The second season of the Disney Channel series “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” launches at 8 p.m. Jan. 14 with the same large cast of characters, time-traveling stories and complicated twists and turns to the many mysteries. Those can make for entertaining elements while causing the creative team real headaches.
Series creator and executive producer Tracey Thomson and executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. have not had any problems. It helps that both have backgrounds working in daytime dramas where large casts, complicated stories and mysteries are a daily event.
Pratt says the key is detailed notes.
“You have to write things down to make sure you only tell the audience the story you want them to hear,” Pratt says. “That’s the key to a soap and definitely a key to a continuing drama. You have all this stuff in your head but how you dole it out is going to give you a success or a failure.
“So when you tell them is sometimes more important than what you are telling so you keep that level of mystery going all the time.”
The continuation into the second season has youngsters Griffin (Preston Oliver) and Harper (Kyliegh Curran) traveling from the present day world – where The Tremont hotel is being brought back to its former glory – to the ‘60s and ‘30s. They use a weird bunker that allows them to look for clues in the past to explain what is happening in the present.
When the power source to the time machine is unintentionally taken and the portal disappears, Harper becomes trapped in the past with her great-uncle Sam and great-great-grandfather Elijah, while her great-grandmother Daisy (also played by Curran) is left to navigate the present. With help from Savannah (Elle Graham) from her new life in 1962, the friends attempt to fix the time machine and bring back the portal before it’s too late and their lives are forever changed.
All of these mysteries have unfolded slowly. Pratt – whose past work includes being head writer for “The Young and the Restless” — explains that the key to this kind of series is to make the audience wait for key information.
The big element of “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” is the time travel element. It allows the production team to take their characters through the various decades.
But, time travel also comes with its own set of complicated rules. There’s always nagging questions about what can and can’t be done such as whether or not you can kill your own grandfather when you go back in time. Thomson – whose credits include working as a writer on “General Hospital” and “All My Children” – explains it comes down to setting strict rules.
“Everyone has seen time-travel shows and each person has a different take on it,” Thomson says. “For us, we had certain rules.”
The first rule was that time doesn’t stop in the present when a person goes into the past. Spend three hours in the 1930s and you have missed three hours of your current life. This rule put a ticking clock on the show so that the young time travelers could not stay extended periods in the past without someone noticing that they are missing.
Another rule has to do with the time travelers thinking that they can change the past.
“But with us, destiny always wins out,” Thomson says. “We never wanted them to lose hope of changing the past. I think the thing with season two is that they learn that maybe they can’t change the past but potentially they could change things in the present or the future based on something they learned in the past.”
The time travel element is one of the biggest elements of “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” but just like a daytime drama, the series has a lot more happening. It deals with friendship, family, race, empowerment and romance.
The production team’s central focus on how it is a mystery/adventure program.
Thomson says, “That mystery is something that appeals to kids and parents alike. Chuck and I both have kids and we like to watch shows that we enjoy as well with them. I think back in the day they used to make a lot more TV that appealed to four-quadrant viewing. Now, everything is so specialized.
“Our goal was to make a show that you could watch with your kids or people who don’t have kids could watch the show and it would still entertain them.”
Pratt sees the big strength of “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” is that it is relatable to everyone.
“It’s like fantasy fulfillment,” Pratt says. “Doesn’t everybody who has a dead relative want to go back and meet them?”
The second season of “The Secrets of Sulphur Springs” opens on the Disney Channel with back-to-back episodes. The entire first season will be available on Disney+ starting Jan. 19.