounds like a metaphor for trying to figure out the often baffling rules and mysteries of the adult world as a kid. At that age, adults can seem alarmingly unpredictable, nice one minute, then punishing the next — and you don't even know what you did to cause that shift.

Aside from a perfectly cast and magnetic villain, the developing friendships in the Midnight Society members are as central to the new show as the horror.

Grabinski even required his young cast to watch classics like The Goonies and Monster Squad together, hoping to foster a similarly natural camaraderie on set that'd translate to the screen. Judging from how the five young actors were practically glued at the hip even during breaks, it seems to have worked.

The young cast is just a great hang. | Image: Nickelodeon

"A big part of every project, especially with kids, is getting to know each other and building your chemistry before," said Jeremy Ray Taylor, who plays the nerdy germaphobe Graham. He knows this from experience, having been part of the losers club from It. "The movie nights bring us closer together, so you start learning how to make it a normal conversation in front of the camera too instead of just acting."

Making the kids feel real and relatable seemed essential to modernizing Are You Afraid of the Dark for 2019. Grabinski asked himself what kind of wonderfully weird teens would actually sneak off to tell scary stories around a campfire at midnight? So naturally, they all had to be horror-lovers themselves, like the sassy amateur zombie movie director Akiko (played by Miya Cech).

"I think kids want to see more realistic acting in shows today," said Sam Ashe Arnold, who's the group's jock, Gavin. "We're updating it by going for something more grounded than the original."

"What always stays the same no matter what is fear of the unknown."

Aside from cast bonding, they also did rehearsals where ad-libbing and improvisation was encouraged. They wanted the kids to sound like kids, rather than like adults writing kids.

"What goes on in the series is basically what we're like in real life," said Tamara Smart, who plays the popular cheerleader named Louise. "In some scenes they'll be like, 'Say whatever you want, make it weird, make it awkward.'"

Despite some updates for a 2019 audience, the limited series closely follows the original's mood and atmosphere. There was initially talk of doing a movie instead (still a possibility down the line).

But the network TV episodic format just felt right. Not only because it leaves you with cliffhangers each week, but like the '90s version, you can cut to commercial after a particularly tantalizing reveal, ramping up the anticipation and tension

"What always stays the same no matter what is fear of the unknown," said Grabinski. "What's around the corner? What's behind this mystery? Trying to solve it alongside the kids is as engaging as it is scary."


From Bloody Disgusting:

How the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Revival Went from a Movie to a TV Show to a Mini-Series [Interview]

For young horror fans in the 1990s, there was only one show that invited them to sit around a campfire and share scary stories: Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a seminal Nickelodeon anthology about a secret teenaged cabal, “The Midnight Society,” who gathered every week to share their tales of terror.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?, like many other nostalgia properties, is returning decades after its cancelation. But unlike similar retro kids horror franchises like Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it’s not going to theaters. It’s not even going to be a TV series. It’s a three-part TV mini-series, written by BenDavid Grabinski (Skiptrace) and directed by Dean Israelite (Power Rangers), with the first installment airing on Nickelodeon on Friday, October 11.

Bloody-Disgusting took BenDavid Grabinski aside at a press event in Los Angeles to talk about the reboot’s evolution from a movie, to a TV series, to the mini-series fans are about to see. And like everything else in Hollywood, it’s quite a journey.

“I’m a huge, huge, huge, super obsessed fan [of Are You Afraid of the Dark?],” Grabinski explains. “I grew up with it. It’s like one of things that’s a giant nostalgia button for me.”

“I was writing a movie for this producer, Matt Kaplan, in summer 2018. It was another horror movie. At the time they were doing an Are You Afraid of the Dark? movie and he needed a writer to come in and I wasn’t really on anyone’s radar, because I wasn’t… I’d been working consistently for a long time but I wasn’t like an A-list dude,” Grabinski adds.

“But I was like, ‘Guys, I really, really, really love this and I feel like I know exactly what this movie should be.’ I wrote a 20-page single-spaced document, writing down what I thought a movie should be of Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Everyone was seemingly blown away by it,” Grabinski says, before he decides to correct himself. “You know, it’s not for me to say but it was enough that I got the job.”

So it seemed pretty straightforward. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was destined for theaters! But only for a little while…

“I wrote a bunch of drafts of that, and then I was directing a movie and while I was doing that I got a call from Nickelodeon saying, ‘Hey, we really liked your script for the movie. Do you have any idea of what we should do if we wanted to make a new show?’ and I immediately said yes, a thousand times, and went in and pitched a show, basically saying what I thought it should be,” Grabinski reveals, enthusiastically.

Alas, it was not to be.

“I got hired and then they decided my initial pitch was probably not a right thing for a first introduction to it, so they wanted me to come up with a new concept,” Grabinski explains. “Because I wanted to come up with something that would work for ten-year-olds who’d never seen it and for someone like me who grew up with it.”

“And I texted the producer, Spencer Berman: ‘I want to do an evil carnival. I want Rafael Casal to play the bad guy, Mr. Top Hat, who’s like an evil Willy Wonka.’ That’s really all I had,” Grabinski confesses. “They really, really responded to that, and then I broke the story for it and then it was like a bullet train because they decided, ‘Oh, we want it to be out next October.’ So I wrote three episodes, we met a bunch of directors, hired Dean [Israelite] and here we are!”

But where, exactly, are we? BenDavid Grabinski explains that this new mini-series isn’t an alternate version of the originally-planned movie, or an extended version of the pilot for the series Grabinski was planning. It’s an all-new, standalone, reintroduction to The Midnight Society… and maybe more.

“The story that I wanted to do [in the reboot series that was originally planned] was not necessarily an introduction to the Midnight Society,” Grabinski says. “What I realized afterwards was like, that’s the wish-fulfillment thing that I always wanted to see when I saw the pilot, which is… the very first episode starts with a kid in the woods, he sits down on a tree stump and they pull a thing off his head and they say ‘Hey, you’re going to tell a scary story and if we like it we’re going to let you into the group.’

“So I’m like, who is this kid? What would it be like to be asked? What is the best story to go into this about a kid who would be invited to join the group, they tell a story to audition, and then where does that story go from there?” Grabinski explains. “And that led to the carnival thing and a lot of other stuff.

“There’s some stuff I want to say and some stuff I don’t want to spoil because it has ‘twists and turns,’” Grabinski says, making air quotes with his hands to denote his self-effacing sarcasm. “Make sure you note that I had quotation marks on that, that I was being sarcastic.” [Editor’s Note: Done and done!]

Photo Credit: Lucas Rossi

“But what I realized was that the other idea I had would be like, a really good third season theory. So I put that in my back pocket and I still have that,” Grabinski teases.

BenDavid Grabinski added that the Are You Afraid of the Dark? mini-series could “ideally” lead to a new regular series. He’s quick to remind us that it’s not his decision to make, but that if it was, he’d green light it in a heartbeat.

“I’m not in charge of the purse-strings or the decision-making. I’m just a writer/executive producer person. But I would make a thousand episodes of the show, and I have a million ideas,” Grabinski concludes. “But this to me was the best way to meet the group and bring out this concept of The Midnight Society to a new generation of kids.”


From Bloody Disgusting:

‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ Writer Promises Horror Nerd References Galore [Interview]

Everyone’s favorite 1990s Nickelodeon horror anthology Are You Afraid of the Dark? returns to television this month, with a three episode mini-series that reintroduces The Midnight Society – a secret cabal of teenaged horror authors – and pits them against a real-life nightmare. There’s a mysterious and wicked carnival coming to their town of Argento, Oregon… and yes, that is totally a reference to the master of ultraviolent Italian thrillers, Dario Argento.

And that’s just one of many references to horror classics, cult classics and even earlier episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? that screenwriter BenDavid Grabinski (Skiptrace) says savvy audience members are going to find in the new limited series.

“The school is Herbert West Middle School,” Grabinski cites as another example, referring to the antihero of H.P. Lovecraft’s original short story Herbert West: Re-Animator, as well as the gory horror comedy trilogy starring Jeffrey Combs. “It’s all very, very deeply nerdy but in a way that if you don’t know the references you won’t know [they’re] references.”

Grabinski is quick to point out that the references are “mostly mainstream,” but the screenwriter’s definition of “mainstream” may not necessarily apply to everyone in the audience for the family-friendly scary mini-series.

“The kids’ names are Rachel Carpenter, Graham Raimi, Gavin Coscarelli, Louise Fulci and then Akiko Yamato, and then her brother is Officer Hideo Yamato, which is [referencing] Hideo Kojima,” Grabinski explains, adding the creator of the ”Metal Gear Solid” video games to that list of cinematic Masters of Horror.

“So a bunch of just deeply nerdy stuff,” Grabinski says. “There’s a bad guy in the show, you’ll find out his real last name is Cochran because I really like Halloween III.”

“It’s one of those things where it’s like, it passed the smell test. I have a thousand references in it and no one on set knew they were references, which to me is the magical level,” Grabinski says. “It’s like some movies where it’s like, here’s Officer Spielberg and Romero, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s a little too much.’ We all have our own internal barometer over what is too much and what is corny or too obscure.”

“I mean look, I have a kid talking about how his favorite composer is Wang Chung, so I don’t know how many people made a show with ten-year-olds where someone must really like the To Live and Die in L.A. score, but I’m also probably a crazy person,” Grabinski admits.

The references won’t stop with horror movies and video games and Wang Chung. Fans of Are You Afraid of the Dark? will notice shout outs to the original series, which may raise questions over whether this new limited series is technically a reboot, or set in the same continuity as the beloved 1990s show.

“The way that I view this show is that anything that happened before [in the original Are You Afraid of the Dark?] could have or might have happened,” Grabinski explains. “I’m trying to be a little vague about that. But there’s a lot of homages and Easter eggs to the other things, in a way that makes it seem like this is just a continuation as opposed to a reboot, per se.”

“I revisit a lot in this in some ways, direct and non-direct. Mostly non-direct,” Grabinski concludes.

But if you’re expecting Ryan Gosling to return in a homage to his first acting gig, an Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode called “The Tale of Station 109.1,” you MIGHT be disappointed.

“Here’s the thing: if we had Gosling I’m pretty sure he’d be a significant part of our marketing,” Grabinski laughs. “Or, we’re just so confident that we’re doing the Vin Diesel in Tokyo Drift thing, and at the end Ryan Gosling is just going to come up as like a headless horsemen, and he’s like, ‘Come on, kids! We have an adventure!’ and then leave.”

“And honestly I’d watch that,” Grabinski jokes. “Just, I called him, and he just didn’t call me back. I get it. I think Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece. But I understand that he probably wouldn’t want to do a Nickelodeon show.”

The new Are You Afraid of the Dark limited series premieres on Nickelodeon on Friday, October 11, 2019!


From Den of Geek:

Inside the Return of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The cast and crew of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot discuss bringing the beloved horror series back.

If you grew up in the '90s it's likely that one of your first brushes with horror was with the Canadian anthology horror show Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The cult hit aired on Nickelodeon for six years and scared a whole generation of kids silly. Now the great news for horror fans young and old is that the series is returning in a three part limited series on Nick. To celebrate the prestige reboot, Den of Geek was invited to Los Angeles' Haus of Creep to chat to some of the cast and creative team whilst trying not to get trapped in the immersive horror experience.

In the depths of ROW DTLA, Haus of Creep throws visitors into a dark world of influencers, twisted reflections, murder, and monsters. The scariest thing about the whole experience, however, is that you're an active part of the story. Once we'd battled through the harrowing hallways and strange storytimes -- one of which saw us being dragged into a closet and having the very hairs on our head threatened by a bald serial killer--we sat down with the new Midnight Society, which features some familiar faces you might know.

Rim of the World's Miya Cech takes on the role of Akiko, a passionate filmmaker who wants nothing more than to be a director. Sam Ashe Arnold from Best Worst Weekend Ever stars as Gavin, who seems to be the leader of the group. A burgeoning genre star in his own right, It's Jeremy Taylor plays deadpan joker, Gavin. And Black-ish's Lyliana Wray is the new girl, Rachel, whose test to become a member of the iconic scary story club is the inciting incident for the three episode miniseries.

Though in real life the things that scare the young cast are relatively normal --like heights, claustrophobia, and the dark-- the new series sees them face down a terrifying foe in the shape of Rafael Casal's Mr. Tophat, the ringmaster of a terrifying and possibly supernatural circus. Whilst that might sound like a narrative that's been done before, Are You Afraid of the Dark? aims to turn things on their head because the so-called Carnival of Doom appears only after a new member of the Midnight Society makes up a story featuring them.

Though in real life the things that scare the young cast are relatively normal --like heights, claustrophobia, and the dark-- the new series sees them face down a terrifying foe in the shape of Rafael Casal's Mr. Tophat, the ringmaster of a terrifying and possibly supernatural circus. Whilst that might sound like a narrative that's been done before, Are You Afraid of the Dark? aims to turn things on their head because the so-called Carnival of Doom appears only after a new member of the Midnight Society makes up a story featuring them.

“They go on an adventure, which I thought was the best of both worlds really because whenever I watched the show I always wanted to see what those kids did when they're away from the campfire. I wanted to see them live, I wanted to see their interests and all that stuff. But in the original pilot--which is perfect--it starts with a kid with the bag on their head and they get the chance to tell a campfire story and join the Midnight Society. But I always wanted to be like, 'Well, who is that person? How do they get chosen? What does it feel like? How do they maintain their secrecy?' All of that stuff to me felt really fun, like a wish fulfillment thing I hadn't necessarily seen yet."

With so many iconic episodes like "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float," and "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost", it's hard to pick a favorite. But writer Grabinski has appreciates the underdog and his tastes lean into the stranger offerings of the '90s classic.

"I really love the alien episodes, and our show, it's not a sci-fi but I do have a running gag where the kids are arguing about whether alien stories are horror or sci-fi,” he says. “It was also a way for me --if I'm lucky enough to do more of these-- to kind of set up and establish that we're at least dealing with sci-fi.”

The Midnight Society is made up of young actors who weren't even born when Are You Afraid of the Dark? first debuted, so it's unsurprising that most of them hadn't even heard of the series before getting the gig. But Cech did have a bit of a familial insight as her mom was a fan.

“My mom has watched the original version,” she says. “She's been telling me all about it and I've been able to see a couple of things. So that's pretty cool."

Ashe Arnold agrees and adds that the love for the original show has made taking on the job extra special.

"I didn't know what it was before I booked the job,” she says. “But upon being able to talk about it, everyone's reaction when they hear the name has been overwhelmingly positive. It's really cool to be a part of something that already has this, you know, gigantic, loyal fan base behind it and holding it up. It's exciting."

Wray was another Are You Afraid of the Dark? newbie when she got the job but she was shocked by how effective the classic series was.

"I had never heard about it before auditioning. But I've gotten to see a few episodes and it's a lot scarier than I expected it to be," she says.

Taylor was in a similar position despite his proven horror chops. "I didn't know it existed. And then I told my friends and family like, 'I just got this new role in a show called Are You Afraid of the Dark?' And they were like, 'Wait, that's coming back???' It's definitely like Sam said, it's really, really cool to be a part of something that already has a cult following."

Whereas the cast of Are You Afraid of the Dark? 2019 is just discovering the dark joys of the series, the people behind the camera are all huge fans of the show. Matt Kaplan--founder of ACE Entertainment (To All the Boys I Loved Before), which is producing both the show and the upcoming Are You Afraid of the Dark? movie, shared his excitement with us in the bustling bar.

"When we got approached to do both the movie and the show I think all of us were like this was one that was perfect for our company and we felt like it really represented our childhoods... and we wanted to scare some kids," Kaplan says. "We were really trying to do justice to the original series as we remade it. And hopefully we can build some stars as successful as Ryan Gosling."

For Grabinski, the joy came from creating a story for the young horror hounds who will get to enjoy the show this time around.

"The most fun thing to me is that you're making this show about kids who would watch the show,” he says. “If you're going to go out in the woods and tell scary stories then you love horror. And I just want it to feel like a love letter to the original show but also the genre. I'm such a big fan of both. Something that's very fun to me about having middle school kids who are really into, like, The Changeling and The Gate, and they read Lovecraft and talk about Tangerine Dream scores which is a little anachronistic in 2019, except this is about obsessives.

“The way I view it is that not all kids are gonna know these references, but the kids in the Midnight Society would. There's a fun feeling to have a kid watch it and go on their phone or their mom's phone and Google some sort of references they find. It's buried in references. That's not what I think that the appeal of the show is but I think it's sort of like a cherry on top."

And if young fans fall in love with horror through the lens of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the cast and crew have some suggestions of other genre fare that they should explore. "Definitely Monster Squad, The Gate, and Poltergeist if their parents let them," Grabinski says. "It!" Cech adds. For Kaplan it’s all about the classics. "The Shining, and Scream... depending on how old they are," the producer says with a laugh.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? hits Nickelodeon on October 11.



Go Behind the Scenes of the Are You Afraid of the Dark? Reboot, If You Dare

The horrors aren't real... right?

Michael Courtney/Nickelodeon

Everyone remembers the first Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode they watched growing up. The Nickelodeon series was THE scariest thing on TV in the '90s. Just when fans conquered their nightmares from the OG series, a highly-anticipated reboot is just around the dark, creepy, totally sinister-looking corner.

A three-part special airs on Nickelodeon October 11, 18, and 25 at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT), introducing die-hard AYAOTD fans, as well as first-time watchers, to another crop of Midnight Society members. Needless to say, we can't wait for this new chapter in the franchise. The trailer looks super creepy, and since the spooky special effects will undoubtedly be better than they were in the '90s, we just know this reboot will traumatize us all over again (but, like, in a good way). hung out in Vancouver on the set back in July, and we made sure to snap some fun pics and shoot some short videos of the movie magic in action.

So, if you need a reminder that the scares aren't actually ~real~, check out our behind-the-scenes footage. We're submitting it for your approval.


Star Lyliana Wray (who plays Rachel Carpenter — her last name clearly an homage to famous horror movie director and writer, John Carpenter), looks totally chill standing next to a ~spooky~ zombie and showrunner/writer/executive producer BenDavid Grabinski.

To get the new Midnight Society kids in the zone for filming such a creepy project, BenDavid suggested they watch a list of horror movies, including The Monster Squad, The Gate, Poltergeist, and The Goonies.

While The Goonies isn't exactly terrifying, it's still a film about kids going on adventures with freaky outcomes. "To me, Goonies isn’t a horror movie, but what we’re trying to do, which is similar to what It did, is capture that joy of a kid-on-an-adventure thing, and then fusing that with horror, because I think they go together very well," BenDavid told


Remember that episode of Rugrats where Chuckie was terrified to go down the big kid slide? If that slide had looked like the one on the Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot, we wouldn't blame him.

When we asked Rafael Casal, who plays the villain Mr. Tophat, what one thing he wanted fans of the original series to know about the reboot, his response was chilling. Laughing, he said, "It will be just as scary for them as it is for kids."


On the Set of the "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" Reboot

One of the eeriest moments we watched being filmed was the first glimpse audiences will get of Mr. Tophat. In the scene, Rachel runs past a door and he's illuminated behind her. We were watching from the video village area while a light board operator pressed a button at exactly the right time to reveal Mr. Tophat. You can hear director Dean Israelite yell "action" at the start of the clip.

If this moment looks familiar, that's because it was included in the trailer at the 39-second mark.

"I think the show is two things at once," BenDavid said, when asked what other horror movies or TV shows besides The X-Files influenced him while writing the script. "It is sort of a loving homage to the original show, but it is also, to me, a love letter to being a fan of horror itself — whether it is classic short stories by great authors or classic horror movies, classic horror TV shows."


Moments after first filming that scene, Rafael watched the playback and freaked himself out. "Oh, these poor kids," he laments, followed by mischievous laughter.

Because his character is being kept under wraps leading up to the premiere, we have to simply speculate on who Mr. Tophat is as a person — or should we say evil entity?

When asked what some of his horror inspirations were to bring Mr. Tophat to life, Rafael said, "I think it’s probably a little bit of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, I think we got a little A Clockwork Orange in there, and I think we’ve got a little Moriarty from Sherlock gone insane."

When Rafael posted the first look photo on Instagram on September 14, he captioned it with clever puns that give us a clearer pic of who Mr. Tophat will (probably) be: "Young Trilly Wonka. Timothee ChalaBAY. Trap Skellington. Panic out in Frisco. Theezlejuice. The BAYest showman. Edward thizzlehands. The Mad Rapper."

We also feel like we should mention how Rafael hilariously couldn't stop messing with his snazzy Mr. Tophat pants during our interview. They are mesmerizing — like those sequin pillows that reveal an image or another color underneath. We can't wait to see them in action onscreen.


After Rafael saw the scene, Lyliana came over to watch the playback, joined by BenDavid. While Rafael laughs, Lyliana smiles and says, "That's actually really cool."

Rafael admitted he didn't stay in character in between takes — meaning he wasn't scaring the kids when the cameras weren't rolling — but he did notice them staring at him.

At the time of the interview, many of the really scary scenes hadn't been filmed yet, so Rafael noted that because his teen co-stars had been spending so much time together, working on funny scenes and imaging the carnival, seeing him brought it all home.

"We haven’t shot the carnival yet. So, I think when I come on set, they’re reminded that there’s this whole other part that we haven’t gotten to yet that reminds them that the show is really scary."


The Carnival of Doom's organ didn't look spooky in the daylight, sitting off on the side of the set while the opening scene was being filmed nearby, but you just know it will be creepy when it's on full display.

Interestingly, the character Graham (played by It and It Chapter Two star Jeremy Ray Taylor) is an aspiring composer who is particularly passionate about horror music. Could this play a part in the reboot, like how Andy had to play a bone organ during that intense scene in The Goonies?


On the left is a photo we took on the set; on the right are two blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments from the AYAOTD trailer. The stage definitely looks 1000x cooler with lights and when it's ready for its closeup.

BenDavid told us this unique set piece is where we'll first see Mr. Tophat in full.


Part of the same scene as when Rachel runs past an illuminated Mr. Tophat, this clip shows Lyliana taking direction from Dean Israelite, who tells her when to look towards the camera, as the camera follows her path. Poor Rachel is freaked TF out in this scene, breathing heavily, and it's probably all thanks to Mr. Tophat.

The original AYAOTD was crazy terrifying, and the reboot boasts to be no different. "All the adults who grew up on that show have this sort of delightful trauma in the back of their minds that we’re almost nostalgic about and want another dose of," Rafael said, laughing.

Both millennials and Gen Z-ers can enjoy this reboot because, as actor Sam Ashe Arnold says in the trailer, "We're all afraid of something."

"What kids don’t want to be in a crew of misfits doing something a little bit against the rules? And then who doesn’t want to watch that get out of hand and see how they navigate it?" Rafael continued. "I’m just so excited for friends of mine who also grew up on it to see it and see that it’s going to meet them where they’re at now and then also invite this whole new group of people."

The interviews conducted have been edited for length and clarity.

[Click HERE for videos]

[Photos courtesy of Nickelodeon, Stacey Grant for]


From Bloody Disgusting:

The New ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ Cast Talks Reviving The Midnight Society and the Show’s Iconic Sets

Are you afraid of the dark? You might be after watching Nickelodeon’s mini-series reboot of their classic horror anthology series. Are You Afraid of the Dark? [...] is the return of The Midnight Society, a group of teenagers who are fanatical horror fans, who sneak out in the middle of the night, venture into the woods, and try to scare the hell out of each other with their original tales of terror.

The new series throws The Midnight Society into a real-life nightmare, as a horrifying carnival comes to town that eerily mirrors a tale recently told around their campfire. It’s a nostalgic trip for fans of the series, but for the show’s young cast it’s a very different experience. After all, they weren’t even born yet when the original Are You Afraid of the Dark? went off the air!

“I actually didn’t know it existed until I got the role,” Jeremy Ray Taylor told Bloody-Disgusting in a recent interview. “And a bunch of my family was like ‘Wow, that’s a thing now! They’re bringing it back!’”

“We weren’t around when it was originally airing but we’ve heard a lot about it from people we’ve told about the show, and gotten to see a couple of clips ourselves,” Sam Ashe Arnold confirms, but he assures us that extensive research wasn’t necessary for his role. “This show is certainly not a carbon copy of the last one. I don’t find that we’re trying to replicate it, but that didn’t make me want to stay away from the other show completely. So I did see other scenes. I did capture the feeling of the old show. And I think that this one does justice to everything everyone loved about that.”

Sam Ashe Arnold plays Gavin, the most outwardly “coolest socially” member of the new Midnight Society. Jeremy Ray Taylor plays Graham Raimi, who is “definitely germaphobe, and that’s an understatement. I mean, he is scared of absolutely everything. Germs especially. And he’s a vintage horror fan and a wannabe composer, so yeah. He is lot of depth. In the end he’ll always come [through] for his friends.”

In addition to clips from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the mini-series’ writer/producer BenDavid Grabinski gave the cast homework to prepare them for their geeky characters.

Photo Credit: Lucas Rossi

“BenDavid, he is a horror fanatic just like Graham. So he gave us a ton of movies to watch,” Taylor explains. “That was the first time I ever watched The Goonies. We watched some cult classics, The Blair Witch Project and stuff, just to get in the idea of the horror genre.”

Their characters may be horror experts, but the three-episode structure of the mini-series means that not every member of The Midnight Society gets to tell their own scary story this time around. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have strong opinions.

“There’s a lot of debate about what makes a good story, how to classify a story, all things stories,” Arnold says.

“Yeah, like what’s scary? What’s horror and what’s thriller? Stuff like that,” Taylor confirms, without giving away how that time-honored debate turns out. “I think it’s left open-ended a little bit because it’s a constant debate throughout the whole entire show.”

But although they don’t all get to tell a terrifying tale, they do all get to sit around the iconic campfire that Are You Afraid of the Dark fans know and love. And if you’re in Vancouver, you might even be able to find the site for yourself.

“We were actually in Vancouver and it wasn’t a set,” Taylor reveals. “It was actually in the woods. There were a few fake trees but it was mostly real.”

“They have this really cool location by a rock face. It’s all very cinematic. They blow smoke throughout the woods and shine moonlight through it. It just looks really cool,” Arnold adds.

The campfire itself was a little more complicated, according to Taylor.

“There are no fires allowed in Vancouver [forests] except propane fires, so [the campfire] was propane, and we had the dust that you throw in the fire. It was almost really surreal to be part of such an iconic group and be under the label of The Midnight Society,” Taylor says.

Sadly, it turns out that the dust that The Midnight Society throw on their fire, creating a mini-fireball for dramatic effect… is just sand.

“I think it’s just sand, actually,” Taylor confesses. “Yeah, and they do a giant blow through the propane and just [fireball noise].”

But that’s not the only memorable locale The Midnight Society travels to in the new mini-series. The “Carnival of Doom” is in town, and according to the cast, it was an amazing, fully functioning practical set.

“So the Carnival of Doom is from Rachel’s story, actually. She tells [it] and then a few things start to happen and we realize that her story is very similar to what happens in real life,” Taylor explains. “Through that carnival, our characters get to face our biggest fears. Like Graham’s biggest fear is heights, so you’ll see a little bit of that. So you’ll see them definitely get challenged throughout the carnival. So it’s a very fun adventure.”

“The carnival is an achievement in set design by itself,” Arnold adds. “It’s really wonderful to be in and to see through a lens. They were able to use these great sweeping wide shots, one takes, and aerial shots because of how fleshed out the carnival was. There was nothing hidden. There were no fake one-sided buildings. You could walk through it and you could show everything.”

“Yeah, and all the rides were real as well,” Taylor explains. “It was like a real carnival. They really brought it with that.”

You can meet this new Midnight Society for yourself right now! The first episode of the Are You Afraid of the Dark mini-series is on YouTube right now [watch here], with additional installments running on Nickelodeon throughout the month.


Are You Afraid of the Dark? will debut on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and YTV in Canada on Friday, Oct. 11, at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT), with parts two and three to follow Oct. 18, and Oct. 25, respectively. Click the following link for more info:

Originally published: Monday, September 30, 2019.

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