One of the best and most talked about shows streaming on Apple TV+ is M. Night Shyamalan’s mesmerizing Servant, which just recently returned for its second season (new episodes drop every Friday). The cast of this amazing show – Lauren Ambrose, Nell Tiger Free, and Rupert Grint joined Bloody Disgusting’s Boo Crew Podcast for a conversation about the show’s breathtaking sets, its immersive quality and attention to detail in aesthetics, the magic of working with M. Night, and their shared love of the horror genre.
Created and written by Tony Basgallop, this show is unsettling throughout and can be psychologically tortuous to the viewer as you try to figure out what’s going on within the walls of this eerie house. Set almost entirely in one location at the Philadelphia home of new parents Sean and Dorothy Turner (Toby Kebbell and Lauren Ambrose), It doesn’t take long within the first episode of season one to reveal the struggles the husband and wife are dealing with as their new nanny, Leanne Grayson (played by the amazing Nell Tiger Free), shows up to live with the Turners to help out with their newborn son Jericho. One of the first big twists of the series occurs at the end of the very first episode. It’s so unsettling and works so effectively to capture your interest in wanting to know what is really going on with this family. Rounding out the small cast is Dorothy’s outgoing wine aficionado brother, Julian Pearce, played by Rupert Grint (Harry Potter, Snatch). Through excellent writing, It is Julian and Sean that provide the comic relief at times throughout this dark and tense series.
One of the most complex characters in the series is Dorothy, who gets to play in a sandbox filled with many emotions and characteristics that make up her tragic but outgoing, unforgettable character.
“I got the script and I read it and I thought it was really interesting and I worked with M. Night on it a little bit. And then he hired me to do it,” Lauren reflects. “I remember him calling me up and saying I really want you to be the leading lady in the show and I was like wow, okay here we go. I’m going to try to do it because the character on the page – goes into these sort of catatonic trances and what did that mean?… I didn’t know what that would look like or feel like, I didn’t know yet. So it was little bit of a feeling of a risk and a leap of faith. I’m like-okay I’ll try my best here and try to make sense of this trauma that this woman has been through and how it’s presenting. I felt like I was in pretty good hands because M. Night was in charge and he’s so good at what he does.”
The character of Leanne, the nanny (Nell Tiger Free), comes across as shy, innocent and sweet, but the genius in her character is the metamorphosis happening from within. There are nuances, from perhaps her experiences working for the Turners, that are paving the way for her character to evolve as each episode progresses.
“There’s something really, really fun about playing the scary character in the scary show. I like knowing that I may be making people hide under their duvets and be scared of it. It’s a really, really fun idea for me. The character is so different from any character I’ve ever played before. There’s so many different colors and notes and tenors to her. I’m just really excited for everyone to see her keep evolving. Hopefully I do her justice and freak you out a little bit.”
There’s a fine balance of humor to even out the tense moments of the show. The superb writing really shines through every character on the series, but it’s Rupert Grint’s character Julian Pearce (Dorothy’s brother) – who gets some of the best lines. Rupert shares his experience on being on set.
“To me it’s a very unique show. I think from everything I’ve done before, it’s a very different world. It’s a very small stage that we are playing in – this house, it’s one place and we never leave it. There’s something very interesting about getting to know every kind of wall of that place. Things kind of are amplified in this atmosphere and it’s a really interesting place to play a scene. I think in this season it kinda takes on a whole new life – we learn new things. There’s new kind of roads, it’s kind of this elaborate place and it’s kind of a character of it’s own. It’s a haunted house and the core of this story is tragedy and you can really feel it whenever you’re on set. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show.”
M. Night Shyamalan not only serves as the cohesive mastermind and executive producer on the show, but he also directed some of the episodes as well. In season two, his daughter Ishana Shyamalan wrote and directed two episodes.
Servant is a brilliant amalgamation of masterful writing and compelling performances with a twisted magician’s sleight of hand. It’s absolutely delicious and addictive. Continuing right where season one left off, season two is already adding more mystique, suspense, and misdirection. Those elements combined with superb directing and set design compliment each other so well in creating this immersive world within the confines of this dark and beautiful Philadelphia brownstone.
Spend some time with the amazing cast of Servant – Lauren Ambrose, Nell Tiger Free and Rupert Grint on Episode 194 of Bloody Disgusting’s Boo Crew Podcast available now on Apple and everywhere you get your podcasts!
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