“Seriously, guys. This whole year has been pretty much sh**,” Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) bluntly remarks in an exclusive clip from Mythic Quest’s bonus standalone episode: “Everlight.” Mr. Grimm is, of course, referring to 2020 when the outbreak of a novel coronavirus upended human civilization, driving people indoors and killing more than two million people worldwide.
Meant to bookend Season 1 and lead into Season 2, “Everlight” (premiering on Apple TV+ tomorrow) finds the Mythic Quest development crew returning to their offices for an annual tournament event after a year of working remotely. It’s a rather strange, transitory period many workers are currently facing as the health crisis mercifully begins to wane in the wake of widespread vaccinations.
“We wanted to put it in our rear-view mirror, so we broke an entire season of television that projects sometime in the future when the pandemic is a thing of the past,” McElhenney tells Forbes Entertainment. “That said, we recognized we couldn’t move on without at least acknowledging the fact that that transition would be difficult, which is why we made the standalone episode, ‘Everlight.’”
Watch the exclusive clip below:
At the height of the pandemic last spring, Apple TV+ released “Mythic Quest: Quarantine,” another bonus episode that reflected the ups and downs of the virtual workspace many of us have become accustomed to.
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Ahead of that special’s premiere, McElhenney admitted that Season 2 was supposed to open at E3, the biggest video game convention in the United States. The sequence, which featured Ian and Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicado) delivering a presentation before 10,000 people had to be scrapped for obvious reasons.
“We decided that we had to throw out the entire season and completely rewrite a new season,” McElhenney explains. “We just are making the bet that by the time we air … there will still be a lot of us still in quarantine. I don’t think the world will have returned to normal by then or hopefully, maybe within the next six months…but we recognize that people are gonna be sick of hearing about it and talking about it.”
“We wanted the second season to feel very authentic to the experience that people are having in a post-COVID world, returning to work,” adds executive producer Megan Ganz, who co-created the series with McElhenney and Charlie Day. “We just made the bet that people probably wouldn’t want to be hearing about COVID in every episode of the second season. So we thought, ‘How can we transition into a place where it feels like we’re in a post-COVID world for the second season?’”
According to Ganz, “Everlight” — which features the voice of Sir Anthony Hopkins — “deals with the joy and happiness that people are going to feel when they’re eventually allowed to return to their workplaces again. And then we adjusted the season accordingly. But as I said, it’s not got gonna be all about COVID because I’m sure people are getting sick of talking about all of that.”
Mythic Quest was finally able to return to its Los Angeles set last fall with a number of strict healthy safety guidelines in place.
“It would make me emotional, realizing how much we were all adapting to these new protocols,” admits cast member Jesse Ennis (who plays power-hungry assistant Jo). “I think initially I was really worried that it would be distracting. I thought, ‘Well, we’ve got these plexiglass barriers up and everyone’s wearing masks and shields’; and [there was] a new program of how we would get our sides and all these things. We had to eat separately and I remember being like, ‘God, are we still gonna be able to feel connected with everybody?’”
Luckily, Ennis had nothing to worry about, as she “felt more connected with people than I ever have on any other job because we were coming together in this really beautiful way to make art in a time when it was desperately needed.”
She continues: “I felt like everything became incredibly streamlined because there were no visitors on set, everyone who was there was passionately collaborating to make this product and it just felt like everyone had their blinders on. They were just excited to get this thing done as well as possible.”
“It was just so exciting to go back to work,” says Danny Pudi (MQ’s scheming and cutthroat Head of Monetization, Brad Bakshi). “I love this show, I love this cast, I love the writing — everything about it. And to be able to dive deeper into the show, we have another special episode, Everlight, which also explores tonally a little bit more about where we can go with Brad.”
Despite the world being a radically different place than it was a little over a year ago, some things still remain the same. When Season 1 ended, for instance, Poppy had been dubbed co-creative director of the titular game alongside Ian. Season 2 will pick up that dangling story thread and further explore the characters’ ego-fueled working relationship. What does the studio look like now that they’re both in charge?
“It’s a really fun thing, to get to play with the idea of success,” Nicado says. “The whole season, in some ways, is about each character having these different little versions of success and Poppy, I think, is the clearest version of that. Where she — throughout Season 1 — and her whole career, has had this very clear goal that she wants to have creative control over her game.”
The jump from lead engineer to creative director brings “all these new challenges,” Nicado adds. “[Poppy and Ian] don’t really get along a lot of the time and they don’t really have the same ideas. And now, there’s no one to say, ‘Well, bad luck, I’m the boss, so I have the last say…’ There’s a lot of fun chaos that comes out of that. But I also think it was really fun to get to play this character that’s got everything she’s ever dreamt of and is now trying to wrangle all of the parts of it that she never expected.”
The first two episodes of Mythic Quest’s second season arrive on Apple TV+ Friday, May 7. Subsequent episodes will then be doled out on a weekly basis.