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Director Samir Rehem talks Chucky TV series

After the hugely successful first season on SyFy, Chucky will return for a second stab at audiences in 2022.

Director Samir Rehem helmed the 6th and penultimate episode of Season 1, and we got the chance to quiz him about entering the world of our favourite homicidal doll.

Tell us how you got involved in the Chucky TV series?

With the help of my manager, Sam Warren, and my agent, Brent Sherman, I was lucky enough to get some face time with Don Mancini. Sam and Brent had been working their contacts to create some buzz around me with the producers of Chucky and after being fully vetted I was able to book a meeting with Don. We had our first sit-down via Zoom back in January of 2020. This initial meeting with Don went really well. His enthusiasm for the project and its transition to the small screen was contagious and after speaking with Don about the show’s characters and the series’ potential I really hoped that he had enjoyed talking to me as much as I did him. The legend of Charles Lee Ray and the mythology of his origins is one of the few horror franchises that has managed to carve a permanent place in cinematic history and I was thrilled at the idea of being a part of that.

How much did you know about the Child’s Play series going in?

When Child’s Play was first released in 1988 I was 16 years old and admittedly, I was not up-to-date on my Chucky folklore, so Don gave me a list of films to watch that were relevant to the episodes I was directing. Thankfully I had done my homework, because both of those episodes were heavy with Chucky’s mythology and other important players from the franchise. Don had also invited back a lot of collaborators that had been a big part of the original films so I had a lot of guidance on all that is Chucky. Although, at the same time, he encouraged us to be innovative and conceptualize the series with a contemporary lens. I believe that he strategically chose directors who would explore new ways of capturing Chucky and Don encouraged all of us to take creative ownership.

You get two pretty dramatic episodes of Chucky, what were your discussions like with Don Mancini leading up to filming?

My schedule this past year was packed and I found myself wrapping filming on one show, only to start prep on another. When it came time to start prep on Chucky, my dates had gotten mixed up and I had a shortened schedule, so our hours were longer than normal. Although Don always managed to find time to answer all my questions and was always there to provide me with guidance when needed. Don is one of the most generous collaborators I’ve worked with and by the time I arrived I could see that he had earned everyone’s upmost respect. The entire crew was committed to making the best show possible, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the crew would earnestly applaud each time he arrived on set. We all love Don and without him there is no Chucky. It wasn’t difficult to get caught up in his excitement and enthusiasm for the stories we were telling.

What can you tell us about the death scenes for Bree and Detective Evans, were they tough scenes to film?

In the months leading up to working on series Don would occasionally call with ideas or just to update me on the show’s progress. It was on one of those calls where Don first pitched me Bree’s death scene, at that time it was much bigger than what we’d filmed, it was epic and Don would often referred to it as one of the most iconic kills of the franchise. He would chuckle and say, “no pressure, but seriously don’t fuck it up” (that’s probably not a direct quote, but it’s how I remember it) – unfortunately during prep we had to pair back for production reasons (time and money) but I still feel that we accomplished the heart of what Don was hoping for. That entire sequence was filmed over the course of several days, both in studio and on location, it was a beast and the only way to tackle it was to break it down into smaller parts. There was a lot of discussion around it and ultimately, I think all of the key creatives played an enormous part in its achievement. It is definitely one of my favorite moments in the episode. Evan’s death on the other hand was a little more straight-forward, if there is such a thing when you’re trying to realistically depict a 3-foot-tall doll jumping from an air vent and tackling an adult, ultimately throwing them down the stairs. Huge props to the stunt woman that fell down that staircase not once, but twice!

How much of the Chucky doll scenes were CGI compared to practical effects?

All of the work you see on-screen with Chucky is practical. The only visual effects work that is done, is deleting the puppeteers that stand behind him. Practically speaking, there are about 5-6 people that are in control of Chucky’s movements and when you give direction to the doll you have to address them as a group. It’s really amazing to call “action” and see the doll come to life. Although one of my favorite things would often happen in between takes, sometimes the puppeteers would stay in character and Chucky would talk to crew members or joke with other actors in the scene. After a while he just felt like another member on set.

Who was the most fun to film with?

It was probably most exciting to film with Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif. They were both unpredictable and brought so much to the show. As a director I tend to be very specific with a character’s relationship to the frame and the composition of a shot. Jennifer would often like to try new things from take to take and sometimes would discover new aspects of her performance with each of these takes. Ultimately, that kept me on my toes and had me adjusting composition as we went. It wasn’t until later, in the edit that I really appreciated what an incredible performance she had created. It was nuance, complex and thoughtful, it really made me appreciate just how well rounded the character was, both Jennifer and Fiona knew how to deliver and that they did!

Now we know we are getting a Chucky Season 2, would you be interested in coming back for more episodes?

Hell ya! Honestly, I can’t wait to dig into even more of the mythology and see how Don skillfully blends both old and new characters into the series.

Chucky Season 1 is now available to view on Peacock.

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