Mike Flanagan has maintained a very consistent batting average with horror, from his adaptations of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep and Gerald’s Game (both of which were previously thought to be unadaptable properties) to The Haunting Of Hill House—his terrifying and deeply poignant Netflix series based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name. The filmmaker returns to Netflix this fall with The Haunting Of Bly Manor, another series based on the work of a classic author; this time, it’s Henry James, whose The Turn Of The Screw inspired the Hill House followup. Vanity Fair debuted the first images from Bly Manor and spoke with Flanagan about some of the connections between this series and its predecessor—including returning cast members like Victoria Pedretti, who plays the lead role of Dani Clayton, an American tutor who travels to the English countryside to care for the orphaned Wingrave children: Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelia Bea Smith).
Dani’s surname is a nod to Jack Clayton, director of 1961's The Innocents—another adaptation of The Turn Of The Screw. That decision appears to reflect Flanagan’s overall approach to the series, which is both an adaptation of James’ novel and an homage to his other works; the filmmaker says he also took elements from “The Jolly Corner” and “The Romance Of Old Clothes.” Producing partner Trevor Macy says they used the same “literary remix” approach as they did with Hill House. And like that series, Bly Manor also updates the source material, this time to 1987. While there are other notable similarities between the two series, Flanagan explained that it was important to tell a different story with Bly Manor:
At its foundation, the Haunting series is very much about haunted spaces and haunted people. The way we make those things dance together is really going to be what’s uniform about Hill House and Bly. Outside of that though, it was really important for all of us not to play the same notes we played for the first season. The first season is very much entrenched in family dynamics and death and grief and loss and child trauma. We all collectively felt like we’d said everything we wanted to say about that.
As such, Pedretti’s character this season is very different from that of the tragic Nell Crain. Also returning from Hill House are Henry Thomas as the Wingrave kids’ Uncle Henry, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen as his manipulative and opportunistic business associate, Peter. They’re joined by T’Nia Miller as Mrs. Grose, the manager of Bly Manor; Tahirah Sharif as the children’s previous governess, Rebecca; Amelia Eve as the manor’s groundskeeper; and Rahul Kohli as the house chef, Owen. Kate Siegel, who played Theo in Hill House, is also returning—this time in a secretive role.
Also back are the ghosts hidden throughout scenes in the series. Flanagan says he loved hiding figures and faces in the first season, and viewers enjoyed rewatching the series to find all the ghosts lurking in various scenes. This time around, the filmmaker says the hidden ghosts will have more meaning:
This season we wanted our hidden elements to tell their own story. And very much unlike the first season, they’re actually going to be explained. By the end of the season, you’re going to know who they are and why they’re there.