Tonight, the U.K. reality show Killer Camp is set to make its debut here on U.S. airwaves on the CW at 8:00 pm EST. The setup involves 11 participants showing up for a new show called “Summer Camp,” but when they arrive, they’re in for a huge shock as they are told that the project they’re involved in is actually a horror whodunit where most of them will be “murdered,” and one of them is actually the camp “murderer.”
As someone who doesn’t partake in a lot of reality shows, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Killer Camp, but I really enjoyed how they mix up the formula here, and instead of giving audiences a straight-up competition show, there’s a bit of a dramatic flair going on as well, which I thought was rather refreshing.
Earlier this week, Daily Dead participated in a roundtable conversation for Killer Camp with one of the series’ executive producers, Steph Harris, and the show’s host, Bobby Mair, who gave us the lowdown about how Killer Camp came together and more.
So, when I watched it, I assumed that the campers were actors, but then I didn't see any credits for anyone but Bobby. So, were they just random people then?
Steph Harris: They absolutely were not actors. No. They were genuine members of the public.
Did you guys ask everyone to create hyper versions of themselves? It felt very stylized at the beginning during the bus ride with how everyone was staged, which also felt like it leaned into playing up those stereotypes.
Steph Harris: They were the hero shots. That was a very stylized opener, where it was like all those tropes of from '80s American horror flicks. That’s the feel of what we really wanted to create. So, when we were casting, we were looking at the jock, the geek, et cetera, so they knew that they were going to be playing in that role, but they weren't acting at all. It was just more of a dressing. But otherwise they were just themselves. Absolutely.
Bobby, you seem like you really enjoy playing this role. Were you a fan of horror ahead of this?
Bobby Mair: Oh yeah. I mean, I think one of the first films I ever watched was Friday the 13th when I was five years old. And Bruce, who carries out the killer's actions in the show, he almost looks like Jason. So, it was really cool to feel like I was in a horror movie, and getting to orchestrate a daily murder. Yeah, it was amazing.
I know you didn't hire actors, but what was the casting process like?
Steph Harris: Basically we had a very straight casting of looking for members of the public who wanted to take part in a summer camp reality game show. They needed to be between a certain age, so we were looking between 18 and 30, and be up for anything. They knew that there was going to be a twist, but they had absolutely no idea what was going to play out. We did lots of casting sessions. As I mentioned, we were keen to find the kind of people who fitted into these roles. They weren't supposed to be playing the jock, but just felt that they kind of had this look about them.
And then we continued with the summer camp, and we sight-tested everybody to make sure that they would be robust enough to take part, because obviously that explosion in the first opening few minutes, there was always going to be a fear that one of them would get freaked out, or they might want to leave the show. Thankfully, they were all game-on.
Killer Camp originally aired in the U.K. Are there any changes, or edits, or censoring that you have to do for American audiences before it airs here?
Steph Harris: Yes. I guess the important factor in the U.K. is that it transmitted post-watershed. So it was after 9:00 in the U.K. Whereas, I think on the CW, it's on at 8:00 pm, so we did have to sanitize some of the things. It was really just obviously the language that sometimes we use. There are certain words, obviously, that we would need to beep, and we have girls in bikinis, so we just toned some of those down, just for that pre-watershed audience. But we didn't really edit anything in particular.
If you get to have a second season, is there anything you would do differently than you did this season?
Steph Harris: Do you know what? It played out brilliantly. When we developed the idea and how it played out, we couldn't have written it better, I don't think. But I think in the U.K., it was a stripped down arc narrative for a Halloween special, is how it was commissioned. So, it played out across a week. I think that with a second season, we would look at hopefully doing it weekly so that people had a chance to join in, and come join in the conversation online, and come back. And we've already thought about some different twists and turns that we might bring into a second season as well.
What was the most exciting aspect of this project for you, Bobby, and what is the most exciting episode that you can't wait for fans to see?
Bobby Mair: The most exciting thing for me was at the end of every episode, when I got to tell the story of which camp mate was being murdered. Because I'd sit around the campfire and tell the remaining campers while two campers would go on a walk, and only one would come back. So I tell a whole story about one of those two being murdered, and people would cry. It was like a Shakespearian monologue. Then in the edit over that, they cut a reenactment of their murders. So, that was definitely the coolest part.
In terms of picking something that I'm most excited for the audience to see, I would say just who the killer is. Because without giving anything away, I really think that I look forward to people's reactions to that.
Bobby, for those stories, did you get to make up any of those, or were those written for you?
Bobby Mair: It was a collaboration. I'm a stand-up comedian outside of hosting Killer Camp, so it came quite naturally to me, telling these stories. They'd give me the version they wanted, and then I finessed it a bit, to put it in the style of how I speak. So, I could improvise a little, but in general it was quite scripted.
Steph, what was it about Bobby that made you say, "Yes, he's our guy?"
Steph Harris: I had seen Bobby do a number of different projects in the U.K., and when we were thinking about who the host should be, and to play this camp counselor, we did go, "Oh, is it a traditional host, or is it an actor who could play this character? Are they going to be able to do the heavy lifting of the hosting, and driving the action, and doing all that sort of work?"
But, back to Bobby. He just inhabited this role and made it his own. And he did really well with the cast, which really helped with this world. They just couldn't quite work out who he was and what he was. As Bobby previously said, he's an established stand-up comedian who has a projective voice, but he was not too well-known in terms of his television work, so that really helped as well.
I don't know whether I should really say this with Bobby on the line, but even though we looked at lots of people, Bobby was the only one who we auditioned. He walked into the room, and we just knew that we had our guy.
[Photo Credit: Above photo of Bobby Mair from Tuesday's Child Television via CW Philly.]