In addition to providing enough nightmare fuel to last a lifetime, one of the greatest things about SYFY's anthology series Channel Zero is the opportunity it gives to exciting, emerging filmmakers. Each season has been entirely directed by a bold, fresh voice behind the camera, and this season is certainly no exception. Melting together about seven different subgenres into one delicious, psychedelic serving of horror, director Arkasha Stevenson's Butcher's Block is easily one of my favorite seasons of television (for any genre), and with the finale airing tonight on SYFY, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Stevenson about working with her amazing cast (including Krisha Fairchild and Rutger Hauer), collaborating creatively with showrunner Nick Antosca, and bringing a demented fairy tale to life on screen.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Arkasha, and congratulations on Butcher's Block. This is the most excited I've been about a TV series in a long time. Every season of Channel Zero, showrunner Nick Antosca gives an emerging filmmaker, someone who's really up and coming, the opportunity to direct an entire season. How did your opportunity come about to work on Channel Zero and really showcase your talents with Butcher's Block?

Arkasha Stevenson: It really came out of the blue, and I joke that it was kind of like a Cinderella situation, because I had made a short film, a 30-minute film called Pineapple, that showed at Sundance, and Nick saw it and really liked it. There is a pig head in the film, and the back of the pig head has all these really intricate, different layers of meat. It's one of my favorite shots to get to see, with all the different layers and everything.

Nick really appreciated it as well, and so we were talking about it over lunch, and he was telling me about the season, and how it's a 45-day shoot and a 100-person crew in Winnipeg, Canada. The most I had ever done was about six days, maybe, and I think the largest crew I've worked with is about 30 people. He was like, "Would you be interested in season 3?" I just got so nervous that I was like, "Oh, no," or just, "Not me. Thank you, though."

We differ on our memories about this, but Nick has this very soothing, calming presence. He just kind of looked at me, and he was like, "No, you're going to do season 3. You're going to be fine." I was like, "Oh, okay." I joke that I ran home and Googled my name and Arkasha Stevenson and Pineapple, to see, "Is there another girl he meant to meet with? Is there another Arkasha Stevenson in LA?" It was very lucky and really magical.

Had you seen Channel Zero prior to coming on board, or were you totally new to the world that Nick and the rest of the creative team brought to life with the first two seasons?

Arkasha Stevenson: I'd read a lot about it, and I hadn't seen the first season yet. I actually hadn't considered directing horror until Channel Zero. Then, when I met with Nick and when I watched the first season, I was like, "Oh, this is different. This is like a malaria fever dream."

There have been so many moments in this season that have been like a fever dream, especially the ones with the schizophrenia monster that haunts Alice [Olivia Luccardi]. When I talked with Nick recently, he mentioned that you had the idea to put a version of Alice's head on the brain centipede [also known as Father Time], which I thought was a really cool way to make it more personal. Did you get chances like that to make little changes and suggestions on the fly and add your own touch to the show when you were filming?

Arkasha Stevenson: Yeah, Nick is such a generous collaborator that he really wants you to bring your ideas to it, and he's very supportive of that. He was always asking my opinion about things, and it was a very inclusive process. I'm told it's a very rare process in television. I feel like with Nick, there are similar rivers in our brains, and so it felt very natural to bring ideas to him. You almost have to function in a dream logic when you're in the Channel Zero universe. It was really fun to go to Nick and be like, "What do you think about this?" And then see his response.

It is fun because it's interesting seeing what you can get away with. It does feel like you're pushing all these boundaries, so it felt kind of naughty. Nick, for Father Time, had this idea, and was like, "Let's get somebody really tall and really thin and have a giant head, and watch that person stand up out of a bright yellow canola field." I couldn't stop giggling, because I was thinking, "I can't believe we're doing this."

There are so many layers to the horror in this season. It's very cosmic at some points, and then it's really family-based at other points. It's so great that for your first full-on horror project, you got to dabble in what feels like seven different subgenres.

Arkasha Stevenson: Yeah, that's just very lucky. When people ask me what the tone of the show is, I have no idea what to say. I just say that it's like if you watch A Nightmare on Elm Street / Twin Peaks, but you also had a really bad fever, because it has its own logic and it follows its own rules. That was really nice for me, because I'm a little bit scatterbrained and all over the place, so it felt like a very natural flow.

Yeah, that's a good description. It's like if David Lynch had a nightmare. And not only do you get this big sandbox to play in, but you have Rutger Hauer and Krisha Fairchild in the cast this season.

Arkasha Stevenson: It was so intimidating to work with Rutger and Krisha. It was just like, "Okay, you're going from six days to 45, and you're going from a 30-person crew to a 100-person crew. Oh, and by the way, we're going to throw Rutger Hauer in there."

Yeah, no pressure.

Arkasha Stevenson: I don't think I would have been able to do that without Krisha and Rutger. They're such beautiful creatures. Nick had me watch Krisha, and the movie is about an hour and a half, but it took me probably four hours to watch, because I just kept sitting there. I watched it with a creative producer who is on Channel Zero, Tim Smith. We just kept pausing it and looking at each other and being like, "Oh, my God." And then to see her in person was just so incredible because she is this bomb of energy, and she makes everybody want to be her friend, and she just has this very warm and healing vibe.

When she showed up, I was really nervous and it was my first couple of weeks in Canada. She just grabbed me and said, "You're amazing, you're going to be able to do this. If you need anything, I'm here for you." I was like, "Oh, my God. Aren't I supposed to be saying that to you?" She was just incredible, and she became the mama bear. She was just always on set, and it was calming and loving.

Then, Rutger, I grew up watching the original Blade Runner, that was a movie my dad and I bonded over. When I told my dad that I was going to be working with Rutger Hauer, he wouldn't speak to me for about a week unless it was in Blade Runner quotes. I couldn't have a normal conversation with my dad, he just kept quoting Rutger Hauer.

I was talking to Rutger on Skype before he came out to Canada, and I was beyond nervous. I think my hair was falling out I was so nervous. He has these eyes that just stare through the Skype camera and into your soul—it's really intimidating and wonderful. I said, "Mr. Hauer, I'm such a huge fan of yours," and he was like, "Yes, but you're going to have to get over that if we want to do some real work together." I was like, "Yes. Yes, I will. Okay. Here we go."

He is constantly thinking and constantly creative. He doesn't turn on the creativity, he just is a creative being. He's just constantly thinking about new ideas and taking concepts deeper. There are so many shots in Channel Zero that he conceived of, and there are so many lines that he conceived of. One of my favorite shots is at the top of episode five, when Alice is sleeping in bed and she has this long nightgown, and Smart Mouth is hovered over her, watching her sleep—that was Rutger's idea. It's based off of the [Henry Fuseli] painting The Nightmare, and he brought that to me and Nick, and he was like, "This is it. We need to shoot this." He was wonderfully intuitive, too. Anytime you felt stressed on set, he'd come over to you and just hug you really tight and then let you go, and that's all you needed. One day he brought a didgeridoo player, and he was like, "I just want you to hear this. It makes me think of this scene." He was constantly giving, it was amazing.

That is amazing. Also, I think Krisha and Brandon Scott should have their own spinoff show, because it's been so fun to watch those two together. It's been a blast to see them go off and have their own bloody adventures.

Arkasha Stevenson: They were a trip. They got on so well. It's so funny thinking about the relationships that formed on set. Alice and Smart Mouth became really good friends, and they hung out a lot with Meat Servant. Krisha and Brandon were friends, and then Brandon and Robert Peach ended up being really good friends. It was just so funny watching this unfold on set. You almost want to make a show about the making of the show.

Yeah, that would be a good special feature. Now that we're coming to the end of Channel Zero: Butcher's Block, do you know what type of project you want to do next behind the camera?

Arkasha Stevenson: Well, there are two possible projects I may be working on, but they're both horror, actually.

Oh, sweet. I was crossing my fingers, to be honest. I really want you to do horror again.

Arkasha Stevenson: Thank you. Yeah, it ended up being a really good fit for me. Channel Zero was a very interesting mix of surrealism and social realism that gave birth to this horrific, beautiful monster, and so I'm really interested in pursuing that train of thought.

Photo credit: Above photo from Nick Antosca's official Twitter page.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.