'Scream VI' Writers, Producer Discuss 'Dangerous' New York Ghostface, Bringing Back Hayden Panettiere's Kirby Reed (Exclusive)

Scream VI premiered earlier this year, just one year after Scream 5, and has already become one of the biggest movies of the iconic horror franchise. Recently, PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with the film writers, James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, as well as producer William Sherak. During our conversation, the trio offered some insight into the "dangerous" evolution of Ghostface, when they decided on New York City for the film's setting, and exactly when they knew they wanted to bring back Hayden Panettiere as Scream 4 survivor Kirby Reed. 

In Scream 5 (2022), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) is stalked and attacked by Ghostface in Woodsboro, the town where the terror was born. Now, in Scream VI, Tara and her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) find themselves facing off with the masked killer once again, but this time he's using all of New York City to his advantage. The film also brings back Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding as twin brother and sister Mindy and Chad Meeks-Martin. Scroll down to read our interview with Vanderbilt, Busick, and Sherak, but please note: There are potential Scream VI spoilers.

PopCulture.com: My main question is for Guy and James: At what point did you decide that the story was going to go out of Woodsboro? Now, had you made that decision prior to the green light, did you know in [Scream 5] you were going to do that? Where did you know this is what you wanted to do?

Guy Busick: I think we had talked about it shortly after five was wrapped and yeah, Gary Barber of Spyglass had made a deal with us to write [Scream VI] because he was very happy with what he'd seen on [Scream 5]. And I, but I think even before the deal we were just sort of spitballing and we never want to get ahead of ourselves. We never talk about the next one when we're working on the current one, we just don't we're very superstitious that way. We don't want to jinx ourselves and be like, yeah, let's plan like five movies and then the first one bombs and you don't get to do it and then everyone's sad. So we were like, let's wait to see how this does before we get too ahead of ourselves. But we were writing it before five had come out or at least talking about it.

I think that was pretty early and we were just, what hasn't been done in this franchise? What would get us excited as fans and New York City offered a lot of different kinds of set pieces than we'd ever seen before. And we've talked about things like since spoilers are allowed, the subway sequence, the ladder sequence, verticality in heights, the Bodega, Central Park, things like that. And we just got really excited as fans and it was also a big risk and it's like this is going to be tricky to pull off and that's exciting. We want to challenge ourselves as writers and as fans to come up with something that's a little bit, like, not scary, but new and fresh, and different, and a little dangerous.

PopCulture.com: What were the conversations between the two of you regarding how Ghostface would evolve as a character going into this movie? Because he is very different. He is a lot more dangerous. So I was just curious what those conversations were like going into it.

James Vanderbilt: We really liked the idea that he was sort of more brutal, but also just sort of more relentless. When we love this guy sort of says, we love falling down, slip and fall Ghostface. That's great and we love it. But it felt like for this one we were really interested in the idea that most horror movies are or slasher movies are sort of based on the person you are alone with the killer and you have to get to safety, you have to get to people, you have to get to a populated area and then you'll be okay. 

We loved the idea that that is not the case in this movie at all. It is, you run into a populated area, you're going to get more people killed. You are not safe in a crowded subway car. You are not, so inverting that was really exciting to us and we had to have a Ghostface that kind of leaned into that and wasn't afraid of those, wasn't afraid to break those barriers, and those taboos, and make him unstoppable, give him a shotgun. See what could go wrong.

Busick: The location kind of necessitated a more brutal Ghostface, right? Because it's such a densely populated area and you have things like a packed subway car or a public bodega and you know, got to keep Ghostface scary. So it's like, no, I guess he's going to come into the bodega. I guess he's going to have that shotgun and then we just really had fun and it's like this guy's like the Terminator. We haven't seen that before in this franchise so it was really fun to play with.

PopCulture.com: William, for you when I was talking to [Scream VI directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin], they mentioned that one of the things is they get the scripts without knowing anything. They read them so that they get kind of the same audience surprise ahead of time. So I was wondering, for you as a producer, how is that process for you? Are you the same way?

William Sherak: I get the gut-check pitch. So I don't get that first read without knowing what I'm going to be eating. And so I don't get that experience. I get to be the kind of glue conduit to make sure the pieces of all of it are possible, cast, that whole thing. I have the benefit of being at 35,000 feet throughout the entire process so that the machine can deliver what they put on the page, what Matt and Tyler want to do on set, what our casts will play around with and then. So for me, it's not that I don't get that read, which would be a ton of fun...

Vanderbilt: Or terrifying because... part of it too is with, I mean with this, when we pitched William, it was also we want to do New York. There are huge, that's a very different production plan than Scream V was. So he's got to be thinking about where are we shooting... Is it going to be all these things? But it's saying like, hey, we want to bring back Hayden Panettiere. He's got to figure out the best way...

Sherak: There's a lot of work in those ideas. It doesn't just happen. And I'm also fortunate that this is a group that's done a lot of stuff together. So I also know, we all know kind of each other's way of working and doing things. So I have some cheat codes that you don't normally have.

PopCulture.com: Since you mentioned Hayden, I would love to ask, at what point in crafting the story for VI, did you decide that you wanted to bring Kirby back? Did you always know or was it something that emerged over the course of writing the script?

Busick: We actually wanted to bring her back in five and William has a story about how he Zoomed with her when we were doing five and how, just to kind of see, would she be, because she had taken a break from acting, would you want to come back and play this character again? And she was really excited to even think about it. 

So [Scream 5] just had too many moving parts and we would've shortchanged the character and that wouldn't have been cool to the fans and it wouldn't have been cool to us as fans of the character and fans of Hayden. So we were like, no, no, no. It's just this movie is packed to the gills with characters and storylines and it's just there's no way to organically make it work. And then so she was top of the list for six and it was like, how do we bring back Kirby in a way that makes sense?

And we didn't have it right away. We were just like, 'We love Hayden and we love Kirby, but how would she come back into the story in a believable way that would be satisfying?' And I credit Jamie, he came up with the FBI thing, and as soon as he said it made perfect sense because A: it works perfectly in the story that we had constructed. But, the second thing was in [Scream 4], the experience she had could have legitimately sent that character down that path as a response to what happened to her she wants to know. 

We came up with the line, "I was tired of being afraid of monsters. I wanted the monsters to be afraid of me." Like it makes sense, and I got very, very excited. And then the fact that we got Hayden to come back was just, it was a dream come true because we love her and we love Kirby.

Scream VI is now available to own on Digital. It will arrive in a 4K Ultra HD SteelBook, on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on July 11th. The film is also available on Paramount+ for subscribers to stream anytime. Anyone who may be interested in trying out a free trial of the streaming service can do so by clicking here. [Editors note: this interview has been slightly edited for time and clarity.]