Daybreak: How Matthew Broderick Became Principal Burr

Daybreak showrunner Aron Eli Coleite shares how Matthew Broderick came to the role of Principal Burr and what’s next for the character.

Matthew Broderick as Principal Burr in Daybreak

WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for season 1 of Daybreak.

Fans of the post apocalyptic teen comedy Daybreak were no doubt initially lured to the show in part by the inclusion of Matthew Broderick in the cast because of the clear nod to his role as the original fourth wall breaking protagonist Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the narrative style of Colin Ford’s Josh Wheeler in this series. But how did the producers and the network convince Broderick to take on this offbeat character in such an unconventional young adult sci-fi offering? Co-creator and showrunner Aron Eli Coleite shared with us the impetus for the casting and what might be in Principal Burr’s future should there be a Daybreak season 2.

Broderick’s involvement may seem like a no-brainer, but Coleite says it was far from a sure thing even though no one else could possible have played the part of principal. “It was written for him,” says Coleite. “We knew! We were like, ‘This would be the most amazing casting if we can get Burr to be Matthew Broderick!’ Not only for like, ‘Oh, Matthew Broderick grew up to play Ed Rooney,’ but also… not only be the principal, but to be the cannibal who eats kids: it felt like the perfect coup of casting. We wrote it for him. We were told it was never going to happen, that he doesn’t do television and certainly he wouldn’t do anything that was this referential to Ferris Bueller. But he read the scripts and he really liked the idea of playing this very twisted villain.”

further reading: Daybreak Comic Creator Brian Ralph on the Jump to Netflix

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There were times when it didn’t feel like an easy sell because of some of the cruder teen dialogue in Daybreak. “He said, you guys use the word ‘vag’ a lot in this,” says Coleite. “And he had a very big problem with our use of female anatomy. And so we said, ‘Well, we’re going to use as much derogatory terms about male anatomy and anatomy in general.’ And he was very content with that answer. So as long as we are equal opportunity offenders, he was cool with doing it.”

Never mind the fact that Principal Burr eats his students in Daybreak! The principal’s arc in the show took Broderick from a caring but disillusioned authority figure to a flesh-eating zombie and finally to a host for something perhaps even more gruesome. “I think that’s the sandbox that I really was interested in playing in,” says Coleite. “Starting a show with something that seems like zombies and then evolving them into a real mutant wasteland type of creature. Something that we haven’t exactly seen before. I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m a huge fan of body horror, and I think that this was an opportunity of creating a real mutant race that could be something that we haven’t seen before.”

more: Daybreak Scripted Podcast Coming from Netflix

No matter what becomes of Principal Burr, Coleite hopes that viewers of Daybreak will appreciate the many movie references in the show including the Ferris Bueller angle with Broderick’s casting. “I think it was a really just iconic movie, and I think it remains iconic because it talks about the spirit of youth, of bucking convention and breaking the system,” he says. “And that’s a timeless thing. So I do think that it is hopefully still relevant and if it’s something that people are unfamiliar with, my hope is also that it drives them back to go watch Ferris again. It still holds up remarkably well and it’s just an iconic film.”

To enjoy Broderick’s turn as Principal Burr in Daybreak, check out season one on Netflix, which we reviewed favorably in advance of its October 24, 2019 premiere. We also have some ideas of where season 2 might be headed, thanks to other conversations with Coleite and his fellow producers, and our best guess at what that ending is really all about.

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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and coordinates interviews for The Fourth Wall podcast.