Wilderness creators on lead star Jenna Coleman, strikes and their love letter to Taylor Swift


Wilderness creators on lead star Jenna Coleman, strikes and their love letter to Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift might already be somewhat ubiquitous at the moment thanks to her Eras tour, upcoming movie and the nine MTV VMA prizes she took home this week, but she’s about to get even more attention thanks to her track being used in a new drama starring Jenna Coleman.

Her 2017 song Look What You Made Me Do is the title track for Wilderness – the story of a couple whose dream holiday quickly sours amid deception and revenge – and also sums up the mood of the main character Liv, who is portrayed by Coleman.

Swift is one of the biggest stars in the world right now which might make the process of using one of her tracks sound challenging but the show’s creator Marnie Dickens told Sky News’ Backstage podcast it was in fact “lovely”.

“I write all my commercial tracks into the script, so in this case, it’s Liv’s point of view, so it’s kind of like her playlist because I think music is a very good way to get behind whatever the character, whatever mask they put up, whatever you listen to in your AirPods, I think, is expressing your sort of emotional state,” she explained.

“So the track was in there in episode two anyway, and then Amazon were like, ‘you know, you can have somebody for the title track, who’s your dream?’ And obviously Taylor was the dream.”

Wilderness creators on lead star Jenna Coleman, strikes and their love letter to Taylor Swift

“So I wrote a love letter to her saying why this song is perfect, why she’s perfect, and it worked… She gave her blessing.”

Wilderness is based on a book and Dickens, whose previous work includes the series’ Gold Digger and Thirteen, says that while she appreciates being given a twisty thriller to write from, she also loved the setting of the drama.

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“It’s a juicy relationship thriller which is very much in my wheelhouse but instantly it took it out of the domestic sphere,” she said.

“So you had a natural sort of expansive story stage, which is very exciting because sometimes in relationship dramas you think they’re going to get very boxed in, kitchen sinky, and then there’s this amazing female protagonist in Liv.

“And I guess the other thing was like, there’s this chance to play with this idea in the audience’s mind of like, What’s your darkest revenge fantasy? And we get to kind of have wish fulfilment watching it play out via our heroine.”

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The series director So Yong Kim says it was the revenge aspect that drew her to the project.

“Oh, I had fantasies of killing off my husband before,” she laughed. “So I thought, ‘hey, this is great, it’s just right up my alley.”

Both Dickens and Yong Kim are extremely complimentary about Coleman’s work on the show and on-screen presence.

With members of SAG-AFTRA on strike because the US union hasn’t reached a deal with studios, Coleman and fellow cast members Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Ashley Benson can’t do the interviews and promo that they usually would when a new project comes out.

“I think I feel for them it’s.. I feel like Jenna and Oliver worked so hard, and the rest of the cast, we’ve got such an incredible ensemble cast, I feel like they should be celebrated,” said Dickens.

“So that is a shame I think that they can’t be, but there’s a strike for a very good reason, and we’re very supportive of the strike.”

“Yeah, likewise, I support the strike, but I feel sad that we can’t celebrate with them,” said Yong Kim.

Dickens – who is British – says the impact of the walkouts in Hollywood is definitely being felt on this side of the Atlantic.

“Speaking to So and to Cat our amazing DOP, you realise we’re not being hit anywhere near as hard as our colleagues and friends in LA and New York,” she explained.

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Wilderness creators on lead star Jenna Coleman, strikes and their love letter to Taylor Swift

“But I think there is a slow down on the commissioning front and you are having to work harder to get green lights, so it’s tough.”

“[But] I think it’s tougher for the crews because there’s just fewer things filming, but hopefully it’s short-term pain, long term gain.”

When it came to making the show, the cast didn’t rehearse much, instead Yong Kim had them write letters to one another in character, and the cast and crew simply spent time together in order to build relationships.

“We had Zoom calls with Marnie and Liz [Kilgariff – the other executive producer on the show] to go over particular scenes that were more complex,” she said.

“But otherwise we just spent time having coffee and having meals, doing some journaling and doing a lot of just getting to know each other, building trust and friendship.”

But while positive relationships were formed off-screen, what we see on screen is a story of revenge, toxic relationships and how complex they can be.

Dickens hopes that’s something the audience takes away.

“I would want people to come away thinking revenge is a very fun thing to pursue, but it causes huge devastation across the series.

“So it’s not that I want the audience to think twice about their own revenge plans, but I guess for me, if they come away, feeling that they’ve experienced Liv’s journey and that they understand the things that she’s done, that would be a real satisfying achievement, I think.”

Wilderness is out on Prime Video now. Hear our review on the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News.


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