Wreck series two director Chris Baugh: ‘We got incredibly lucky with the weather - you’d never believe it was shot in the north’

David Roy speaks to Co Tyrone director Chris Baugh about shooting the second series of BBC Three horror comedy Wreck, transporting the hit show from the open sea to dry land in locations throughout the north, and working with Neighbours legend Alan Dale - almost

The cast of Wreck series two
Wreck returns for a new series next week

BBC Three’s quirky, darkly funny horror series Wreck was a big hit with viewers in 2022, but most won’t have realised that the ‘cruise ship from hell’-set serial was actually filmed here in the north by a director from Co Tyrone.

“That was a tough brief for season one, to build the interior of a cruise ship in a warehouse in Ballymena,” recalls Chris Baugh, who directed series one of Ryan J Brown’s acclaimed laughs, kills and plot twists-packed show, and helmed four of the second series’ six-episode run, which begins airing next week.

“But for this series, filming outdoors in Northern Ireland brought a completely different set of challenges.”

Indeed, whereas Wreck’s first series was set within the claustrophobic confines of the Sacramentum, a floating hunting ground masquerading as a luxury ocean liner, its second go-around finds the action moving to dry land - or rather, bloody soil.

Series two sees Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) and Vivian (Thaddea Graham) and their ‘found family’ of Sacramentum survivors striking back against Velorum, the evil corporation they unmasked as running a whole fleet of killer cruise ships.

A scene from Wreck series two
(L-R) Lauren (Amber Grappy), Rosie (Miya Ocego), Jamie (Oscar Kennedy), Olly (Anthony Rickman), Cormac (Peter Claffey) and Vivian (Thaddea Graham) (Euston Films/Peter Marley)

With Velorum intent on tying up loose ends in a murderous manner, Jamie and co are forced into a desperate attempt to bring it down for good by going undercover at one of its latest ventures – an exclusive ‘wellness’ festival for millionaires in the remote Slovenian countryside, where all is very much not as it seems: behind the hippy-dippy façade, gruesome, gory deaths are part and parcel of its programme.

According to Baugh, he was drawn to Wreck right from the moment he first read Ryan J Brown’s scripts for the first series.

“The script just came to me through my agent,” says the Eskra-born director, who cut his directing teeth with a pair of acclaimed Co Tyrone-set indie films, 2017 revenge thriller Bad Day For The Cut and 2020 vampire horror comedy Boys From County Hell, both produced by his film-making partner, Brendan Mullin, who also produced the new series of Wreck.

A scene from Wreck series two
Wreck series two (BBC/Euston Films/Peter Marley)

“You get sent a lot of stuff to read by agents, but this was definitely one of the things where, as soon as I finished reading it, I was like, ‘I know exactly how to do this’.

“I read the first two episodes and loved them. It was completely ‘my thing’, very much my sort of sense of humour and tone, and, obviously, horror comedy. The fact that it was shooting in Northern Ireland was just kind of a bonus.

“I met with Mimi [Spanos, executive producer] and Ryan and sort of pitched my vision and my ideas for it. We just got on very well, we were all super-aligned on what the show should be.

“When I first got the gig, it was initially going to be just for the first three episodes, but then we all we ended up getting on so well that I ended up doing the whole series.”

With the world of Wreck now expanded beyond the confines of the cruise ship, the challenge this time for Baugh and his director of photography, Ryan Kernaghan, was to create the look and feel of an expanded universe for Brown’s second series, which transport the show into classic horror territory influenced by summer camp slasher flicks Friday The 13th and The Final Girls, campy woodland gorefest The Evil Dead and folk horror favourite The Wicker Man.

“Whenever Ryan [Brown] initially pitched the idea of the wellness festival, my first instinct was ‘oh good, we don’t have to rebuild the cruise ship again’,” chuckles Baugh, who shot much of the second series in outdoor locales last year, including the gardens of the Ballywalter Estate in Co Down, Shane’s Castle in Co Antrim and the Leslie Hill Estate in Ballymoney.

A scene from Wreck series two
Wreck series two (BBC/Euston Films/Peter Marley)

“He was talking about sort of folk horror influences like The Wicker Man, and then myself and Ryan Kernaghan were looking at things that were horror, but more kind of ‘open space’ daylight kind of horror, and trying to utilise that.

“We had a visual language established from the first series as well, so it was just trying to take that and build on it in a different world and a different setting.

“And we got insanely lucky with the weather. I don’t know if you remember last summer, but we had those two, three weeks of real sunshine, so the festival actually ended up looking like Coachella or something - you wouldn’t believe it was shot in Northern Ireland.”

A scene from Wreck series two
(L-R) Rosie (Miya Ocego), Cormac (Peter Claffey), Ben (Orlando Norman) and Lauren (Amber Grappy) (Euston Films/Peter Marley)

One of the things which made Wreck so compelling was its talented young cast, including Co Down actor Thaddea Graham and Co Galway actor Peter Claffey (a former Connacht Rugby player), who plays Cormac.

The core cast (or at least the ones whose characters survived) have returned for series two, alongside a selection of new recruits like Dublin performer Niamh Walsh, Orlando Norman, Buck Braithwaite and Neighbours legend Alan Dale.

“One of the biggest things to get right, is casting,” explains Baugh of how the Wreck team carefully assembled their players.

A scene from Wreck series two
(L-R) Jamie (Oscar Kennedy), Vivian (Thaddea Graham), Pippa (Jodie Tyack), Cormac (Peter Claffey) (Euston Films/Peter Marley)

“And it was a big cast: I think we ended up having something like 40 people, and a lot of young actors from different parts of the world and stuff. We just spent a lot of time seeing a lot of actors and doing chemistry reads.

“We were very lucky in that we saw Thaddea Graham first and then had chemistry reads with her with other players who were in the mix for Jamie. And that’s when we found Oscar Kennedy.

“Even just seeing the two of them together in an audition setting, it was so obvious they were our Jamie and Vivian.”

Sadly, for series two, the Co Tyrone film-maker didn’t actually get to film with Jim Robinson himself, aka Kiwi screen veteran Alan Dale (Neighbours, 24, The OC), as his scenes were all in episodes shot by a different director, Louis Paxton.

A scene from Wreck series two
Alan Dale, and friend (BBC/Euston Films/Peter Marley)

“Alan’s really nice,” says Baugh, “I got to meet him and he was really cool, but unfortunately I didn’t actually get to work with him.

“But he and all of the new cast who came on board just fit into the dynamic really, really well - so much so that it sort of felt like they’d been there since season one.”

Wreck series two starts on BBC Three on March 26, with all episodes available on BBC iPlayer at 6am and on BBC Three from 10pm that night. Wreck series one is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer now.