HBO Max’s Sarah Aubrey Teases ‘The Penguin,’ ‘Dune: The Sisterhood,’ ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 and Likelihood of a ‘Harry Potter’ Series

One of the main priorities for HBO Max head of originals Sarah Aubrey is going full force on utilizing Warner Bros. Discovery IP in programming decisions at the streamer. She’s already done it with hits like “Peacemaker” and “And Just Like That,” and she’s exploring further with the upcoming “The Penguin,” “Dune: The Sisterhood” and the still-in-the-works “It: Welcome to Derry.”

During a recent interview with Variety, Aubrey teased details about each of these titles, while also giving context on some of Warner Bros. Discovery’s most important partnerships, including pacts with prolific producers J.J. Abrams and Greg Berlanti, and the future of the DC Universe content under James Gunn and Peter Safran, whom she has worked closely with on “Peacemaker.”

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Where HBO Max’s relationship with J.J. Abrams stands:

“We have the TV series ‘Duster,’ that’s on the runway with him and that is going to be — knock wood — up and running very soon. I’m very bullish about that, and it’s one that JJ has been intimately involved with and that’s a really fun process to be a part of. People want to grab onto stories, and development comes together and doesn’t come together all the time. That’s actually a very normal part of our jobs, and more often than not, it doesn’t, honestly. So I think to draw a circle around one or two shows and make an overall judgment is a little inaccurate. I’m very excited about the work that we have at Max with J.J.”

The future of mega overall deals at HBO Max:

“Where we’ve seen the most success is a deal that’s made around a show that’s already on deck or up and running, rather than deals that are kind of speculative. Someone doesn’t have to have three series with us to want to make a deal — but it is challenging when you have the pressure of a big, expensive overall deal, and sometimes those only last a couple of years. If you don’t have something that the company is galvanized around to make, it can feel like you don’t get enough out of those deals.”

Why HBO Max wouldn’t pick up any “Game of Thrones” spinoffs in the works at HBO:

“They’re the experts in that field. You learn a lot making a show and you learn a lot in the trenches with filmmakers. You create a bond and a trust with that entire creative team. So it doesn’t really make sense when you are growing something together. We wouldn’t say suddenly, ‘OK, James Gunn is now going to go work with their team on another version of the ‘Peacemaker’ Universe or the ‘Suicide Squad’ Universe.’ Much of that is just about personal relationships that you build, because that’s when you really have success. So that’s what we really build new shows off is that relationship. There wouldn’t be shifting around.”

Update on Greg Berlanti’s redeveloped “Green Lantern” TV series:

“We remain very excited by the opportunity to make a big four-quadrant space opera with Greg and Sarah for HBO Max.”

How “The Penguin” will fit into DC’s “The Batman” world:

“‘Penguin’ will sit immediately after the end of ‘The Batman’ and temporally before the events of the second movie. The show will come out in between the two movies. Now beyond that, it’s fun for the audience to know that it will be a bridge between the two, but the actual release date, I’m not at liberty to say.”

“The goal of this is to show what Oz’s life is like and that’s very much in the streets of Gotham, trying to get up and over as only the Penguin can. As a hustler and a strategist with his own ambitions. It is a great example of having the time over eight episodes to tell a longer-arc character story with a lot of delicious twists and turns and new characters. It’s very much going to be about Gotham at that street level, because he’s not flying around like Batman does. We are all embracing that as a very specific experience for audiences to have.”

If they will further expand the “Peacemaker” Universe, specifically with a Ratcatcher 2 series:

“I absolutely cannot say a single word about any of this. I will tell you one of the great pleasures of my job is getting a peek inside of James Gunn’s brain, and it is wild and inventive place. I can say with certainty, whatever is coming from him in that neck of the woods is going to be really exciting for me.”

Do you have to watch the “Dune” films to understand “Dune: The Sisterhood”:

“Well, I think you should because they are great. But ‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ is a prequel set thousands of years before Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ films.”

Where are you with the “It” series, “Welcome to Derry”:

“We have been working with Jason Fuchs, Brad Caleb Kane, Andy Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti very closely…They’re so deep into this mythology and they have such a firm handle on the storytelling around these characters and also the demented scares that they’re putting into things. Sometimes I’m, like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Just all the wild ways they think up to terrify us. You’ll be hearing more concretely about that development very soon… Andy is very involved in every bit of this, so that is the real recipe for success and for delighting fans.”

Are you making a “Harry Potter” TV series:

“There’s nothing like a ‘Harry Potter’ fan, in terms of their endless appetite for storytelling and new ways of interacting with these characters. So whether it’s the reunion or live events or games, we’re very much in the business of creating new content for those fans and thinking what to do next. We don’t have a series in active development right now. But we are very much in that business, because fans are just clamoring for more storytelling.”

How “And Just Like That…” Season 2 will evolve from Season 1:

“What you’re seeing this season is all of these characters embracing life. It’s a very joyful season and I think, in some ways, it feels like iconic ‘Sex and the City’ episodes. Most of all, for Carrie, in particular, in the way her character has always been up for the next adventure or the next love, the next friendship in the city, and you really feel that this season. We’re so excited. I went to the table, I’ve seen the clothes. So I’m voracious, just like everyone.”

After the “Friends,” “Harry Potter” and “West Wing” events, are you working on more reunion specials based on WB IP?

“I think lots of shows have fanbases that want to catch up and see where the actors are or where they think their characters would be and learn some more intimate, behind-the-scenes stories that wouldn’t have come out while things were actually being made and people feel more comfortable to talk about them.”

“But with these reunion specials, there has been a galvanizing creative desire, and we’ve had all the key members of the cast want to participate…As it stands right now, I don’t have an easy answer to what’s coming next in that space, because each one of those really came about from a creator. I’m open for somebody that’s excited to get the gang back together, because they performed very well for us — but that’s because they’ve had everything the fans wanted from them.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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