Fox Exec Breaks Down ‘Scream Queens’ Season 2 Changes

Elizabeth Wagmeister

When “Scream Queens” returns to Fox this week, the Ryan Murphy horror-comedy series will look and feel much different.

The anthology has moved from sorority row to the hospital — which won’t be painted bubblegum pink.

“It felt like a really good opportunity to take our ladies and graduate them from the college atmosphere and the sorority universe and bring them into the adult world and put them in a workplace environment,” says Terence Carter, Fox’s EVP of drama development and programming. “In college and high school, everything seems life or death, but in a hospital, they actually are.”

A crew of new actors, including John Stamos, Kirstie Alley and Taylor Lautner, has joined the crew, with the goal of expanding to a wider audience.

“We want to keep the show as broad as possible. We had a great first season and it certainly really scored among young women especially,” says Carter, who notes that the first season of “Scream Queens” ranked as the No.1 comedy among women 18-34, but also the top comedy for all adults 18-34, according to the network’s own multiplatform numbers. “The backdrop of a hospital, both in terms of gender appeal and age appeal, certainly feels more broad than a sorority, which could feel a bit more niche.”

“Scream Queens” was an example of modern-day viewing habits: only a fraction of the show’s audience watched live on Tuesdays with its viewership growing by 189% when time-shifted viewing and multi-platform viewers for the entire season were factored in. The first season ended up bringing in a total audience of about 8.1 million viewers, but the young-skewing show has a sizable social media presence. “It was an incredibly buzz-worthy show and we saw that really strike a chord in the audience who is very active on social media. I think in a lot of ways, it really delivered.”

Fox has high hopes that the creative changes will translate to greater viewership for “Scream Queens.” “The hospital environment in Season 2 could open up — and we hope will open up — some stronger, pure ratings in terms of how Nielsen tends to look at them,” says Carter. “But I think no matter what, if we can continue on the path that we’ve been on, which is growing with our delayed viewers and our multi-platform viewers, we’ll be just delighted.”

Here, Carter reveals more details about what’s ahead for Season 2:

How are you feeling about Season 2 so far?

We have just seen the first episode and a bunch of scripts, and it’s looking terrific…It’s a ton of fun.

How did the hospital idea come about?

It was Ryan and Brad (Falchuk) and Ian (Brennan’s) idea. Ryan came in and pitched what he was envisioning for the second season of the show and felt like he wanted to do a pretty massive reset. He wanted to be able to preserve the characters that so many people have fallen in love with on Season 1 of “Scream Queens,” but create a whole new world to enter into. This is how he always pitched the show from the beginning of “Scream Queens” — he had talked about Season 1 being sorority row and Season 2 taking place somewhere else.

What did the network like about setting the show in a hospital for Season 2?

We loved the idea of being set in a hospital because we know very well that medical shows and hospital-set shows are fantastic story generators. There are so many cases that walk in your door.

John Stamos and Taylor Lautner are joining the show, both playing doctors. Why cast them?

We have an incredible cast of young ladies in this show carrying over from Season 1, and we wanted to round out the cast with some really strong male actors coming in. Ryan and Brad and Ian had these two fantastic characters with Dr. Brock Holt and Dr. Cassidy Cascade — both of which are just absurd names — and they wanted two actors who would appeal to guys that you’d want to have a drink with them and hang out with, but also that women would be excited for. John Stamos and Taylor Lautner really embody everything that we could want in this show. They’re pretty handsome guys, they both have terrific sense of comedic timing, they can pull their dramatic weight whenever it’s called upon them, they can both be heartthrobs and they can deliver the medical jargon. They both felt like perfect additions to the cast.

How about the look of the show? How will the aesthetic change?

Season 2 has a little bit of a makeover — it’s probably going to be a little less emphasis on the pinks and pastels of Season 1. It’ll be more sort of blue and green. But at the same time, it’s the same tone and the same feel that you got the first season, which is really pop. That clash and juxtaposition and comedy and horror coming together will feel very familiar to the first season.

Will there be any difference in tone?

The tone will be very similar. I think we’ll probably lean a little bit more into the comedy in Season 2 — I think you’ll really find that we’ll find the comedic tones, but there’s still a very heightened mystery at the center of it.

Will just as many people be killed off as the first season?

You can still expect all of the excitement of not knowing whether your favorite characters are going to be killed off. I obviously can’t reveal too many secrets as to who those people might be, but I will say some characters that are near-and-dear to the audiences’ heart and also some new characters are not safe — both the principal cast and the guest cast.

Is the cast still kept in the dark when it comes to the killer’s identity?

Absolutely. Our writers love to keep their cast on their toes, truly not knowing who’s playing the killer and who’s playing the victim at any given moment. They really don’t know who can be killed off, which keeps them on their best behavior! But it also allows our directors to ask the cast to play it different ways and they don’t bring any preconceived notions of their own guilt or how complicit they may be in the overall conspiracy, so you get different performances and then our writers and directors can cut it together accordingly.

Will the Red Devil be back?

There will be a different killer this season. We’re keeping it a little bit of a surprise and mystery of what that character and that entity will look like and what we’ll be calling it, but there will be our new version of the Red Devil this season.

Is the intention to have a different Red Devil-esque character each season?

We’ve really only talked about how we’re approaching this season. My guess is that it would be different for subsequent seasons, but we haven’t gotten that far yet.

Will there be just one main killer again, like the first season with Hester (Lea Michele)?

I’ve got to leave that to be a bit of a surprise. I will say there is a big Red Devil-esque killer out there — whether or not there are more folks behind it, you’ll have to find out.

How many seasons do you envision “Scream Queens” staying on the air?

Ryan and the other guys have fallen in love with these characters. I think there are a bunch that they would like to see carry on to future seasons — if they survive this season. So much is up in the air about who is going to survive this season, that we haven’t gone so far to see how it would carry over to future seasons.

Watch Niecy Nash talk about “Scream Queens” Season 2:


Related stories

Fox, Ridley Scott Developing Don Winslow's NYPD Crime Thriller

Fox Sues Netflix for Poaching Two Executives

'Pitch' Aims to be Catalyst for Women in Sports

Get more from Variety and Variety411: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter