Convention - NYCC 2020 : Truth Seekers – Virtual press roundtable with Nick Frost, Malcolm McDowell and Susan Wokoma
Par Mulder, Zoom Event, le 8.10.2020
Truth Seekers is a supernatural comedy-drama featuring a team of paranormal investigators who team up to film ghostly apparitions across the UK and share them on an online video channel. As they stake out haunted churches, underground bunkers and abandoned hospitals with their homemade ghost-detection gadgets, supernatural experiences become more frequent, more terrifying and even deadly, leading them to uncover a conspiracy that could spark the Apocalypse.
Set in a mysterious world filled with terrifying monsters, Truth Seekers mixes styles from hilarious to very scary scenes through an exciting story. The series stars Nick Frost as Gus, Simon Pegg as Dave, Samson Kayo as Elton, Malcolm McDowell as Richard, Emma D'Arcy as Astrid, and Susan Wokoma as Helen. Truth Seekers, from the same minds that revealed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Sick Note and Paul, is co-written by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz, who is producing it alongside Miles Ketley and director Jim Field Smith.
Q : Hi Nick and Susan, please can you tell some words about the so awaited Truth Seekers series ?
Nick Frost : Even down to the beginning of that fucking Bartok overtures, they just drive up to the overlook. There's nothing happening there, but you feel terrified it's fucking brilliant. And then with the comedy, it's just people being funny and people having a laugh or people being afraid and it's not like, Whoa, this ghost has got its bum out ... which, I'd say look out for that in the second season.
Susan Wokoma : What do I think? Firstly it will be my bum out in the second season. Nice one. What Nick said in terms of how I approach comedy is that you're always sort of looking for the truth in it. And then that's kind of what makes it funny because people are funny and weird and horny as Nick said. I've only done one horror comedy before and that's how I approached it. It was, it's just it's happening. And within that, that's funny. Like you could see a ghost and that'd be genuinely funny, but also make you throw up at the same time and that's funny, but that's also a natural reaction to seeing a ghost. As long as you play it, truthfully, I think you can do anything. And so, yeah, that's kind of what I learned on the other show that I did. And then with this, I've got more practice.
Q : My question is for all three of you guys, what kind of ghost-hunting training did you have to do for the show ?
Susan Wokoma : I feel like I've sort of been in ghost-training all my life. I actually used to go looking for ghosts with my brother at a place called elephant and castle, which sounds quite ghostly, but it's not, it's quite a tick in London. Yeah, we were big into that. So I feel like I've just been gearing up for the show. What about you Nick?
Nick Frost : Like Susan, I have been really my whole life in and around the spirit world. I lost my virginity in a witch's house and I sort of cut move on the table when I was at it and it's never left me, you know? My mum was one of seven sisters from a place called Pembrookshire, and they would always tell me stories about the dead and ghosts, and so I've always kind of believed in it. I can feel it around me now if I stop and think.
Q : Malcolm, do you have anything you wanted to add about your experience with the supernatural on the show ?
Malcolm: No, not really. I'm okay. I'm not a great believer in ghosts, sorry. To all those sci-fi's out there, it doesn't really a horror fanatics. I've never really been into that, but I wish I could see those. I would love it. I would love to have a chat or to see something, you know, go through a wall.
Q : How did you and the creators choose locations for the series? Like, was there anything that inspired, any specifics, like places for the show ?
Nick Frost : There were certain things we needed, like we needed a hospital, so we found like an old abandoned hospital, which was really frightening. Because we live in like England where you know that you've got a lot of old dilapidated things, it's just easy to find places that are really scary. We found an incredible old house that this old woman lived in. It was essentially a Tudor house on the inside and then someone had built another house over it, so it was really higgledy piggledy and just creepy as all hell. There was also like an old abandoned factory, which was great. And then I think the creepiest thing was an old abandoned school for deaf children, which had shut in like the 1960s and seventies. So there was a kind of huge basement, with loads of tunnels, which is great. Cause you kind of get to a point when you'll sit on your phone and all the crew have moved to another location, and you realize you're just in a cellar on your own, and it's kind of a little bit, a little bit creepy. Samson gets genuinely frightened about things. So he'd kind of come onto set and see some of the locations and he's be like, nah, I'm not going in there. It was perfect casting, wasn't it really ... I think that the mind is the worst place to be. It's full of ghosts.
Q : You mentioned how these characters could be absolutely anything. So why did you make them paranormal investigators out of everything that they could be ?
Nick Frost : That's a really good question. I mean, I guess we wanted to write a show about the paranormal, and so, you build the characters around what you want the show to be, I guess. You know, they could have been tennis coaches, and not me, obviously I can't run, but, uh, I could have been the boss of the other tennis coaches. It seems, you know, that it's a genre that's close to me in terms of a love of the paranormal and the occult and unanswered questions. And it was something I'd wanted to do for a while, you know, Simon Pegg and I used to go somewhere when we were younger men, younger single men and that was something that we enjoyed, being frightened and terrified. And, and then, the X-Files happened and we felt like it was written purposely for us as I'm sure a lot of fellow X-Files feel. And then me and James started to talk about this character and you know, his wife had passed on and he was a very cynical lonely man, but he was great, at his job and had a passion for trying to find her, you know, someone who's very, centric it's kind of funny that he's kind of digging up all her past work to try and find a way to be back with her. You know, it's the Gus being a kind of moody shit. It's a kind of really passionate thing that he's doing in a way to try and find his dead wife, 20 years is a long time to go being single.
Q : How many episodes is the series ?
Nick Frost : Eight, eight.
Q : : Are they all going to be released eight at once or are we going to get kind of like some other shows where we're going to get three and then, five weekly or are they, or is it going to be weekly? How are we doing the release ?
Nick Frost : We're going to release one episode a year for the next eight years. They will do one bi- annually.
Q : In terms of portraying the characters, did you draw any kinds of characteristics from previous characters you've played like Nick, is there any aspect of the character you played in Shaun of the Dead and who you play here ?
Nick Frost : I don't know. I mean, I try and put a little bit of myself into every character I play so I suppose in that regard, there is a connection between Gus and Ed and Danny and everyone else I've played. I think the thing about acting is for me personally, is I want to be different in everything I do, and that's not just a different accent or a different voice, it's a different person. I think I've done a pretty good job of that too, I don't feel like I've been the same in anything really.
Susan Wokoma : Oh, I've got no range, they're all the same. I do get cast as loners and weirdos and I embrace that. Privately, I do wonder why. I think that there is something about the other character that I played, Raquel in a choral comedy, that is a loner, that is an outsider, that is socially awkward. But there's thousands of ways to do that! I do think that there is something about when you're not kind of embraced by society and how likely you're going to be to start looking for other answers and other worlds. I think, that's what, sort of runs through. And I didn't want to tamper with that, and just be like, Oh, I've got to make it, you know, super, super different because ultimately I speak with my voice, but noticing that, Oh, it tends to be the people who aren't sort of at the center of the TV shows that you watch all the time or the news or in magazines or runways, they tend to be the characters in fiction who go out looking for the ghost or monsters. And I think that's cool, so I didn't actually want to tamper with that too much.
Q : What was the most difficult scene to play in the first season ?
Nick Frost : I don't know. There's a bunch of stuff when I'm working with Samson, when it's difficult to not laugh, you know. We ate a lot of biscuits in between tapes, that was difficult. No, I mean, I couldn't say, it's a really difficult question to ask. I mean, there was a scene when my dead wife appears and, having to summon up tears is kind of difficult and I've got a little playlist that I listen to before I do the scene. And there's only one thing on that playlist, and it's the Welsh people singing the national Anthem from Cardiff Arms Park and I listen to that and it makes me cry. You know, people think, Oh, it's just a comedy, it's just a horror comedy, it's a sitcom, but you know, you don't act any less passionately because it's a comedy.
Susan Wokoma : I guess getting the balance of, comedy and the truth of it. I think with Helen, she is somebody who's very isolated, very lonely, very troubled, and sort of making sure that she's funny, but also that you kind of get across the depth of somebody who is, you know, in their early thirties and doesn't have any friends... Like that there's pain there. There is actual trauma. So, it's just maintaining what that is. I think it was hard sometimes, but fun.
Q : Is there a scene from the first season that you found particularly difficult or was the most difficult scene for you to film ?
Malcolm McDowell : No. Nothing that I can remember, that was difficult. I mean, good god we're not doing Hamlet.
Q : Do you have a favorite scene ?
Malcolm McDowell : I mean, no, not really. I mean, don't ask me favorite because, you know, Nick can give you all these answers because he's in every scene. So he has more of an overview of all this. I just come in for, a few days here and there and I came in late, so I was doing episodes, I think they'd already shot. I enjoyed it all. Actually, I didn't find it difficult, I found it a lot of fun. The only thing that was arduous was the thing with the eyes, you know, that was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it wasn't even as bad as they made it out to be. They kept going on about the eyes, and I felt like good god, this is going to be quite frightening, but in fact it was absolutely nothing. We're just talking about digestive biscuits ... that's about it. That is the depths of this character that they've come up for me, so it's just a lot of fun, that's really it. There's no secret to it, it's just have a lot of fun, have fun with it and that's it. End of story. And honestly, I can say that in every single performance I've given, it's basically the same, just have fun. And everything I've done anyway is a comedy, just sometimes I'm playing serial killers, so it makes it even more creepier, you know, but that's it. I always look for the comedy in every single part, I think I've ever played.
Q : Are there any elements from past characters or roles that you've played that you saw in the character that you played in this show ?
Malcolm McDowell : Well, I suppose it's my face. Can't do much about that. Other than that, and I speak English, of course. So there are certain things that I have in common with other parts, but really, I haven't done anything in England for a while, so actually playing in English, I had to really work on the accent too, which was really weird. I'm sorry that my answers are not very exciting, but, I don't think that there was anything, you know, you come to new part and you just try and take it from scratch, from the start on whatever it is. I had a lot of fun working with these two, and most of my scenes were with them, so it was lovely. Can't wait till the next one, if there is one.
Q : Nick, between being a producer, screenwriter and actor on truth seekers, which for you is the most fun part of your work on the series ?
Nick Frost : Being an actor was the best fun, being a producer and then a writer too, it felt like I was a grownup. And then having to just get rid of all that and just come on set and act and hang out and have a laugh and find new comedies within something we'd written, and just to hang out with the guys, you know, that's fun. It's boring talking about producer shit. Writing's kind of difficult, but acting is great fun.
Q : Can you tell everybody a little bit about your sources of inspiration for this series ?
Nick Frost : I think just being a fan of the paranormal and wanting to write something which was about a man who lost something and was looking for it, not of itself, I guess that. I just wanted to write truthful comedy, with a horror element and play with really good, talented, funny actors. We have a no dicks policy, so it's nice that we got six fantastic people to do to do that.
Q : Nick, if you could talk a little bit about working with Simon on this particular project ?
Nick Frost : I'm bored of it. He came at the right time because we'd shot for like two months, and we were all kind of tired and ready to finish and we had his stuff at the end, so it was like we had a new energy on set and we needed him at that time, it was great to have him. He's like wearing a pair of really old denims, a pair of old jeans you find in the wash basket, and you think, Oh, I'll slip it back on. It feels nice to feel that wet denim back on my ass.
Susan Wokoma : Wet ?
Nick Frost : Well, when you wear a pair of jeans for a long time, it has a sheen that makes it feel damp most of the time. I wore a pair of jeans for three years once and that's the vibe I get.
Truth Seekers is a supernatural comedy drama series about a team of part-time paranormal investigators who team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the UK, sharing their adventures on an online channel for all to see. However, as they stake out haunted churches, underground bunkers and abandoned hospitals with their array of homemade ghost-detecting gizmos, their supernatural experiences grow more frequent, more terrifying and even deadly, as they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon for the entire human race.
Directed by Jim Field Smith
Created by Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, Nat Saunders
Starring Nick Frost, Emma D'Arcy, Samson Kayo, Malcolm McDowell, Simon Pegg, Susie Wokoma, Julian Barratt
Music by Robin Foster
Executive producers: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Nat Saunders, James Serafinowicz, Miles Ketley, Jim Field Smith
Cinematography: Arthur Mulhern
Editors : Steve Ackroyd, David Webb
Production companies : Sony Pictures Television, Stolen Picture
Original network: Prime Video
Release Date : October 30, 2020 (World)
We would like to thanks Ben Brown and Sam Rooks for this great press virtual roundtable.