Peyton List Talks ‘School Spirits’ and the Final Season of ‘Cobra Kai’

Apr 10, 2023

The Paramount+ original drama series School Spirits follows Maddie (Peyton List), a high schooler who unexpectedly finds herself investigating her own mysterious disappearance while all signs point to a murder. Stuck without being able to leave school grounds, alongside a variety of other ghosts whose lives ended there, Maddie just wants answers, but solving her own crime could break her heart.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, List (who’s also a producer on the series) talked about what attracted her to this story, how deeply she connected to Maddie, navigating how to be a leader and set the tone on set, choosing not to know ahead of time how the season would wrap up, her reaction to reading the finale script for the first time, and how satisfied she was with the ending. She also talked about her experience making Cobra Kai and her hopes for the final season.
Collider: As if high school weren’t hard enough and challenging enough on its own, I can’t imagine, as a teenager, adding your own death on top of it, especially if it’s likely a murder and your ghost self is trying to solve it. When this project came your way and you learned what it was about, who this character is and what she goes through, what was your reaction? What was it about the script that reeled you in?

PEYTON LIST: Knowing that Maddie was dead, from the very first scene, the very first time we meet her, was really enthralling to me. And the constant flashbacks and trying to figure it out along with her, I was just so entertained by it. Also, the fact that this character is dead and there’s still life and you’re still rooting for them and there’s still so much passion, I thought that when someone was dead that it would take the interest out of it, but I went through the script so quickly and it kept my attention.

Image via Paramount+

There’s something that just feels so tragic about it because no matter what she might solve or how she might grow, we already know her outcome. There’s just something so inherently sad about that.

LIST: Absolutely, yeah. It was really heartbreaking to read. Even the scenes at the end of episode one, where Simon sees Maddie for the first time, I was crying just watching him.

What does leading a show, at this point in your life, feel like? How has your previous career and time as an actor really informed and influenced the kind of leader that you are now on set?

LIST: It’s funny, I was pretty intimidated to lead this show because I don’t really like being the number one of a show. I love being a part of a really big ensemble, like on Cobra Kai, and those guys leading the show have a whole history with it. People would say to me, “You’re a great number one,” and that made me uncomfortable, but it was also nice to hear. Me not really wanting to be the leader and letting everyone else lead the way was great . I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to behave as this role. It was awkward and weird.

Was there anything that was important to you, from watching other people do it, that you wanted to bring to establish a tone on set?

LIST: I just want everyone to feel so comfortable and I want everyone that’s there to feel involved. We were all so open to hearing anything from everyone because everyone’s opinion is so valuable. Everyone cares about the show and is invested, from every department. That was really such an incredible environment to work in, and we all just had so much fun and got so close. I haven’t really had that type of bond on a set before. I just feel like everyone felt very comfortable and safe.

Your showrunner, Oliver Goldstick, has described this series as a mashup of John Hughes and teen noir. Did you watch any movies or anything to get into what the mood and vibe of this would be, or was that vibe very clear on the page?

LIST: The vibe was pretty clear on the page. It is very much its own thing. It’s different from John Hughes movies, but John Hughes movies were my favorite movies growing up, so I do not mind that comparison at all. I watched a lot of My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks and Brick, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I just liked watching those types of things that are a little less done.

Image via Paramount+

We learn over the course of these episodes that there are some things that make your character different from the other dead people that she meets. They remember their final moments, and she doesn’t. Her best friend can see her and talk to her, and they don’t have that. What is it about her that makes her different? Will we learn some of those answers?

LIST: Everyone in group wonders that about Maddie. They’re like, “Why is she special? Why can she do this? Why can’t we? We’ve been here for so long, and she’s been here not even a week.” It’s a really frustrating moment for them. They’ve all been stagnant for so long, and it wakes them up to the possibility of something else. But it does get explained. There’s nothing really special about Maddie, as a person, than is any more special than any of them. That’s the thing about Maddie. She’s a great person, but also so average. A lot of people don’t even remember her, which I think happens a lot. On social media, we see so many comments, and I feel like that’s Maddie, walking around hearing all the comments, but people don’t know she’s hearing them. There’s also so much negativity on social media. I love that because I struggled with that so much, growing up. People would say the worst shit, like, “Oh, I haven’t seen her. She might as well be dead.” That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it.

What was it like to get used to being in scenes where you can talk and interact with anyone you want, but the other people can’t, unless they’re also a ghost? Was it weird to adjust to that, or was it easier than you expected that to be?

LIST: It was harder to adjust. There were crazier things that I wanted to do with blocking. I still found myself talking at a normal volume. We can yell and throw things and do whatever we want. There was such a freedom with that. But sometimes it was more stressful, having all the freedom in the world to do whatever with the non-conventional blocking. It is weird. It starts to feel like, “Am I even talking to anyone?” There are moments when Maddie is trying to talk to Simon, but it’s in a zone where she can’t.

When your TV show is created by the creators of the graphic novel that it’s based on, does it add an extra layer of trust and reassurance that they know the story that they’re telling and that you could get any question answered that you have, at any time?

LIST: Yes. I love that they know where the story is going and that there’s a destination. They have answers, at every moment. Just knowing that brought so much peace. I need to know that. I know of shows where there’s no idea and it gets chaotic. I love the structure. Even though they wouldn’t tell me what was happening in the next episode, I liked that they had a very firm idea, and it really did all pay off. They kept telling me that I would love the ending, and I don’t like when people tell me that. Because of that, I almost wanted to not like the ending and I was scared it was going to be terrible, but they were right.

Image via Paramount+

How much were you actually told about where things would be going? Did you get a little bit more than just one episode at a time? Did you get questions answered when you had them?

LIST: They told me they would answer any question that I had. I received the first two scripts, and then I received them two by two until episode eight. They kept the finale on lock and what happened to Maddie a secret, and I’m glad that they did because Maddie didn’t know, the entire time, so it made it easier for me. I didn’t wanna know. They said, “We’ll tell you, if you do wanna know,” and I didn’t want to.

We learn a lot about Maddie through all of these different people realizing what she meant to them. What’s it been like to explore how she’s really touched all these people, but she didn’t even really know that until she was gone?

LIST: Yeah, I feel like that happens so often. When you lose someone, I feel like people remember to always tell their loved ones. It’s hard to do, though. In everyday life, you aren’t expressing that all the time. Maddie kept so many walls up and didn’t let a lot of people in and kept so many secrets. Especially for people in high school, it’s scary to be vulnerable and to let people know that you care because it’s not really considered very cool to care. I’m a person that cares a lot, so I try not to overwhelm people with how much I care.

How much does her death change Maddie, by the end of the season? Will the answers that she gets make her regret pursuing the truth, at all?

LIST: She’ll never regret pursuing the truth because she wants to know the answers. She wants to know everything and she doesn’t care about getting hurt, as a result. It changes her because she learns to let go and really realize what’s important and what she can control.

Image via Paramount+

What was it like to read that finale script, learn those details, and see how it would all play out? What was your emotional reaction to that, the first time you read it?

LIST: I read it out loud to my brother. I was reading it so fast because I wanted to get through it and I wanted to find out. I was on the edge of my seat, and I was crying while reading it. I couldn’t stop crying.

Did that surprise you, especially when it’s something that you’re involved in and you’re playing the character? Does that always happen to you when you read a finale script, or did you just feel so closely connected to this character?

LIST: It never happens to me. I just connected to her so deeply, by the end of the season, which I did not expect at all. Before I started the show, I used to think that was cheesy, to connect on that deep of a level. But then, by the end of it, I couldn’t help it. I had fallen so in love with her.

Do you feel satisfied with what you learned, by the end of the season? Do you feel like you still have unanswered questions, or is it more that there are just new questions that have come up? Do you feel satisfied with what you know now?

LIST: New questions come up. But I feel very satisfied with what I do know now. I feel very satisfied by the last episode. I’m so honest that, if I didn’t feel that way, I would just beat around it.

Image via Netflix

I love the work that you’ve done on Cobra Kai. Aside from the fact that everything about that show has been unexpected, your character, in particular, has been really unexpected. Tory has taken such a journey, since we first met her. When and how did you hear about the renewal news for that show, and that you’d be getting to do this sixth season, but that it would also be the last season? Did you have any idea that the show would be coming to an end, before that?

LIST: I had heard a little bit. They had told us a bit of the plan. I love that about the writers and creators and showrunners. They’re all very open and very cool. We all consider them friends. So, it wasn’t like I read a headline, and then was shocked. We had all known and just laid low.

Have you had conversations about what the final season will be, or what you might get to do with your character? Do you have hopes for how it all ends?

LIST: I haven’t heard at all yet. I just know that whatever they do will be something I won’t predict, and I will be satisfied with it. They give me the most fun storylines, so I’m excited. I’m grateful to have something like that to look forward to and to get back to. They’re gonna be training us a lot, so that will be fun.

School Spirits is available to stream at Paramount+.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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