TV

'Graceland' Season 1 Finale: Jeff Eastin Talks Season 2 Plans And Briggs' Journey

09/12/2013 11:00 pm ET
USA

"Graceland" has now aired its explosive Season 1 finale, and luckily for fans who can't get enough of Briggs (Daniel Sunjata), Mike (Aaron Tveit) and the rest of the housemates, USA has already renewed the twisty thriller for Season 2.

After screening the finale, HuffPost TV caught up with creator Jeff Eastin to hear his thoughts on the evolution of Season 1 and what his plans are for next year. Do not read on unless you've seen the "Graceland" Season 1 finale, since there are spoilers ahead.

Congratulations on the Season 2 renewal! How much do you already have planned out at this stage?
Quite a bit, actually. I sat down with USA and had some pitch meetings with them in terms of what I would like to do with Season 2, and I think some of the pickup was probably related to their excitement about that.

Is there anything you didn't get to accomplish in Season 1 that you hope to in Season 2?
I don’t think there’s anything we didn’t get to accomplish. Essentially, I pretty much laid out the big beats of this season at the beginning when I pitched this to USA, and for the most part, they stayed pretty true to that. This season really was about Briggs’s journey -- it set up quite a bit in terms of his desire for revenge on this guy that destroyed the other house, burned it down and killed the woman in it he loved. And that was Season 1, that old Chinese proverb, if you set out for revenge, you should dig two graves. That was really the guidepost for me coming into this season; Briggs sets out for revenge and it’s that negative energy that he carries with him in that pursuit that ends up bleeding over and affecting, and in some cases destroying, the lives of the people around him. That really was the point of this season -- to go on that journey with Briggs.

And within that, it affects Charlie [Vanessa Ferlito], obviously, as she grapples with her own seeming insanity … [whether] she believes Briggs with Odin and things like that. With Mike, we see the change that he goes through where he starts out as a newbie but really, by the end of the season, the student becomes the master -- or at least the equal. But in his pursuit of Briggs, Mike really becomes much more like Briggs. Each of the characters goes through a transformation with this dark energy that Briggs has put out there.

The finale proves what a master manipulator Briggs is -- the way he covered his tracks was deliciously calculated. Does Briggs feel remorse for all his lies, or is he more focused on the ends justifying the means?
Well, I think it’s really both. Briggs never really has an evil intention … the only evil intention he starts out with is this desire for revenge. What Briggs is very good at is manipulating things around him to achieve the results that he wants, and for Briggs it hasn’t occurred to him ... He’s so bent on that destruction of Jangles that it finally begins to dawn on him ... If you saw the finale, that moment at the end with him and Charlie, where she gets in the car, you see it in his face, the destruction that he’s wrought by this. So I think he starts out thinking that the end does justify the means, but as the end approaches he starts to realize the full extent of the destruction that he’s brought upon the people he cares about.

In the finale, Briggs shifts the identity of Odin away from himself once and for all -- will that come back to bite him in Season 2? Will Odin still be a presence in some way?
Not much. One of the things that we really wanted to do in Season 2 was keep the luggage that we carry into Season 2 somewhat minimal. In Season 2 we’ll focus a lot on the characters. For example, Briggs, his real desire now that he’s achieved [revenge] is ... to get back to being the good, normal guy that he is, and what he ultimately finds is that’s a lot easier said than done. So some things from his past will come up, but the majority of the problems that they will be facing next year will not come from the past, but will come from Briggs’s desire to try to return to the normalcy that he had before the house burned and Lisa died.

Is Briggs now absolved in Mike's eyes, or will we see lingering suspicion from Mike next season?
Yeah, there’ll definitely be some lingering suspicion. Mike is a little less forgiving, and there’s still the question of what happened to Juan. Obviously in the finale, the tape is still out there. That’s something that really does still stick with Mike. It’s like, “What happened?” Juan just upped and disappeared as far as he knows, and … Mike’s a hundred percent sure, just like Charlie, that Briggs was Odin, but suddenly he’s got to have that doubt; he’s got to say to himself, “Either Briggs is really, really good at this, or maybe we’re wrong.” And so it’s really that confusion that plays in with Mike and the rest of the roommates too. Season 2 will be trying to make sense of who exactly Paul Briggs is -- who is this guy they’re friends with, and roommates with?

The final moments of the season show Mike missing the house and the gang -- if Season 1 was about him working to get out of Graceland and back to the job he wanted, will Season 2 focus more on him working his way back to Graceland?
Yeah, a lot of it will be “what’s required to bring Mike back to Graceland?” and what he does once he gets there. I can’t be too spoilery, but as you can imagine, there’s a bit of a crisis that draws Mike back and then once he’s back it really will team him and Briggs up, and a lot of the old suspicions come into play. The toughest part for Mike is the fact that Briggs and Mike really are friends; they become equals in a lot of ways. But the toughest part -- I think this is the hardest part for all the roommates -- is Briggs is a very likeable guy. It’s hard not to like him ... [like] when Johnny [Manny Montana], in the finale, said, “It doesn’t make any sense. Briggs ain’t Odin and he don’t kill FBI agents.” That’s not the guy he believes he could be.

Since Mike transferred out, are you planning on introducing any new agents, or is it going to be just the core group that we’ve seen this season?
That’s still up in the air a little bit. Right now I don’t foresee introducing any new permanent agents.

I loved that we started getting more insight into Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) towards the end of the season -- next year, is focusing on the agents and their backstories the main motivation?
Yeah, it really is. Season 1 was really about Mike, Briggs, and the Bello case, [which] kind of took over everything. And next season what we want to do is really dimensionalize these characters, and get deeper into their lives, find out a little bit more about them. For example, Charlie’s backstory, we’ll learn a little bit more about her -- it’s a really fascinating story, I can’t say too much about it without being spoilery. But yeah, we’re deepening the characters. Johnny in the finale, Jakes has a very nice speech, when Johnny asks him, “Why not me? Why am I always second? Why am I always picked last?” And Jakes tells him, “Try being less a child, more a man.” And that really does define Johnny’s journey in Season 2, where be realizes that it’s his turn and his time to step up, and that decision really pushes him -- it almost costs him everything.

I really enjoyed how serialized the story was, and it's a big departure from most of USA's shows. Are you planning on sticking with that formula in Season 2?
We're going to stick with it. That was one of the real tough decisions, because USA ... it is a departure [for them] and for me to sit down and try it, and the good news is our ratings have been actually increasing as the season goes on, which is good. So we’re looking at it and saying, “Hey, if it’s working, let’s keep going.”

"Graceland" will return to USA in 2014.

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