The streaming service said the series didn’t build a strong enough following after its eight episodes were released back in June. Felicia D. Henderson says the company’s top brass gave her hope that this would change, even as they failed to put their advertising might behind it.
“When I got the call to tell me they weren’t renewing the show because the completion rate wasn’t high enough, of course, I was very disappointed,” Henderson told The Daily Beast via email. “What showrunner wouldn’t be? I’d been told a couple of weeks ago that they were hoping completion would get higher. I guess it didn’t.”
Fans told The Daily Beast that they barely saw any promo for the show and mostly learned about it on social media. Henderson, who is currently recovering from a bout of COVID, says the streaming service didn’t sell potential audiences on everything it had to offer.
“The art for the initial marketing was beautiful,” she said. “I think I expected that to be the beginning and that the other equally compelling and important elements of the show—monsters vs. monster hunters, the battle between two powerful matriarchs, etc.—would eventually be promoted, and that didn’t happen.”
A source close to the production previously told The Daily Beast that the few ads that were released portrayed it mostly as a lesbian love story, something that may have hindered its reach.
Fans of the supernatural thrill ride were incensed when news broke Wednesday that the show wouldn’t be returning for a second season. First Kill is based on a short story by V. E. Schwab. It focuses on two teenage girls, a vampire and a monster hunter, whose star-crossed romance kicks off a journey that pits their families against each other. Some blamed Netflix for giving up too quickly on lesbian-centered shows, citing casualties like 2018’s Everything Sucks!, But Henderson stands by the network’s good intentions.
“They licensed the IP, paid for a pilot script, and gave it a healthy production budget,” the veteran producer said. “The creative team was very supportive when we were shooting the show under harrowing conditions—before there were ‘vaccines for all’ in Atlanta, a very overcrowded production hub.”
Henderson got her start as a writer and story editor on the 1990s ABC sitcom Family Matters before racking up credits on hits like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moesha, and Gossip Girl.
First Kill premiered to middling reviews from critics, who took issue with its soapy storytelling and trite concept—a fate that’s befallen many of Netflix’s original productions. Still, Henderson says she’s “proud” of her team.
“I think this cast is among the most talented I’ve ever worked with. And their chemistry? Fire, for sure,” she said. “The show is kick-ass and we were in the top five globally and domestically for three of the first four weeks. I was very hopeful.”
Most of the online conversation about the show’s untimely end came from its loyal audience of bisexual and lesbian women, many of them young. Henderson praised the show’s LGBTQ+ fan base, adding that she is “overjoyed” at the positive response from the community. At the same time, she believes First Kill would have appealed to even larger swaths of viewers if they “had the time to discover” it.
“The other reason I so enthusiastically signed on to this show is that It has something for everyone—strong women leads, supernatural intrigue, an epic, Shakespearean battle between warring families, and a prominently featured Black family in the genre space, something Black viewers crave and a general audience needs to be treated to,” explains Henderson.
Fans have since started a petition to bring the show back for a second season.