Welcome to Bedlam Heights, the stylish new apartment building with sexy tenants and gorgeous decor. But little do its new residents suspect that behind the luxury fittings lie unimaginable horrors. This is a place tainted by abuse, suffering and death – and the ghosts of its dark and violent past are out for revenge.
As the direct descendent of those who ran the asylum for generations, Kate (Charlotte Salt, The Tudors) – who both lives and works there as a sales agent – is a prime target. Everybody has a dark side in this new series also starring Theo James (Downton Abbey), Ashley Madekwe (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Hugo Speer (Skins) and Will Young (Skins). If Melrose Place were haunted, it would be Bedlam Heights.
In an incredible act of Fall television premonition, we caught-up with Bedlam star Theo James and writer/creator David Allison earlier in the summer at this year’s Comic Con in San Diego…
[pullquote quote="Our absolute aim was that we wanted (Bedlam) to be scary." credit="David Allison, writer/creator"]Tell us about Bedlam.
David Allison: It’s a 6-part supernatural thriller series, that aired in the UK earlier this year. Our absolute aim was that we wanted the show to be scary. Movies do it all the time, but we don’t really see that on T.V. very often. We wanted it to have that suspense (vibe): what’s in the box? What’s behind that door?
Theo James: The series setting is so ripe for the stories that follow because it’s based on a real asylum, High Royds Hospital near Leeds in England. Many of the shows story arc’s are based on real things that happened, people lobotomized because they’d had sex out of wedlock… horrific things that took place as recently as the 1980′s. What we’re capturing is the imprint of those events – and the resulting energy.
[pullquote quote="Bedlam premieres following the season finale of Doctor Who on Saturday, October 1, 10:00pm ET/PT. It moves to its regular time slot Saturday, October 8, 9:00pm ET/PT as part of Supernatural Saturdays."]David Allison: We found the patients archive from the hospital and realized very quickly that this was better than anything we could write or create on our own. Of course we didn’t just ‘lift’ everything from these records, but they were hugely influential on the writing process. One of the weirdest parts about writing this show for me personally is that we didn’t go out to look at the building until we were well into the writing process and when we did, we discovered that they were converting it into luxury (apartments)! We got chatting with a security guard who was on duty at the time and he said that he really didn’t like the place at night which, in a strange way, added merit to what we were doing.
As well as the patient stories, Jed has some pretty horrific experiences of his own.
Theo James: My character sees ghosts, but what I enjoyed most was exploring the effects that these supernatural encounters would have on a person physically. He doesn’t just see a ghost; they’re really physically affecting him. It’s almost like a fit. Not quite as strong as some instances of epilepsy, but a fit none the less.
Would it be fair to say that in his performance of ‘peaceful exorcisms,’ Jed is ultimately hoping to bring about some personal peace with his past?
Theo James: Jed’s a bit reluctant in the sense that if you’re constantly experiencing this mental intrusion with ghosts it becomes very painful, but he does have a sense of duty and, because death has always been quite close to him, when he meets these unrested spirits he wants to give them some form of peace – sometimes it’s the only way of stopping them.
David Allison: When Jed arrives at this building, there’s a large part of him that’s feeling, “Please let this be the end. If I deal with all this stuff, maybe I’ll have some peace.” He’s great fun to write – really complex…
Theo James: He likes running too. Lots of running… And looking confused!
David Allison: I like to think he’s ‘driven in a worried way.’
What can viewers expect from an episode of Bedlam?
David Allison: We wanted to make sure that the viewers get their “Ghost Of The Week.” If you’re tuning-in out of the blue, we wanted to make sure that you’re getting as much satisfaction as a regular viewer would. One thing to definitely keep in mind though is that we were always thinking outside of just one season. There’s a lot of room for growth with this show – lots of clues that won’t necessarily get answered with season one. We make sure that we pay-off the “Ghost Of The Week” in every episode, but that might only be 50%-60% of the story.
It sounds like, as a writer, you had the ‘good problem’ of too much material?
David Allison: Six episodes is tough because you’ve really got to hit the ground running and work hard to pay-off everything that you’re writing. We’d spent ages on a whole story arc that we ended up having to strip out – regarding Kate’s involvement with Ryan’s brother – because it was just too much. We knew we were on to a good thing because we were having no problems coming-up with stories.
Any advice for first-time American viewers tuning into Bedlam this weekend?
David Allison: In a way, I feel that the biggest character in the show is the building and the family that ran it. Jed’s story is inextricably linked to the building – that’s the serial story. Watch out for the double meanings and different signs, but remember that we don’t solve everything!
Bedlam premieres following the season finale of Doctor Who on Saturday, October 1, 10:00pm ET/PT. It moves to its regular time slot Saturday, October 8, 9:00pm ET/PT as part of Supernatural Saturdays.