Chris Miller and Phil Lord as well as Nicole Sullivan and Will Forte break down the animated series' return.
Two decades after Clone High ran for one season on MTV, the animated series from creators Bill Lawrence, Chris Miller and Phil Lord is back with all-new episodes on Max. Debuting on May 23, with the launch of the streaming platform formally known as HBO Max, the modern refresh follows various teenage genetic copies of famous historical figures as they navigate the ups and downs of high school.
Although controversy surrounding the depiction of a young version of Gandhi and low ratings resulted in Clone High getting pulled off the air during its initial run in 2003, it has since gained a cult following on the internet and picked up new fans with all 13 original episodes now streaming on both Max and Paramount+.
Miller and Lord even kept nostalgia for the series alive by including references to it in various projects, from The Lego Movie to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, much to the delight of longtime fans, who had hoped the series would be given new life.
"Our show was made with a lot of love," Lord tells ET. "And when you make something with that much care, that's written with such a unique voice, it has a way of sticking around."
Now, with most of the clones thawed out after being frozen in the season 1 finale, here's what to know about the adventures that await Abe (Will Forte), Cleo (Mitra Jouhari taking over for Christa Miller), JFK (Chris Miller) and Joan (Nicole Sullivan) as they return to high school 20 years later.
Heavily inspired by Dawson's Creek, which had just wrapped its six-season run in May 2003, the landscape of teen series has evolved in the 20 years since, with The CW a far cry from what it was before. And because of that, season 2 of Clone High had a lot more options to pull from.
"We talked a lot about Riverdale, which has a supernatural element. So there's, you know, some supernatural elements in this season," Miller says.
"There's all sorts of new shows and they were all discussed and there were all various different writers in the writers' room who were really obsessed with one thing or another," he continues. "They loved Friday Night Lights and there was 20 years of this stuff to choose from. So, it was a real treasure trove."
In addition to referencing TV, Clone High also has a nod to the MCU. "The room got excited about doing a sort of Marvel-like one," Miller says of a "homecoming episode that had a jewel that gave powers to someone."
Of course, following the first season, Lord and Miller have since joined the Marvel universe by writing and producing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which included a reference to the series with a billboard appearing in the background to promote the movie, Clone College, starring Abe and JFK.
And Clone High's connections to the Spider-Verse could continue into the next two films, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, with Miller explaining that Clone College was a "big hit" in Miles' universe. "So, they'd probably have Clone College 2 coming out right about now," Miller says, with Lord teasing that it's "at least in production."
That said, there's even a world where all these animated projects, including The Lego Movie, are connected. "Anything is possible in the multiverse," Lord says. "There's a world, and that's why there are more Spider-Verse movies. You can find a way to explore it."
New Genetic Copies
With Gandhi gone and the frozen clones re-entering high school, there are a number of new characters for Abe, Cleo, JFK and Joan to interact with. "There was a Gandhi-size hole to fill," Miller says. "And, you know, I think a lot of the different characters bring a different dynamic" to the series.
Among the newbies are Harriet (Ayo Edebiri), Frida (Vicci Martinez), Confucius (Kelvin Yu), Topher Bus (Neil Casey) and Sacagawea (Jana Schmieding) while Donald Faison returns as George Washington Carver.
And the change in the cast is just another reference to the long-running teen dramas that have an ever-changing roster of characters. "The show does have to evolve and grow from season to season. It's what happens in those teen dramas in the first place," Lord says. "Like Jason Street is a huge part of [Friday Night Lights]. And then suddenly, he's off in college. So, we kind of wanted to treat it like that."
Along with new characters -- and years of societal changes -- comes new problems for the newly thawed clones, who missed out on the past 20 years.
"We tried to make that part of the season -- that we're reviving the show but also trying to drag it into the 21st century," Lord says. "So, we just were really interested in what Erica [Rivinoja] and her writing staff are really curious about. And how those characters would feel right now and how they would navigate today's world of teenagers."
And with those changes part of the season, Lord says, they wondered what it would be like, "If Joan was cool? What if Abe was canceled? How would they react? How do they come back to equilibrium?"
Adding to that, Sullivan says, "It was great bringing Joan back and to bring her back into a world where the things she stood for 20 years ago actually matter to other people now." The actress adds, "She goes back to being a teenager, which is really fun."
"That's one of the fun things about this show is just seeing all the stuff thrown at all the characters," Forte adds. "Abe is just like any young kid. And in high school, stuff is flying at you a million miles an hour and you just gotta go with the changes and figure it out on the fly… I love just seeing him continuing to move forward."
Season 1 Callbacks
From talking organs to musical montages, season 2 includes a number of quick references and witty callbacks to the original episodes that will certainly delight longtime fans. But Miller explains that the new season is not just for diehards of the show.
"A lot of the little references to people who were fans of the first show were always sort of like little Easter eggs and nothing that felt like, 'Oh, if you didn't watch the first season, you wouldn't be enjoying the scene or episode,'" Miller says. "It's just little nods for people in the know, so they're like, 'Oh yeah, I remember that.'"
Echoing that sentiment, Forte says, "There are so many moments that will appeal to people who watch the first season and be these little Easter eggs. But it will still be enjoyable for people who have never seen the first season. They do such a good job of building this world that is satisfying on two different levels."
The Olive Garden
Speaking of callbacks, in season 1, Principal Scudworth (Lord) and Mr. Butlertron (Miller) try to go to Olive Garden before the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures invites themselves over to his house for dinner. And when asked if they'll ever make it to the food chain that's like "eating in the private kitchen of a delightful Italian stereotype," Lord says, "That's what season 4 is for."
While that's further off in the future, the revived Clone High did get a two-season order. So, at least fans know there's going to be a season 3.
Clone High season 2 premiered with two episodes on May 23. Two new episodes will debut each Thursday starting June 1 on Max.
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