Homecoming started as a podcast created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, then became a huge success when it debuted for Amazon Prime in 2018. When the show got the green light by Amazon the first season stuck pretty close to the story on the podcast but the second season has deviated from the podcast to expand on stories and different characters. I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Season 2 Director of Homecoming Kyle Patrick Alvarez where he discussed being a fan of the show and making season two its own story.
Nancy Tapia: You’re joining Homecoming for season two. How exciting is that?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: It’s been genuinely a thrill, you know, a scary one, but a really great experience.
Nancy Tapia: How did it all come about?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: You know, I’d been a big fan of the show and I knew one of the directors of the show pretty well named Chad Hamilton, who’s worked with Sam his whole career. And, I know my name had come up. I’d been talking with them about maybe doing an episode of Briar Patch that they were producing at the time. So my name came up for this and I was immediately like, and this was rare for me, I’m not like this with potential jobs where I’m like, this is a job I want. What do I need to do? I will do anything to prove that I can do this and I want it. To say picky feels like the wrong word, but I just don’t normally have that kind of level of, I need this. And this was, I loved season one so much and was so excited about what the show asks from a director and I’d been missing that a lot in the TV space. And so for me, it was genuinely every day, I felt lucky, even the tough ones.
Nancy Tapia: So what were the challenges coming in, because there was already season one that has its own structure in directing, and then you came in. Did you go back and rewatch season one?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: I rewatched season one, many times. I think the biggest challenge, at least starting off the job was, or even pitching for the job was okay, well, it’s not an anthology show, but it has anthology qualities. So I got the scripts and I was really excited to see that it was going to be about a new character. Janelle wasn’t attached yet? She was in touch before I came on, but I had been meeting on it without knowing who it was going to be. They hadn’t hired her yet. So I was excited about the show having a new lead because I love season one so much. I didn’t want to step on its toes. I didn’t want to interfere with that.
So it was a new thing and it was a little bit about, okay, when you do season two of a show like this, that’s distinct, you get to sort of decide, well, what’s this, what was part of season one and what is part of Homecoming? And then the next person will get to decide, well, what was part of season two and what’s Homecoming, you start to narrow it down. For me, it was watching season one again after reading the scripts for season two and saying, what should we hold over? What new things should we do? And what things should we say, Hey, that was a quality or an element of season one that isn’t demanded for in season two.
Nancy Tapia: I have to say one of the things that I liked that was kept for season two were the rollouts. Those takes you back to those old school shows, right?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: You know what’s interesting. Those were one of my favorites… I’ll never forget when the first episode ends of season one and it’s just Shay and he’s like, you don’t remember anything she’s like, no. And then she walks out and the credits end and you just, Micah described it once. He was like, the feeling is a little was that a real show I just watched? What is this? It’s such an unusual thing. And what was interesting was season one I think they were discovering that as they were shooting. So I think to their credit, they pulled it off so well, but I think in some cases they were even finding those in the editing room. I don’t think they right away knew that they were going to do that. We had kind of the unfair advantage of season two of being like, well, we know we’re going to shoot them.
They were written around for them. And then we could build cool moments and try to make each one feel a little different, but those are the coolest things. And it’s also this nice time on set because you just roll it. One of the episodes ends with Janelle, just sitting in the room. I won’t say any more than that, but you rarely just roll for two and a half minutes of just someone sitting. So it was also like a weirdly peaceful moment on set too.
Nancy Tapia: Yes. Even for season one, since we can’t really talk about season two, there was one scene with Heidi, where is pissed off and makes a mess on her desk. Then starts rearranges her desk and then the credits start rolling, but then you’re like, wait is something more going to happen? It pulls us.
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: Settling and it’s interesting. Because you have to make sure you want them to feel important, but you also have to make sure that you’re not required to watch them. So you can’t hide an important piece of information at the tail end of it. But I think it also helps. I’ve never asked Sam about this, but it also helps prevent the only thing I don’t love about streaming stuff on networks, even though Amazon’s really good about this, better than some others, where the next episode starts and you don’t even have time to get up and get a glass of water. So in a weird way, I think that the next episode thing, since there’s content to be watching, it also pushes that down the line a little bit. You can both let the episode settle, but also prepare for the next one if you’re going to binge it.
Nancy Tapia: Right. As already a fan of season one, what was the one thing that you were hoping would transition to season two?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: That’s a good question. For me, I think it was the ascetics, the ambition, the visual ambition. As broad of an answer as that is, there’s so many things I loved about the first season. But the thing I enjoyed the most as a director, as opposed to just a viewer, was that not a lot of television is demanding of the director’s point of view. Television is a writer’s based medium and some writers write visually, but not like what this show does. Part of what Sam establishes is, is that the camera has to be alive in the scene.
Interestingly to their credit, when I came in, they were never like, we want to keep this style. No one said anything. I maybe could have come in, I don’t know if I would have gotten the job and said, okay, we’re going to shoot this whole thing, and handheld 16 millimeter, I think they maybe would have been open to a whole new approach, but my attitude was, this is one of the best, if not the best, looking shows on TV. So let’s not get in the way of that. Now, let’s not go back to season one and just try to repeat ourselves, so that we don’t do the aspect ratio change. And we use an original score this year and a couple other elements to say, well, let’s let some things be special to season one and then make some of our own special things for season two.
Also Check Out: Homecoming Actress Hong Chau Discusses Season 2 And Her Character Audrey Having A Bigger Role
Nancy Tapia: So I was privileged enough to watch the first seven episodes of season two and whoa, hooked. Now I have to wait like everyone else. And the worst part is they pick the worst and yet, best episode to leave you hooked. In this season you have different locations versus to season one. How were you challenged in that aspect?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: Yeah. I mean, that was the big challenge. Each project you do, you try to say, okay, what’s the thing, what’s the biggest thing we have to overcome? And this was how do we keep the ambition of season one, but do a lot of that outside. So season one is almost entirely inside of that homecoming facility. And it was a beautiful set they built. And that gives you flexibility. Here, we had sets, but we were outside a substantial amount of more time and in difficult places, a lake in the middle of nowhere and forests and those locations, now you’re bringing 30 foot cranes, not just in a studio a lot, but you’re dragging them out into the middle of forest or in some cases, in the middle of a lake.
We had a 30 that we built in the middle of a Lake on a barge. So all of that cuts into your day. I think season one was everyone who, because we had a lot of the same crew working on it, they had a much smoother shoot. I think this shoot was a lot tougher just because we were trying to do this high level of photography in really difficult situations and settings, but that was also the fun of it, okay, cool. How do we get this forest to look and feel a certain way or this farm field to feel a certain way?
Nancy Tapia: What scene would you say is your highlight of season two?
Kyle Patrick Alvarez: Probably for me, it’s the end of episode two. There’s hints of it in the trailers, but the end of episode two. Episode two is Janelle’s character hunting Hong’s character and following her. And I think all this is in the trailer, so I’m not giving too much, but the end of episode two is okay, what’s going to happen when these two women finally meet? And for me being given, it’s such a gift from the writers to be given this giant climactic moment while there’s thousands of balloons falling and you have 500 extras. We had to shoot it over two different months because we had to shoot one half of the scene one month and the other half of the scene another month. You have all the characters there and you have all these extras and we decided to do this ambitious split screen thing. It was just a gigantic task. You can only afford to drop those balloons fully twice. There was just every problem in that sequence and then it came together and it came together well and how you imagined it. That was the most fulfilling, probably single sequence to see, the one I’m most proud of.
LRM: Well, thank you so much for your time. And I have to say kudos to you because you definitely jumped into a big project. Congratulations, and look forward to a season three with you directing.
Homecoming Season 2 debuts May 22 on Amazon Prime.
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