Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s hit Image comic book, Paper Girls, has officially become an Amazon Prime Video TV show with Mac, Erin, KJ, and Tiffany completely taking over San Diego Comic Con. And I mean literally taking over! The girls’ faces are even plastered on the trolley that strolls in front of the convention center. And Popverse is here to give you the lowdown about the show from its main source - the cast and crew.
Living in the world of reboots, sequels, and all love for nostalgia. The thesis statement for the Paper Girls’ comic was to deconstruct our love for nostalgia with a story about a group of girls from the '80s who are forced to grow up.
Riley Lai Nelet, who plays Erin says, “These days the '80s are very exaggerated - cool music, cool clothes, and crazy hair. Paper Girls doesn’t feel as romanticized with the homophobia, sexism, and racism being showcased. It’s interesting to see how that affects our characters as young women.”
Co-creator Brian K. Vaughan piggybacks and says it was very important to them that they didn’t do a nostalgic show. As he explains, there’s a lot of fiction about the '80s in particular that has these rose-colored glasses using the shows and movies we loved at the time as the main appeal, but if you grew up in that era you knew it was a dark and scary place. Paper Girls is a show that takes a hard look at the '80s.
During our chat with the cast we had a chance to dig deeper into the characters. Mac in the comic books and television show has a very abrasive personality at the beginning of her story. Sofia Rosinsky, who portrays the character, states that there’s a reason that Mac has a hard shell and by the end of the season the girls will have a very good influence on her. She doesn’t need that shell as much. There’s more to her than just a foul mouth kid. Fun fact: Camryn Jones, who plays Tiffany, states that Sofia as a person actually doesn’t curse at all.
Switching gears, one of KJ’s major arcs in the comics is her queer self discovery, which will also be a big part of her TV story. Fina Strazza says, “We know how important KJ’s arc is for a lot of people. We definitely tackle it with a lot of empathy and care, and try to reflect a truthful experience. Her discovery is very internal. It first comes as a bit of a shock for her and then she really comes into herself. She finds a new sense of confidence when she finds out who she truly is.” Strazza wanted to make sure she portrayed this through the lens of the '80s where queerness wasn’t as accepted.
KJ is not only a character that represents queerness, but her jewish background is also a big part of her journey, which we will see in the show as well. You will hear about the pressure KJ’s mother puts onto her about having a good bat mitzvah. She feels a weight from her family to be on the “right” path.
It’s always nice to hear the cast embracing the comic books. All four of the girls had read the source material as they crafted their versions of the Paper Girls. Rosinsky says, “I constructed my own interpretation of Mac following the [TV] script with infusions of Mac in the comic book series, who I love.” Jones says she referenced the comics a lot because there was no better place to go than the source. She actually kept the comic books in her trailer on set.
Even though the show will be taking a lot of beats from the source material, the TV series has also introduced a new character with Nate Corddry’s Larry. Unlike the girls, Corddry didn’t use the source material to inform his character. He wants to be the POV for the audience members who have never read the comic books. Having a character not officially in the comics made the role a little easier. There was less pressure.
When speaking on the adaptation of the book, Paper Girls executive producer Christopher C. Rogers said, “The comic was our true north. Anytime we were lost we tried to read sections of it almost like Bible study, but at the same time we think people are coming to this to have a larger experience.”
The crew on the show wants it to feel like the spirit of what the original comics creative team did and come back to the main beats of the series. Vaughan and Chiang worked on the Paper Girls comic in a vacuum, but now with the show Rogers gets to share a writer’s room full of women from different walks of life to express their experiences.
Rogers also touched upon the process of adapting the visual aspect of the comic book. They wanted to capture the feeling of the source material, which is why Cliff Chiang was such a big part of the production design on the show. Rogers teases that in the second season they’ll be using him even more. Chiang not only gave his designs from the comics, but also the references he based those designs from. This really helped the show to capture his vision.
Chiang adds, “One of the benefits of comics is that we can super stylize things. One of the benefits of TV is that you can make it feel believable.” This gives an extra dimension to the story.
As we talked to the creators, we had a burning question: will the show go past the source material? Rogers said they can have fun with it because unlike the comics the actresses that play the girls are aging. But he also doesn’t want to get too far from the road map of the comic books. They’re open to go past the comic story, but Rogers believes the book just has such a satisfying ending.
Vaughan wants the show to go past the source material. He doesn’t want to do a beat-by-beat adaptation. The “karaoke” version is boring. The idea of doing a show where you get to see these young girls actually grow up is the justification for doing an adaptation. He wants it to go far beyond the comic by still being true to the heart of the story.
As we started to wrap up with the cast and crew, the girls stated in one word where their characters end up in the season finale. For Tiffany it’s “companionship”. She starts out as lonely because she’s an only child, but then she creates a real bond with the other girls by the end of the season.
For Mac the word is “courage” because Mac likes getting herself into dangerous situations, but by the end she has the courage to approach things differently and get through hard moments. KJ at the end will be “dumbfounded”, and Lai Nelet feels like that’s actually a good word for everyone by the end of the season.
When teasing about the possible stories for the already-greenlight second season of Paper Girls, Rogers states that they wanted to start small in terrestrial environments you recognize for their freshman season and then have the world get progressively bigger as the show continues.
Paper Girls premieres on July 29 on Amazon Prime Video.