If you’re looking for an entertaining family mystery series to binge-watch, then you should definitely check out the Hulu original series The Hardy Boys, inspired by the famous series of books. After a family tragedy that reverberates through the lives of 16-year-old Frank Hardy (Rohan Campbell) and his 12-year-old brother Joe (Alexander Elliot), their father (James Tupper) takes them out of the big city to stay with their Aunt Trudy (Bea Santos) for the summer. While there, the brothers start a secret investigation that leads them to dig into their own family history and look at everyone in town in a different light.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Campbell, Elliot, and Tupper spoke about making a Hardy Boys series that’s more relatable for modern audiences, taking these characters on a fun mystery-solving adventure, the ease of bonding as a family, setting this version in the ‘80s, what makes this a show for the whole family, what they enjoyed about working with each other, and what they’d like to see in a possible second season.
COLLIDER: When this project came your way, how familiar were you guys with The Hardy Boys? Rohan and Alex, did you even know who they were?
ALEXANDER ELLIOT: I didn’t know about it at all. I’m too young to have grown up with it. I only know one person my age that read those books growing up. I was born in the wrong generation for that. But once I got this role and I read into it, it was really, really cool. I’m really happy to hopefully be the one that brings The Hardy Boys to this new generation and to a whole new bunch of fans.
ROHAN CAMPBELL: I grew up reading them because I found them at the book fairs in school. I picked up The Hardy Boys and I fell in love with them. It’s insane that we’re doing this. I remember when we first rolled up to set on the first day, and they had a Hardy Boys logo that they had printed up and the color scheme. I was like, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” I was having a panic attack.
James, was it something that you had been familiar with when you were younger?
JAMES TUPPER: I was a Hardy Boys guy. I grew up in a very remote place on Prince Edward Island and I had these books. They were my private little world that I would go into and they meant a tremendous amount to me. I read one after the other after the other. I would take breaks from reality and go read them, so I was super familiar with them. For me, they represented the kind of courage that it took. The boys always have a moment in the stories where they’re stealing a boat, or climbing a cliff, or going through the dark forest, where they have to have the courage to think and be calm and solve the mystery, to get to the end of it and find out who did it, or whatever. That was very appealing to me. It was a way of practicing becoming a man.
When you’re telling a season-long mystery like this, it seems like you would also be just as interested in finding out what the answers are. When did you get to find that out? How much did you know ahead of time? Did you have to wait until the very end?
ELLIOT: I was begging every single day on set. I was begging them to tell me what happened because I knew that they knew the answer, and they would not tell me. Honestly, I’m grateful that they didn’t because it would have ruined the whole thing. I was along for the ride. I didn’t find out until we actually got there.
CAMPBELL: They kept us in the dark on purpose, I think. We didn’t read Episode 13 until right before we started shooting 12 and 13 together. We all freaked out and called each other, and it was fun.
Was it anything like you expected? Were the answers anything like you thought they’d be?
ELLIOT: It was nothing like I thought it would be, in a good way. I was expecting just a mystery that they would solve because of the books, but what I saw was also action, drama, comedy, and all of these different levels of genres to the show. It just made it so much fun to shoot because we did so much stuff, on top of this crazy mystery-solving adventure.
CAMPBELL: Another cool thing about this specific mystery is the scale it gets to at the end of the season, and the roots it has in the town and with everybody in town. It’s really fun. I think it’s gonna be exciting for people.
TUPPER: I think of this more as The Hardy Boys unleashed. The original series with Shaun Cassidy was on network television and they were confined by this way of telling a story. With our thing, Hulu let us work on it, create relationships, and have rehearsals. They did it right. They created the 13 episodes, and then we got a chance to shoot them in order as they happened. It feels like a reboot. A lot of people under 20 years old don’t know about The Hardy Boys. My son’s friends don’t know about it, but practically everybody in my generation knows about Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys because we all read them as kids. So, it’s a reboot and I think they did it the right way. I’m super excited about it.
Whether this whole thing works really depends on the family chemistry. When did you guys meet and see that you would be able to do this, not just as brothers, but as a whole family?
ELLIOT: We met for the first time at the table read and we only had a couple of days to really rehearse and build that bond. It was actually a lot of fun. It was a super fun experience. It wasn’t stressful at all. I thought it would be and I was thinking, “Oh my God, I only have three days for these people to become my family. What am I gonna do?” But it really worked out perfectly. We had that bond right off the bat. We meshed really well together and it was a lot of fun. We actually had the table read at this arcade place with laser tag and bumper cars. It was just a really fun environment to experience that together. And then, we did all of these rehearsals, working on the scenes, to really build that brotherly bond that’s so important throughout the entire show. It drives the mystery forward.
CAMPBELL: We’re so close now that we don’t talk to our own families.
TUPPER: When first started, we got along so well that, on the third or fourth week, I told them this joke and was like, “Did you hear about the show The Addams Family? It was an NBC show in the ‘80s, and the family on the show loved each other so much that they moved away together. They left their real families.” And they both looked at me like, “What?!”
ELLIOT: I remember that!
Did any of you have a moment, before that meeting, where you were like, “Oh, God, what if we hate each other? What if we don’t get along? How are we going to do this?”
ELLIOT: Everybody did. You can only be so optimistic about strangers. I feel like we all definitely had fears about what we were gonna experience, but it really worked. We don’t have to act like we care about each other. We really built a really strong bond with everybody. We just became a family for that couple of months.
Have you guys talked about what could happen in another season? Have you thought about what you’d like to see with your characters?
ELLIOT: We’ve thought about what we want. We don’t know if anything is actually happening. We have our fingers crossed.
CAMPBELL: We’re just gonna get a blank piece of paper at Christmas and put all of our Season 2 wishes on it. It ends pretty open and there are a lot of places that we can go with it, especially because it’s the first time we see the boys become “the Hardy boys.” There are a lot of open doors for them.
James, have you started to come up with a list of ways to convince them to let you stay in town this time?
TUPPER: I told the showrunners, “I wanna open a detective agency in the town. That has to happen.” I don’t know. We’ll have to see. We’ve talked about it, but we don’t know yet.
Now that they know the answers to the questions that they were trying to solve all season, how might that affect things going forward?
ELLIOT: This is the origin story, so from this point forth, they start to become the Hardy Boys that we know. It’s the beginning of the process to becoming those well-known detectives that people can call on to solve their mysteries. Now that they have all of this information and their personal adventure is over, they think it’s on them to be able to do this because they know they have the ability to solve a mystery of this scale. Now, they’ll take it upon themselves to help people in this way. It’s the start of the Hardy Boys that you know. But I think we’ll keep the new, fun aspect that we have. I don’t think that’s ever gonna go away.
James, how do you think your character will feel about learning what his sons were up to while he was gone?
TUPPER: I think Fenton grew a little bit in this series and learned to trust his boys. Anytime you’re dealing with that level of loss, you wanna protect them, but seeing that they’re functioning really well, he’s like, “Okay, maybe they’re becoming young men and maybe it’s time to let go a little bit and trust them.”
This show does something that’s so tricky, in that it really appeals to so many different ages. You have these brothers that are 12 and 16, you have all of their friends, you have Fenton and Aunt Trudy, and all of these people that populate the world, which really provides something for everybody. Why do you think this is a show that really does work well for the whole family?
ELLIOT: Because it’s about family. The whole thing is surrounding their mother, and it’s about the growth of everybody in the family, apart and together. With the age demographics, there’s a character for the younger people and a character for the older people. Catering to the older fans, there’s Frank, who’s all ‘50s style. For the younger fans, there’s Joe, who’s more fun and adventurous. I feel like there’s something in this show for everybody.
CAMPBELL: The fact that it’s in the ‘80s, for parents, will be super fun to watch with their kids and have them ask them, “Hey, what’s that?” about a Walkman or whatever. That’ll be a fun aspect for families. I hope this reminds people to take care of each other and understand that you need each other. On top of that, I think it’ll just be a cool nostalgic rush back to childhood and childhood books. And the soundtrack just rocks so hard.
Did you ever wish they had cell phones and Google, or was it fun to not have that to fall back on?
ELLIOT: It takes them to all of these cool and interesting places. I feel like this would only be one or two episodes if it was set now. In the age of the internet, if you have a question, somebody has already answered it. But in the ‘80s, they didn’t have that, so they had to go to all of these cool places themselves, and they had to get out of the house and do the work.
CAMPBELL: It does help them get into more trouble and work a little harder to figure things out.
It’s also interesting to see how these boys are both so influenced by their parents. Even though their parents aren’t around that much, we still get to see their mother and their father in both of them. What was it like to figure out how much of that you wanted to show in your characters?
ELLIOT: I think Joe really, really wants to be like his dad, so he has a very strong sense of independence and he feels like he needs to be responsible. He doesn’t want to be treated as a child. He looks up to his dad so heavily and he’s a completely different person around his dad. He cares about him so much, especially after the loss of their mother. Now, all of that affection is put into one person. The way he acts and the way how he puts up this facade of being relaxed and comedic in a super problematic and dangerous situation, I feel like that comes from wanting to have courage like his father. Before, it is just a facade, but as the show goes on, he actually does develop that, and he becomes more and more like his dad.
CAMPBELL: We’re constantly touching back on the fact that all they really wanna be is back together as a family. There’s something in the last episode that will make your heart bleed. It’s such an important thing that they feel close to their family, even when they’re not. There’s stuff that happens in the later episodes where all they really want is help, but they don’t have it. That’s what’s so interesting about Season 1. It’s about watching them figure it out on their own for the first time.
James, how did working with Alex and Rohan inspire you?
TUPPER: Alex and Rohan are at a place already that I struggled to get to you for 10, 15 or 20 years. They understand how it works and what they’re required to do, and their own personalities are flowing. I just had a marvelous experience. I don’t understand why I got to be that lucky. I think they’re the next generation of great actors to come out of Canada, and they’re already leading a series. I’m the lucky one. I think they’re phenomenal.
Alex and Rohan, what did the two of you guys enjoy about working with James and having him play your father?
CAMPBELL: It was such an honor. The thing about James is that he’s so professional, but the pressure that he relieved and the mentorship that he gave us, I would have had a way harder time trying to forge my way through [without it]. I’ve never done anything like this. To go shoot for six months, in a place that I don’t live with people I don’t know, and to have him come up to me and be like, “Yes, you’re supposed to be having this much fun and, yes, you’re supposed to be this tired, and it’s gonna be okay,” was such a gift. I can’t thank the producers and [co-creator] Jason [Stone] enough for bringing James into it. It’s been incredible.
ELLIOT: James is such a dad. It’s amazing, how much he fits into the dad role. It just fits him, perfectly.
TUPPER: But he’s not a regular dad.
ELLIOT: He’s a Hardy dad.
The Hardy Boys is available to stream at Hulu. For more, find out what’s new on Hulu in January.
“You sneaky little minx, you were doing that the whole time.”
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