M. Night Shyamalan's (Glass, Unbreakable) Apple TV+ series Servant was first announced before there was an Apple TV+ – back in February 2018. With production on the psychological thriller wrapped ahead of its November 28th, show creator Tony Basgallop (Outcast, 24: Live Another Day) opened up to Variety about the series.
● Here's how Basgallop explains the origin of the upcoming series' theme – one that he's had in mind for some time now:
"It's been something I've been writing for a very long time — since I've had children, really, which is 17 years ago. I wanted to write about the changes that children bring into your life and the fears they bring and how the slightest thing that goes wrong can affect you — just disaster scenarios. That was the initial idea. Over the years I've been developing these characters and trying to tell a story that's very contained. I've thrown away a lot of the rules I've learned about writing in television for this one; I've very consciously tried to make it personal and yet keep it genre-specific — play it as a thriller."
● When it came to Shyamalan, Basgallop found a sounding board when it came to hashing out the season's narrative – and a "brother-in-arms" when it came to wanting to give viewers the unexpected:
"When Night and I first met, I had two episodes already written and he reacted very strongly to those. He became a great sounding board. Pretty much with every episode, I dive in, I write what I believe in, I take the story where I think the next step is, and then he and I sit down to discuss that script — that step — looking to what we're delivering. He and I have a similar sensibility in we're contrarians, in a sense; we both want to deliver what people aren't expecting. But that doesn't always mean a big plot twist; it can just mean [not to] go down the usual path or scare people where they want to be scared. We put them on edge and then throw something in that's going to knock them off-balance."
Earlier this month, viewers were treated/disturbed by the series' first official trailer… and SPOILER?
If you're expecting a light-hearted rom-com where "wacky shenanigans ensue", you're barking up the wrong tree. Think more "modern, dark twist on Pinocchio with some deep-rooted psychological horror combined with potential 'otherworldly' horror" – though granted, that is a tad bit wordy:
Created and written by Tony Basgallop (Hotel Babylon, Outcast), Servant introduces us to parents Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell), who have hired young nanny Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) to help care for their newborn child. As time goes on (and because it makes the story much more interesting than it just being a series about a healthy babysitter-child dynamic), it becomes pretty clear that things are going to get creepy-weird pretty quickly. Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Snatch) co-stars as Julian Pearce.
The cast and creative team sat down to discuss the series in more detail (within spoiler reason, unfortunately) during the Variety & Apple TV+ Collaborations.
Here are some of the panel's highlights:
● Describing the series as a "crazy thriller", Ambrose revealed that what attracted her to Dorothy the most was that she was a character dramatically different than those she usually plays – with just a tinge of the "ominous" at the end there:
"She's this ambitious, type A woman who refuses to fail at anything and she has this ultimate failure, this terrible tragedy and how she deals with grief is bananas."
● Kebbell's Sean is a chef – but if you thought there were any "stunt chefs" on set, you'd be mistaken: the actor prepared all of the on-screen meals himself. Turns out, he learned some skills through "familial osmosis":
"My mother was a Cordon Bleu chef, so I was her servant for a long time in the kitchen, so I was incredibly skilled without really knowing it."
● While filming the entire first season in one Philly home might lead to some serious "cabin fever" bordering on The Shining, it might also be an aspect of the series that sold Shyamalan on the project:
"I sent him episodes 1 and 2 of 'Servant.' I thought I wouldn't hear from him for a long time. He made it clear he didn't read other people's stuff. I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning to go to set and he'd already emailed me, and all it said was 'M. Night Shyamalan, WTF,' and I knew I had him, because he knew this was something different and special."
– Jason Blumenthal, Executive Producer
If you need any more convincing, check out these previously-released teasers – not sure about you, but "creepy baby", "crickets" twisted music, nannies with questionable references, babies that might not actually be babies, and twisted children's songs are usually "red flags" for us – with the final three teasers below having pretty much confirmed what we were worried about all along:
From M. Night Shyamalan, "Servant" follows a Philadelphia couple in mourning after an unspeakable tragedy creates a rift in their marriage and opens the door for a mysterious force to enter their home.
Shyamalan directs the pilot and an additional episode during the season, with Lisa Brühlmann also on board to direct an episode. Shyamalan executive produces alongside Basgallop, Ashwin Rajan (Split, Wayward Pines), Escape Artists' Jason Blumenthal (The Equalizer), Todd Black (The Magnificent Seven) and Steve Tisch (Forrest Gump). Mike Gioulakis will serve as the series' cinematographer, with Shyamalan's Blinding Edge Pictures handling production.