Premiering at Canneseries ahead of an international launch on Amazon Prime just in time for Halloween, the horror-comedy “Truth Seekers” reteams comic duo Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, who both co-created and co-wrote the eight-part series with Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz.
Here, Frost takes the lead as an ornery cable repairman Gus, who moonlights as a paranormal investigator with a YouTube feed. Over the first season, Frost’s cantankerous streamer must tend to his aging father (Malcolm McDowell), appease his smarmy boss (Pegg) and train a new partner (Samson Kayo) – all while dealing with a rising number of very real apparitions, phantoms and ghouls.
Variety spoke with Frost about his new series.
How did this project come together?
I was brought up with a lot of horror. I was allowed to watch horror from an early age… and my mother was one of seven sisters who came from a dark [corner] of Wales, so they were all spooky women, always talking about this ghost, or so-and-so’s son who had come back from the dead, or a premonition they’d seen of someone dying. Weird spooky sh-t [was just a part of my childhood.]
When I became friends with Simon Pegg… we started watching “The X-Files” and felt it spoke to us personally. We would go out on a Saturday night, and instead of chasing girls we’d find an old graveyard and sit there, hoping a spirit would come to us. So that was sort of where it began. I’ve known [co-creator] James Serafinowicz for years, and we got to the point where we started thinking we could make a series of this. Then we got Simon and Nat Saunders on board and we went for it.
The show continually plays with this idea using technology to transfer old souls into new bodies. Why make this a recurring theme?
We find out that [my character] Gus lost his wife very early on in their love affair. So I think it’s a way of prolonging a relationship or a love; it’s a way of taking an old decrepit body and transferring the spirit of someone we love into something that can stay with us a lot longer. Technologically, that idea is becoming more salient. It’s almost like we can actually do that! We could download a spirit into a computer, or transfer the essence of a human being into something else. But our guys are kind of doing it the old fashion way, by finding a book written on human skin and doing an incantation.
What was the appeal of that high-tech/low-fi mash-up?
We wanted it to feel really analog. So much so that the kind of demons that you see are made of video tape; their costumes are old video tapes. We wanted it to feel [out of step]. I think we are in a weird time now, where yes you could have a drone drop off a package, but there are other elements of life that haven’t moved on since the 1980s. Yes we are technologically more advanced, but I still have to buy bread, pay bills, and take my kids to school [as I always have]. We’re in a slack water as a society; we’re looking back a lot more because we’re afraid of what the future will bring. After wanting it so badly for so long, now that we’ve got it we’re afraid and not sure what to do!
What’s next for you as creator? Now that you’ve covered zombies, aliens, the end of the world, and now the occult?
Well, first I’m going to have a nice hot bath. [Laughs] I’d love to do a show with Frankensteins – maybe a comedy about a family of Frankensteins. [But] I think there are another few seasons in this. We’ve got a lot more ghosts of the week we can play with. The 1970s and 80s were really fertile times for British horror. Beyond horror, there were so many books about the unexplained – mysteries about crop circles and the pyramids and Stonehenge. Now when you go on Instagram you see [people asking] the same thing. So there’s so much more we can do; it’s such fertile ground.
Maybe our horror will become more psychological. It becomes about filling out a tax form, or having to go to the American embassy to get a visa. That’s a new kind of horror.
Why is England such fertile ground for tales of the occult?
We have sh-t weather and it gets dark really early in the winter; I think we have a lot of darkness. In California the sun is always shining and it never gets dark. Who wants to creep about thinking about ghosts when the sun shines? But when it’s dark and gloomy, and it’s the 18th century and you have really bad eyesight, and you have to creep about a big house, with the wind rattling the door, that’s just conducive to scares, to being afraid. As much as people like to laugh, they also like to be afraid. They like to feel their heart beat. It’s exhilarating.