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Panic exclusive: Olivia Welch and Jessica Sula reveal secrets from the set – ‘We had to eat ice chips so our breath wouldn’t show’
As young adult series Panic comes to Amazon Prime Video, we caught up with stars Olivia Welch and Jessica Sula to talk about the challenges of making of the show.
As the title suggests, Panic is not for the faint-hearted.
In the Amazon Prime Video drama series, Panic is the name of an annual, secret event in a Texas town where high-school graduates undertake terrifying challenges in a bid to win a cash prize. The risks, it seems, are very real – two young people had lost their lives the previous year.
But what was the show like to film? We spoke exclusively to Olivia Welch and Swansea-born Jessica Sula, who play lead characters Heather and Natalie, about their experiences.
Would you do a real-life Panic?
Asked whether they would do anything similar to Panic if it was on offer in their high-school days, the pair believed they’d be tempted but wouldn’t act as bravely as their characters.
“Definitely don’t do it. Life is not worth any amount of money,” Olivia began.
“But thinking back to my adolescent self, if someone had been like ’$50,000’, I’d have been like ‘Woah, OK!’
“I feel like it’s justified in the show. I understand. But it’s also like when you watch a documentary about cults and you’re like ‘I get it’ at first but then it gets really bad. That’s how you should be with Panic: ‘I understand why they play but I’m not going to’.”
“I would have been excited to maybe be part of something with the group, with my year graduating,” she said.
“[But] we were talking [earlier] about episode 2 when you have to walk this sort of rickety thing… I would have been ‘no, I got to quit! Because I will fall’.
“I’d just want that memory of ‘I took part in Panic’ then the reality would hit and it’s not worth my life.”
Olivia revealed that they didn’t really do the first challenge, which was to jump off a cliff, but she was kept busy by other stunts.
“The jumping off of the cliff, what it shows us jumping, that’s not us. And no-one should do any of the things we do in the show because it was a lot of stunts," she said.
“I got to do a lot of stunts, I feel like every episode. And then I did a lot of driving, a lot of stunt driving. I did many, many days of practice and stuff.”
Olivia adds she often had to practice after a gruelling session when everyone else was wrapping up – even after night filming that finished at 7am.
“I’d be like, Saturday morning is when I rehearse my stunts - I got to leave from this night shift to go do some stunts.”
The Texas weather was not as expected
Being from Wales, Jessica would be forgiven for thinking she could cope with a bit of cold weather – but she admits she wasn’t prepared for what Texas threw at her.
“Here’s the thing about Wales: I think it’s gloomy, it gets rainy and yes, it is cold," she said.
"But you don’t expect it when you’re in Texas, especially I think as a Brit and you’re like ‘I’m from Wales, I’m going to Texas, it’s going to be hot all the time’. And everyone there was like ‘absolutely not’.”
She revealed that the production team had to find ways to ensure the actors’ breath couldn’t be visible in the cold.
“We had to eat ice chips so our breath wouldn’t be on camera,” she said.
Olivia laughs: “It was genuinely freezing when we filmed the show, so the biggest stunt of all was acting like it was hot outside!”
Romantic scenes ‘felt very safe’
At a time when the safety of female actors on set is under scrutiny, Olivia and Jessica said they felt safe throughout their scenes with their on-screen love interests.
Jessica explains she worked with an ‘intimacy co-ordinator’ for the first time in her career, and that she had no concerns about her male co-stars.
“First of all Mike [Faist, who plays Dodge], who I have the scenes with, is just the loveliest person in the world and the kindest," she said.
“It felt very safe. We also had an intimacy co-ordinator, so everything was discussed. It’s something new for me. I was not used to that, ever. This was my first time dealing with it.”
She admitted that it was a challenge to make sure that the process didn’t affect her acting.
“You don’t want to lose the acting because you’re going through all these people. But in reality, when I look back I felt very safe and I think it’s a really cool thing.
“It just helps protect you from moments you look back on and think, ‘That wasn’t the best’.”
Olivia said it was easy working with Ray Nicholson, who plays her love interest Ray Hall.
“Ray is one of my best friends in life,” she revealed. “Working with him, very much he would be like ‘how are you feeling? What are you comfortable with?’.
“And Cameron [Jones, who plays Bishop] is one of the most respectful people I’ve ever met. They were so great… they’re all adorable boys.”
Panic launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, May 28.