I Know What You Did Last Summer: An interview with writer Sara Goodman and stars Madison Iseman, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman and Ashley Moore
Upcoming teen horror series I Know What You Did Last Summer is set for release on Amazon this October. Following in the footsteps of the popular franchise, the production is a contemporary adaptation of the 1973 novel by Lois Duncan and the 1997 American slasher film that gripped audiences with the tale of four young teens who were stalked by a hook-wielding killer.
A modern makeover from writer Sara Goodman brings the story to life for a present-day audience whilst maintaining a firm homage to the iconic 90s movie. Filmed in Oaho, Hawaii, the adaptation follows a group of teenagers, bound together by their terrible secret, who are pursued by a mysterious killer a year after the fatal accident on their graduation night. The narrative unravels around the secrets of the town and the fight to bring the killer to justice.
The Upcoming spoke to cast members Madison Iseman, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman and Ashley Moore about their experiences of filming in Hawaii and what the series means to them, whilst also hearing from writer Sara Goodman about the subtle nuances that brought it to a contemporary audience, the casting process and what she hopes viewers will take away.
In terms of modernising the series from the original book and film, for you, which elements were important to make it more contemporary?
Sarah Goodman: All elements. The book was in the 70s, the movie was in the 90s and obviously we are living in a very different time in terms of technology and social media, and also the pressures that are on young adults right now, and coming of age in this time where everyone is so exposed with social media – and at the same time everyone is kind of more hidden in their private lives and feels more isolated. So I think those were very important, and to make a cast that felt diverse [with characters] struggling with other issues that are very present in society today. I feel like making the characters feel authentic and real for what people are going through today was probably the most important thing though.
In this series, we don’t have like this iconic psycho killer like the fisherman. Do you think fans of the original will miss this figure?
SG: That’s not what the novel had. While I really loved the movie, for me, to sustain eight episodes, it needs to have the mystery thriller element as well, and not just one clear bad guy that’s just after everybody. So there definitely could be a bad guy, but I think everyone is a little bit bad!
What were the joys and difficulties of adapting such an iconic work?
SG: The difficulty was, I think, not disappointing people and making sure that everyone understood that I have respect and admiration for that movie. I loved it myself. Also, being brave and willing to create something new that lives in the space we live in now, that uses the premise but creates a different version – just like the novel was different from the movie.
There was a lot of joy in doing that, and as well in finding little places where I could put Easter eggs or little hints that were shout-outs to the movie, so that everyone knew that I had not forgotten it.
Do you think people will get addicted to this show?
SG: Well, I hope everyone gets addicted to the show – I think because they’ll want to know what happens; they’ll want to know who the killer is, but I think they’ll also want to know the secrets of the characters and and what’s really going on within each of them, and what these other mysteries are that have been set up. And so I’m hoping that everyone gets addicted because they want the answers. They will all want to know who’s going to die.
The series is shot in Hawaii. Oahu is like another character. What made you choose it as the location?
SG: I think I completely agree with you – it is a character absolutely in the show. The fact that it’s an island and there’s only one way in and one way out I think makes it even worse than any small town. Everyone knows each other’s business and and you’re stuck. The other part of it is when we all think of Hawaii, we think of paradise. We think of this beautiful place that’s relaxing that we all want to go visit. Yet underneath is this whole other part of Hawaii that no one really sees: the caves, these roads and the bamboo forests, and where people really live, that that are darker and more dangerous, and are hidden.
So, for me, that really is a reflection of also the tone of the show, which is it’s pretty, it’s fun, but there’s some stuff going on underneath that you know you might not want to get too close to.
The story was just one book, but the movies became multiple features. Is this version just a one-and-done, or might there be more to the story in later seasons, if you’re given the opportunity?
SG: There are definitely ways to do other seasons. What I like to say is, “I promise there’s a satisfying ending to this season, where you will know who the killer is, but there are some things that are very unsatisfying that you would definitely want to come back for” – and so there’s that.
There’s also a way of doing an anthology series, so there’s a couple of different options that I hope I’ll have the chance to do.
There are some same-sex relationships and gender fluidity portrayed in the series. Was it important for you to reach a younger, less mainstream audience who hope for more diversity in their content?
SG: Yeah. I think, honestly, my experience is that there is less definition for younger audiences, and people don’t need to necessarily have a name or have a definition, and that they’re figuring it out as they go. And so I didn’t want to make a capital M message show about it, I just wanted to portray, a diverse cast and and a diverse group of friends as they figure those things out for themselves.
If you could remake another horror movie, which one would you pick?
SG: Is Alien a horror movie? I think I would like to do Alien. Is it like an island if they’re stuck on the spaceship?
What is it about horror that fascinates people?
SG: Well, I can’t speak for all people, but I think we are all just so desperate to feel things. I think the adrenaline rush and the fear and the investment and not knowing what’s coming next – it makes everyone feel excited and at the same. Excitement and fear are on that same physical, biological, response level, and so I think that there’s an adrenaline rush that you get, and it also makes us feel safer. As in, it makes me feel safer that I’m not there, I’m not being chased by a crazy person.
I like comedy as a tension breaker in a tense scene; I think that horror also serves as that. I think I weirdly like the increase of tension and then, once the horrible thing happens, that release I think is kind of addictive.
Besides the book and the movie, what was your biggest inspiration when you were writing this show?
SG: I think, honestly, people killed by people. In their 20s, I think. What all these people are going through and and the question of “How do you know what you would do in a situation?”. I ask myself for each character all the time, like, “What I would do?”. I’m really honest, I think. I would do the right thing, but I don’t know. And for me that’s really a question that never goes away, and being able to ask it with people who are on the verge of figuring out who they are I think is really an inspiring, interesting story to tell that that doesn’t go out of date.
We seem to be in a moment where a lot of horror reboots are happening. How did you make yours stand out and make sure that it both satisfied old fans and brought in new audiences?
SG: I think that was definitely a big part of the challenge. I didn’t want to just do a reboot – I felt like that’s a disservice to the movie. I love that movie. I hope that people who liked the movie will give it a chance, because it’s a new version of it and, as I say, it respects what the movie was and gives little shout-outs to the movie.
But for me the way to do it, is to create something that’s modern and different and at the same time respectful.
What do you think will surprise the most to the fans of the movie?
SG: Who the killer is maybe…
How did you go about the casting process? Did you have people already in mind for these roles?
SG: I had no one. They’re very young, and so I think it was very challenging, as it was during the pandemic too. The casting directors were amazing, but there were thousands of self-tapes we had to go through, and or that I had to go through. I probably saw a thousand young women to play the lead, and I saw 500 Dylans!
It became very clear that most of them were not right. I knew immediately, when I saw people, who they were, and then I did callbacks and worked with them, and I did some chemistry reads, and, for most of the characters, I really only submitted one person.
It was very important to me that it was a diverse cast, but it was also equally important that they felt like they could really be friends from childhood – that they really felt like they would have a relationship with each other. I hate more than anything when you watch a show and you’re like, “These people would never speak to each other.”
Could you share a memorable moment on set?
SG: I think the most powerful moment was standing in the middle of the night on the cliffs. We shot this accident scene; it was when all of the kids were in the second week of shooting. It’s a ten-page dialogue scene, and we’re all just standing there, rehearsing, and you could feel it: it was scary to be out there on this road at night. It was scary for them, but it felt like something really special was happening. It really did. I know I’m being emotional, and I shouldn’t be, but it really did feel like something special was happening.
What’s your favourite thing about this show?
SG: My favourite thing about the show is that I think it’s surprising in lots of ways – the storyline and what will happen. I love the characters, I love the way the show looks. Anke, who was our director of photography, did an amazing job.
What do you hope that viewers will take away?
SG: Horrified… no! I really do hope they’ll feel surprised. I hope they’ll feel invested. I hope they’ll feel satisfied. I hope they get more than they expect.
Madison, the character roles in this new series have changed a lot from the first film from 1997. What can people expect to be different this time around?
Madison Iseman: We were given this great groundwork from this fantastic film and our story starts the same way. We have a fatal car crash, a cover-up and a killer, who will literally stop at nothing. At the same time, we have a completely different setting and a completely different story. I’m playing twins, which was awesome – a challenge, but it was also a lot of fun. I think the main thing is our story is so character-driven, and it’s not just about a bunch of young people running from a killer. Everyone is hiding something, everyone is guilty, no one is innocent, and that really is what drives every single episode. There are new secrets revealed, and it’s kind of like we’re giving you a bunch of puzzle pieces and then, in the end, everything is going to make sense.
You have both made other horror movies and series and are like the new generation of scream queens. Do you have a favourite scream queen?
Brianne Tsu: I mean Neve Campbell is so classic and iconic. I also love Sarah Michelle Gellar, and, you know, I took a few pointers from her from watching the original movie – although Margot is very different from her, I think that, from your first impression of Margot, it seems that she could be, like, in the same vein as Sarah Michelle Gellar.
MI: You totally took mine, I was going to say that. Like if I had to come up with a second – I guess she’s considered a scream queen, right? – but it’s Shelley Duvall from The Shining.
Why do you think diversity is important in this series?
BT: Well, I think it’s important because our world needs it. Our industry needs it. On television and in film, it reflects the world that we live in, and so when it is solely white and/or predominantly so, it’s very alienating for the viewer – especially for a person of colour. I think that having the validation of seeing yourself on screen with your stories portrayed, it gives us confidence and worth as human beings – you know? And it helps us see the the broader perspective of beauty… of a story – of culture. Without it, I don’t think we grow as a society, and it is much harder to see each other as humans when we’re not visible in the shows and television movies we watch every day.
MI: I do think it’s kudos to our show runner, and the creators and the writers of the show, for creating more complex characters and not just your stereotypes that you constantly see, especially in the horror genre. You constantly see these same people, but I feel like they did a very good job of making these real humans, and making them diverse – and in every way: their sexuality, race etc. I think they did a fantastic job and, for me, personally, I feel like, going forward, that’s what I look forward to in any future projects, because I think that’s the only way our community will change. It starts with us and what we decide to take, and what we want to promote.
The series is based on the book and also the previous movies. Were you fans of the franchise? Or did you read the book?
MI: So, I never read the book but I had watched the first movie years ago and then I watched it again in preparation for the show. As an actor, there’s kind of a fine line, especially when the the story you’re about to tell has previous source material, and something that’s so beloved and big and with so many fans. We wanted to create something fresh, original and unique, and you don’t want to over saturate your mind with what was already done – you want to have the freedom to bring your own perspective to something, especially because our show is very contemporary and we’re giving this new generation a moment…. a special moment that the previous generation got to have with the [old] movies.
BT: I had also never read the book, but I did hear – someone told me the other day – that our show is very much in line with the book. More so than the movie. So I feel like we all need to go back and actually read the book.
Did you feel, in some way, a responsibility to achieve a great work for the die-hard fans?
BT: Absolutely. I think anytime you touch someone’s precious material that they love so much, you’re always going to get that. But, at the same time, it’s really exciting. I also love the movie, and and I know us, as a cast and just the whole show, want to be able to do the movies justice – and the book – but also create something fresh where a newer audience can come in and fall in love with it. But just as much as the old fans can come back and fall in love with what we created as well. So, pressure all round but I hope everyone loves it.
MI: Yeah, there’s an innate sense of pressure. You want to do an honourable job for something that’s so important to so many people. But with that being said, we have to grow and, even in terms of representation, our show is more colourful than the movie, with just more dynamic characters.
There are eight episodes there, each an hour long, so we’ve had the opportunity and the luxury of time so we can create more situations, dive into these characters deeper. And I hope the original fans love it, but I find it hard to believe that they won’t because it’s just more, and it’s just interesting, and we’re giving them everything they want tenfold.
Some shows that have mystery elements and hidden secrets, when it comes to revealing a final killer it is kept a secret – even from the actors. Was that the case for you?
BT: I read the first four episodes before we signed on. I think everyone did. So it was all a surprise to us, how this whole thing ends. But we were actually having bets on-set as to who we thought the killer was.
MI: I was completely wrong and I swore I knew it. I thought I had it, but I didn’t. They’re too good, the writers.
BT: I have to say my first guess was pretty good and then, throughout the course of shooting, it’s like misdirection. So you think you’ve pinned it – you know who it is – and then maybe the next episode it’s like, “Whoah no, it’s definitely this person”, and so you get like a bit of, like, whiplash, but in the best possible way.
I think my first guess was pretty good. I was misdirected and then, by like episode six, I think we all figured it out.
How was it filming in Oahu, Hawaii? Obviously there are quite a lot terrifying scenes. Were there moments of genuine fear as you were filming as well?
BT: So there was this haunted old boys camp, I think – or something like that – and then we were told lots of stories. I don’t know how many of them were true? Or if they were all just trying to scare us the whole time?
MI: We did a lot of nights on this show, many weeks of it, so I think we were all tired and delirious. When you’re working in something of a haunted place, of course you’re going to get scared, though. Brianne was the biggest chicken out of all of us. I think we all collectively enjoyed scaring Brianne more than anything else.
Hawaii is beautiful as well. The backdrop is just stunning. You know you can’t get that anywhere else, and, also, it really is a character itself. In our show our characters are trapped and they’re running from a killer, but at the same time, you know, we’re on this island and it’s very metaphorical and symbolic to how all of our characters are feeling. It’s so rich in culture and stories, and every location is just stunning.
BT: You have to pinch yourself. You can’t believe you’re here and the juxtaposition, as you’re saying, is, like, the location is a character in itself. It’s so beautiful, but I think the metaphor is that, you know, within each character there’s something you see on the surface, like Margot’s. Life is very fabulous, but what you see behind closed doors is that there’s a lot of darkness, a lot of ugliness, and I think we’re saying that with our location.
Are there any other horror movie from the 90s or 80s you would like to be in the remake of?
MI:The Shining… and then someone told me that they were already making a show about it!
BT: What they are? Get on that!
MI: Yes, that would have been mine, but I guess I’m just going to have to watch it instead. Scream is another one, but then that’s coming out soon too. They’re making so many of them already.
BT: Like you said, Madison and I have both had our fair share of horror projects, and it’s so fun and I love doing it, but if I had to pick another one, I would definitely love to be in a remake of The Others. That movie with Nicole Kidman. I love a psychological thriller horror, and I’m a big fan of Mike Flanagan and and the work he’s done with The Haunting of Hill House. It’s a story, characters first, and then the added bonus is that it scares the crap out of you – you know? So I think something in that vein is where I would want to go next.
What does this series represent at this moment of your life? What do you think you will take away from it?
MI: I learned a lot filming this, I think we all did. It was such an interesting time in all of our lives. I think we were all equally grateful to be there and to have a job during the pandemic, and and it was interesting, too, because we really only had each other. We weren’t allowed to really travel. We weren’t really allowed to have many visitors, so just it really taught me to just listen to myself and, like, be patient and kind, which I think a lot of these characters could have used in this series. All the craziness they’re going through – if they just sat and listened and talked – maybe even asked for help – then some of the situations could have been a lot different.
And I’m learning to be more gentle with myself and more kind with myself currently, so that’s probably the number one thing I took from all of this.
BT: Yes, queen. We all need a little more patience in our lives.
What was it about the script that made you want to be in this show?
BT: I got the email to say I had an audition for I Know What You Did Last Summer, and there’s been a ton of reboots and remakes recently, and so at first it didn’t appeal to me. Obviously it caught my attention because it’s so iconic, but it didn’t appeal to me. Then I read the script and the writing is so good, and that’s what got me. The moment that I read the scene between Johnny and Margot – I believe it’s in the bathtub – and you see this vulnerability from Margot that’s so tender and so real, and, you know, when you first see Margot, she comes off as a bit of a stereotype. She’s the wealthy, popular mean girl, and it was nice to see that she had so much depth and that there was a lot for me to uncover and play with.
MI: I think, for me, obviously, the twins were very appealing from the beginning. That’s on every actor’s bucket list to do. It’s very technical – I did not realise how much. It’s very hard to play twins. There’s a switch – no spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that – but there’s a switch and there’s this whole shift that changes after you watched the first episode, and it changes the way the viewer is going to watch the entire show. I just thought it was so clever and interesting and it put the show on a different level than just watching a slasher. It was much more psychological.
These characters are very complex and from then, it was the moment I jumped into my audition. I think they were only having me read for Lennon at the time, but I was like, “There’s no way, I have to jump in and do Allison as well”. So I did the extra credit. and filmed in total double what I was supposed to.
They were both so different, but at the same time shared this interesting darkness they start to gather, in a weird way. I just thought it was so much more complex than your stereotypical twins that you see all the time, and I just wanted to put my mark on that. I had a lot of fun.
It must have been hard filming in a pandemic, but did you both have a favourite moment on-set that you won’t forget?
BT: Being in Hawaii during a pandemic, well, we were just very grateful and very lucky to be working at such a fraught time. Amazon has very strict Covid protocol in terms of everyone’s safety, and also the safety of the locals.
In the very beginning, we didn’t schedule it, but I believe it was our director and our show runner that had us go on, like, a little beach trip. isolated from everyone. It was our first moment together to just sit down. We had just met. We just talked. It was that simple.
We were in this beautiful locale and we all knew we were about to go on this journey together and so that, for me, that’s a very beautiful moment.
MI: I forgot about that moment, but that was where we all really got to know each other.
For me, it was probably the first time we all went hiking together, it was pouring with rain like a monsoon and there was mud up to our knees.
BT: She didn’t have hiking boots. She was in, like, running sneakers and this poor girl was spinning and sliding.
MI: We made it this beautiful waterfall and and it was just so much fun. Those are still my favourite pictures.
Do you think the upcoming success of IKWYDLS leaves it open to building a franchise, as the 1997 film did?
MI: Who knows if we’ll make it too. Our show runner has literally created this crazy world for us, and I know she has a plan. If they wanted to do a second season to continue it, in whatever direction they decide to go, it’s really more of a fact of who will be there,
BT: Who will still be standing by the end of this season? But after getting to know and work with Sarah Goodman and this amazing team of writers (which was predominantly female), I have so much faith in them and they have so much potential. They’re very talented and insightful, so I could see them going on with the show.
Do you think people who don’t like the horror genre will still like this show?
MI: I think so. I think it’s definitely it’s got something for everyone. You know, there is a lot of gore. There’s a lot of people who die. It’s scary, but at the same time it’s really a show about people and relationships. I think there’s a little bit for everyone.
BT: There’s these intricate relationships and a lot of character work going on, but also there are moments to laugh, to cry, and it’s just inevitable you’re going to fall in love with one of these characters, and you’re going to be rooting for them, and or possibly be heartbroken if something happens.
It is technically horror, but it’s also a murder mystery, and so I think that It could be compatible for a lot of different types of viewers.
What drew you to the project and how did you prepare for your separate roles?
Ashley Moore: Well, what drew me to the project was I was a huge fan of the films. Then, to prepare for the character, I just created her backstory, and Ezekiel and I talked about our characters and the relationship between the two, and that really helped.
Ezekiel Goodman: I loved doing that work with Ashley. Besides the opportunity to work, it is the opportunity to work on something that’s not just a new take on a classic, but unique in the depth and multiplicity of all of the characters, and that itself is a focus of the show. That’s really exciting territory to explore, as an actor, especially so early on in my career. I think, at my stage, it’s very rare that you get to stretch yourself like that, so it was a really unique opportunity. It’s really well written. In preparation, I did my own research and talked to people who had similar life experiences.
Madison told us you were trying to guess who the killer was on-set. Did you get it right?
EG: I wasn’t so far off. I had a couple of guesses, and one of them was right.
What should fans of the original franchise expect?
EG: I think the fans should expect a new take on a classic – a contemporary new take on a concept that is really provocative and with all the nods to the original.
Are you worried about the fan response to the reboot, because it’s such a classic movie?
AM: Yes, I think naturally you can worry about what they’re going to think, because it is so different. But I think if they are just open to it being of this time, I think they’re gonna grow to really to love it.
EG: On the list of things that I worry about, that’s not necessarily at the top. We have a lot of respect for the fans of the original; I think that all you can do is have faith and hope that people are open to going on a journey with you.
We’re not trying to change the original movie, the original movie is amazing.
Are there themes in the show that are relevant to what is happening today?
EG: I think… I mean there is a lot. There’s the relationships between one another and the secrets that they hold, even the things that go on with the families. I think the disintegration of boundaries between your public and private self… social media plays a big part in our show. Who people secretly are online? I mean, think about all the anonymous trolls in the world – that plays a part in our show.
I grew up with the Internet. I grew up really at the beginning of the peak of social media being a part of your daily life. And for young people today, it’s even more integrated, and I think that that is highly confusing when you think about self-identification. That is definitely a major theme of our show.
How was it working with Sara Goodman? Do you think she did a good job of representing the modern day, appealing to a contemporary audience with her version of this series?
AM: Yes, she couldn’t have done any better. She’s incredible, she did a really good job of this.
EG: Yes. I think Sarah and the whole writers room created a great script.
What was your favourite moment on-set?
AM: That’s always such a hard one. Every moment was just so much fun.
I’ve spoken about how every day coming to set was just so exciting for me, and some of the scenes were pretty intense, but I’ve had a great time doing it.
EG: There are so many moments that I really love – I can’t pick one, but just because I’m with Ashley and I’m looking at her face right now, there is a little moment. It was a really little scene where we were just sitting in a car driving together. I think it’s in episode three. It’s just… there are all these little moments like that, where you just are connected with your scene partner.
AM: That was one of my favourites too, that scene in the the car – and also that was my audition scene. It’s such a little scene, but it’s so telling about these characters’ relationship and how they feel about each other and where they’re at.
What was it like working in Oahu, Hawaii?
AM: Hawaii was incredible. I mean just being somewhere tropical, you know. it couldn’t have been in a better location, honestly.
There seem to be a lot of reboots happening at the moment, especially in the horror genre. What do you think makes I Know What You Did Last Summer stand out?
EG: I don’t want to get into being competitive with other series. That feels wrong – especially ones that I haven’t even seen. What I will say is that what I’m proud of is the work that we did in terms of adaptation, transferring it to a new place and on to new people – and to do something fun. I think that’s what we’ve accomplished.
It’s obviously quite particularly gory and horrific. Were there any genuinely scary moments on-set while you were filming?
AM: There was a one location that gave me the creeps. Actually, there were two locations that were pretty scary, and one had a lot of history. In the woods – they used to say they were haunted, and you would hear certain voices. Having everyone, like all the crew, tell me these horror stories and craziness freaked me out a little bit.
EG: I’ll second that. My acting teacher, David Warshawsky – he’s a great actor – once told me, when I was nervous about filming some scenes and I was saying, “How am I going to be scared?” – and it was right before we did a scene where there was a dead body – and he said, “Believe me, when you have the body double there covered in blood, you won’t have to pretend to be scared.”
What did you love the most about your characters? Are there any similarities with yourselves?
AM: I loved how Riley was just so blunt about things and straightforward and just didn’t give two craps about what anyone thought of her. What you see is what you get, and, you know, she didn’t hold back what was on her mind, and I really respected that. I love that about her.
I think I’m a bit like Riley in ways where I’m pretty straightforward with things, and I tell it how it is – and in my personal life. Also, we both grew up in a single-parent home, so those are ways that I can relate.
EG: Dylan is very true to himself and has a very big heart, so those are both things that get taken a little far, but I do admire that about him. You’re accessing parts of yourself and then turning them into a character and behaviour. In my life, I’m not as rigid and severe as Dylan is. I hope I’m not as humourless. He could use a little bit of lightening up.