It’s an increasingly warm, sunny morning in north Austin, Texas. A large parking lot, flanked with office buildings, is empty, save for the production equipment scattered about. Off in the distance, actor Jake Busey, dressed in army fatigues, his face covered in fake blood and dirt, stares into the sky, screaming something as he shuffles forward.
Day 5, the first non-comedy series put forth by Rooster Teeth productions is filming its second season, and currently available to stream on Rooster Teeth’s streaming service. It’s an unconventional take on the apocalypse: once people fall asleep, they die. Those who manage to stay awake try to piece together exactly what’s going wrong, and what they can do to return the world back to normal.
Whereas Day 5‘s first season focuses on the earliest days of the outbreak, and slowly builds toward its finally, one of Day 5‘s writer/directors Aaron Marquis promises the second season starts “with a literal bang.”
“We’re on our sixth day of not sleeping, things start to slide into delirium and weirdness, and you’ll see that this season. We have some characters that you’ll meet, and you’ll think ‘is this real?'”
With a surreal element in play, Marquis explains that he’s still aware of the show’s overall tone, and doesn’t want to veer too far off the path laid out in season one.
“It’d be too easy to rely on that too heavily. There’s a time and place in this series for exploring delirium and dreams and those things, but it’s still a human story of survival. It’s important to keep that grounded: a story of real people trying to survive.”
Of course, while the second season brings with it a chance to expand its creative parameter, including a dashes of surreality, it will bring with it a host of new characters, including one played by Busey himself, who promises viewers “a good time” whenever he shows up on screen.
“I am sort of the thorn in the side of lead characters. I’m a little spooky, I’m a little scary, and I’m a little unpredictable. And I’ve got revolutionary tactics at combating sleeplessness. It’s quite a fearsome proposition. I’d say the viewers are in for a gruesome surprise.”
While Busey hasn’t gone Method by denying himself any sleep for his role, he does lament (while sitting in a makeup chair getting the fake blood and dirt cleaned from his face) that the film industry’s early mornings — plus the two-hour time change from L.A. — doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting into character.
The same can be said for Jesse C. Boyd, who plays Jake, the show’s central character. While they set up for an indoor shot inside a nearby office building, I ask him if his role as a member of The Wolves on another apocalypse drama, The Walking Dead, allowed him to bring anything to this character.
“It’s such a different kind of apocalypse. There’s such a nice level of humor to this show that the other apocalyptic shows I was on did not have. So, it was a whole new beast. A discover-as-you-go kinda thing.”
While talking about the idea of sleep deprivation as a form of Method acting — this is his character’s sixth day of being awake, after all — I relay to him the story of Laurence Olivier’s famous remark to Dustin Hoffman while the two were making Marathon Man, and how Boyd readily sides with Olivier’s philosophy.
“I stand by the theory that you should be prepared as you can, but as spontaneous as you can. For me, not sleeping would make me a miserable fucking person. So I don’t think I’d be serving anything to my [character’s] journey for the story.”
For the first season, Boyd kept himself mostly in the dark, only wanting enough of the story to be revealed as he’d need. In his mind, since none of the characters really knew each other, like none of the actors that played them, he opted to keep that unfamiliarity, along with a sense of surprise.
Though he’s drastically changed his approach this time around.
“Second season I really wanted to go about it very differently,” he says, and with all the core characters now familiar with one-another, “I wanted to know as much information as I could.” He jokes that he hasn’t gotten as much as he’d like, but from what he’s read “it’s a lot of the same vibe, but a wide scope of this world that we’ve only seen very little of in the first season.”
“I think you can expect to see more sides of this apocalypse. More sides of it. A bigger outreach of where we are, just one day later.”
At one point, I tell him how the first season, filled with characters desperately fighting to stay awake, reminded me of A Nightmare on Elm Street without the nightmares. Boyd said that the Nightmare saga are his favorite movies of all time, which also came to mind for him while he was reading the first season’s script.
Also touching on the point that this season means a bit of reality-bending for the characters (and the audience, Boyd does give away the slightest hint about how season two will start off.
“I will say this: episode one of season two has a very big nod to Nightmare on Elm Street. That kinda stuff I get excited about.”