Mike Flanagan ’02 returns with new chapter of Netflix series

By Rebecca Kirkman on October 7, 2020

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” debuts Oct. 9

Mike Flanagan on street with actors in set for "Haunting of Bly Manor"
Creator and executive producer Mike Flanagan ’02, right, works with actress Victoria Pedretti on the set of “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

Created by electronic media and film (EMF) alumnus Michael Flanagan ’02, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” a nine-episode follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Haunting of Hill House,” debuts Friday, Oct. 9 on Netflix.

While “Bly Manor” is not a direct continuation of “Hill House,” the chapters both draw inspiration from classic haunted house stories and share many of the same actors. “Hill House” was loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, while “Bly Manor” is inspired by the ghost stories of Henry James, especially his 1898 horror novella “The Turn of the Screw.”

The second chapter in the “Haunting” anthology brings viewers to 1980s England, where Henry Wingrave hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef, groundskeeper and housekeeper.

“Similar to ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ I really wanted to play more with ghosts as an expression of personal wounds that we carry around,” Flanagan says in a Netflix-produced featurette. “All of the people who inhabit Bly Manor come from completely different backgrounds and get to know each other through friendship, tension, conflict and love. What sets ‘Bly Manor’ apart is that at its heart, it’s a gothic love story.”

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The recipient of the College of Fine Arts & Communication’s 2016 Deans’ Recognition Award, Flanagan’s recent directing credits include “Doctor Sleep” (2019), “Gerald’s Game” (2017), “Hush” (2016) and “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016).

But he filmed his first feature-length project, “Makebelieve” (2000), while attending TU.

“I made my first feature as an undergrad with the support of the faculty and students, and without that experience—and many others—I don’t think I ever would have made it,” Flanagan recalls. “When I moved to Los Angeles after graduation with a handful of other TU alums I had the skill set to get employed as an editor, which was the only way I survived those first five years in LA.”

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“If there’s one thing I hope fans take away from this season of ‘Bly Manor,’ I think it’s that wonderful connection between a great love story and a great ghost story,” Flanagan says. “By the end of the season, the line between the two is pretty much obliterated.”

As part of a multiyear deal Netflix signed with Intrepid Pictures, Flanagan’s production company with Trevor Macy, Flanagan began production of a second series, “Midnight Mass,” in August. The series focuses on an isolated community experiencing unsettling phenomena after a new priest arrives in town.

For “Midnight Mass,” Flanagan reunites with producer, writer and fellow TU alumnus Jeff Howard ’92.

“Jeff and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and we’ve often joked that we went to the same college, only eight years apart,” says Flanagan, who also partnered with Howard on “Haunting of Hill House” and “Gerald’s Game.”

“We kept in touch over the years and when I moved to LA, he reached out to see if there was something we could do together, and that partnership fell together fast. It took us years to sell a script, but it taught me a ton about patience.”

Filming on “Midnight Mass” is set to wrap later this year, and the series is projected for release in 2021.

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In My Queue

Filmmaker Mike Flanagan shares his favorite films of 2018 and 2002, the year he graduated from TU. Read more in TU Magazine