The last time a season of Black Mirror aired, it took almost two years for Netflix to bring the British cult hit stateside. This time around, the streaming platform cut out the middle­man: The third season of the near-future sci-fi series premieres worldwide in October. From the influx of American stars to the reported $40 million Netflix paid for the rights, the show is no longer a plucky underdog—and creator-writer Charlie Brooker knows he’s under the spotlight. “If I think too much about the people watching it, I go a bit crazy,” he says. Stage fright or not, here’s how he adapted to the bigger platform.

Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker looks to the future.Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker looks to the future.Courtesy of Netflix

Embracing Improvisation
Brooker describes himself (and his co–­executive producer, Annabel Jones) as “quite ­control-freaky.” That’s partially because of the nature of the stories. “The rules of the world are so tight that we can’t afford to have too much improv,” he says. But with the influx of new acting talent, they’ve learned to let the actors explore. In the episode “Play Test,” Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street) took some creative license with his performance, turning a caricature of a cocky tourist into a more fully formed portrayal. “The character metamorphosed in an unpredictable but satisfying way,” Brooker says.

Leaving the Home Base
The first two seasons of Black Mirror, as well as its Christmas special, take place in the UK. This time around, thanks to what Brooker calls the show’s “slightly bigger canvas,” at least half of the episodes will be set off the British Isles—but never gratuitously. “One of our episodes is set in California, for instance, in 1987,” he says. “But there’s a reason within the story for the setting.”

Taking More Direction
Because the show is a Twilight Zone–like collection of single-episode stories, its directors have always taken a collaborative role. “They wield far more power than they would doing episode seven of 23 of a comedy,” Brooker says. And now, with established directors like Joe Wright (Atonement) and Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) coming aboard, that power is even more apparent. In “Nosedive,” Wright added a distinct aesthetic—what Brooker calls a “pastoral symmetrical nightmare”—that conveys the essence of the story’s satire.

Trading Bleak for Bingeable
Near-future dystopia tends to be dark by nature, but Brooker and Jones stress that this season will be more tonally varied, so as not to overwhelm mainlining viewers who may have watched earlier seasons an episode at a time. While some episodes are rosier, though, Brooker promises the darkness will remain. “If we started giving everything a happy ending,” he says, “you’d feel cheated.”

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