Arthur Smith on the return of “Floor Is Lava”
Few unscripted series have made as big a splash as the first season of the Netflix physical competition series Floor Is Lava. Its creators, Haymaker’s Irad Eyal and Megan McGrath, took a concept from a beloved children’s game (beloved for the kids, at least, while sometimes irritating for parents navigating toppled lamps and vases) and blew it out into different physical sets that occasionally resembled playgrounds designed by Hieronymous Bosch. Making its debut in June of 2020, the series was an instant hit, topping Netflix’s Global Top 10 by the end of the month.
Now, close to two years later, a second season has arrived, with more teams signing up to tackle the wacky obstacle courses and brave the lava (the actual composition of the viscous liquid is a well-guarded secret). There are significant differences in the new season — not the least of which is a giant volcano — and, in the form of Toluca Lake-based prodco A. Smith & Co., a new production company on the team. Here, Realscreen chats with A. Smith & Co. chairman and second-season Lava EP Arthur Smith about how his company joined the party, and how they aimed to push the series to new heights.
When did A. Smith & Co. become involved with the series? How did that come about?
After a successful pilot season, Netflix brought us in to super-size the series. With our experience in a variety of physical competition shows and other competition formats, they wanted our expertise in bringing new innovations to upgrade the look, scale and gameplay for season two.
Given A. Smith & Co.’s expertise in physical competition series, was that a factor in bringing you on board? Did any of the previous series in this space that you’ve worked on serve as inspiration for any of the updates to the series’ gameplay?
Our lengthy track record was certainly a factor in Netflix bringing us on board. For over two decades, our reputation has been built on making physical competition shows like American Ninja Warrior and its Junior spinoff, The Titan Games, and NFL’s Pro Bowl Skills Showdown safe, exciting and, of course, entertaining. But each show has its own personality. So, while our past work informed us, it was really the pilot season of Floor Is Lava that inspired us to tap into the over-the-top, outrageous, comedic fun you see throughout season two.
What was the collaboration process like between A. Smith & Co. and Haymaker? Given the success of the first season, what areas did all the teams involved feel needed a refresh or update?
Haymaker West laid a strong foundation and hired an outstanding leadership team in Anthony Carbone and Brian Smith. They both stayed on for season two, and their insight and institutional knowledge proved invaluable. To push the series to new heights, we spent months developing exciting, challenging new rooms and dialing up the difficulty to achieve the ideal mixture of successes, splashes, and splats. We also created the Lava Lounge to enhance the drama and make our soundtrack richer, by giving our teams a space to interact with Rutledge [Wood, the series’ wisecracking host] while watching the competition and sweating out their fates with each leap, fall, and close call.
But our “biggest” upgrade has to be the addition of our giant Volcano. We wanted each episode to build to a climactic showdown with our two best teams in a thrilling head-to-head race, and what better than a race up an angry, two-story, lava-spewing Volcano? And speaking of lava, we also added another 10,000 gallons of revamped, more realistic lava that was much thicker, heavier, and more intense.