School Spirits is very much in session. The hit Paramount+ series is past the midway point of the season, and everyone wants to know: what happened to Maddie? Simon, Maddie’s best friend and the only living person who can see her, is determined to find out what happened to her. While those answers will bring closure, they will also bring a wave of sadness.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Kristian Flores about the “tragic payoff” of answers about Maddie. He discussed the status of Nicole’s innocence, as well as the “rope between Simon and Maddie.” The actor also noted that the theory that Simon killed Maddie is a “reflection of trust in the modern age.” Read our full Q&A below:
We’re really getting into the thick of things in episode 6. Simon has been determined to find out what happened to Maddie. They are best friends. Do you think when this is all done, do you think he’s ready to let go of her? I don’t know if he’s ready to accept her fate, whatever it is.
Kristian Flores: This is really the episode where he realizes he has no one to dance with. Not at homecoming, not in real life. He’s operating in this strange corner where he thinks all of his efforts are going to pay off. But really, it won’t. He will lose her. We’re kind of inching toward the grander realization that there is no payoff. He keeps asking her, “What’s gonna happen when you cross over?” And she goes, “I don’t know, but we got to work on this.” And he goes, “Okay, let’s work on it.” I think that he will break. Graduation’s coming up, so he kind of has to make a choice of whether or not he wants to move on. But I feel like the second he worries about that, about how he feels, he will break down. I think his knees will shake, and he won’t be able to help Maddie at all. I wouldn’t call it a coping mechanism, but I would call it more of some need, that he needs to help her so he doesn’t bawl and lose his mind.
He’s definitely compartmentalizing. The show really revolves around Maddie, but there’s a lot going on in Simon’s head. He can actually see her and no one else can. I feel like Simon carries a lot of the weight of the show on his shoulders. What’s that been like for you balancing having to take care of Maddie but also dealing with the real-life repercussions of what’s going on?
Kristian Flores: I approached it by making Simon a good actor. Since he’s such a lover of horror movies, and he would probably be the guy to watch School Spirits and be into a murder mystery, when he finally is involved in something like a murder, he’s bad at it at first. He’s scrambling. He doesn’t know how to talk to a teacher or break into a car. But around this middle of the season, he’s very, very good. I approached Simon’s trajectory and arc as let him be a very good detective. When he has to lie to Nicole, I’m trying to play the scenes as if he is a CIA operative. Because when your life depends on it, you’re going to be a good actor. Everyone’s like, “No, I wouldn’t be able to lie. I wouldn’t be able to lie to my best friend.” Well, if you don’t know who the murderer is, congratulations, you’re an actor.
At the very end of the episode, we see Nicole digging for something that’s obviously going to provoke a lot of talk. What can you tease about the fallout of that? Everyone’s keeping secrets one way or the other, and I genuinely have no idea who killed Maddie.
Kristian Flores: We are starting to X out everyone. We kind of Xed out Anderson. We Xed out Xavier. Personally, I Xed out Claire. The margin of suspects, the actual possibilities of people who killed her, are getting really small. I think it’s time that we kind of don’t give Nicole her innocence yet. Why does she deserve innocence? But I will just mention that she is early on in the friend group, we don’t really know where she comes from, or what she wants in high school. I think that her involvement in anything suspicious kind of has to do with what she wants out of life. That’s as far as I can go.
There are a bunch of theories surrounding why Simon can see Maddie. Will the audience learn why he’s able to see her?
Kristian Flores: Yes, and I can say that they will be forced to in the finale. Every single episode, every single step towards her murder, is also uncovering this second huge mystery of the show, which is that rope between Simon and Maddie. I had my own theories, and the core of my theory was that something was involved in her death, some kind of supernatural or cosmic occurrence. But I promise you, the writers will give you that answer. They aren’t terrible people. I want to see how close the Reddit community got.
It’s almost like he’s her tether to the real world. There are some solid theories out there. The most obvious one is that he killed her, and that’s why he can see her. But an interesting one I saw is that Simon is dying.
Kristian Flores: That’s wonderful. Almost like an illness.
It could be Maddie’s pulling him into the afterlife…
Kristian Flores: I will say that whatever the reason that they can talk to each other will evoke sadness and emotion. It’ll evoke strong feelings. It’s definitely not, oh, we can just talk.
In the afterlife, Maddie has found this new set of friends and people she’s bonded with like Wally and whatnot. It makes me feel really sad for Simon because he’s almost like he’s ostracized. I really feel for the guy because he can’t win no matter what.
Kristian Flores: I think that just in terms of the story, structurally, it will be a kind of tragic payoff because there is so much commotion with the comedy of the ghosts, the suspense from the thriller. And then, at the end of the dance, you see a guy popping balloons by himself because he has no one to dance with. We’re really going to feel that almost awkward melancholy that he’s going to go through of what the hell am I even doing? What for? So I could lose you faster? I think that if Maddie was stuck in that high school forever, I don’t believe he would want to go to college. I think he would stay and visit Split River at 35, 45, and 55 years old because they grew up together. He can’t operate without his other half. So I could just imagine if Maddie was stuck there, he would be at that school.
As much as there’s this ghostly and supernatural element to the show, I think the character of Simon is really interesting. He shows how debilitatingly lonely high school can be for some people and how difficult it is to navigate that. Being lonely and being alone are two different things, and I feel like he’s straddled in both at this point. High school can be the best time of your life, but it can be very isolating. Simone is a really realistic portrayal of that.
Kristian Flores: Thank you so much for saying that. That is an idea that I think can change the world, this idea that you can’t reduce the experience of teenage adolescence. As adults, for example, we look at our partner and have a checklist of things like finance and where they come from, family, etc. But then when you’re that age, everything is only that thing, you know what I mean? Like, their thoughts and feelings are so rich with actual humanity, that they only like people because they think they’re cool to hang out with and nothing else is involved. So when they feel love, it’s actually love. When they feel anger, there’s no manipulation or even trauma yet. They’re angry because they’re angry. Anything that these people feel, I just hope that it comes off as actors portraying teenagers as intelligent because teenage shows on billboards around LA can play up the naivete.
In the beginning, Xavier was the main suspect. Everyone thought he hurt Maddie. Over the course of the season, Simon has had to work with him a little bit. What can you say about that dynamic and where that’s going?
Kristian Flores: I would actually describe their relationship as a masculine dynamic because they fist-fight each other. At least, when I was filming the show, I kind of interpreted their relationship as something that evolves, and the fight was just something that needs to get out of the way and get over with. I feel like when you’re finally at war with someone and you get physical, you start to know them. They’re not afraid to yell at each other or say cut the crap. When they both want the same thing, I think they’re just going to bite their tongues and work together. Two soldiers fighting for the same country don’t have to like each other, but they’ll have each other’s back. They are two teenage guys, so they’ll have their jokes and fun, and sometimes they’ll kind of dab each other up, and then remember they hate each other. But their relationship is going to be unique.
My last question is… I don’t even know if you can even answer it. You talked about narrowing down the possible suspects. Do you include Simon on that list? Or can you unequivocally say that he had nothing to do with it?
Kristian Flores: I have spoken to the writer, Nate [Trinrud]and he and I briefly discussed how surprised we were at the people who think Simon killed Maddie because it’s really a reflection of trust in the modern age, that why don’t believe in unconditional love. We’re resistant against honest relationships, and we always think there’s some sort of problem. So I am going to go ahead and say that Simon is the purest example of unconditional love. He’s just a selfless guy. I always want to make sure I find flaws in my character, and there are some personality things with him that aren’t very good. He’s a bit of a critic, and he thinks he’s above some things. He doesn’t really prioritize safety and all, but if you track his events, they’re kind of really sweet. I hate how sweet he is. But I guess it is selfish because he wants his best friend and he needs Maddie. She is his air. But I’ll go ahead and say that it’s definitely a reflection of what we think of people today.