The series centres around Jake Wheeler, a bullied LGBTQ+ 14-year-old who purchases a doll named Chucky from a yard sale with intentions of using him in a contemporary art project, but is unaware that Chucky is possessed by the soul of a nefarious serial killer…and has aspirations to go on another murderous spree.
We spoke with DGC Ontario Director Samir Rehem, who directed two upcoming episodes of Chucky, about working with the legendary Don Mancini and other recurring fan favourites from the franchise, putting his own stamp on an iconic character, and more.
Tell us how you became involved in the production.
With the help of my manager, Sam Warren, and my agent, Brent Sherman, I was lucky enough to get some face time with Don Mancini. Sam and Brent had been working the angles (behind the curtain) to create some buzz around me with the producers, and after being fully vetted I was granted a meeting. Don and I had our first sit-down via Zoom back in January of 2020. At the time I was in the edit for Coroner season three, which was great because I’ve always had better luck booking a gig while I was already working on one. Thankfully that initial meeting with Don went very well, Don’s enthusiasm for the project was contagious, and after our first meeting I desperately hoped that Don had enjoyed meeting me as much as I did him.
This new series is in continuity with all of the existing Chucky films. How did you make sure the aesthetic and tone of those films carried over to the TV series, and how did you work with the art and locations departments to achieve this?
Admittedly, I was not up-to-date on my Chucky backstory, so Don gave me a list of films to watch that were relevant to the episodes I was directing. Thankfully I had done my homework, because both my episodes were heavy with Chucky’s mythology and other important players from the franchise. Don had also invited back a lot of collaborators that had been a part of the original films so I had a lot of guidance on all that is Chucky. Although, at the same time, Don really encouraged us to be innovative and conceptualize the series with a contemporary lens. He wanted the directors to take creative ownership and explore new ways of capturing Chucky.
The new series also features a predominantly new cast, plus some returning favourites from the films. How did you incorporate these classic call-backs into a new storyline?
Working with Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dorif was an enormous pleasure. I truly didn’t appreciate their genius until I got into the edit and saw just how nuanced their performances were. Alex Vincent and Christine Elise were also wonderful to work with, Alex especially has had such a long history with the franchise and has played the role of Andy his entire life. Don and the writing team did a brilliant job weaving together the storylines of the original cast with the new players, which made the job of directing these characters and stories so much fun.
What was it like having original Chucky creator Don Mancini aboard as a writer/director/executive producer?
I honestly could not imagine it any other way. Don is one of the most generous collaborators I’ve worked with. By the time I arrived I observed that Don had literally earned everyone’s unwavering admiration and that the entire crew was deeply committed to making the very best show possible (they did it for Don). I’m not exaggerating when I say that the crew would earnestly applaud for him each time he arrived on set. We love Don and without him there is no Chucky.
What do you love most about working in Toronto/Ontario?
I’ve always felt fortunate to live and work in this City. We have some of the best crews in the world and they’ve really made Toronto a world-class location for production. On top of having a diverse selection of locations, Toronto also has an enormous pool of actors and other talent that puts this city in a great position to be competitive in a thriving industry.
Production stills courtesy of Samir Rehem and Don Mancini