Wreck | Interview with Ryan J Brown (Creator)

Where did the idea for Wreck come from?

I’m a huge fan of the horror genre and I’m always on the lookout for a new, exciting setting. I read some shocking material about the cruise industry and I was hooked – it seemed to provide the perfect setup. I hadn’t ever seen a slasher series in the UK, and thought a cruise ship would be the perfect, unseen setting.

Can you set the series up?

Pippa Walsh (Jodie Tyack) is working aboard the Sacramentum cruise ship as an entertainer, and vanishes. Her brother Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) suspects foul play and doesn’t believe the official party line from Valorum, the cruise company, that she jumped. He buys someone else’s place on the Sacramentum and goes aboard a couple of months later to find out what happened. Within a day, he realises this is way bigger than he’d imagined, that everyone there is a suspect and that the perpetrator is still aboard the ship.

Have you ever been on a cruise?

I haven’t and not sure I ever will… Thankfully there is a wealth of material out there. You can really fall down the rabbit hole. We also spoke to people who have worked aboard some cruise liners. There are actually websites dedicated to tracking deaths and disappearances!

How did Covid affect the writing of the series?

Suddenly you had all these people trapped in their bedrooms, like cabins on cruise ships, feeling completely out of control and young people were at the mercy of adults AKA partying politicians. Who would have thought a cruise ship would be a timely representation of intergenerational divides? The show does have an uplifting message about young people coming together, finding a voice and fighting back. It’s quite cathartic: a teen slasher show and a piece of genre entertainment that also subtly looks at capitalist structures.

How did you come to film in a disused tyre factory?

We explored filming on board a cruise ship but building sets meant we had complete creative control, designed by the amazing John Leslie, which we wouldn’t have had on an actual cruise ship. What our director Chris Baugh has managed to do is insane, let alone during a pandemic. I don’t think I’ve seen a BBC Three show like it before.

Did balancing the scares and the laughs come naturally?

It’s sort of an instinctive thing. Horror is tension and comedy is release. If you have funny characters in a heightened, scary scenario, responding to terrible stuff, things sort of balance themselves naturally. Having an amazing team around me who would tell me when to reign stuff in was also super useful.

Were you paying homage to particular films or series?

The whole series is full of references and easter eggs, from character surnames to locations on the ship. The films of Wes Craven (Scream, Nightmare on Elm St) and John Carpenter (Halloween) have been big influences on me, as well as the work of George A. Romero, The League of Gentlemen, Edgar Wright. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is also a big one.

Are you easily scared?

I’m a little desensitised these days, but when I am, I love it. I’m very drawn to the strange and unsettling. Human beings, and what we’re all capable of, is the scariest thing for me.

Why did you want the killer to be dressed in a duck costume?

I wanted something that represented a shiny, corporate innocence but with a real darkness within, and Quacky felt like the perfect thing (I’m proud to be the voice of Quacky).

How was the reality of Quacky?

Terrifying. I’ve tried on the costume and it changes you! The geniuses at Millennium, who made the suit, tried lots of different prototypes and designs. It took a long time because it had to look like a real mascot that wouldn’t terrify families, while also having a really creepy edge.

How did you pull the cast together?

I spotted Oscar in a film and knew immediately that he was Jamie. With Jamie we needed somebody who could play the emotion and then switch on a dime to be really funny. We found Thaddea next, and she was literally the part I’d written – it was so strange how similar to Vivian she was. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were when we saw them do a chemistry test together. Once we’d found them, they kind of set the precedent and everyone else followed.

How important was it to have a strong LGBTQ+ representation?

It’s so important to me. The lead group of characters is predominately LGBTQ+. This was an opportunity to have a show with LGBTQ+ heroes who weren’t going through trauma about their identity. They exist in the real world where the stigma does exist, but it’s not the focus and it doesn’t define them. Horror has always been queer, from the stories to the people that make them, but often it’s been buried in subtext.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.