As you’ll see below, The Wilds creator Sarah Streicher (Daredevil) and showrunner Amy B. Harris (Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, The Comeback) are not offended if you bring up Lost in connection to their new Amazon drama — after all, it’s hard to deny the ABC show’s influence on their series, which tracks a group of teenage girls trying to survive after being stranded together on a deserted island after a mysterious plane crash.
While the premise might be familiar (and the format even utilizes character-focused flashbacks to illuminate each girl’s backstory), The Wilds has a very unique spin on the concept of what’s tougher to handle: surviving a desert island, or adolescence? Featuring Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) and an ensemble of young stars including Sophia Taylor Ali, Shannon Berry, Jenna Clause, Reign Edwards, Mia Healey, Helena Howard, Erana James, and Sarah Pidgeon, the first season is also packed with twists, ending on a pretty massive cliffhanger that, fingers crossed, a second season would resolve.
Below, Streicher and Harris answer some of Collider’s biggest questions, including: How did they approach the show, knowing that Lost comparisons would be unavoidable? How did the cast come together? And how much do the writers have planned for a second season?
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of The Wilds, “Day Twenty-Three.”]
Collider: To start off, where did this all come from?
SARAH STREICHER: I guess it came together in my head and heart and some small, weird apartment that I was living in, in South Pasadena. It began with a heartbreak — I got my heart trampled by a person who I shall not name, and the experience really made me feel like a teenager again. I had all sorts of intense broiling emotions and calling my mom, listening to sad song playlists and just all the memories of being an adolescent returned to me. It was a reminder of how close that person is to your surface, always and continually, and I wanted to explore that, and I wanted to celebrate it. I did not want to judge that intensity of emotion, I did not want to malign it. I wanted to explore it, kind of see how it ticks and really celebrate it.
I don’t know how it came to me entirely — it’s one of those ideas that visits you, if you keep the channel open. And so I decided to marry the idea of the teenage coming-of-age experience and a deserted island and ask the question: Which is more difficult to weather? That was the genesis of the idea. And then we shot the pilot and then we got a mini-room and that’s when Amy came on, and has been invaluable.
In terms of talking about the show, it’s impossible not to bring up Lost. What were you thinking about, in terms of what were you hoping you could bring to the concept and do differently?
AMY B. HARRIS: I think initially, as Sarah likes to say, “We stand on the shoulders of that giant,” and wouldn’t deny that to anybody. That is a show that broke a lot of ways of telling a story. What we always talked about and sort of what I’ve always been interested in as a writer, you can tell a story, but it’s like, why is it a Sex and the City story versus a Friends story? Why are these stories so different? And I think it’s because we are telling it through the lens of teenage girls. It’s inherently sort of different. So, we can sort of celebrate the things that are obviously sort of an homage to Cast Away as well as My So-Called Life, in terms of talking about the teenage experience in a really authentic, specific, grounded way.
HARRIS: And we talked very honestly about how much we love those shows and then it was like, “Okay, we’re going to tell our stories, and how are those stories different because of the ensemble of women that we are writing about and for?”
The ensemble is great — even just beyond ethnic diversity, there’s also body diversity, personality… When it came to the casting process, what was important to you about finding these young woman?
STREICHER: I had, in my mind, quite a pretty realized idea of who these characters were. I had spent a lot of time developing them, and part of my process is to really mine the people that I’ve known or grown up with, and graft their personalities and shapes and quirks onto the characters. So, I obviously came in with a pretty clear idea. And casting-wise, I mean, I’d written pretty clearly the kind of body type and ethnicity I was looking for. And to the great credit of the casting department — casting director Deanna Brigidi found these lightning-in-a-bottle performers. It’s just that feeling when someone’s essence overlaps with the character that you’ve written. We were all pretty deliberate and firm about making sure that the body type diversity and racial diversity that was on the page was also reflected in the people that we found. So, it was really lucky and fantastic and so rewarding to see it come together.
Do you have an idea of how many different girls you ended up auditioning?<?b>
STREICHER: Oh, man. If I would get into that cast at GotBiz website that holds all of our archives, there’s so many. We watched so many tapes. We cast the net really far and wide. And what is exciting is that, we found actors from all points of the globe, and that helps, I mean, because the characters themselves are supposed to be this heterogeneous mix. The way that the actors themselves reflected that, it kind of was life imitating art in a beautiful way.
To wrap up, I have a two-part question — how much do you have planned out in terms of where the show can go from here? And in an era when future production is kind of a little up in the air, and a lot of shows aren’t necessarily making it to a Season 2, are you at all nervous about that?
HARRIS: Well, for me, I’m nervous no matter what, because I’m always assuming the worst is going to happen because that’s my personality. So, obviously, we’re very proud of the show, and I think we gave the audience a really exciting cliffhanger and hopefully really authentic, exciting characters that you’d want to invest in. So, we’re hopeful for a second season, but obviously that’s for the streaming gods to tell us.
What Sarah had done that I really loved when I came onto the show, is she had a lot of very strong ideas about where the show was going to go next. But the beauty of a television series, I think, is that you bring in a writing staff and lots of different points of view come in and things change, new ideas pop up. And so, although in many ways I think the first season sort of really did plot out the way we expected, just for example, the big twist at the end didn’t come to us until halfway through the season.
So that being said — there are vague plans, but you wouldn’t say you have a bible set out for five years of the show?
HARRIS: I would say we have a very good blueprint, but are willing and open, once we start building the next portions of the house, to see different things come together. But yeah, we did not want to get into a position where we were like, “Where do we go now? We’ve sort of written ourselves into corners.” We’ve tried to kind of really build out a structure.
STREICHER: Also though, we do have vignette ideas where each girl will land at the end of this. And that is important for keeping us on track, character-wise. And that was really fun to generate — the idea of where do they land, after this experience?
The Wilds Season 1 is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes look like they have chemistry to spare.
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