Chucky's Creator Brings Queer Sensibility to Series

Saturday October 16, 2021
Originally published on October 13, 2021

Zackary Arthur and Chucky in "Chucky"
Zackary Arthur and Chucky in "Chucky"  (Source:Syfy)

Chucky's back, but this time with a difference.

He even gets a series named after him: "Chucky," the new television series based on the iconic horror movie killer doll that debuts on the Syfy Network on October 12.

Chucky has been in seven films since he made his debut in "Child's Play" in 1988 as a scary doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. Creator Don Mancini described Chucky in his original script as wearing red-buttoned overalls, red sneakers, and a striped sweater, and having red hair, blue eyes, and freckles, which is how designer Kevin Yagher created him.

Chucky is pretty much the same for the series, but his owner this time around is Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), a 14-year-old boy coming to terms with being gay, who buys the doll at a yard sale. Making Jake gay was one of the changes that Mancini, who is out, brought to the series.

He even goes so far as to suggest that Chucky is PFLAG dad. That occurs in the show's second episode, when Chucky reads one of Jake's diary entries and learns he has crush on a classmate, Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson). "That's when Chucky tells Jake about his own queer and gender-fluid child," writes the New York Times in an interview with Mancini. Glen or Glenda, Chucky's transgender child, was introduced in "Seed of Chucky" in 2004.

"You're cool with it?" Jake asks in "Chucky. "I'm not a monster, Jake," Chucky replies. (Actually, he is.)

Speaking to the Times, Mancini says that he knew that Jake's sexuality would upset some fans. "It would be, he said, as 'if Frankenstein came out as bi,' " the Times reported. One fan even issued him a death threat after learning he was gay. "But I'm in a position to do it, so why not?" he said. "The idea of causing some people's heads to explode was catnip to me."

Chucky and his creator Don Mancini  

Mancini has had his hand in the first six films in the series — he even considers "Chucky" a sequel to the last film he was involved in, "Cult of Chucky."

Making Jake gay was crucial in moving the franchise forward. "I love the character of Chucky, and I don't get tired of him," he said. "But in order to keep it alive this long, it can't just be about a killer doll."

It was the gay storyline that helped green light the series. "When he (Mancini) told us about centering this chapter of the story on a gay teen and how personal that was to him, we embraced the notion," Alex Sepiol, executive vice president for drama series at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming wrote in an email to the Times.

That's not to suggest the films have been without queer content. " 'Child's Play' may be the queerest of the big horror franchises," adds the Times. "A gay supporting character died a spectacular death — a horror badge of honor — in the fourth film of the series, 'Bride of Chucky' (1998), which also signaled a pivot to campy horror-comedy. 'Seed of Chucky' (2004) introduced Chucky and his bride, Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly), to their transgender child, who goes by Glen and Glenda (a shout-out to Ed Wood's B-movie 'Glen or Glenda'). Other gay characters appear in 'Curse of Chucky' (2013) and 'Cult of Chucky' (2017)."

But "Chucky," Mancini tells the Times, is "the most autobiographical" work of his career. "It's there in small details, like the poster of the cast of 'The Outsiders' that Jake has in his bedroom, the same one Mancini had as a kid," the Times notes. "(Unlike Jake, Mancini did not hang it next to a Pride flag.)"

The series brings back Brad Dourif, the original voice of Chucky; Alex Vincent, who reprises his role as Andy, Chucky's young owner in the first two films; and Jennifer Tilley, a good friend of Mancini, who portrayed Chucky's love interest Tiffany. She explained to the Times that the show will appeal to those who are "disenfranchised." "The show has really important lessons, but it's not like an 'After School Special,' " she told the Times. "In its humanity, it's going to show people how the world is and how to behave."

Watch the show's trailer: