Exclusive interview with Dara Resnik, co-creator of Home Before Dark

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Joy Gorman Wettels, Jim Sturgess, Dana Fox, Brooklynn Prince, Hilde Lysiak, Jon M. Chu and Dara Resnik of "Home Before Dark" speak on stage during the Apple TV+ segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 19, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Joy Gorman Wettels, Jim Sturgess, Dana Fox, Brooklynn Prince, Hilde Lysiak, Jon M. Chu and Dara Resnik of "Home Before Dark" speak on stage during the Apple TV+ segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 19, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images) /

Dara Resnik talks Home Before Dark and more in our exclusive interview

When Home Before Dark premiered earlier this year on Apple TV Plus, just a couple of weeks into the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire “marketing plan that involved billboards in Times Square and on Melrose Avenue” had to be scrapped, recounts series co-creator Dara Resnik. But the otherwise terrible timing might have helped the series.

“People were stuck at home, and they wanted stuff to watch that they could feel good about and also be entertained by,” she recalls. Enter Home Before Dark, a series about a young journalist who helps to solve a small town’s longest-running mystery.

In our exclusive interview, we discussed how Resnik nearly wasn’t attached to the project and some of Home Before Dark’s messaging and political implications. We also touched on her thoughts on why some viewers just won’t let recently-resurfaced Castle controversy die and what’s next for the writer.

Exclusive: Dara Resnik on how she almost wasn’t a part of Home Before Dark

It started with a glass of wine between friends: “I was on I Love Dick—a fun show to say out loud, and it never got old—and I got a call from a friend of mine. She said she’d just landed the rights to this young journalist’s life story, and would I be interested in collaborating with her and her old friend, Dana Fox.”

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Home Before Dark was sold to Paramount, which posed a problem for Resnik. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stay attached because I got Daredevil, and the person who was running Paramount at the time was not going to let me do Daredevil.”

Daredevil was a better financial decision for the single mother, so that seemed to be the end of Home Before Dark and Resnik. It was also exciting to work: “Shooting action set pieces on the streets you grew up on is an experience I highly recommend for anyone who could possibly have it.”

Eventually, Paramount came back with good news: Dara Resnik could work on both series at the same time after all: “So, I would be working on Daredevil, and then in my ‘free time,’ I’d be plugging away on this pilot with Dana and Joy…I was still having so much fun in the Marvel universe, but that was right around when I was starting to get an inkling that Marvel was not going to be the same Marvel because Disney Plus was coming out.”

And that’s how Dara Resnik rededicated herself as one of the Home Before Dark co-creators.

Deric McCabe, Brooklynn Prince and Jibrail Nantambu in “Home Before Dark,” now streaming on Apple TV+. /

Dara Resnik on how Home Before Dark compares to real-life Hilde’s story

Hilde Lysiak is a real journalist, who has been seeking the truth from a very young age. “She was into covering homicides since she was four or five years old—that’s totally real. That makes it sound like she’s a sociopath, but she’s not. She’s a really incredible, emotional person.”

How did she get her start? Resnik explains: “Her dad was a New York Daily News reporter. He covered every homicide in Brooklyn and The Bronx you can think of and was starting to get disillusioned. Then, he covered Trayvon Martin and Newtown.”

Around this time, Matthew Lysiak moved his entire family to his hometown. “He could barely get out of bed, couldn’t write. He was supposed to be writing a book about Newtown; but he couldn’t write it.”

Just like her fictional counterpart, Hilde Lysiak ”scooped every paper” on a neighborhood murder. “The story went viral, and people wrote all this stuff into her about how little girls should be having tea parties and playing with dolls. She read the comments out loud on camera; then, that went viral.”

How did the creators land on the series’s particular mystery? Real-life events were off-limits: “It felt very wrong to us to make a story point out of Newtown or Trayvon Martin.”

The idea for the mystery in Home Before Dark came from Dana Fox, who suggested the idea of a kidnapping. Co-creators Resnik and Joy Gorman Wettels collaborated on the idea of Matthew being present for his best friend’s kidnapping.

Dara Resnik on how Castle helped with this project and Castle’s controversy

Resnik found herself familiar territory on this series: “My time on Castle was a huge part of what made that attractive to me because I know how to break a mystery. Castle and Pushing Daisies both felt applicable to this in that they were both these weird, offbeat mysteries.”

And speaking of Castle: The series was recently back in the news, years after the firing of Stana Katic and series cancellation. While viewers will probably never know what happened there—and it’s not anyone’s business—Resnik is appreciative of what she sees as the reason behind fans’ inability to let the rumors die:

"When I talk to folks from Castle, and I talk to them all the time, the thing that I say is that it’s actually sort of lovely that it keeps coming up. It just means that people really loved the show. I think we should all aspire to be creating things that cause drama five years down the road. It means someone still cares."

What motivated Hilde in Home Before Dark? What were the co-creator’s goals?

Dara Resnik interview Home Before Dark
Brooklynn Prince and Jim Sturgess in “Home Before Dark,” premiering April 3 on Apple TV+ /

In a meeting with Castle creator, Andrew Marlowe, Dara Resnik was asked what exactly the wish-fulfillment would be. In this series, she explained, “Hilde’s ‘want’ was to fix her family. She felt like if she could solve this mystery, she could fix her dad.”

But there was also some motivation for the writer:

"In a lot of ways—I don’t know that I knew I was doing this at the time—I think it became sort of a parable for my divorce. I had always been really honest with my kid about ‘it’s not your job to fix Mom. It’s not your job to fix Dad.’ I was always honest with her. That was something that I never saw enough of on television: parents being honest with their kids about the problems they’re having."

She calls it “one of the most gratifying things” of interacting with viewers over Twitter to see “how many people related to the story.”

Dara Resnik on the political implications and messaging of Home Before Dark

Dara Resnik interview Home Before Dark
Home Before Dark (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images) /

“I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have an agenda of some kind,” the writer confessed when asked about the series’s commentary on truth-seeking. When a Democratic Socialist newspaper reviewed Home Before Dark, she felt “very seen.” The series “talks about white people leaving a person of color in prison for an unbelievably long amount of time. It talks about truth in journalism.”

Joy Gorman Wettels brought Resnik the idea in 2017, in the aftermath of the 2016 election, and she thought to herself, “there’s nothing more perfect for right now than the story of this little girl screaming into the wind that there is such a thing as news. And there is such a thing as a fact.” She saw it as “the antidote” to all the talk about alternative facts.

But the extra layer of need in 2020 was not predictable: “What we didn’t know, of course, is that we’d end up releasing the show in the middle of a pandemic where you couldn’t believe anything coming out of the White House.”

And please stop asking who should watch.

"People kept asking, ‘who’s this show for,’ which I thought was an incredibly gendered comment because no one ever asks who E.T., The Goonies, or Stand By Me is for. They’re used to seeing the world through the lens of a little boy, and suddenly when it’s a little girl, it’s like: ‘Ooh. Who is this for? This must just be for little girls.’ No. It’s for everyone.”"

Dara Resnik on Apple TV Plus programming and working for the tech giant

Anyone who’s followed Resnik knows she’s a TV nerd. And she has some recommendations for you to stream on Apple TV Plus.

She highly recommends The Morning Show, which “really did some interesting, important things that no other show was doing.” It also features “the best acting of Jennifer Aniston’s career.”

What else should you watch? The content is good all around: “My daughter and I loved watching Ghostwriter.” Other options include Defending Jacob, Truth Be Told, and Visible.

Overall, she believes, Apple TV Plus is releasing content that matters. “Maybe they think it’s good for the brand, but I don’t really care what the reason is because they’re globally, getting out to billions of people, messaging that is really important to me.”

Dara Resnik talks about what she’s working on at the time of publication

What’s next for our friend Dara Resnik?

"I’ve been running this writers’ room that’s sort of like a genre, horror-comedy. It’s a social horror show called The Horror of Dolores Roach. It’s based on a podcast that had Daphne Rubin-Vega, Bobby Cannavale, and all these awesome folks. It’s sort of an update of the original Sweeney Todd tale from the 1800s."

There’s a definite twist on the Fleet Street barber’s legend, though.

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This time, says Resnik:

"It’s about a woman who took the the rap for her drug-dealer boyfriend and went to prison for 20 years. When she comes back, she goes home to Washington Heights, and it’s totally gentrified. The only shop that’s left is this empanada shop in the storefront of the building that she used to live in, run by Bobby Cannavale, who lets her live with him while she gets her life together. She starts giving massages for a living, and when one client goes too far, she ends up killing him. And Bobby Cannavale, running the empanada shop, is like, ‘don’t worry, baby. I’ll take care of it’ and starts putting the bodies into the empanadas and feeding them to the white gentrifiers of Washington Heights."

That’s a story you won’t want to miss.

Make sure to watch Home Before Dark, now streaming on Apple TV Plus, and share your thoughts with Dara Resnik on Twitter!