Following Marvel's announcement that Freeform has ordered a full season of its live-action, Squirrel Girl-centric New Warriors show earlier on Wednesday, more details about the project have come to light. Freeform's Executive Vice President of Programming & Development Karey Burke spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, relating how the series came about, how central Doreen Green is to the show, as well as Kevin Biegel (Scrubs, Cougar Town, Enlisted) possibly writing and acting as showrunner.
"We were big fans of Enlisted and were excited when Marvel put him together. Marvel and ABC Studios had made that marriage before it came to Freeform," said Burke. "He has a great love for all the characters that are populating the show around Squirrel Girl. He has a deep respect for Squirrel Girl. Her greatest weapon is her optimism - and this is a character who could easily be made fun of - but she's written so lovingly that we were thrilled when he was packaged with it. When he came in and pitched it, he understood her importance in the world and as hopefully an iconic heroine for audiences."
Burke frames New Warriors as very much a vehicle for Squirrel Girl, in several cases mentioning that Freeform approached Marvel for Squirrel Girl before the project morphed into a team show. The Freeform executive said the other team members have been chosen, but are waiting to reveal who they are.
"It was super competitive as everything is right now. We were already in business with Marvel on Cloak & Dagger, which was our first foray with them. We had chased Squirrel Girl before Cloak & Dagger and Marvel had said they would let us know when they were ready to do something with it. Our head of development wore her Squirrel Girl hat in the pitch, which may have put us over the top. We've been longtime fans."
The idea that talks for Squirrel Girl came before Cloak & Dagger are new, as Cloak & Dagger has been connected to Freeform (under its previous name, ABC Family) since July 2011 when Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb announced a TV deal for it. Marvel's first solo Squirrel Girl comic book title didn't debut until 2014.
Burke describes Freeform as a unique television platform that skews "younger than what [Marvel is] doing at the other channels," namely ABC and Netflix.
"The more we got to know Marvel and the more comfortable they got with us as the home for their young adult IP, these conversations became easier. They started to see our strength with young adults and together we could create a pipeline for content that was specific to our audience that felt younger than what they're doing at the other channels," said Burke. "I wanted to be in business with Marvel when I first got here but I didn't want to chase them just to chase them. It was important to both of us to find the right characters that felt like they would speak directly to Freeform's audience. The Avengers wouldn't work here but the about-to-be-Avengers works here."
Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb has said "Everything is connected" in regards to Marvel television shows and its movie, but when asked about the connection between Cloak & Dagger and New Warriors, Freeform's Burke said "anything is possible" but the two shows aren't "particularly connected."
"If you know these two properties, they're not particularly connected. There are many degrees of separation with where they fall in the Marvel universe. But anything is possible with Marvel," said Burke. "Their tones are so wildly different. Cloak is this angst-filled achingly beautiful heartfelt romantic drama. And Squirrel Girl is a balls-out comedy."
However, the possibility of Freeform creating its own corner of the Marvel Universe a la Netflix is still there. In fact, some New Warriors cast members are already being groomed for possible spin-offs.
"Absolutely," said Burke when asked about the possibility. "The characters they've chosen are all really singular and could each carry the show that they're on. They're bound together as a band of underdogs for as long as we choose with this show but it's conceptually tailor-made for spinoffs."