By Emily Hewitt
What trouble is Baby Groot getting into now? As Season 2 of I Am Groot premieres on September 6, D23 sat down with Kirsten Lepore, writer, director, and executive producer of I Am Groot, to discuss what’s in store for the mischievous twig.
In Season 1, audiences saw Groot burst out of his planter, learn how to walk and talk, and go on adventures. Groot was the human equivalent of around 5 years old through the first series of shorts; now he is about 6 or 7 in human years, Lepore said.
“He’s definitely got the same childlike essence,” she promised. “In the first episode, he gets a taste of parenting, so he’s growing and learning in that way. As with all kids, you still have moments where they act like a tiny toddler, and then you have moments where they’re wise beyond their years.”
When first creating Baby Groot’s character for I Am Groot, Lepore spoke with James Gunn, executive producer of the shorts and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, to make sure she stayed true to the character he created. Gunn’s best nuggets of wisdom about Groot were that he is a “bad baby” and an “emoji guy.”
“He has a very simple face, and all he has to do is strike a pose and you understand that face—like what an emoji is,” Lepore said.
Lepore had the opportunity to develop Groot’s personality further in the series, much of which is inspired by funny stories from the childhoods of herself, story editors, and storyboard artists. The goal for Season 2 was to make it even more specific and personal, allowing audiences to relate even more to Groot’s universal childlike essence.
“For example, the ice cream truck episode [in Season 2], at least for me, ripped a page out of my childhood,” Lepore said about Episode 4 when Groot frantically scours the spaceship for coins as an intergalactic ice cream truck approaches. “It’s so relatable.”
Early on, Lepore and her team came up with about 30 one- to two-sentence loglines for stories, and from those, the executives chose five to develop into the shorts of Season 2. She snuck a logline into the pile in which Groot gets an actual, functioning nose—she thought it was so ridiculous that the executives would never go for it. Lo and behold, it is now Episode 2 of Season 2.
“They really let me run with my weird ideas, which felt very good, and I feel very supported in that way,” Lepore said.
One episode that really developed from a small idea into a fleshed-out concept was the snow day episode of Season 2. It started out with Groot just playing in a snowsuit. Along the way, an antagonist snowman was born, and the plot coalesced.
“By the end, I think it became one of our favorite episodes,” Lepore said. Each new element, as it was layered on, including the music, “felt like it just kept adding another cherry on top. That one, I think, got even better than we ever imagined it was going to be.”
Another important decision that goes hand in hand with the plot is the unique location in each episode. It was important to Lepore to have the spaceship make several appearances in the series to keep the show grounded, while also adding new locations.
Lepore, who comes from a stop-motion animation background, noted that the snow day episode was particularly fun to watch being created via CGI. “We really got to take advantage of that medium in having all these interactions with the snow,” Lepore said. “We tried to make [the locations] a little more diverse and change it up from the first season. So, he’s kind of been all over.”