Nickelodeon’s ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ Creators on the Balance Between Scary and Kid-Friendly (Video)

“For me, it was important that the show is OK for the nine-to-12 year range, and that the adults who grew up with the original still enjoy it,” executive producer Matt Kaplan tells TheWrap

Last Updated: January 7, 2020 @ 8:06 AM

A whole new generation of kids are currently being scared by “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as Nickelodeon’s reboot series airs its third and final terrifying episode on Friday, Oct. 25.

Following in the footsteps of the original ’90s cult series, the 2019 iteration of the horror anthology revolves around a group of young teens dubbed the Midnight Society who tell scary stories around a campfire.

But when new member, Rachel, recounts a story about the Carnival of Doom and Mr. Tophat, the group all wake up the next day to discover that the Carnival of Doom has come to life.

TheWrap recently caught up with series stars Sam Ashe Arnold, Miya Cech, Jeremy Ray Taylor and Lyliana Wray, along with creator/executive producer BenDavid Grabinski and executive producer Matt Kaplan at CREEP in downtown Los Angeles to find out how they found the balance of family-friendly frights.

‘”Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ was my favorite show as a kid. It is what turned me on to horror in general, just the idea of the campfire setting with the kids telling stories felt really authentic and genuine,” Grabinski told TheWrap.

“Watching something scary together is one of the last group experiences we have where you can feel really feel a communal energy,” he said, but “for a while, I don’t think people were making horror content that felt authentic to kids,” Grabinski explained.

Kaplan also grew up devouring horror stories. “My favorite show as a kid was ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ … it was very scary but safely so at that age. When you were 12, it was the scariest thing that ever existed, but when you’re an adult it’s a little different.” Working on the reboot, “I felt like I got to tap into all my nostalgia for the show but also make it new and modern,” he added.

With children today being bombarded by adult content on TV, streaming services and over the internet, parents naturally worry about what is suitable for young viewers.

“For me, it was important that the show is OK for the nine-to-12 year range, and that the adults who grew up with the original still enjoy it,” Kaplan said. “So I tried to remember what scared me at that age, I also have a feeling that as a kid, a happy ending is required. The older you get, I think you can deal better with darker turns. As a kid, you want something that is scary but that the good guys win and everything is OK as it is a little less traumatizing. Whereas the stuff I enjoy as an adult may have the darkest ending imaginable,” he added.

“I think it would be a great thing for parents to watch with their kids. Most kids will be OK but everyone has a different line and it is always subjective,” Kaplan advised.

Series star and “It” alum Taylor said the reboot achieves “an amazing balance between scary stories and showing the chemistry between all the kids — keeping a good balance of the scary while also making a heartwarming story.”

The new “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is produced by ACE Entertainment (“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “The Perfect Date”) with ACE founder Kaplan and Spencer Berman serving as executive producers.

The series is written by Grabinski (“Skiptrace”) and directed by Dean Israelite (“Power Rangers” movie, “Project Almanac”), both of whom will also executive produce. Created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel, Nickelodeon’s original “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” series ran from 1992-1996 and 1999-2000.

Watch the video by ROSSI BROS MEDIA above to find out what the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” cast is afraid of in real life, and catch the finale on Friday, Oct. 25 on Nickelodeon at 7 p.m. (ET/PT).

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