The Stars of Panic (and Real Life Best Friends) Reveal What They Learned While Filming the YA Series
For Olivia Welch and Jessica Sula, watching scenes from their new Amazon Prime series Panic is a strange experience because it’s representative of a different time. The young adult series, based on Lauren Oliver’s best-selling novel of the same name, was predominantly filmed in 2018 — long before a certain virus wreaked havoc on the world.
“When we came back to wrap up the show during COVID, we all had masks on before the takes,” Sula, who plays Natalie Williams, told POPSUGAR Australia during an interview. “And we’d all have to spread away from each other and when they called ‘ACTION’ we’d come close to each other. So it’s funny to watch that now.”
For those new to the concept, Panic takes place in a town named Carp, where each year graduating seniors take part in a high-stakes — and sometimes deadly — game in the hopes of winning enough money to escape their small-town life. When good girl Heather Nill (Welch) decides to compete in the dangerous competition, she not only discovers that things are not what they seem but it causes her friendship with best friend Natalie (Sula) to become strained.
Speaking about the experience of shooting such emotionally intense scenes, Welch said, “That’s one of the things I loved because Jesse and I are genuinely best friends in real life.
“And it was so easy to navigate such a complicated relationship together as two actors because we were like: no matter what happened today we’ve got each other’s backs, and we were able to talk about the scenes and talk about our characters very openly.”
When asked if the two actresses were fans of the book before auditioning for their respective roles, the women confessed that their introduction to the story had come from reading the script. According to Welch, Oliver — who wrote all of the episodes for TV could not have been easier to work with.
“She’s just a really cool person, you know, she’s got a very cool vibe,” Welch told POPSUGAR Australia. “She was very easy to talk to, she was always there to answer questions if you wanted to call her and talk.
“She made it very easy, she took a lot of the pressure off, I would say, of making her adaptation.”
Added Sula, “She broke things down very simply and would give you a pep talk, almost, of the things that she liked about you to bring to the character. If you had any questions, she was always available but at the same time she’s super busy turning out all these scripts so she just put her trust in us which was nice.”
As for the physical demands of shooting a series like Panic, Sula confessed that the elements and long hours did sometimes take their toll.
“The cold was unbelievable,” she said of shooting in Austin, Texas. “And you can’t be cold because it’s “summer” and you’re wearing small clothes. And then the hours. But, you know what really helped with that was the group scenes and just having just everyone together and knowing that everyone’s there.”
The intensity of shooting a series that largely is about pushing one’s boundaries, facing unimaginable challenges and striving for something better did have an upside though, with Welch revealing that she learnt some valuable lessons from the job.
“I think it’s interesting being not that age anymore, and playing that age because I feel like you do a lot of like retrospective growth,” Welch mused. “Almost because she’s just going through so much, and she’s finding her strength.
“Then thinking about those things and having to live those scenarios over and over again, I feel like that definitely grew me as a person.”
Added Sula, who spoke fondly of the friendships she found on set, “I learned that how I want to work in the future is just to really hope for that sort of camaraderie and good morale amongst my cast.”
Meanwhile, if Panic gets greenlit for a second season, both actresses have some ideas as to what they would like to explore and how they’d like their onscreen friendship to pan out.
“I hope we’re still friends,” said Sula. “I hope we get to explore the setting up of the game, and I hope to find out more about Natalie’s involvement in the game.”
“My character ends with a very big cliffhanger of sorts,” offered Welch, who will next be seen in Netflix’s Fear Street. “So, I’m excited to see the result of the cliffhangers at the end, because it really sets it up for a pretty action packed season two.”
Panic will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 28, 2021.