“High school isn’t the end of the world…until it is.” That’s the tagline for the Netflix original series Daybreak, which premieres tomorrow, October 24. The cast and crew of Daybreak were on hand at New York Comic Con earlier this month to promote their genre-bending, impossible-to-define, not-your-parents’-apocalypse post-apocalyptic series.
Daybreak follows an eclectic group of teenagers in Glendale, California, who are fighting for survival after a nuclear blast turns most of the adult population into zombie-like creatures called “ghoulies.” The teenagers congregate into “tribes” based on the traditional high school cliques – jocks, cheerleaders, gamers, and so on – and rule the city in a Mad Max type of situation. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Ralph, Daybreak the series is a mishmash of genres, with each character getting their chance to shine – and every time the perspective shifts, so does the tone and style of the series. But overall, the show is about finding your place.
“The tone isn’t ‘how are we going to survive,’ it’s more like ‘who am I gonna be,’ ‘where am I going to belong.’ It’s a very coming of age story,” said Executive Producer Brad Peyton.
“Okay, the apocalypse is terrible, we’re all used to that story,” said Executive Producer Aron Eli Coleite. “But what if you were a kid and like, ‘my high school life sucked,’ and the apocalypse came and you were like, ‘I’m gonna steal a Ferrari.’ […] We loved that overall tone of you can reinvent yourself, it doesn’t matter what happened in high school, you can be whatever you want to be.”
“It’s high school,” said star Sophie Simnett (Sam). “We’ve all been there.”
“All [Angelica] wants in the apocalypse is to find her tribe and to find her place, because she was excluded from her family before the apocalypse,” said star Alyvia Alyn Lind of her character. “It was a really fun journey to take with this character that I connected to so strongly.”
Star Austin Crute (Wesley), who describes his character as “if Harry Potter really did go to Slytherin”, said, “I think after that apocalyptic shift, we don’t really know why he’s a pacifist, that’s one of the little secrets. […] I think that he turns into this, I don’t know, this oddly kind of a chameleon. He becomes really good friends with some of the characters that you really wouldn’t think he would be friends with.”
“When [Josh] is plopped into the apocalypse, he goes from being a C student, an average guy in school, to being the best version of himself,” said star Colin Ford, whose character, Josh, is the focus of the first couple of episodes as he is on a quest to find his girlfriend (Simnett).
But while some characters seem to become better people after the nuclear blast, other characters give in to their dark impulses. “I was a well-liked principal of a school,” said star Matthew Broderick (Principal Burr) of his first series role, “but then he gets to kind of, you know, there’s been some anger that has pent up over the years of kids and budget cuts and what it is to run a school, and he gets to express some of that.”
“There are some scenes of us [her character and Angelica, played by Alyvia] becoming a partnership, and one in particular where, even when I read the script I thought, ‘Oh this is going into a genre thing that’s sort of like a trope’,” said star Krysta Rodriguez (Ms. Crumble), who along with Broderick was one of the few adults on set. “And then they flip it on its head, and it becomes sort of a beautiful, almost feminist manifesto of these two women who are grasping to each other and learning to be themselves and not have to be a certain way anymore and the apocalypse somehow has afforded that opportunity to them, where they don’t have to fit into any sort of societal mold.”
As for the genre-bending nature of the series, the producers admit that they had some iconic inspirations.
“Buffy was a real touchpoint show for us, because it could combine all the things together that we loved,” said Executive Producer Jeff Lemire. “It had horror, it had humor, and it had heart, and the ability to balance those things out. So when looking at this show, it was really about finding ways in every single episode to have all three of those touchpoints.”
Peyton said, “Everyone’s seen Mad Max: Fury Road, right? So that making of book is fantastic; it’s one of the best making of books. And I remember bringing that into the art department and I said, ‘Okay, now here’s the bar.’ Now they had two years to do this, we have two months. […] I’m serious. It’s got to be this good. It can’t look like this. We’ve got to do this, new – like with a comedic slant and true to our world and everything. And everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, he’s serious.'”
The most important thing that the producers wanted was to be different from all the other post-apocalyptic, zombie series and movies that are currently out in pop culture.
“We know who we’re writing for, and we can’t give them more of the same,” said Coleite. “We have to constantly be reinventing and turning things on their head and surprising the audience.”
For example, in Daybreak, yes, the adults have become zombified versions of themselves, but one of the gimmicks of this series is that they endlessly repeat the last thing they thought before the attack, which is usually something ridiculous like, “I’ve got to get off Facebook – it’s so toxic.”
“You can’t guess what’s going to happen in this show. It’s so bonkers,” said Simnett. “It’s genre-bending. It’s a coming of age story, it’s a samurai saga, it’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s an action film. It’s got a pulsating score. It does have everything.”
Simnett definitely has a point. As mentioned before, whenever the focus shifts to a new character, the audience finds themselves in a different movie. Josh (Ford) is in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which involves a lot of fourth-wall breaking and even has a few homages to the movie with specific shots and camera angles. Angelica (Lind), meanwhile, thinks she’s some sort of mafia boss, so her film is Goodfellas. Wesley (Crute) is in a samurai movie. Burr (Broderick) is in American Beauty. One of the episodes is a classic sitcom, and one of them is more like a Martin Scorsese film.
“There’s nothing like it out there,” said Ford. “The only way to describe it when people ask me is quickly I give them three movie titles – Mad Max, Zombieland, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – which like don’t go together.”
Daybreak is a series that must be seen to be believed, and you can see for yourself when the ten-episode first season drops on Netflix tomorrow.
Listen to our interviews with the cast and crew of Daybreak in their entirety below:
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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