Apple TV+ is a new streaming service set to launch next month. One of the early shows that will be available is Servant, a psychological thriller that was co-developed by M. Night Shyamalan. At New York Comic Con, the show hosted a panel to shed some light on what it’s about. The story follows a young couple who undergo an unorthodox method of dealing with loss and hire a mysterious nanny to look after their “child”.
Also at NYCC, the main cast along with the show’s creator and executive producer took part in roundtable interviews. Present were stars Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free and Rupert Grint and EP, Tony Basgallop. Below are some key takeaways from the interviews.
Raising children sparked the idea of Servant for Basgallop. He stated, “Having kids was one of the main reasons behind finding this story. The fragility of childhood and the fear of doing something wrong. That fear as a parent that you’re going to do something and you’re not prepared for it. The changes that it brings into your life are huge. As a writer, whenever you find something that inspires you like that, you just jump on it and keep going. That was the initial spark of interest for me.”
EVERYONE LOVES NIGHT
One of the big draws of the project was being able to work with Shyamalan. Each cast member heaped praise on the collaborative process they experienced working with the film maker. From the creative side, Basgallop spoke of about how the two got along. “I think we share a similar sensibility with storytelling. We both like to avoid the easy option and we like characters that are put into very compromised positions. There’s a confidence with Night in his storytelling that he’s willing to take those risks. He’s willing to tell you the story you didn’t think you wanted to hear. That’s a big bold thing and it’s been a great experiencing working together.”
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
Nothing associated with Shyamalan is ever conventional and Servant is no exception. The show is a half hour long, much shorter than normal television dramas and the cast referred to it as a sit-thriller. A play on the word sitcom, which usually has the thirty-minute run time.
Furthermore, shooting took place in a single location, the couple’s home. The one location allowed the show to shoot episodes sequentially, which is rare for television. It also provided a more theater vibe like a series of mini plays and it allowed the cast to learn and go along the journey with their characters.
Free also noted how the house becomes a character of its own. “It’s so integral in the story. Everything is contained in this one space and I think that amplifies the drama and the tension is that there is nowhere really to run to or hide. It doesn’t give you room to escape what is happening. There is no way out. you’re stuck in this house with us and it’s like, strap in because we’re going to be here a while.”
DON’T CALL IT HORROR
The cast shied away from classifying the show as horror and emphasized the thriller aspect. Despite everything that occurs, deep down the story is about grief.
Grint stated, “It is a really human story and a sensitive subject, isn’t it, to work with. I think it’s really in the writing. I think Tony did an amazing job of creating this world where it’s quite surreal and kind of treading on the edge of supernatural without going really that far. It’s a thriller. It’s not something that will kind of scare you but it’s about grief.”
“We’ll play with your mind but you won’t have nightmares,” Free added. “It’s quite a poignant study of grief in its most human form. At the core of this story, it’s a story about a couple who is dealing with something terrible. Maybe that will resonate with people who have gone through something similar. It’s certainly a thriller and it’s designed to unnerve you and confuse you but it’s also a story of people and how they are and how they move through bad situations.”
Ambrose believes the show is “dealing with these huge life problems in such strange ways and it’s such a beautiful reflection of humanity and how we grieve in the strangest ways and what happens to us.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE
The cast did not want to reveal too many details since they want the audience to watch and be surprised. However, they did allude to differing perspectives and realities. Grint said they are “constantly going between these different realities”.
Free spoke about her character, Leanne. “She has her own version of reality. All four of us have a different version of what’s going on in the house. It’s kind of who you side with. Her version of the story is different from everyone else.”
“That’s the beauty of the show. It’s each perspective. What I was playing was I found the perfect partner. I found the person that I’ve actually decided, alright, that I’m going to do this,” Kebbell said. “We got married. whatever it is, I’m so in love with Dorothy that I could not bear to lose her. It would be unbearable to me. That’s just my perspective and everyone is having their own experience and that’s what I found so brilliant about the writing and storytelling was just, you were allowed to be your perspective and just your perspective. Exactly as Lauren was saying, there’s also Night manipulating this world of what is occurring actually and what we’re experiencing and promoting from that experience. I absolutely played it as if Lauren was my one and only.”
Servant is looking to be quite the thriller and with Shyamalan’s involvement, you know there’s going to be a game changing twist. The cast tried not to spoil anything but at least they provided enough teases to spark interest when the show debuts November 28, 2019 on Apple TV+.