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‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ Revival Team on Living Up to the Series’ Legacy

The 2019 revival of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” centers around the Carnival of Doom, a place that star Jeremy Ray Taylor (“It Chapter Two”) describes as “beautiful on the outside, but…in the middle of it, there are definitely dark secrets.

Variety caught up with the young star during a carnival-themed celebration at Row DTLA and while the outside of the event was serene, the inside was dark and eerie. The entrance was lit just enough for the revival’s cast — Miya Cech, Lyliana Wray, Sam Ashe Arnold and Taylor — to pose for photos in front of the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” poster before heading deeper into the party where demented clowns roamed, inviting guests to follow them through the dark. Once inside, guests enjoyed popcorn and chili dogs and there was even a candy buffet holding all the ingredients to make personalized, chocolate-covered apples.

But the focus of the celebration wasn’t just on creating a creepy carnival vibe, but also paying homage to the original series that inspired the new Nickelodeon show.

“This was my favorite show as a kid,” executive producer Matthew Kaplan said. “When we were kids, [these] were shows that didn’t speak down to us–Nick at Night and TGIF–‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ in general was one of those shows that felt authentic at that time. I think now, luckily, people are starting to make content like that again.”

The first rendition of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” had a successful run, airing seven seasons between 1990 and 2000, and featuring future film and television stars like Elisha Cuthbert and Ryan Gosling in guest starring roles. Now Kaplan’s Ace Entertainment’s teamed with the limited series’ writer and producer BenDavid Grabinski and director Dean Isrealite to relaunch the YA horror franchise. Though the new series was originally conceived as a film, Kaplan explained that the team ultimately decided to release a mini-series first because “it felt more authentic to the core audience.” The film is still in development. 

“As you saw Gosling come off ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ — we’re trying to do the same thing,” Kaplan explained. “Create shows so that kids have the chance to really show their abilities and become stars of today.” 

Like the original scary series, the 2019 revival still centers around the “Midnight Society,” but the creative team focused on making the story current, with additions like having 12-year-old Akiko (Cech) be an iPhone filmmaker. Though the young actors aren’t old enough to have seen the original when it aired, they are completely aware of the legacy they’ve stepped into after watching clips of it on set.

“It was very cool to watch it… because it looks retro-y, but it’s also very scary. But I feel like this one is a little bit more scary, just a tiny bit,” Cech recalled, admitting that there is pressure to live up to the original show.

“It’s definitely a little intimidating because there is such a huge fan base and such a huge following and they’re loyal fans out there as well,” Wray added. “I think there’s some people already that are very quick to judge and I think it’s just going into it with an open mind because we’ve all worked so hard.”

“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” debuts Oct. 11 on Nickelodeon.

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