Ben Schwartz and Sam Richardson in The Afterparty
Phil Lord and Chris Miller
The Afterparty, a murder mystery-comedy on Apple TV+, has two stylistic quirks. Each of the eight episodes is told Rashomon-style, through the perspective of a different character. But the narrative is also filtered through various genres, such as romantic comedy, action and musical. Creator Chris Miller, who executive-produces with longtime producing partner Phil Lord, came up with the idea some twelve years ago, while wrapping the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie at Sony.
"At the time, we were thinking about it as a movie, but we had to put it aside and work on other things," recalls Miller, whose credits with Lord include features such as The Lego Movie franchise and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and its sequel, as well as TV series like Fox's The Last Man on Earth and Son of Zorn. "We soon realized that it would work a lot better as a series, because we had more time to tell the story. Then we started to lean into different styles of filmmaking to express the personality of each of the characters."
To create the animated sixth episode, Miller and Lord relied on production designer Lindsey Olivares, who also worked on the duo's 2021 movie The Mitchells vs. the Machines. The half-hour was animated by the team at ShadowMachine studio, which is busy with a reboot of the duo's 2002 cult show, Clone High, for HBO Max.
"Lindsey has this unique style, and we knew she'd be great to bring out the special characteristics of the cast members," says Lord, who cowrote the episode with Rachel Smith. "That episode was one of the first we worked on because we knew it would take twelve to eighteen months to produce."
While the animated and musical episodes required the most planning, Miller says he found the finale the most rewarding.
"We got to take pieces from all the other episodes and weave them together into a satisfying conclusion, which is one of the hardest things to do. Each episode had its own challenges, because it felt like we were making a new movie from scratch — and each had its own writing style, camera style, costuming, etcetera. But we never want to repeat ourselves, so I really enjoyed the experience."
Fans will be happy to know that a second season is on the way, with Tiffany Haddish returning as Detective Danner. "We started working on the second season even before the show premiered," Miller says. "To deliver a surprising and satisfying murder mystery, the interlocking stories have to work together like a Swiss-made clock. I am just happy that they're letting us do another one!"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #7, 2022, under the title, "Whodunit How-To."