A new heart-pumping teen drama is about to make its way to the top of your streaming list: say hello to Panic.
Based on the bestselling 2014 novel of the same name, Panic (on Amazon Prime Video) is set in a dead-end Texas town where, every summer, the teens graduating from high school compete in a series of wildly illegal and dangerous challenges to win a huge cash prize, the perfect sum to help them escape their small-town lives.
It may be set in the real-world, but there are a lot of elements you’ll recognise from your favourite dystopian teen dramas: its nerve-wracking Hunger Games-esque challenges are tinged with horror, the relationships are ripe for shipping, and every episode in the 10-part run ends on a cliffhanger – making it impossible to stop watching.
Starring Olivia Welch (Unbelievable), Jessica Sula (Split), Camron Jones (The Purge), and Ray Nicholson (Promising Young Woman) as Heather, Natalie, Bishop and Ray, local teens who are all caught up in the game with their own motivations and secrets, the show has all the components to have us hooked.
NME caught up with the cast of the new series to hear why you have to tune in ASAP.
Think The Hunger Games, but set in the real world
Teens risking it all on life-or-death challenges, while managing their own intertwining relationships: yep, it has a lot in common with The Hunger Games. The difference here, though, is that not only is Panic set in the real-world, but it is the teens themselves who are setting up and pressuring each other to take part in the challenges, while the adults are left in the dark.
“There are definitely some parallels,” Oliva Welch tells NME. Jessica Sula agrees: “There’s definitely a little similarity. I mean, apart from the fact that they are devising this world and creating these games instead of it being thrust upon them.”
It’s a gripping dystopian teen drama
While Panic is set in a regular, small Texas town, in the present-day, the situations the characters find themselves in are not so regular or small. “The stakes are just as high in Panic, even without the dystopian elements,” explains Olivia Welch, “With this being in the real world and in the present day, the relationships are so strong. It’s very high energy and a little larger than life in those ways.”
“It’s fun to see a very normal, everyday setting, but with the stakes of a very dystopian adventure,” Welch adds.
There are moments of real horror
Without sci-fi or fantasy lore, that real-world setting ups the ante of the deadly situations the characters find themselves in. “It makes it scarier,” Jessica Sula tells us.
“The dystopian aspect of other genres isn’t as relatable, whereas these are real people and real-world situations,” agrees Camron Jones, “And they’re trying to deal with their lives at the same time, which I think is something we can all relate to.”
“The horror elements from episodes five to ten get way scarier, too,” adds Welch, “It was fun to play out those really scary situations.”
Filming it was a lot of fun
The cast got on so well that at one point, they had to be physically separated. “We’re all very goofy, but there was one moment where Ray actually asked me to leave. He couldn’t look at me, because he would laugh every time he did,” reveals Jessica Sula, “He literally said ‘I need you to go’ and the crew had to say, ‘Jessica, you’re wrapped, Ray cannot look at you.’”
“I couldn’t take it. Actually, it’s hard for me to even look at her now, I just start laughing. It was so embarrassing. Everyone was so mad, because it was literally five o’clock in the morning,” explains Ray Nicholson, “I was trying to pull it together but I was losing my mind.”
“It’s at a very serious cliffhanger moment where we’re all looking at each other, too,” says Sula.
“Watching it back, I can kind of tell, too!” adds Nicholson. Yep, we’ll definitely be looking out for that during the show’s most tense scenes.