His show may have only premiered in February, but Richard Ellis has already delivered one of the most mind-blowing TV scenes of 2020. From the start, he caught fans' eyes as the high school bully Brad Lewis in Netflix's teen sci-fi series I Am Not Okay With This, but there's one moment in particular they will never forget. And believe it or not, the story behind Brad's I Am Not Okay With This ending is equally as wild.
Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of I Am Not Okay With This. Throughout the first season of I Am Not Okay With This, Brad served as the primary antagonist. He cheated on his girlfriend Dina (Sofia Bryant), and when Syd (Sophia Lillis) exposed him for it, he came after her with a vengeance. After stealing Syd's diary and revealing her crush on Dina to the whole school, Brad nearly blurted out Syd's biggest secret of all, her mysterious telekinetic powers. But something totally wild stopped him: His head exploded.
While Brad's gory death scene lasted only an instant, Ellis reveals it took much longer to create. "We spent three days shooting all the homecoming stuff in that gym," he tells Elite Daily. To make it look as real as possible, Ellis' head was digitally scanned, and he filmed the scene with 3D markers on his shirt to track his movements. Then, the crew made a dummy replica of his body, and replaced his head with a balloon filled with fake blood. "The best part was they had a giant blood balloon, and it was set to my height where I finished the speech," Ellis explains. "The extras didn’t know how covered they were about to be in blood. We did three takes of that blood balloon just exploding."
All of those shots came together to create one of the most memorable moments from I Am Not Okay With This. "I don’t know how they do this in editing, but they basically superimposed every image onto it," Ellis says. "I remember seeing it for the first time and just being shocked. It looks so real!"
That scene is definitely Brad's big moment on the show, but when Ellis got the part, he had no idea it was coming. He received only a few pages for his audition, and although he read the 2017 graphic novel the series was adapted from, he noticed the show was changing a lot from its source material, and thought Brad's death could be another one of those changes.
It wasn't until Ellis had a chance run-in with Kathleen Rose Perkins, who plays Syd's mother Maggie, at an airport on the way to pre-production that he found out his character's fate. "She was like, 'Oh my god, how do you feel about your head blowing up?' I was like, 'What?' And she put her hand over her mouth and was like, 'Oh, did you read it yet?' and I was like 'Nope.'"
Upon finding out about his character's shocking ending (the script literally said: "Bradley Lewis’ f—ing head explodes"), Ellis had mixed feelings about it. "You put in so much time to get on something that people are actually going to watch, but at the same time it’s like, if you’re going to go out, you better go out in style. Like, I could not think of a funnier, more ridiculous way of getting killed off something."
Though the head explosion does seem to indicate Ellis won't be around for a potential second season, that's not totally set in stone. This is science fiction, after all, and the final moment of Season 1 hinted a potential second season would incorporate even more supernatural elements. So, is there hope for Brad to come back somehow?
"What’s difficult about a situation like that is, I could want what I want, but the most important thing is that the story stays good," Ellis says. "So if we’re even fortunate enough to have [a second season], which I hope we are, that is up to the discretion of the writers and producers to make the best possible story. If I get to be involved in that, wonderful, but if not, I am totally cool with that too."
Even if Ellis doesn't get to return to the show, though, at least he will have had one of the most epic (and bloodiest) exits ever.