Truth Seekers, Amazon’s new 8-part horror-comedy about ghost-hunting broadband engineers, reunites Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in laugh-heavy roles and in Pegg’s case, a very handsome wig. Frost plays Gus, an engineer working for Pegg’s Dave at a company called Smyle, fixing and installing broadbands, but also moonlighting as a ghost hunter. Gus films his paranormal experiences and uploads them on to Youtube for fellow ghost enthusiasts to see. At Smyle, he gets teamed up with young Elton (Samson Kayo) whom he then introduces to the world of ghosts.
Truth Seekers, while standing firmly on its own legs, feels rich in homages to some classic, beloved shows. Frost lists X-Files and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers as key influences for the show. “We got down Youtube tunnels where we watched ghosts and doors closing and things moving across tables. Italian women being exorcised in villages in Pisa.”
Another huge influence was An American Werewolf In London, which Frost described as “the classic mix of horror and comedy”. That mix has proven very successful and much loved over the years and Frost isn’t foreign to this, having starred in such cult classics as Shaun of The Dead and Attack The Block, both of which featured a winning combo of laughs and heart. Horror-comedy still has the power to resonate with audiences, something that Frost says comes down to the characters.
“If you build believable characters, then when they feel afraid, you will feel afraid. When they feel sad, you’ll feel sad too and you want to laugh with those people. It’s a deserved reward for following people on a journey and they finally get to have a laugh. You feel like you’re a part of that and that’s what we want to do as filmmakers, not to exclude people but to include people so everyone can have a laugh.”
“It’s always nice to watch a comedy that has heart. As much as you fall in love with the characters for their humour, you also fall in love with the emotional journey. It enhances your love for the project as a whole” Kayo chimes in. Kayo is a familiar face to many from projects such as Timewasters and his TV debut Youngers. Truth Seekers gives Kayo the chance to hold his own against Frost, playing his young apprentice Elton.
“Elton is lovable, happy to start a new day sort of dude, but he is also harbouring a lot of trauma. I watched a bunch of ghost films but getting on set and the locations that we’d go to, it was so scary and eerie, it threw all of that out the window. It enhanced him as a character in terms of his fear of the paranormal and wanting to be a normal kid. We find out that he is hiding something and he is running from something.”
Truth Seekers is quintessentially British but in a way that will translate well across the pond with Frost describing the show as having “one hand on the international”. A joke about Malcom McDowell’s Richard stealing Gus’ Digestive biscuit is transnational comedy gold, but what makes Truth Seekers so delightfully British?
“This is going to sound like a joke answer, but the fact that it’s a little bit shitty” Frost says over Zoom. “The gadgets are bit lo-fi, the places they visit aren’t fantastical, it’s not American in scale. It’s really bared back and simple. It’s about two men who meet and kind of like each other. There’s an odd couple to it, there’s a Britishness to that comedy.”
Gus and Kayo’s Elton are indeed an odd couple of sorts; one a young, Black man and the other a middle-aged white man with an interest in the paranormal. The show dips its toes into some genuine horror moments, guaranteed to raise the hairs on your neck, but can you rehearse those moments?
“We’re great actors, of course you can” says Frost confidently, but Kayo says there weren’t that many rehearsals.
“It’s always great when a director trusts you and to be able to just get on with it. There was a lot of improv, there was a lot of trusting of the text and just being able to live in the moment and allow the humour to come out through the cast.”
Working with Malcom McDowell was also a huge opportunity for Kayo. “I love Malcom! Malcom is a legend. I knew Malcom as Linderman in Heroes, but everyone knows him from A Clockwork Orange and a bunch of other things. I just remember him being so cool and calm with all his stories. He has a wealth of knowledge. You just sit down and listen to everything he has to say.”
“If I ever got to as old as Malcom, I’d really like to be like Malcom. He looks cool in clothes, he knows his shit, he’s funny, he lives on a big ranch. He’s just cool and great to work with” Frost weighs in.
Frost also describes the current pandemic as a “great backdrop for the show” even if it was never planned and goes on to describe Truth Seekers as “a gentle horror-comedy about people who are dysfunctional and searching for something.”
“We didn’t want to say anything bigger, because we can all relate to being afraid or being anxious, losing something or loving something too much and it being taken away from us. They are the touchstones for us for creating human beings that audiences could relate to” Frost says of the show’s origins.
Gus and Elton both remain relatively cool and calm when they encounter ghosts, but could the actors remain equally composed if they came across one?
“I’d be good. I’m good with the occult” Frost says with the same confidence his character Gus looks for ghosts. “No, I am off. If I see, even if I hear like an ‘Oooooooo’, I am gone. So many locations, Nick would just walk into every room, once we finished the take, to explore and I am like ‘No way’. He’d come back like ‘There’s definitely something over there’.”
Truth Seekers will be released on Amazon Prime on 30 October