Vera Miao’s original vision for “Two Sentence Horror Stories,” the episodic anthology series which recently aired its second season on The CW, was an updated take on “The Twilight Zone” that engages with complex sociopolitical issues in the same way Rod Sterling’s iconic horror series did in the ’60s but with more diverse characters and storytellers at its center.
“I didn’t go in and pitch a diverse show, and I don’t think of myself as a diverse person,” Miao said during a panel for the show on Thursday, part of TheWrap’s Emmys Screening Series. “[But] I think that there is real untapped potential frankly in the horror genre because literally just looking at what are the voices and the points of view and the perspective, I think that opens up a landscape of stories.”
Recent episodes include “Ibeji,” which draws on the mythology of the Yoruba religion to tell a story about racism in medicine, and “Elliot,” which centers on a transgender middle schooler who is gifted the magical ability to get back at his enemies.
Miao was joined on the panel by Diana Mogollón SVP and general manager of Stage 13, which produces the show, “Elliot” director Chase Joynt, and writers Melody Cooper and Stephanie Adams-Santos.
“It was critical to me that we weren’t doing race-blind storytelling. I don’t even really know what that is,” Miao said. “It was really about being really specific about who the characters are. What is their life like? What is the context that they live in, and therefore what are the fears and the pressures?”
“It was wonderful to walk into a room that had white, LGBTQ+, Latina, Black, Asian writers. It was a relatively small room and we all worked so well together,” Cooper said. “On this show, even though we all wrote about characters that we were familiar with, we all had input … We all were working together to create this broader way of looking at horror.”
But at least one hot-button issue connected to race has repeatedly fallen victim to the “process” of making television, Miao said.
“In multiple seasons, we’ve tried to engage actively with the issue of police brutality, particularly from an anti-Black perspective,” she said. “I’ll be honest, I think that those have been hard topics as it goes through the typical process that folks are familiar with when it comes to making television.”
One of the benefits of an episodic anthology format, however, is that episodes or subjects that don’t make the cut for one season can always be revisited down the line.
“Those attempts happened pre-this moment that we’re in now and the rise of Black Lives Matter,” Miao said. “I wonder now if those conversations, if they would have been received differently. And if those stories would have been understood and taken in with a different frame.”