Ian Carpenter was convinced Aaron Martin didn’t like his writing style. Yes, Martin—the showrunner behind series like Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Best Years and Saving Hope—had hired Carpenter to work on Being Erica, but since then … nothing.
“He and I would meet for a work day in a café and I would ask him what he was working on, and he would tell me about this great thing and all of the great writers he had in the room with him,” Carpenter says with a laugh. “I hit a point when I said to myself, ‘Well, maybe he doesn’t like my writing.'” It turns out the right project hadn’t come along. Until now.
Slasher: Solstice is the third season of the franchise created by Martin—it’s available on Netflix now—and Carpenter is on board not just as a writer but showrunner too. Martin’s latest creation, Another Life starring Katee Sackhoff, had been greenlit by Netflix meaning he wasn’t available to handle Solstice. Enter Carpenter, horror fanboy.
“Every meeting that I was having with anyone, when they asked me what I wanted to work on it was horror,” he says. “That’s all I want to do for the next many years.”
Slasher: Solstice keeps the franchise’s cast intact by reuniting several actors from past seasons in Dean McDermott, Joanna Vannicola, Paula Brancati, Erin Karpluk, Jim Watson, Jefferson Brown and Paulino Nunes with new faces in Baraka Rahmani, Lisa Berry, Mercedes Morris and Salvatore Antonio. And, like the franchise, Solstice meets up with these characters as awful things happen in present-day to match a truly terrible occurrence in the past.
We spoke to Ian Carpenter about his dream gig.
How did the writing for this season come about?
Ian Carpenter: Aaron had pitched the season, it had been approved and he had written an amazing pilot that is, for the most part, entirely there. If I changed anything, it was maybe five per cent. Thirteen out of the 15 characters were there and he knew who [was behind the crimes] and the whole arc down the line. He had the tent poles worked out and then we sat down and broke the next four episodes. And then, once he became unavailable, I broke the remaining four with a writer named Matt MacLennan. At all times I was, of course, running things by Aaron. There were a couple of massive twists that I sent to him and got super-excited responses back. It was so much fun to freak out the creator.
Can an eagle-eyed viewer spot the person or people behind this during the season?
IC: I didn’t encounter anyone that had picked it out and wasn’t floored by the story. But, as a guy who has spent a lot of time with the episodes, I’m pleased with how much it is seeded in there. Like, ‘Oh my god, when this person is saying this, really this is going on.’
A big part of Slasher’s storytelling is through flashback. I noticed this goes back as far as 20 years. It that the furthest?
IC: I think so. I’m obsessed with the emotional weight of everything and I want us to mourn the characters who die. As I’ve been working on this I’ve come to realize how much I want there to be hope, positivity or light in the show. In this season, as it is in past seasons, is that the deaths mean something. It’s not a nihilistic lopping off of people’s heads all over the place for no reason. For sure, there are a couple of characters people want to see die and probably celebrate their end, but at all times I want to feel the weight of what’s happening.
Adam MacDonald directed all of Solstice’s episodes. What was it like working with him?
IC: We’ve been friends for, I think, something like 20 years. I was hired maybe two weeks before Adam was and they were pursuing him ahead of time so it was just bizarre, amazing luck that we were on it together. We were close then and we are way more close now. I would put his work up against anyone’s. It’s so incredible. I have never worked with a director who has a more visceral connection to the camera. I love the expressiveness of the camera and he has done something that really stands out in the genre and on TV.
The apartment building serves as the main focal point for much of the action and story. Was it always the intention to have that claustrophobic feel?
IC: Aaron was riffing off the case in New York City where the woman was murdered in front of her apartment building and people watched but did nothing. We wanted to spin around that and I loved the claustrophobia of it, and of people brushing up against each other, getting in each other’s business and driving each other crazy. And it makes those moments where you leave the building extra special.
You not only have a diverse cast but you don’t shy away from storylines containing xenophobia, hatred, inclusion or acceptance.
IC: It’s a huge part of everything Aaron has ever done and I’m the same way. I wanted to make it carte blanche across the board and I feel like it led us to discover some really exciting talent. And, it’s a big part of some of the themes this season. Netflix was totally into that and was a big part of this season’s pitch. It’s fun to tell those stories right now because it’s so important. A lot of hard work went into not making it simplistic.
Slasher: Solstice is streaming on Netflix now.
Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.