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The Wilds Cast Talk About Importance Of Sexual Assault Storyline And How It Was Handled On Set

SPOILERS are ahead for The Wilds Season 2, now streaming with an Amazon Prime subscription

While women disproportionately experience sexual violence in their lifetime (one in five), a quarter of men in the United States reportedly experience some form of sexual violence in their lives. Amazon Prime’s The Wilds brought the topic to the forefront with the introduction of the male island in Season 2, and CinemaBlend spoke to the cast about how it was handled behind the scenes. 

At the end of Episode 4 of The Wilds Season 2, Nicholas Coombe’s Josh is shockingly sexually assaulted by Alex Fitzalan’s Seth in a dark tent after Seth becomes enraged by one of Josh’s comments, while the rest of the young men on the island are getting drunk by their DIY bonfire. When CinemaBlend spoke to Coombe about the sequence, he shared how the scene was carefully orchestrated on set. In his words: 

I feel like [sexual assault] a topic that's not normally discussed or shown on television. When I first read the script, it was one of those things where we have to sit back and go, 'oh, I'm gonna read this a few more times to process it.' And the thing that really helped with shooting that I think was all the prep that we were able to do. We were able to sit down with Amy [Harris] and Sarah [Streicher], discuss the scene and any questions or conversations we had with them, which was amazing. We got to rehearse it with the director and the DP and the stunt men, everyone to make sure that we were going to tell the story that we wanted to tell.

Nicholas Coombe recalled speaking in depth with The Wilds showrunner Amy Harris and creator Sarah Streicher about the scene in particular and having conversations with them about how it would be handled. The Wilds newcomer continued: 

I think even with all of that prep, when you get to set on the day and it's 2:00 AM and it's dark and you're on the beach, it's still a scary scene to shoot to be honest with you because as an actor, you've got to throw yourself into that moment. I think one important thing that allowed us to tell that story was the trust we had with everyone between Alex and I and the crew, we'd all been working together for months by that point. And I think after seeing the final cut that it came across really powerful. Honestly, if that moment allows someone to be able to speak up in real life and get an opportunity to get help, then I think that's an amazing thing.

The scene sets up the basis of the rest of the teen boys’ time on the island on their own, as we learn Seth’s troubling backstory and news of the incident soon spreads. Much of The Wilds’ plotline this season revolves around the boys’ reaction to Josh being sexual assaulted. Kiran, for example, fearlessly defends him and splits up the island, whereas Raf cannot bring himself to believe Seth was capable of those actions. 

Zack Calderon, who plays Raf in Lost-inspired series The Wilds shared his own thoughts on this element of the season. In his words: 

Shooting that scene was handled beautifully and was really very much a closed set. We were not a part of that at all, which allowed them to be able to do their work respectfully and privately, which I think, handled the best way it could be. Then in terms of us, the other boys that are experiencing the repercussions of that, I think unfortunately, each different character has their own takeaway from it. I think it's definitely a difficult issue to talk about and acknowledge, also when the circumstances in the environment are already so hectic.

Series such as Game of Thrones, Thirteen Reasons Why, Orange is the New Black and Sex Education have spent time on sexual assault plotlines, that teter on helpful and tropey depictions of such a traumatizing event that can happen in someone’s life. Aidan Laprete, who plays Seth’s step-brother Henry in The Wilds, shared his thoughts on the conversation in the series: 

I think that the writers do such a good job at giving such accurate and real performances. And I think that whole segment of how boys react to something like that is just handled so well. I mean tuning that out and kind of just trying to forget about it, happens in real life. So yeah, I think, I think it's really important that The Wilds is talking about that.

In the season prior, The Wilds discussed teen suicide and sexual abuse, and in Season 2, the mature series about teens went a step further by centering things on a horrifying incident for Josh that the entire island has to attempt to understand and respond to despite there not being any laws around to monitor the situation. Troy Winbush, who plays Agent Dean Young in the interview sequences, shared his reaction to the series tackling this topic: 

I was reading the script for that episode and I came across disturbing issues within the pages. And I actually, this is what I actually did. I closed the script and I had to look at the title and I was like, yeah, this is The Wilds. And I opened the script back to continue reading because it was so disturbing, but yet so relevant. And you would have, you would be an idiot not to address this in today's society because of the environment that we're living in right now. I think a lot of women and men have found their voice and aren't afraid to, to express certain aspects of their life experiences or someone that they know that needs that attention. Whereas back say five, ten years ago, you would kind of keep that under the rug.

While we learn more about the male island, we do get some less heavy moments from the girls, two of whom share a sweet romance full of “joy,” as Mia Healey called it. Sexual assault is an important topic and television can continue to be a mouthpiece to the subject, as long as it is depicted with care, as seems to have happened on set with The Wilds covering the topic in Season 2. 

You can find resources about sexual assault on the National Sexual Assault Hotline website or call someone who can help at 800-656-4673. 

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