‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Showrunner Steve Yockey Breaks Down the Series’ Move From Max to Netflix

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Before “Dead Boy Detectives” made the move from Max to Netflix, an explicit “Sandman” connection was out of the question, despite the fact that the comics on which the show is based are a direct spin-off of that Neil Gaiman series and take place in the same universe. But, when the switch happened very late in the game, showrunner Steve Yockey was able to open up the world of his new show.

TV shows don’t often switch networks deep into production, and “Dead Boy Detectives” certainly was pretty deep. According to Yockey, the series — which follows the misadventures of two ghosts who help solve crimes and was initially developed and shot as a Max streaming original — only had two episodes left to film when the decision was made to move to Netflix, and it all happened unexpectedly fast.

“That Netflix thing happened over the course of like, three weeks. It’s the fastest that I’ve ever seen anything happen in television,” Yockey told TheWrap.

Yockey said he and co-showrunner Beth Schwartz have been “deeply entertained” by some of the stories surrounding the move. The news first came in February of 2023, when THR reported that the show had been sold to Netflix by Max, after “the series didn’t fit with the new chapter of content that DC executives James Gunn and Peter Safran are building.” But there were more factors at play.

“What actually happened was, we were making the show at Max. There was some uncertainty there on when exactly they would be able to release the show, based on release windows and things that we aren’t privy to,” Yockey explained. “And Netflix wanted the show, because they had ‘Sandman,’ and it takes place in the universe.”

He continued, “So Beth and I initially had plans to kind of build a show that took place in the ‘Sandman’ universe, which we did. But Warner Brothers [business affairs] kind of came to us and said, ‘Do not use any ‘Sandman’ IP or Netflix will come for you.’ And so we were like, ‘Great.'”

At this point, Schwartz jokes that Netflix did end up coming for them, just in a different way.

Even with a mandate to avoid any explicit references to the world in which “Dead Boy Detectives” has always existed, Yockey and his team made every effort to ensure the show “lightly tiptoed around and through the ‘Sandman’ universe.”

According to the showrunner, Neil Gaiman — the creator of both the “Dead Boy Detectives” and “Sandman” comics — joked that they were just “filing the serial numbers off of the ‘Sandman’ stuff.”

The plan was to keep the connections between the two series broad, but still visible enough that “the shows could be happening in the same time.” Of course, as fans immediately saw in the trailer for “Dead Boy Detectives” when actress Kirby’s character Death pops up, there will now be very explicit connections between the two shows.

That was a conversation that was had pretty immediately after Netflix saw what the series had done up to that point.

“They were like, ‘We love everything you’re doing. But wouldn’t it be great if you had some Easter eggs and some crossover with ‘Sandman?'” Yockey recalled. “And we were like, ‘What a great idea! That would be super.’ And so we asked for three or four things, and we got all the things that we asked for. And Neil and Allan [Heinberg, who developed and co-executive produces ‘Sandman’] were incredibly supportive from the ‘Sandman’ side.”

Yockey noted that developing “Dead Boy Detectives” with Netflix “has been a lot of fun,” and he bears no ill will toward Max for selling the series.

“They greenlit the show, initially. Joey [Chavez, EVP of Drama Programming] and Sarah [Aubrey, head of original content at Max] were incredibly supportive of the show, let us do the craziest things,” Yockey said.

“We were deep in production, so it wasn’t like we were in danger of suddenly getting the hammer dropped on us, because they were so cool about everything that we were doing, and actually genuinely excited about it,” he continued. “So it’s unfortunate that we had to leave them, but I also think it’s worked out best for the show.”

“Dead Boy Detectives” will release on April 25 on Netflix.

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