At first sight, Cloak and Dagger may seem like a departure for Freeform (formerly ABC Family). Through two episodes, the superhero show sure looks like a hit for the network’s younger-skewing audience. The Marvel series premiered with 1.64 million total viewers in Live+3 according to Deadline, which is the network’s best launch in two years and its most watched drama since the Pretty Little Liars series finale.
If you dive into the source material, it’s easy to see why Freeform jumped at the chance to bring the story of Cloak and Dagger to the small screen. The story focuses on Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), two teens with opposite upbringings who are connected through their newly realized powers. Critics (including our own) have praised the show for its grounded and socially relevant storylines. Not to mention that free of the restraints of the MCU, the TV series is an easier YA entry point into the Marvel universe.
Convincing Marvel that Freeform was the right landing spot for Cloak and Dagger was a challenge for the network, considering the studio has had more TV success on streaming services than linear cable.
“It was a battle,” Freeform President Tom Ascheim told Den of Geek. “They were reluctant. They wanted to be on Netflix and ABC. We made a lot of calls. If you talk to the Marvel people, I think they’ve had an incredible experience. They love this show and you can feel it.”
Ascheim credits Freeform’s EVP of Programming, Karey Burke, for fighting for the project. “Karey is super fierce and she called them a lot,” he said.
When Burke got her hands on a script for Cloak and Dagger, she knew it was the right project for a network in transition.
“When we’re coming of age, we feel awkward and we try to pretend that we are not,” Ascheim said on why Cloak and Dagger was a fit for the network. “I think YA fiction is so powerful for young people because they know they’re not alone. I’m weird like them. It’s very emotionally satisfying and uplifting. What we hear at places like Comic-Con is that fiction helps them feel seen. That’s very gratifying.”
Marvel and genre content appear to be a priority for Freeform moving forward. The network nearly had another Marvel project after shooting a pilot for New Warriors, which included the fan favorite Squirrel Girl, but opted not to move forward with the series. On the potential for another Marvel property to land on the cable network the execs told Den of Geek they “hope there will be more.”
“Disney is big. There’s a lot of weird corporate complexity at the moment, so it’s a little harder to figure out where all the pieces will go,” Ascheim said.