Wilderness creator Marnie Dickens and director So Yong Kim speak to Yahoo UK about their Prime Video drama, which stars Jenna Coleman as a woman plotting to kill her cheating husband.
- Think how jealous your colleagues are going to be.
- "Wilderness" stars Jenna Coleman, and it's about a woman named Liv who discovers that her husband Will is cheating on her and has been doing so for quite some time. So she decides to hatch a plot to kill him and get away with it.
MARNIE DICKENS: I think we're really uncomfortable with women being angry and expressing it. Like, since you're a kid, you're told as a girl to be quiet and be good, and you see boys' behavior treated in a completely different way. So it felt like a very deliberate thing that we were tackling, didn't it, addressing female rage.
SO YONG KIM: Yeah, and I think there's a sense of shame with hysteria, especially with women, and it's codified in a way that is kind of buried deep underneath in our society. And I think it was really important for us to show that women could be vulnerable and also filled with anger and rage because we're human. So yeah, I think that's a great theme to discover and go on a journey with Liv.
- What's her name?
SO YONG KIM: Jenna was-- I mean, I was not super familiar with her work, but I saw "The Cry," which was incredible. And what's that other--
MARNIE DICKENS: "The Serpent." Oh, the sci-fi. Oh, "Doctor Who."
SO YONG KIM: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
MARNIE DICKENS: "Doctor Who."
SO YONG KIM: "Doctor Who." "Doctor Who," of course. I knew about that show. But I saw "The Serpent," and I was amazed by her work.
So we got on the Zoom, and I think Jenna is just so personable in one way, and on the other hand, on set, she's just so dedicated and focused. She's an incredible talent. I was just awed. I was awed by her work, essentially, yeah.
MARNIE DICKENS: We were very lucky. She was top of the list. Liz Kilgarriff, our fellow executive producer, had worked with her before on "The Cry" and just was singing her praises. Obviously as a native Brit, I've seen, you know, most of her output and loved her. And then it's about, with all these things, like going on a wing and a prayer and hoping that she responded to the scripts, which fortunately she did. She had-- they were all six scripts written before we brought the cast on.
So yeah, sent them to her. Had a Zoom conversation. I think you had quite an early call with her from LA.
SO YONG KIM: Yeah.
MARNIE DICKENS: So then it's just discussing the themes, checking that you're all aligned and what you want to be portraying. And then, boom, you get her.
- Are you planning on holding it over me for the rest of my life?
- No, I think you've got off pretty lightly, actually. I came here, didn't I? I gave us a second chance.
- No, you've never-- you never once let me forget it.
MARNIE DICKENS: Yes, the accent comes from the book. So Bev, the writer of the original book, is Welsh, and the character was Welsh, and in the scripts, the character was Welsh. And it felt like it did add an extra dimension of otherness to this young woman over in New York and within her and Will's relationship. But at the same time, you know, when you're lucky enough, when Jenna Coleman says yes, you say, OK, well, it's up to you. Like, Bev's been really fantastic as a collaborator. And so it could have changed. If we wanted it to change. But Jenna is such a sort of truthful performer, I'd say, that she wanted to do-- she wanted to honor the original intention.
And then for her, as with-- I mean, I don't want to speak to her craft, but she is just so dedicated in what she does. She just goes about putting in the hours. So she had a brilliant voice coach, Rashean. And they worked together a huge amount before the show began and then during the show. So it really is just hard work and dedication to her craft, I'd say.
SO YONG KIM: She also had recordings of certain dialogue, like lines that she listened to before we shot. So she would check in with her voice coach in the morning before she got on set, and before the scenes, she would listen to it again. It was quite rigorous for her.
- What's your worst fear?
- So Liz-- the aforementioned Liz Kilgarriff, our fellow executive producer, I was working with her. We'd worked together before on "13 and Gold Digger." And she said-- you know, she literally handed me the book and said, I've read this book. Don't ask me any more questions. Just go up to this dark room. I don't know why it was such a dark room. She pointed me to a dark room and said, you can't leave this dark room until you have finished the book.
And I really did read it in one go, not least because I had been sort of forbidden from leaving. And A, of course I was drawn in by the very twisty, turny, plotiness of it. But actually the thing that excited me, apart from the amazing, showstopping locations that Bev had chosen for the characters to visit, was this chance to tell a relationship drama but get it instantly out of the domestic sphere. So you're just turbocharging something, and it gets natural stakes.
So those were the things that initially brought me in. And it had to have-- I mean, personally, I always want it to have a female protagonist. So obviously it did with Liv, and I knew I could build out the things I wanted to build out with her character.
The biggest challenge, I think, in adaptation-- of course there's always things that work brilliantly on page that just won't translate to a visual medium, however brilliant So is. I think the hardest challenge-- and if we've succeeded in pulling it off, it's actually much more thanks to So and Jenna than it is to me is staying with Liv. She goes on a huge journey. She does some really questionable things across the whole series, things that are really hard to come back from. And it's not that you need to be cheering her on every second, but as long as you are understanding why she's doing what she's doing, then I think we've overcome the challenge of the adaptation.
And that is-- there's something so nuanced about her performance and the amazing camera work. You really do feel like you're sat on her shoulder. So there's never really a moment, I think, to stand outside and question her too much. But, I mean, that's from my perspective. But that's my personal biggest challenge. It's not that I find female characters doing unlikable things tough. That's where I'm excited to be. But it's just treading that line so that we never are just sort of appalled and step away from her.
- You can't not do something just because you're scared of it.
SO YONG KIM: Yeah, I think from the beginning, Marnie and I were on the same page about how we wanted to approach this journey for Liv. In many ways, you know, because we are walking this fine line between, like, right and wrong, and we didn't want to get on, you know, this like, oh, we're on the right side or the wrong side. So we wanted to be with her constantly and take the point of view of this experiential take on each of the scenes.
I don't know. I think, like, working with Kat Westergaard, our DP, we came together to this, like, point of view of intimacy as well as expansive settings that we are putting our characters in. And it was really trying to focus on emotional journey for Liv.
- It's so nice to meet you.
- What brings you here?
MARNIE DICKENS: These, like, gendered notions of the other woman and the Scarlet woman, all of it is just so-- you just don't have the equivalent-- there is no the other man. It's very rare to have that sort of debate, and it's always the other woman. It's her fault. She's lured somebody away, not really sort of interrogating the relationship and why it's foundered and why the man might have cheated in this example.
So it's not that we don't-- we definitely have fun with that. I think at the beginning you think, oh, we are going down that kind of more fun, cliched route of, oh, she's getting obsessed with this other woman, and it's got-- it's got little hints of those brilliantly fun '90s, like, "Basic Instinct," "Fatal Attraction." We do, like, lean into the stereotype, and then what we tried to do, I hope-- and the performances are so strong-- is, like, explode that because the truth is once you get to know each other, you're realizing you're just messy individuals and, in this case, both ill used by this man.
And there is always, I think, much more common ground between women than we realize. But we have been, sorry to say, but by the patriarchy pitted against each other. So this felt a really important corrective to that narrative.
- You need help, pro-- professional help.
SO YONG KIM: I hope the viewers will watch Liv with a lot of empathy and connection, in a way, and open mindedness. That's my hope.
MARNIE DICKENS: Yes, and realize, like, I don't think we're ever that far away from these big decisions that she makes. I think, like, that's what So mentioned earlier, like this primitive, rageful side to women, which we've always been told not to express, is there. And the more we're told not to express it, the more it kind of tinderboxes out.
So I think-- I think by the end of the-- I personally end the series with her and on her side. So I hope viewers do too.