Warning: Spoilers for “The Afterparty” Season 1 finale follow below.
The season-long murder mystery of “The Afterparty” came to an end on Episode 8 of the Apple TV+ series, when Tiffany Haddish’s Detective Danner discovered the true killer of Dave Franco’s Xavier. After a bit of a song and dance with the various suspects, Danner explained how, when and why Yasper (Ben Schwartz) killed Xavier, only for Yasper to then offer his confession.
Yasper, it turns out, took a turn when Xavier refused to “bless his track” at the reunion, and at the afterparty snuck upstairs and pushed Xavier off his balcony.
TheWrap recently spoke with Yasper actor Ben Schwartz and executive producers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord about the big reveal to find out exactly how “The Afterparty” finale went down, how long Schwartz had to keep his secret, and the hints offered throughout the season that Yasper is the “dunit” in “whodunit.”
Miller – who created the series, served as showrunner and directed every episode – figured out who the killer was when he was first putting the puzzle of the story together. “Usually I think when you’re making a murder mystery, you want to figure out who done it from the beginning and then figure out how to cover up,” Miller told TheWrap. “Who did it, why and how, and then figure out a way to sort of mask all that and make it invisible, so [I knew who it was] from the very, very beginning.”
While “The Afterparty” started as a feature film idea before it was expanded into a TV series format, Miller said the killer’s identity was always the same. And when he reached out to Schwartz to see if he’d want to be part of the show, he told the actor he’d be playing the killer up front. “I emailed him and the first thing I told him was the concept of the show, that his episode was a musical and that he was the killer and not to tell anybody. And he really didn’t. He didn’t tell his own girlfriend or his agent that he was the killer.”
Schwartz, who had been wanting to work with Lord and Miller (and who said teaming up with Miller was one of his “favorite experiences being directed”), was immediately in, and told TheWrap he was most excited about taking a stab at the big reveal scene. “I love the moments in movies when the killer exposes himself at the end,” said Schwartz. “I love that in a whodunit. I wanted a stab at it, and it felt great.”
The actor said he played the scene a few different ways, and the final result is a mishmash of his different performances. “Even when I admit it at the end, there’s takes where I cried, there’s takes where I got really angry,” Schwartz said. “Chris and I had so much fun with it. So he kind of melded them all together for this really fun kind of unhinged thing. I could not wait for that moment. I was so excited. You’re nervous because it’s a big moment, but also I was like, ‘I really want to do it well. I want to make him proud because I really love Chris as a person.’”
While “The Afterparty” is a comedy series, Yasper’s confession is also tragic. “There’s a great moment in the end when I’m doing it and I’m starting to cry and I’m like trying to snort back tears almost, and I look at Zoë Chao who is acting the scene as Zoe, and she’s looking at me and she has tears in her eyes because she’s looking at my character like, ‘Your life is over. You killed somebody. Your life is over.’ And it’s so sad,” Schwartz added. “Every time I did that monologue at the end, I looked at Zoë [Chao] to the right and it would make me get emotional because she’s crying at me.”
So did Yasper always harbor aspirations of murdering Xavier, or did he make the choice to kill his former bandmate in the heat of the moment? “I think for him this night was about getting his track blessed,” Schwartz explained. “I don’t think he went into it thinking he was going to kill him. I think the way he was treated throughout the entire night built up so much and he realized he just doesn’t have anything. He’s never going to reach his dreams, he’s just going to be this A/V guy and nobody respects him.”
This being a Lord and Miller project, nothing is an accident, and there were clues throughout the previous episodes that pointed to Yasper’s guilt – although Miller had to balance the evidence with obscuring the truth from the audience. “There’s a scene where Yasper is on Xavier’s phone turning off the security, deleting the security footage. That phone is a different phone from the phone than we’ve already seen,” Miller noted. “We don’t want to call attention to it, but we don’t want to not see it. So you have to have the right level of visibility of it, and then you don’t want to call attention to the fact that he is on his phone, so you need to make a joke out of it. Thankfully Phil pitched on the day on set the line, ‘Add me to the long list of people who have been abused by the police,’ so you think, ‘Oh that’s what that bit was about.’”
“It’s a joke that’s almost good enough to live on its own and be included for comedy reasons,” Lord replied with a chuckle. Miller added: “So you have to throw people off the scent by thinking, ‘Oh, the reason why this shot is in here is because it’s for a joke or for this or for that,’ and it’s hard. It’s really hard.”
There’s another moment where the dual phones are visible when Yasper is singing in the shower. “In my right pocket, Yasper’s phone was, and in the left pocket, Xavier’s phone is, for the whole show,” Schwartz revealed. “So if you ever see me put my left hand in my pocket, I’m going for Xavier’s phone. So there’s one or two times where you see me put my left hand in and quickly take it out and go to my right hand, which is such a small thing. But in the shower scene, if you freeze it, there’s five frames where you can see both phones.”
There’s also a key moment early in the season where Yasper realizes there’s a camera in Xavier’s bedroom in the ‘Private Eyes’ movie poster, and Schwartz had to make his reaction work two different ways. “That moment, if you re-watch it now, is my character realizing, ‘Oh my God, there’s video of me killing somebody,’” the actor explained. “I have two reactions that I try to meld into one, you’ll see. And I try to make Aniq not see what I just did.”
When it came to revealing the killer’s identity, Schwartz delighted in finally being able to tell his castmates his secret during the finale read-through on Zoom. “It was amazing because you’re in like a camp of people. It’s like sleepaway camp and I had a big secret.”
Looking back on the experience, what was Schwartz’s favorite episode to film? He had two: “I loved playing Sam Richardson’s best friend in a romantic comedy because I’m a fan of Duckie and romantic comedy best friends,” the actor replied. “But Walt’s episode is so funny, all of us get to be young.”
And for Miller as a director, which genre was he most excited to tackle and which ended up being more challenging than he thought? “I was most excited about the musical one because I knew it was going to be energetic and fun and taking a lot of preparation, but it seemed it was going to be a joyful challenge,” Miller said. “I think the hardest one is the thriller one, and trying to subtract, because a lot of the musical is big moving cameras and big choreography and trying to make sure you’re getting the whole piece, but with the thriller one you’re trying to remove lights, remove too much extraneous information and keep it simple and clean and then to try and do the jump scares and all that type of stuff is a thing that Phil and I’ve been fans of for a long time, but have never tried to manufacture that stuff ourselves. It’s a whole complicated thing to do in a way that works.”
Lord added, “And you have to be really aware of the audience’s awareness. So much of it is about being in control without giving away that you’re in control.” Although Miller also noted that the finale was particularly challenging given that it’s 15 people in a room talking.
Regardless, they got through it and Detective Danner will live to solve another case. “The Afterparty” has already been renewed for a second season, and while Miller and Lord were mum on details, Miller did offer that they’ve “already done a lot of work on” Season 2. Haddish will return to solve a new case, but it remains to be seen if any of the other cast members will come back.
Perhaps Walt will stumble his way onto another murder scene, dying to be seen.
All episodes of “The Afterparty” are now streaming on Apple TV+.