How ‘The Big Door Prize’ Pushed Past Its Source Material, Packed More ‘Compassionate Comedy’ in Season 2

When it came to developing “The Big Door Prize” Season 2, showrunner David West Read was faced with an increasingly common headache. How do you continue a show that’s gone past the narrative thread of its source material?

“The book [by M.O. Walsh] doesn’t go beyond the machine generating cards. Our challenge was to make sure that the second season felt like an escalation and an evolution of that,” Read told TheWrap.

The team’s solution was to deepen the mystery around the seemingly all-knowing Morpho machine. Last season, the small town of Deerfield was thrown into havoc when a machine appeared out of nowhere and dispensed cards to the citizens, claiming to reveal each of their predesigned “Life Potential.” This season, “The Big Door Prize” takes its existential mystery a step further as the Morpho machine stops producing cards and starts producing visions. Depicted in 8-bit clips that can only be seen by the person that inspired them, these “more complicated and complex” visuals test the citizens of Deerfield in ways they never before imagined.

“They’re offering more to the characters, but they’re also more vague,” Read said. “All of the visions resonate with these characters on such a deep personal level that you get to see people trying things they never would have tried before. I love comedy that comes from people taking risks, stepping outside their comfort zone and reaching for something they might not quite be able to grasp.”

Though his Apple TV+ original has been called a “kind comedy,” Read prefers the term “compassionate comedy.”

“When you see the other people in your town having those same fears and anxieties that you have, there’s an empathy that develops. This show is very much about compassion and empathy. But it still is able to be really silly and fun in the process,” Read said.

One of the characters who will be tested the most this season is Chris O’Dowd’s Dusty. In Season 1, the actor described the loving father, husband and teacher as “team player” and a “stalwart of the community.” But after receiving a card and a vision that causes him to question his relationship with his longtime sweetheart Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), his happy life is thrown into chaos.

“Suddenly, a different option or a different road is thrust in front of him. It is very, essentially, selfish to go, ‘Do I go down this other path, which is really purely about my own self happiness?'” O’Dowd said. Though this path is a complicated one for Dusty, the actor also argued that sometimes making the more selfish decision is necessary.

“Otherwise, you will always just be a people pleaser,” O’Dowd said. “It’s interesting to watch him do it, for sure.”

The Big Door Prize
Josh Segarra in “The Big Door Prize” (Photo Credit: Apple TV+)

Season 2 may center around a version of Dusty who puts himself first, but the opposite is true for Josh Segarra’s character, Giorgio. A restaurant owner who’s stuck in his glory days as a pro athlete, most of Season 1 followed as Giorgio peacocked around town and tried to steal Dusty’s wife. But following his romance with Nat (Mary Holland), which emerged in the final moments of Season 1, he spends much of this season learning to serve others rather than himself.

“He just wanted somebody to tell him he was doing OK, somebody to tell him that he was worth it,” Segarra told TheWrap. “In the second season, he has Nat and finally has somebody to tell him that he’s enough.”

As a result, Season 2 casts Segarra in a role he’s perfected from his time on “The Other Two” to his current role on “Abbott Elementary”: The hype man.

“I think that’s Giorgio’s true potential. It takes him back to his playing days when he was at his best,” Segarra said.

“I’m very honored to play roles like that. It’s my jam,” the actor added. “It is so much fun to go to work, dab, cheer somebody on and tell somebody that they’re doing great. And it affects me. I get home at the end of those days, and I’m like, ‘Today was awesome.'”

It’s difficult to work on a show about fate and paths not taken without reflecting on reality. At least in the case of Segarra, the show has helped him realize how happy he is in his own life.

“I’ve spent many, many hours sitting in my house after, just wondering what would this be if I got a card? I wonder if it would tell me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” Segarra said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that, because I know I’m a very happy guy and I love my life, I think all is good.”

For O’Dowd, the series has made him rethink how something like the Morpho machine would play out on a grander scale. A huge part of “Big Door Prize” has to do with people’s reactions to their life potentials. After someone receives their card, it isn’t long before they leap into huge life changes like divorce, buying a motorcycle or changing careers. O’Dowd likened the eagerness with which these characters uproot their lives for a card to how people react to ancestry websites now.

“There was a story about people who are delving into their gene pools and whatnot and discovering all of these things that they may have wanted to leave behind. But it’s interesting that people are choosing to do that. It somehow, to me, makes more relatable what the people of Deerfield are doing,” O’Dowd said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, let’s see how could how this could mess me up.'”

“When I watch those things happen, I’m like, ‘Maybe people would do this crap. Maybe they would actually follow their dreams based on what they’ve just seen on a card,'” O’Dowd concluded.

The first three episodes of “Big Door Prize” Season 2 premiere Wednesday, April 24 on Apple TV+. New episodes premiere weekly.

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