Home » Phil Lord & Chris Miller on Resurrecting ‘Clone High’ for Modern Times – Exclusive Interview

Phil Lord & Chris Miller on Resurrecting ‘Clone High’ for Modern Times – Exclusive Interview

by Diego Peralta
Abe Lincoln, JFK, and Joan of Arc look horrified while they're strapped to chairs with their eyelids forced open in the new season of the animated series CLONE HIGH created by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

More than twenty years after Clone High was unexpectedly canceled on MTV, the animated teen comedy series is back to bring new adventures featuring your favorite clones of some of the most famous historical figures of all time. The Clone High revival, now streaming on Max, introduces even more notable historical personalities that could’ve never met in their original timelines. Recreated as teenagers in a high school as part of some sick yet elaborate military experiment, chaos ensues when the clones are forced to endure the ups and downs of modern adolescence. Creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller of 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse fame return to take Clone High to new heights as a Max original series.

If you don’t remember what happened during the ending of the first season of Clone High, which was now released over two decades ago, let’s refresh your memory. During prom night, all of the clones were frozen in place, kept away in secrecy by the government office known as the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures until they were needed once more. That time has come, as Operation Spread Eagle orders the facility to unfreeze the clones that were trapped in ice long ago. Seeing as they’re all unaware that twenty years have passed in the blink of an eye, the teen clones need to desperately catch up on a new set of cultural norms, and fast. 

Returning Clone High characters like Abe Lincoln (Will Forte), Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan), Cleopatra “Cleo” Smith (Mitra Jouhari), JFK (Chris Miller), and principal Scudworth (Phil Lord) are now joined by a slew of new additions to the voice cast, including Vicci Martinez as Frida Kahlo, Ayo Edebiri as Harriet Tubman, Kelvin Yu as Confucius, Jana Schmieding as Sacagawea, Sam Richardson as Wesley, Neil Casey as Topher Bus – who’s actually Christopher Columbus – and Christa Miller as Scudworth’s new superior Candide Sampson. Abe and Joan still have unspoken feelings for each other that must be addressed after all this time. Unfortunately, Joan has begun dating JFK, so now Abe has to make his move before it’s too late. 

Abe Lincoln cries his eyes out as his love interest Joan of Arc makes out with JFK in the background in the new season of CLONE HIGH created by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
‘Clone High’ courtesy of Max

We had the opportunity to sit down with creators and executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller to dive into the madness of Clone High Season 2. The pair were eager to discuss what the new season meant for the characters, and what lessons from their previous acclaimed animated projects they were able to implement in the teen comedy series the second time around. It’s been twenty years, but the clones are back and they’re more hilarious than ever since they need to yet again adapt to modern times. There’s no way of telling what’s going to happen when you mix the old clones with the new characters, especially when Phil Lord and Chris Miller are already confirmed to be cooking up another season of Clone High for Max.

Exclusive Interview with Phil Lord & Chris Miller for Clone High on Max

How did it feel returning to Clone High? You were both at very different points in your careers when the first season aired on MTV. What was that process like? 

Phil Lord: It was like taking a long bath with an old friend.

Chris Miller: With our friend, Bill Lawrence, who also created the show, we had talked about reviving the project for four decades now, and we finally got our act together to get it done. It was something we were wanting to do, but the logistics were really hard. It was really exciting, something we were trying to do for so long had actually come to fruition. It feels like a relief sometimes. In show business, the best feeling you can have is relief.

Phil Lord: It was so fun to write the pilot, it was just, like, so easy because everything felt so easy.

You make it sound incredibly easy!

Phil Lord: Oh, right! It used to be the only thing we knew how to write.

So Clone High approaches modern times and current events in quite a particular way. How did that conversation go in the writer’s room? 

Phil Lord: It made a lot of sense to take half of the characters and have them wake up totally unprepared for the present day. And having the season be about transitioning the characters into contemporary teenage life. Also, to recognize that today’s young people are smarter and have a better understanding of mental health. They’re politically more intelligent. They’re essentially more evolved and not just, horny.

Chris Miller: They are also horny.

Phil Lord: Yeah, they are also horny. 

As a young person in 2023, are we sure about that?

Phil Lord: The idea of this season bringing these two generations into a lineup was a natural fit for the fact that we had a writer’s room that had people that had lived through that time period as well. The conversations in the room were not unlike the conversations held on the screen. How do we navigate the way the world is together? How can we represent Abe Lincoln and Frida Kahlo being friends?

Hopefully, there was less violence in the writer’s room.

Phil Lord: Way less blood in the writer’s room!

Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, and Frida Kahlo have a teenage girl slumber party with tons of drinks and boxes of pizza in the new season of CLONE HIGH streaming on Max.
‘Clone High’ courtesy of Max

Can you talk about the rejects for this season? Was there a big list of characters you wanted to see this time around?

Chris Miller: It really wasn’t like we had, you know, a lineup of every historical figure in the world and said “You, you and you. The rest of you hit the showers, we’ll call you if we need it!” We were trying to think about characters who teenagers already know and don’t need any explanations as to who they are. We also wanted characters who were relevant to the mix of the returning characters.

When the season was pitched, we had Frida, Confucius, Harriet Tubman, and Topher Bus. They all had a reason for being built in modern teendom and relationships. It’s not like we had John Adams on the side saying “Hey, guys! What about me?” As the stories needed, we would add characters and the characters that were originally pitched were enough. It was really hard to go through all of them. 

What lessons did you learn during the production of the LEGO movies, Spider-Verse, and other animated projects you worked on in recent years that you implemented in the production of the second season of Clone High?

Chris Miller: That’s interesting. One thing we learned on those projects was the importance of emotional sincerity and caring about your characters – having your characters treated with love even if you’re being satirical. At the end of the day, you have to love your characters and you need to find ways to have sincere emotional moments in the midst of all the jokes to really care. And that’s stuff we learned in making these movies. 

You’ve had massive live-action success as producers with Cocaine Bear, and you’re producing more projects like Silk and Spider-Man Noir at Amazon. Are there any updates regarding those projects that you’d like to share?

Chris Miller: They were all going strong, and now they’re on hold during the strike. So there are no updates at this second.

Phil Lord: But once the folks get back to work, hopefully soon, there will be a chance for us to hit the ground running.

Finally, how do you as a duo choose which projects to produce vs which projects to direct, etc?

Phil Lord: I mean, the projects choose you. I never would’ve guessed that we would follow Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with an R-rated 21 Jump Street comedy. But that was what spoke to us. It’s about what grabs you, and for us, it’s about finding a story that we can tell that allows us to use all of our superpowers. What can we tell differently than how anyone else would tell it? The thing we think about a lot these days is how can we help people imagine greatness? Spider-Verse is a lot about that.

Chris Miller: We’re looking for things that are new, interesting, and haven’t been done before. Things that have something positive to say in the world.  

New episodes of Clone High debut every Thursday on Max!

Follow writer Diego Peralta on Twitter: @Dieg0_Peralta

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