The Beat got to have an exclusive one-on-one with Kelsey Stephanides, the creator of SYFY’s upcoming animated comedy, Magical Girl Friendship Squad (or MGFS for short). Part of SYFY’s late-night animation block TZGZ, MGFS is an anime-inspired female-driven comedy about two women, Alex (Quinta Brunson, A Black Lady Sketch Show) and Daisy (Anna Akana, Jupiter’s Legacy), who meet Nut (Ana Gasteyer, Suburgatory), an otherworldly being that thrusts them into their world-saving destiny.
We chatted with Stephanides about her creative process in bringing this story to life, what we can expect during season one, and so much more!
On the creative process to bring MGFS to life and what other animated series inspired her and this show, Stephanides told us: “The idea came about in 2015 when there was not a lot of animated series created by or starring women. I grew up watching shows like The Simpsons and Futurama, and then as I got older more adult comedies. They always had a mostly male cast. I started to realize that I didn’t see myself reflected in the shows that I watched. Not just me, but this was a realization amongst a lot of my other friends watching these shows as well.”
“So, I started thinking about what a show with a mostly female cast would look like and going a step beyond that-avoiding just making a gender-bent version of an existing show. What if a show that this was inherently more feminine in design? That is what led me to think about Sailor Moon and this was also around the time it made a resurgence in pop culture. I started to think about creating an animated genre parody of this magical girl subgenre itself, and Sailor Moon was like the jumping-off point for this. Broad City was also another big inspiration because I watched that show and I had a moment where I thought: ‘Wow, TV can be like this. There is a place for me in TV if this show can be on, and people enjoy it.’ Other animated adult parodies like Rick & Morty and Archer were also used as a jumping point for creating a genre parody that encompassed tributes and some tropes as well.”
On the conceptualization of the storylines this season, Stephanides shared: “Something that came up very early on with our head writer were the themes of the show and how we would reflect those themes in our characters. It was very important for us to tell a story about what it’s like to gain and hold power as a woman today but without losing parts of yourself in the process. This magical girl subgenre is not about losing your femininity or yourself, but rather a lot of the transformation sequences are about becoming more feminine as you become more powerful, and we wanted to explore that with these characters.
“Along the way, there are also other more relatable things that we wanted to explore within our story arc. At the core, these are women in their mid-20s who unexpectedly gain superpowers but they’re still not responsible people at heart. So, how do they adjust to their powers? Does gaining this power and confidence lead them to be more responsible in not only fighting to save the universe but also in their real lives.
“I think we established a good setup of the characters when we made the origin series, and we wanted to preserve that. Alex and Daisy do not have their lives together, but they are very confident people usually. They are best friends who live together, so naturally, they are very open with each other. When Nut arrives, not only is she like a Fairy Godmother figure, but she also becomes like their third roommate. With being welcomed into the roommate circle comes conversations about food, finances, and more. So, we wanted to preserve a lot of the ideas of friendship, and the honesty that comes along with it, while also exploring what this new world does to them individually and also together.”
On what character she relates to the most, Stephanides said: “I think I relate the most to Alex, which is kind of funny because she’s not based off of myself or created from me in any way. Daisy is someone who is based on a lot of my friends at the time, and also friends I still have now. I took parts of them and put them into her personality, the way she acts and dresses. So, I think in creating a counterpart to Daisy, I sort of ended up reflecting myself because Alex and Daisy are sort of opposites that still get along and mesh well together. So, I think I just kind of created a dynamic I was familiar with. And then at some point, I realized that certain things Alex did or wore, I would too. So, accidentally it’s Alex.”
On the pitch that got the dynamic actresses to join the show, Stephanides shared: “Honestly, I think we just pitched them the project and sent them the scripts. They were pretty easy to get on board, which was awesome. Anna worked on the original one and was willing to come back. Quinta, just agreed to it, and I think or I hope that they connected with the material somehow, and that helped them sign-on. We have so many great, amazing cast members that I was honestly a little surprised, but they are all awesome, and they’ve been so great to work with.”
On what she hopes viewers take away from the show, Stephanides told us: “Yeah, well it is an animated adult comedy but I think we are trying to focus on a plot, and focus it around characters and tell an arc. We put a lot of time and thought into our design and I’m hoping that this will help expand the idea of what adult animation can be. Hopefully, both industry-wise and fanwise, this series can expand the types of new animated stories we expect to see and that can be told. In America specifically, it’s either kid’s shows or adult family sitcoms, and I think in the last few years we’re pushing past that a lot. So, I’m hoping to contribute to that push towards more variety in adult animation.
“The biggest takeaway I would love viewers to have is really around the themes and morals. Alex and Daisy are very relatable characters, and they achieve so much. This is partially because of the powers they get but also because of their bonds with each other, Nut, and the other characters in the show.
“We are saying that power comes through your relationships with other people and being emotionally vulnerable. I think that’s something that we don’t always see in more adult shows, as they tend to go a little darker and be a bit edgier, which is fine but I think we also need to see the other half of that. With Magical Girl Friendship Squad, we wanted to also show something positive in that we’re stronger when we’re more open and able to connect with people. Hopefully, that comes across as you watch the whole series.”
Magical Girl Friendship Squad premieres this Saturday, September 26th, at midnight Eastern/Pacific on Syfy.