Truth Seekers: From filming at an empty Shredded Wheat factory to working with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg - Secrets From the Set
The cast reveal the behind-the-scenes secrets from Truth Seekers - the new horror-comedy TV series on Amazon Prime Video written by and starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.
Truth Seekers is the “genuinely creepy” new horror-comedy TV series coming soon to Amazon Prime Video.
Written by and starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), the eight-part series follows a team of part-time paranormal investigators who film ghost sightings across the UK - sharing their adventures on an online channel for all to see.
Along with Pegg and Frost, Truth Seekers also stars Susan Wokoma, Emma D'Arcy, Malcolm McDowell, Julian Barratt and Samson Kayo.
Speaking to BT.com ahead of the launch of the show, the cast of Truth Seekers reveal the show's behind-the-scenes secrets - from filming at a disused Shredded Wheat factory, to their reaction to the ghosts and ghouls on set…
1. Filming locations revealed: From an empty Shredded Wheat Factory to an abandoned hospital
Truth Seekers filmed on the sound stages at Ealing Studios in West London as well as in real life locations in the south of England.
One such location was at an empty, disused Shredded Wheat factory in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. Actor Malcolm McDowell - who plays Nick Frost’s character’s dad, Richard - called the location “pretty weird” and “ghostly”.
“It was this huge empty place. To see this great space, the size of four football fields, where thousands of people must have worked, it was sort of sad. How much Shredded Wheat could one possibly consume?!” he wondered.
Julian Barratt, who plays Dr Peter Toynbee, filmed some scenes in an abandoned hospital - which he calls the “scariest” filming location.
“I remember once we were filming and we were in an old, abandoned hospital and there were lots of rooms with strange equipment and weird mechanical arms, and sort of old rotting bath tubs," he recalled.
“Obviously you’re sort of thinking ‘what on earth went on here? What is this place?’ Those locations are really scary, especially if it’s miles away from anywhere.”
And Nick Frost - who plays broadband engineer Gus in the show, as well as being a co-writer and producer - filmed at a “really creepy” abandoned school for deaf children.
“There was a sign on the wall as you descended into this dark abyss that said ‘all children must be accompanied by an adult’. It was kinda creepy," he admits.
“Hospitals too were kind of creepy. I wasn’t afraid of ghosts, I was afraid of radiation! Were there rays hanging around? Thousands of people must have died in that hospital…”
2. Special effects on set: The cast’s reaction to the ghosts
Most of the special effects you’ll see in Truth Seekers were filmed in-camera, which meant the cast really got to face their fears as the show’s demons, creatures and apparitions came to life before their eyes.
This also meant the main cast were sat next to the actors who were being transformed into ghouls in the make-up chair, explains Emma D’Arcy - who plays Astrid in the show.
“Almost all of the special effects on the show are practicals, so we were sharing a make-up truck with partially burnt bodies and feathery wraiths,” she recalled.
“I think my reaction, especially to some of the most gruesome make-up jobs, I feel a bit like a kid who just wants to pick the scab. The work they did was so amazing, so realistic and convincing, that I just felt I could really get in there with my nails and peel away at some of that crispiness!”
Samson Kayo, meanwhile, had a slightly different reaction - and didn’t want to get as up close and personal to the ghosts as D’Arcy did.
Timewasters star Kayo - who plays Elton, a broadband engineer who works with Nick Frost’s character, Gus - said: “The make-up team made the ghosts look really scary in real life. You’d turn and you’d be like ‘f***ing hell!’ It was really effective.”
Nick Frost explains that the decision to use special effects rather than post-production visual effects was partly made by the show’s director, Jim Field Smith.
He tells us: “I think everyone did a great job [with the special effects]. It was a decision Jim made to make everything as practical as possible. I love to do things in camera practically, I think it looks great. Also, as a producer, there’s a cost implication - it’s better [financially] if you could do it in special effects.”
3. 'Empowered' female characters in the script leading to an inclusive set
On paper, Truth Seekers is a largely male-dominated project - it’s been written by and directed by men, and its lead cast members are male, too.
But actors Emma D’Arcy and Susan Wokoma, who play Astrid and Helen, agree that the set was an inclusive working environment - which they reckon comes down to their “empowered” female characters in the script.
D’Arcy - who you might recognise from roles in Wanderlust and Hanna - explained: “I think part of that [positive working environment] is that the script isn’t painfully gender essentialist or gender stereotyping.
“I would describe myself as gender-queer, and it was exciting to be on a set playing a character where that didn’t feel like a) an issue or b) an obstacle, or even something that was up for discussion.
“I didn’t necessarily feel singled out because of my character’s gender, especially within those scenes travelling around in the van [with Nick Frost and Samson Kayo’s characters]. All of that comes back to the script, and comes back to the way that our characters are empowered and drawn in the script.”
Susan Wokoma, who recently starred in Enola Holmes alongside Millie Bobby Brown, adds that one of the reasons she’s taken comedy roles in shows like Truth Seekers is because the script - and subsequently the environment on set - is less likely to be sexist.
“One of the reasons why I have been drawn to do comedy is how you can be judged as a cis woman in a role, gets taken away [in a comedy]. I think that’s partly to do with the comedy roles I’ve taken," she said.
"Helen is somebody who is somebody I do not have to worry about ‘how does another man feel about her in a space?’ - to be blunt, romance or anything like that.
“Sometimes it’s good to get a script and be like ‘it’s not about that, it’s about friendship, it’s about loss, it’s about hope, it’s about loneliness’. If the script follows that, the environment on set normally does. If you have a script that doesn’t take any of that into consideration and is hugely sexist, you’re probably going to have an environment that is.
“It was dreamy [working on Truth Seekers]. I loved it!”
4. The cast fan-girling over working with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
There were definitely some Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fans on set. Susan Wokoma admits she completely fan-girled during her first day working with Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the show and plays Dave - Gus's jobworth boss.
“I remember our read through, I was sat next to Simon and I’m a huge fan! It was one of those jobs where I was like ‘I cannot believe it’. Genuinely it buzzed me out. I definitely felt first day of school vibes," Wokoma said.
More Truth Seekers: Malcolm McDowell interview
Veteran screen icon Malcolm McDowell has described the closure of West End theatres due to the coronarius (Covid-19) pandemic as "almost Orwellian".
The former theatre actor adds that the West End was "too heavily loaded" with musicals before the pandemic.
Samson Kayo also got to spend a lot of time on set with Nick Frost, especially as they shared many scenes in the Smyle van as a pair of broadband engineers.
“A lot of the van stuff was really fun, because that was the chance when we got to speak the most, when we were waiting for everything to be set up. It was the moment where we got to have conversations as Samson and Nick, and Emma and Susan. It was like our safe place," he said.
Emma D’Arcy agrees that she was a little starstruck during filming.
“I was having a full, out of body experience for the first few weeks of filming! I don’t know if I remember much," she said.
“I think I felt really lucky, because whilst I’d seen Samson and Susan on the telly, when I met both of them I felt a gorgeous familiarity. I fell a bit in love with both of them. I found a tribe, despite being surrounded by the cool kids, and the legendary Malcolm McDowell’s of the world.”
Malcolm McDowell also had nothing but praise about working with Nick Frost. As McDowell plays Frost’s character’s dad, and their characters live together, they got to share a lot of scenes together filming in the 'home' location at Ealing Studios.
“We’re not doing Shakespeare, we’re just having fun. [Nick and Simon] are very nice people really. That’s why I liked the script so much. Every single scene with Nick was fun!” McDowell recalled.
Julian Barratt agrees. “Just hanging out with Nick is a joy. He’s very funny in real life too, the bastard! He’s just one of those dudes who you want to hang out with.”
He recalls a fight scene he got to share with Frost. “We had to fight which was fun. We had to do like a manly wrestling thing, which I’ve always wanted to do with Nick… we kept our clothes on, but it was a very powerful moment.
“There was a lot of powerful, erotic chemistry between us. I think you’ll find that comes off on screen. That was a high point of my life so far, never mind acting.”
5. From the X-Files to Buffy: writing inspiration revealed
The inspiration for Truth Seekers came out of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg going ghost hunting when they were younger, but there are certain films and TV shows that have influenced the feel of the show.
One of those influences, according to Pegg, is The X-Files, the 90s American sci-fi TV series starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as paranormal investigators.
“Nick and I had always been huge fans of the X-Files. We bonded on that in the early nineties when we first started hanging out," Pegg explains.
"We used to have box sets of the first and second season and we lived in a house where there was nothing but a television and a heater... The X-Files was a big influence on us.”
Another cultural influence in terms of the blending of horror and comedy is the 1981 film, An American Werewolf in London.
“An American Werewolf in London never makes fun of the horror. Even in the funny moments with Jack, gradually rotting away and coming back as this sort of conscious for Mike. Even though that’s funny it’s still horrific.”
And lastly, Pegg hopes fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ghostbusters can enjoy the show, too.
“For us, it was creating a show that was at once funny but also frightening and effecting in terms of its horror aspect," Pegg said.
“I was going to say Buffy the Vampire Slayer because that had moments of real comedy in it, but I think this is more of overtly a comedy than that was.
“I hope audiences can expect something new. In the great tradition of Ghostbusters, the X-Files and those beloved properties, this is something fresh coming from myself and Nick.”
Truth Seekers premieres Friday, October 30 on Amazon Prime Video.