Wreck | Interview with Thaddea Graham (Vivian)

Have you ever been on a cruise?

When I was younger we went on a river cruise up the Yangtze River. It was beautiful, with mountains either side, so not your typical round-the-world cruise liner. It was only five days and we could always see land, so we didn’t feel too trapped.

Did you research into life on a cruise ship?

I came on board quite early – excuse the pun – and had loads of time to think about cruise life. I listened to a podcast called Behind the Crew Door, by someone in an onboard entertainment team and another one who did sound mixing. They talked about their stories and brought people on to talk about all the shenanigans – Ryan’s caught the drama and the small-community vibe really well: the working conditions are challenging at times, but it’s the people who pull you through.

What appealed about Wreck?

A lot of the time, scripts start strongly then the momentum dips. Wreck comes in at 10, then goes to 12, down to 11, up to 14… I couldn’t put it down. My friend was auditioning before I knew about it and asked me to help with the Irish accent, so we read the first episode and it was amazing! He told me it was shooting in Northern Ireland and they were looking for a Chinese Mancunian, but I had faith in my agent and after a couple of days she sent me the breakdown just as I was sending a message to her about it. What I love about this show is that you come as you are. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what walk of life or whether you’ve been on a cruise before, the characters take you at face value because none of that other stuff matters in the middle of the ocean – I’d never really seen that before. Plus, I’d never seen a killer duck. 

How does Vivian come to be on the Sacramentum?

Vivian has told her parents that she’s gay and, while they didn’t say it was wrong, they were like, if you keep it quiet, it’ll pass. She stole their credit card and got onto the boat as a last-ditch attempt to get away from home, and finds a load of people who don’t care about any of that. She’s a lone wolf and okay with that, but when she meets Jamie she finds something she’s never had before. They’re like soulmates who just understand each other and don’t have to explain themselves. I don’t think she’s ever had that before. She’s very guarded but, without trying, he makes her feel safe and seen, and she offers that for him as well. 

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Ryan says he’s amazed at how similar you are to Vivian.

I’ll take that as a compliment! Vivian’s a lot braver than I am, confident and comfortable in who she is and doesn’t care whether you like it or not. She treats everyone the same and doesn’t let anyone talk down to her. We’re both stubborn and strong-willed, but she’s more reckless: I’ll take a leap of faith, but I’ll make sure there’s somewhere to land! Spending that much time as Vivian gives me a peek at what it would be like if you lived your life 100% authentically – you’ve got to save some of you in this industry, so to be totally open was amazing.

What’s her job on board?

She and Jamie are called “bloobs” because they’re newbies who wear blue T-shirts. We do all the boring jobs, we’re confined to tiny cabins and would ideally never see the light of day, whereas the entertainment crew are more glamorous – they have showers or baths in their rooms. The main hub of activity is a big corridor called the I-95, which is also one of the busiest highways in America. Fortunately, although we should be cleaning in the kitchen and toilets, we manage to find something more exciting to do.

How was the set?

We were shooting in an abandoned tyre factory in Ballymena in Northern Ireland during the winter, so it was cold! We also went on location which was bizarre, having grown up in a lot of the places that we ended up shooting in. It was my dream to be on stage at the Waterfront Hall, a big concert venue where I used to see shows when I was little, and sure enough we shot on it. We also shot on the Nomadic, a tender that used to take people out to the Titanic. The company who built it tried to make it look really glamorous, so we filmed on there for a lot of the deck scenes – that was a real honour.

Did you have your own theories about what was going on?

I had absolutely no idea what was going on. This is a big difference between Vivian and me. She was very switched on, but I was lost most of the time. When we all came in for costume fittings, only some people were being taken in for the Quacky costume, so I thought that was immediately suspicious…

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What did you make of the costume?

I hated it. I’m so bad with horror, and whoever was in the Quacky suit had a lot of fun with it. They’d chase you or walk behind you and pop out. They enjoyed spooking people. 

Was there a lot of that?

There was – it didn’t take much, because the combination of being cold and the mindset meant we were all quite jumpy. It wasn’t ideal because my reaction when anybody scares me is to hit them! I loved the cast though, we still have the group chat and meet up in London. 

Do you have a favourite scary movie?

Train to Busan, because I really bought into the relationships, which is something that we did here –you earn all the madness. I remember a cartoon version of Noddy that I couldn’t watch because of the goblins even though they weren’t scary, they were essentially just bad kids. My mum would skip the bits in Cinderella with the stepsisters, because it frightened me too much. That just didn’t exist in my version of the story. They were all very nice and had tea parties!

What was the biggest challenge of making Wreck?

There’s a lot of blood in the show, and it’s really sticky and really cold. At one point Jamie and I get absolutely doused, which is a really cool shot, but we suffered for our art! Still, where else are you going to get covered in fake blood while screaming your head off? 

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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.