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Mark McKenna, Ciara Bravo, and Shawn Simmons Interview: Wayne


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In early 2019, Wayne debuted on YouTube Premium. Despite a stellar critical reception and millions of viewers (the pilot currently sits at a whopping 41 million views), the series was cancelled after its initial run of ten episodes, due to YouTube Premium shifting its focus away from scripted series. In an unprecedented move, Wayne has been picked up by Amazon Prime, which will re-launch the series on November 6. Then, depending on viewership, a second season may yet be produced, which would obviously be fantastic news for the beloved series.

Wayne follows the titular protagonist, a teenage vigilante in Brockton, Massachusetts who can’t stand to allow injustice in his world when he can do something about it, either with his fists, his father’s hand-me-down ball-peen hammer, or any other improvised weaponry within reach. After the elder Wayne dies of cancer, Wayne, played by Mark McKenna, embarks on a cross-country road trip to steal back his father’s prized possession, a gold Trans Am. As he says, “He wanted me to have it.”

Related: Wayne Review: YouTube’s Action-Comedy Packs A Funny, Foul-Mouthed Punch

Along for the ride is Del (Ciara Bravo), and the true soul of the show comes from their budding romance. They are pursued by Del’s father (Dean Winters) and her two brothers, a pair of concerned Brockton police officers, and their high school principal (Mike O’Malley), all of whom have hidden depths and reasons for hitting the road that are revealed as the ten-episode saga wears on. Wayne has been described by critics as “John Wick meets John Hughes,” and the description is apt, as the series features a glorious mix of righteous justice, high-school drama, character-driven comedy, and heart-wrenching soul that many shows strive for, but few capture as perfectly as this “little show that could.”

Mark McKenna in Wayne

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While promoting the re-launch of Wayne on Amazon Prime, creator and showrunner Shawn Simmons, as well as stars Mark McKenna and Ciara Bravo, spoke to Screen Rant about their work on the series and their hopes for the future. Fans of the series already know just how special of a series Wayne truly is, and now that it’s coming to Amazon Prime, a whole new audience has the chance to discover this one-of-a-kind piece of punk rock television for themselves.

Simmons, himself a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, discusses creating the concept for the series many years ago, as well as the difficulty he had in casting the two leads. The main character of Wayne, in particular, started out very different from how he ended up in the series. Simmons also reveals that he’s written the Season 2 premiere, and has the entire rest of the season mapped out; they’re just waiting for Amazon to give them the go-ahead to continue the story.

For her part, Ciara Bravo shares her thoughts on playing a character like Del, who takes no prisoners and protects her heart like a cornered animal at the slightest provocation. In addition to her work on Wayne, Bravo’s profile will undoubtedly rise thanks to her co-starring role in the upcoming crime drama, Cherry, starring Tom Holland and directed by the Russo brothers, the MCU veterans who previously helmed Avengers: Endgame. Meanwhile, Mark McKenna has been cast as one of the leads on the Peacock original series, One of Us Is Lying, based on the novel by Karen M. McManus.

All ten episodes of Wayne debut November 6 on Amazon Prime. If all goes according to plan, fans won’t have to wait long for a Season 2 green-light. Presumably, McKenna is kidding when he suggests season 2 will focus entirely on Wayne in therapy and end with him being lobotomized by his befuddled doctors. At least, he’s probably kidding…

Mark McKenna and Ciara Bravo in Wayne YouTube Premium

Let’s rewind the clock a little bit. Shawn. Take me back a little bit. I was first introduced to this show when I first talked to Rhett and Paul, when it was first coming out. They told me you had been sitting on this idea, I mean, “sitting on” is reductive, but you had this idea for decades.

Shawn Simmons: It’s not wrong. I mean… My process is always a little strange, and it’s especially fun to be doing this, so thank you. We get to, on this strange journey of the show, something my manager and Mike O’Malley, who plays Principal Cole, keep reminding me: this never happens. This never happens, where one network has a show for one year, and then another network picks it up. So it’s kinda neat to be able to kinda look back and… I know Mark and Ciara did a bunch of interviews, and I did some stuff, but in thinking back on the process of how everything happened and then it airing and how everything happened after that with YouTube is an interesting thing, I was thinking about before this started, that we get to talk about for the first time in a fresh way. It came from an idea based on seeing this kid from Brockton, Massachusetts I know. I was about eight. I’m not quite sure. I was too young to do anything about this. But I saw this kid getting beat up by… They were a little older than me, a bunch of kids beating up one kid. And when they were done and tired and started walking away and swearing at the kid, the kid, named Chris, picked up a rock and threw it at them, and then got beat up again. It really spoke to the kinds of kids I grew up with. Brockton is, you know, a tough town with a bunch of murders. When I did the pitch for Wayne, I would go out and do this funny thing where I would look up Brockton on YouTube, and most of the time it was something like, Pitbull Barbecue, or, like, “11 murders yesterday.” But there’s a lot of great in that town and I don’t want to disparage it. It’s a great town, but it was, I think, like more towns in this country than we see on TV. I said to myself, “we don’t see enough of those types of kids in those types of neighborhoods growing up with that type…” They’re always pretty. I grew up watching Friends and stuff, and never saw these types of kids. I thought a lot about that… But going back to your question, I thought a lot about that moment. For years and years, I never forgot it. Because it says a lot about, like, these kids might not have no mom or no dad or no both, so you’re not taking their goddamn pride. You know what I mean? They will f****** stand up and throw a rock right back at you and get beat up again, rather than just take their licking and cry. I wrote that scene one day at work. I was working on another TV show, and I kinda wrote the opening to Wayne, not knowing what it was. Except, in this version, he walks away the hero, into the sunset like a gunslinger, because this is really kind of a Western. And then I kinda thought about it for a year and I thought about the story, and I thought about the idea. First, it was like Dirty Harry in high school. That made me laugh! Then it slowly became what the core of the show is. The romance is really at the core of it. There’s all this noise around that romance. It’s a very noisy show in a lot of respects. It’s weirdly absurd and violent and, you know, that’s the people I grew up with. I know there’s a lot of different cultures who can speak of their people this way, but Boston people are very “chip on their shoulder, take no s***, yell a lot.” I always say, we’re either punching or crying. So, that’s everybody who’s in this world. This is about a bunch of broken people, and this is how those specific people from that region tend to react to everything! It’s very loud. So that’s where the idea came from. I wrote that scene, and then slowly figured out the show for another few months, and it became kind of a ride-or-die, two kids on a bike, romance. They’re 1920s innocent, but the world around them is very violent, loud, and… Eventually, it did take a long time, because I got to the point where I said, “I can’t write this, nobody’s gonna buy this.” I don’t mean this is a braggy way, but there was nothing like this on TV at the time. And then Atlanta and Search Party came out, and I kinda went, “Oh, wait a minute, TV’s getting really f****** weird. I might be able to write this show now and try to sell it, and then… That takes another year. And then another year, and then we film it. So yeah, people give a lot of “End of the World” comparisons, which I refuse to watch, only because I don’t want it to flavor what I write going forward. I’m very eager to watch it. But that was developed sometime in the time… I came up with the idea, probably around the same time. And then I saw a Deadline article about how they were buying it from TV4 or whatever British channel, and that article came up that they had bought it when I had already sold (Wayne) and we were getting ready to shoot. It was this weird thing where these two things that people say are similar were on the same path at the same time.

If you like one, then you’ll probably have a good time with the other!

Shawn Simmons: Right. I wouldn’t know!

Right. You said there’s a regional aspect to this show. And both Ciara and Mark are not from that region. How much convincing did it take for you to sign on with non-New England leads

Shawn Simmons: Well… That’s interesting… You’ll get to hear me talk too much, because I have all these stories and I’ve been thinking about them for two years. We looked for both Wayne’s and Del’s (actors) for what felt like eons. We had great casting directors. There were a couple of problems… People from America… That’s why you’re seeing all these British and Irish people show up. They do that Boston accent really well, and it’s for a reason that no one ever told me until too late in life. It’s that, you know, we were British and Irish people in New England! They get it because it is a little bit Irish and a little bit English. So it’s a lot easier to find someone there who can do this accent than people here. And sometimes, even when you go to New England, they tend to overdo it because they’re thinking about it too much instead of just being themselves. There was also another problem that turned up a lot in the fact that I had written him a certain way. He was doughy, kind of a chubby kid, bigger than everybody else, shaved head. So people kept pitching me, even my mother said, “He should be cute!” And so I had to get my head around it, and I actually have the e-mail. I think they were pitching me Mark’s friend, what’s your friend’s name, the lead?

Mark McKenna & Ciara Bravo: Ferdia.

Shawn Simmons: They pitched me Ferdia, who is great in Sing Street, and I love that movie. But my reaction was to say, “Hey, can we maybe find out what’s going on with this kid who played his friend who plays all the instruments who is really weird?” Mark has the glasses and that really dull, kinda monotone response to everything in that movie that’s really great. And it felt like a Tanenbaums character or something. And, you know, I immediately thought, “This is the other version of Wayne that I didn’t expect,” which was kind of a weird, awkward, and just because he’s alienated himself because of his behavior, rather than a kid who is weird because he looks weird or is overweight. There are kids I grew up with who were probably good looking kids, but they were such f****** messes that other kids would stay away from them. Ciara’s heard this story so many times that I almost want her to tell it, but it would be weird. We could not find Del. There was a problem where there was a lot of L.A., mainly, actors who had a hard time acting below their class. And so we needed… I had this very specific idea of who Del was. She was every girl I grew up with who would have two beers and then she’d be wrapped around someone’s neck, scratching their eyes out. Someone who would throw down at any minute. Always defensive. Always had a wall up, because she’s been hurt in the past. Especially with the accent, it was hard to get. I’d given up, and I went to bed completely depressed, like, “We’re not shooting this show.” But then, the next day, the wonderful casting people send this tape into my inbox, and it was honestly… When I watched it again the other night, I have the tape and I sent it to Ciara the other night, because I found this tape of their audition together from long ago. And it was, unlike Mark, who turned me around with his talent, she walked out of my brain, know what I mean? It was like the character walked out of the brain, and was surprisingly from the midwest, and not Boston or Jersey even. Mark, Ciara, do you want to say anything about that process at all? I’m talking so much, I feel terrible.

Ciara Bravo in Wayne YouTube Premium

Well, I know you had chemistry reads, and you auditioned together. Either on that day or after, is it luck? Is it the way you happen to slot in together, or do you do any kind of bonding? You mentioned going to Earl’s, but I think that was with everybody much later. Earl’s being a restaurant, not some guy’s place.

Mark McKenna: A restaurant we went to, way too many times! No, for the chemistry test, I landed in L.A. that morning, I think. No, it was the night before. And I just showed up and met Ciara ten minutes before the audition, I think.

Ciara Bravo: Yeah, definitely.

Mark McKenna: We just kinda asked each other about, like, where we were from. I remember asking Ciara if she had been acting a long time, and she said she was in Big Time Rush, and I knew what Big Time Rush was, so that was a weird moment for me. We just went into the audition room and met all the producers and did the scene! There was no kind of moment beforehand of building any sort of relationship. It was literally just a “hi, how are you,” and then we did the audition.

Wayne is a character who carries so much internal baggage that he thinks he’s hiding from people, but everyone who looks at him knows, clearly that kid is effed up in different ways. I think it’s reductive to call him “escapist” because of everything he carries with him, but… I dunno, is it empowering or something to play a character who can see an injustice and go, “I’m gonna kick the s*** out of that guy?”

Mark McKenna: Yeah, it’s definitely a more fun role to play, anyway. I never played anyone like that before, or done anything like that, so it’s fun when you get to do scenes where you’re beating the s*** out of a biker or, I don’t know if we’re allowed to curse, so maybe you can just beep that out.

Oh, it’s fine.

Mark McKenna: Or beating a wall down with a sledgehammer, or like… Nailing a guy to a van with a nailgun. It’s all very… Certainly, those days never felt like work. I would just show up and Shawn would be, like, “Here’s the thing I wanted to do as a kid, so I’m gonna write it into the script, and now you’re gonna do it.” I remember, one day, they harnessed me up and Shawn was just, like, “Yeah, you’re just gonna drop out of this tree like Batman,” and I was like, “Cool.”

Shawn Simmons: Mark is going back to the really first days. We did the motorcycle in the street with the big mack truck one night, and it was, like, zero degrees. That was, like, night zero or something. On the real acting day, the first day, it was the moment Mark looks down the hall to see his father’s feet, you know, as his father’s sick. Those were the moments where you know someone has smarts and ability. It’s when they’re doing it without dialogue. Me and Ian, the director of the pilot, we looked at each other and went, “We got one.” Because you never know up until that point. You know, you just really never know. Him acting with his face, all that hurt in his face when he looks down the hall, it was everything we needed to go, “Okay, we made the right choice.” Mark is one of those kids who kind of… He’s just like his Sing Street character in that he’s like, “You know, maybe I’ll start skateboarding,” and then three days later he’s doing massive tricks. He just picked up everything really fast on set. He was doing camera s***. The crew was letting him operate Camera A. Unlike a lot of actors, he’ll come up to you and know exactly what you’re asking before you ask the question. For a person who had done very little, he had the incredible smarts. Both of them… Ciara had some influence on this, too, because she’s been doing this forever, but there’s a discipline to both of them that is really impressive. Even I couldn’t hold… No taking phones to the set, doing their line readings, all that stuff. I’ve been doing this for 16 years or something, and I’d not seen a discipline, especially in young actors, like that. That combination of both of them being insanely talented and disciplined, you know, you get to see a good show when they’re the leads! It helps!

Mark McKenna and Ciara Bravo in church in Wayne

Ciara, kinda taking that same coin, that same approach, your character is someone who, as Shawn alluded to before, when you walk down the street and see her and try to say hi, you know, the wall comes up and you just kinda go, “Alright, moving on.” Is that, in its own way, kinda empowering, going, “I don’t give a s*** what you think about me, because I’m over here, I’m on a whole other plane of existence.”

Ciara Bravo: Of course it is! That was absolutely one of my favorite parts about playing Del. She has absolutely nothing to lose, and for that reason, she is fearless with life. She does what she wants to do when she wants to do it. She says what she wants to say when she wants to say it. As guarded as she is, at the same time, I think Del is a bit of an open book. You can see the hurt inside of her. If she’s angry, you know Del is angry. There’s no second guessing those motions. And playing a character like that was so empowering. I’m sure every young woman has the same experience, where it sometimes can be very scary to just tell someone where to stick it. but Del was never afraid of the consequences that those words usually have. I hope to one day to be able to live life the way that Del lives it. I hate to say, “Respect myself the way that Del…” I mean, I absolutely do. I think there’s a far better way to go about those things, far more conducive for a professional situation, of course. But there’s no fear in the way she lives life. One can only dream to live like that.

Yeah. Such a huge thing about this show for me, having seen it, I don’t know, I think five or six times by now, start to finish with different people in different combinations… It’s so adherent to “setups and payoffs.” There’s so much within the same episode, and within different episodes. Del says she wants to become Mayor, and then four episodes later, you learn all about her running for class president, and it clicks, and if you don’t get it the first time, the setup becomes the payoff when you watch it the second time and you’re like, “Of course!” With that in mind, it seems like such a tightly scripted show. What room do you get to interpret your characters? And that is a very long-winded way of me going, “Do you get to ad-lib on set?”

Ciara Bravo: (Laughs) Mark and I aren’t really big ad-libbers, I don’t feel. I mean, I’m not. I don’t know… Sorry for speaking for you.

Mark McKenna: I think we maybe throw an idea in every now and again, but I don’t think, personally, anyway, I’m not brave enough or confident enough in my ideas to just be like, “Yeah, this next take: I’ll do this!” I’ll be, like, “Shawn, is this a good idea? Does that make sense to you?”

Ciara Bravo: That’s what I was gonna say, because you’ve got words written by Shawn Simmons and all of our incredible writers. When you have dialogue that good, you don’t need to ad-lib.

Mark McKenna: It’s also so unique that it’s hard for me to personally come up with something and be like, “That’s something Shawn would write. I’m on the right track, here.”

Shawn Simmons: We had a benefit, though. We started the whole thing together, making the pilot. It was always me and these two, and we turned into a weird, like, Uncle Shawn going up to eat every weekend on Sunday night and Saturday and continue to do that. We had the benefit of kinda talking about ideas sometimes at a table and Mark would say, “Hey, it would be really cool if this or that,” and that’s the way… They’re disciplined. Sometimes those ideas would come hanging out later. Then there were people like Dean Winters, who plays “daddy,” who would e-mail me ideas. Mike O’Malley would ad-lib a lot. I tend to encourage it. I know there’s a lot of showrunners who get real angry about it.

“This is my vision!”

Shawn Simmons: I had more people give me lines, like Michaela Watkins. How are you not gonna take her stuff? I had Mike O’Malley, who is so quick it’s insane. I wanted to get… As long as they did my lines so I had it the right way a couple of times, I was very into people giving me s***, because not only was it good half the time, more than half the time, and I’d use it in the editing room, I also… When you see people invested in that way, they fall more in love with being at work, and they felt a part of it. They felt their fingers in it in a different way and shaping it. Dean Winters came up with the whole… It’s weird, because we’re going on Amazon now, so I have to remember not to ruin things for these millions of other people who haven’t seen the show. Because they just… You realize people were just like, “It’s on YouTube,” and you’d see their head turn and go, “I’m not gonna try to figure that out, how to do YouTube.” So Dean gave me a very big idea at the end of the Del episode, which I took like that, because it was good! They’re all the more invested in the process for it, and liked coming to work. So I’m not that guy who’s gonna get angry.

Mark McKenna Wayne Season 1

Mark McKenna: I remember the only idea I think I, like, forced upon Shawn was when he told me, for the last fight in the show, he told me he was using True Shred Guitar, and I looked the song up, and I instantly texted him: this song makes me want to dropkick somebody through a door. And then, every day, I was like, I have to dropkick him through the door in the fight. And then we ended up putting it in, which was just a very, very fun thing to do.

Shawn Simmons: I had that song picked out before we even started writing the season. That’s one of those weird things I was thinking about the other day. Right now, we’re just going on Amazon, we don’t know if we’re getting picked up, but I’m all of a sudden doing that thing where I’m like, “This song is gonna be in the season,” and that song was there forever. That song was there for, like, a year.

That kinda leads to… You said this was a very peculiar case. It was on a network for one year, and now it’s on Amazon. Usually, if something like that happens, it’s a long-runner that gets picked up. But Wayne was not cancelled. YouTube Premium was cancelled. They cancelled everything.

Shawn Simmons: That feels better! I’m gonna go with that! That feels a lot better!

Doesn’t it? A little bit…

Shawn Simmons: When you say it like that.

Maybe it’s just a cold comfort, but it is, what is it, extenuating circumstances. But kinda with that, this is, fitting for a Western, this is Wild West, this is uncharted territory. I don’t know if something like this, a one season, ten-episode show getting a chance at a second life and getting a marketing push, a real effort. What is your… I know the ambition, and it’s not so pie-in-the-sky, at least from where I’m sitting, is Season 2. What are your hopes for this second wave of Wayne? Wayne 2.0.

Shawn Simmons: I’ve been planning the season. Ever since… I came back and edited it in October of 2019 (sic, surely meant 2018), and I was already planning, in the last episodes, another season. YouTube really encouraged us to do that cliffhanger. Son of a b****. I took it out at one point, and then put it back in. Because they wanted it. Of course, I don’t think the network executives who were… Wayne is only Wayne because that network really let us make that show, which… I’ve worked at this long enough to know that the network can be really intrusive and make a show not what you planned in the beginning. They did not do that. We used to get three notes on a script. It was always three notes and a compliment. I felt like they had a little notepad they got at a flea market, that had three lines and then one that said “compliment” at the bottom, and they just filled it out every week. It was really that, every week. They loved the show and they were super supportive, and, you know, the best compliment I always get is that “it’s weird” and “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” “I watched the beginning and kinda went, like, what the hell am I watching?” That was important to me. I didn’t want to make something that everybody had seen. What was the question? Wait a minute, I lost my track. Oh, Season 2. Yeah, so, I had been planning it already. I already wrote the first episode back, a long time ago. YouTube had me write that. And I’ve already written an outline for another Del episode, I have an outline for a villain episode that I… If we can get an extra episode, I’d like to be able to do that. I’ve written the last scene of the season. I know what Daddy’s arc, every scene is, the whole time. I know what Orlando’s story is. I know what Wayne’s drive is. And O’Malley’s two little intertwining stories are. I know 15 or 20 songs that are in it already. Let’s just say I know what it is. It’s gonna be very easy for the writers’ room again, because I’ve had a long time to think about it. Listen, I want to be back in Toronto, shooting this, with these dudes. You don’t usually have this much confidence knowing what made something tick like this. I know what made the show tick now. I know what certain things people liked about it, a couple of little things people might have said were unnecessary or something. I know what my actors can do. I still talk to Dean Winters, like, every three weeks he texts me. And Mike O’Malley calls me every couple of weeks. We’re also in that great position of, everyone’s dying to go back to work and do this. You don’t always get that. That’s my hope, that we do well on Amazon and, ya know, we’re having someone pay for cocktails and meals at a restaurant. What did you say, Ciara, at a restaurant in Toronto? You know. And not sitting at home, slowly… I haven’t had shoes on in, like, four days! I’m still pale! It’s terrible! I’m scaling, I have dandruff, it’s terrible! I feel like we’re gonna come out of the house, you know those movies like Room where the mom and the son are kept hostage in the basement? I feel like we’re all gonna come out, except we’re overfed instead of underfed. And we’re just all a little fatter, but we’re pale.

Ciara Bravo and Mark McKenna in Wayne YouTube Premium

You know every movie that started shooting before quarantine and gets finished afterwards, you’re just gonna be able to tell because everyone’s gonna be a little chunkier in some scenes, in every shot-reverse shot, “Oh, that was reshoots!”

Shawn Simmons: Some people exercise, take the time to exercise.

I don’t understand.

Shawn Simmons: I’m too depressed!

I’m gonna let you know in just a minute… Here’s something. I dunno, did you get to do a George Lucas thing and go in and put CGI Dewbacks in the Amazon version of the show? Or are they 100% the same episodes?

Shawn Simmons: Nope! 100% the same. Well… A different actress for Del.

(Laughs)

Ciara Bravo: I was recast. Other than that, everything should be the same.

Christopher Plummer.

Mark McKenna: Actually, it’s me.

Ciara Bravo: We gave him bangs.

Shawn Simmons: Yes. Paul Giamatti.

Mark McKenna: It’s the Jack and Jill of TV.

Any final thoughts on where you would like to take your characters in the future? We can put a little bit of a spoiler warning over here, have it flash across the screen. You probably have Shawn’s scripts and ideas for season 2, but do you have any ideas of your own that you would like to see your characters do in the near future?

Ciara Bravo: I want to see Wayne freed. That’s what I want to see. But that’s not my character, though.

Mark McKenna: I know Shawn’s ideas up until the very end of the whole show, so I dunno, maybe just watching Wayne grow emotionally as a person, and learn to process and feel something that isn’t anger.

Shawn Simmons: Mark’s read the script.

Ciara Bravo: Same for Del. They could both use a good therapist. I would love to see Del in therapy.

Mark McKenna: Season 2 is just Wayne in therapy.

Shawn Simmons: It’s In Treatment with Wayne, that HBO show.

Mark McKenna: And then they give up and just lobotomize him or something. It takes a turn.

Shawn Simmons: The audience HATES that show!

Wayne YouTube

Oh my God!

Shawn Simmons: They lobotomized Wayne, that character we love! They lobotomized him! That seemed like a strong choice! Del’s just sitting by the bed… Yeah, these guys have both read the script and heard me do the same thing I did to them before we did the season, which was talk about every story point that I want to hit. They’re gonna have a hard time answering, because they kinda know a lot of the stuff.

Ciara Bravo: I know, I’m like, Shawn has this great idea that I really want to see come to life, and then spoil the entire second season.

Next: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick Interview: Wayne

Wayne is on Amazon Prime November 6.

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Updated: November 5, 2020 — 8:16 pm

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