Let me tell you the story about this guy named Wayne. Actually, let me tell you the story about a show called Wayne about this guy named Wayne. As a matter of fact, let me tell you about how I got into this kick-ass dark comedic love story of a show called Wayne. It all started on YouTube, oddly enough.
You see, there was a time where YouTube was acquiring original series for their YouTube Premium service. No shade, but I knew maybe two people who actually subscribed, and they probably subscribed because they were a) big fans of YouTube creators like MatPat or b) were huge fans of The Karate Kid and wanted to dive into Cobra Kai. One of the series they acquired was Wayne, and the initial hook came FROM THE CREATORS OF DEADPOOL. If you have followed my work on this site, you probably know that I was a huge fan of the first Deadpool film when it dropped—maybe to a fault.
But either way, the names Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese being attached to anything excited me, but let's keep it real: Wayne is the brainchild of Shawn Simmons, who has been putting in work for a minute. The Brockton, Massachusetts native has told the story that effectively became the opening scene in the series' pilot: Back in the day, he saw a kid get beat up by some bullies, only to throw a rock at them as they took off—prompting them to come back and finish the job. In Wayne, the series, it plays a bit different: Wayne throws some ice through a window of an auto repair shop, only to get beat by the shop's owner. As the owner, winded, retreats back into his shop, Wayne picks up a second chunk of ice and chucks it through another window. It's one of the first "OH SHIT" moments I had with the series, and the "OH SHIT" moments kept coming throughout its 10-episode first season, which debuted on YouTube Premium in January 2019.
See, Wayne felt like a comic book character, but he wasn't. Wayne (Mark McKenna) is a guy who, like his father, always got the short end of the stick. Instead of wallowing in despair or turning to depression, Wayne sought to right the wrongs that go unnoticed. He fought for the underdogs that society fails to protect, probably because he saw himself in them. In a moment, everything tying him to his current situation is taken from him, so of course he packs up and goes to right one final wrong, but before that happens, he falls for Del (Ciara Bravo), who might be the only woman who can handle an awkward, damaged soul like him.
Their journey as a pair of teens getting to know each other while ducking the cops, Del's father (Dean Winters) and brothers, and other assorted misfits comprise the show. It's a twisted tale with heart, maniacal action, and a barrel full of laughs... only, at some point out, at the end of that barrel is a bullet. Wayne is unique, highly binge-worthy, and worth taking a chance on.
So of course it got canceled by YouTube in August of 2019. This is after gaining—and maintaining—a 100 percent Certified Fresh rating over on Rotten Tomatoes. That cancellation was a cruel joke for fans of the series; it mirrored the journey poor Wayne had to endure for his entire life. Like any good story, however, there's always a twist.
On Nov. 6, 2020, Wayne arrived on Amazon Prime. In rewatching it, there's a poetry to the themes of redemption in the show and the track that it's on right now, being given a second wind on a larger platform. It's currently sitting at a perfect five-star rating on the site and feels like the best chance at redemption for a series that Simmons already has big plans for. This felt like the perfect time to do something I'd been wanting to do since I gorged myself on Season 1 of Wayne when it first debuted: get Simmons, McKenna, Bravo, and Reese on the line to talk about a series that has held a special place in the hearts of everyone who's taken the chance on it—from the hardest of the fight scenes to the biggest of the laughs—to discuss how the show highlights the underrepresented in America.
Closed mouths don't get fed, so let's see about getting Wayne another trip to the buffet, shall we?
In rewatching Wayne, there's so much talk about second chances, which I thought was funny and fitting, since now the show itself has received a second chance. What's it been like going from YouTube Originals to the show being canceled, to now being on Amazon Prime?
Shawn Simmons: Yeah, man, there's a couple of funny things happening, I think. I think we're all surprised a little bit. All the way down to these people I went to high school with on Facebook, they are acting as if [Wayne] never existed, even though I was posting about it all the time on my Facebook and every social media. All of a sudden it's like, "Yo, the show is great. What the what?" And I'm like, "Wait a minute. I've been talking about the show for fucking three years. What are you talking about?"
YouTube was incredible. If we didn't make it there, I don't think the show would have been what it is, because they let us make exactly the show we wanted to make. You hear about development stories at other networks, and it's a nightmare, and the show becomes something else. I don't think this weird show would have been this weird show had we not gone there. This happened with Cobra Kai as well. It's weird how many people are treating this like it never existed, [like it's] a new show. Twitter's been really great. People are insanely passionate about the show on Twitter, which is really fun. The reviews on Amazon, my mother called up a couple of weeks ago saying, "I'm exhausted from reading all the wonderful interviews."
There's a few things that are always a bummer that we don't get certain things again. There isn't publicity happening. There aren't certain things we get to do again, like a premiere party, but now we see something like Cobra Kai, which was a huge, huge mega-hit on Netflix. But I didn't see any promotion. These networks are now like, "Throw it up, and we'll see how it does." And so, if I look at it that way, it feels alright. If that's all they're doing for most people, then that's great.
Shawn, what have people from Brockton been saying about Wayne in terms of representing your hometown?
Simmons: It's mostly positive, I would say. My goal growing up, eating government cheese in Brockton, Massachusetts, and everybody fighting every weekend and all that, I wanted to represent those people. I think it's more of the country than we see on TV, and it was really important to me.
Having the gift of hindsight over the last few years, in these Twitter comments—I like to click on their profiles and check out what kind of people [are watching], and I think it's really relatable to a group of people that we don't see on TV much. It's also a group of people we don't, I don't think treat well, and we think about poorly, and we kind of poke fun at on TV. I grew up around a lot of those people.
Sometimes you get the people who are like , "They should have filmed this in Brockton." Listen, Toronto's got the tax initiatives. I would have loved to film it in Brockton. Also, because it's Toronto, [the show doesn't] represent the diversity of Brockton as much as you could; knowing that if we do a Season 2, we will have that hindsight. Those people will have picked at the scab enough that I will work really hard to make sure that that's better.
It's been mostly positive. People are proud of not being pandered to.
It's probably one of the things that drew me to Wayne. There are so many stories from people that you just never could see on TV. It's a beautiful thing. Ciara and Mark, what was it about Wayne that really resonated with you guys when you were first starting to read through the scripts?
Ciara Bravo: For me, what I saw was something that I hadn't seen in any script before, which is people that I knew. I saw these characters, and I could relate to them, and I could picture them so perfectly. I understood this way of life, even if I was one step removed from it in my own upbringing. I was just really excited to give this world a place in television and allow a broader audience to gain an understanding of a world that many of us don't have much insight on. That's what excited me about it.
Simmons: The stakes are automatically so high when you're talking about families who, there were weeks where I didn't... It's weird to think about now, but we didn't know. My father was mowing lawns some weeks for money because we didn't know if we were going to have enough food on Friday. I think when you do stories about these people, it's important not only to show, you get automatic stakes in these stories where you're like, "Holy shit. I want to make sure that they're going to make it," but you also have to show kind of the grit and determination of some of these people that actually live it and don't notice it as much as everybody else does. They're just living it. They're living inside of it. Just building on what Ciara said, that's very true about storytelling and these worlds.
Mark McKenna: I read the sides before anything. I saw the script quite late, but for me, the first thing I saw was how the character of Wayne was such a kind of weird mix of such a sweet character and then also such a angry, violent character, which is quite a rare thing to see on TV. It's either one or the other, but when I was reading the sides, I found that very interesting. And I thought the scenes were so funny, because of the principal one.
When I did my screen tests, I finally got to see the pilot script. And then when I read the pilot script, it just kind of came back to what Ciara was saying. A lot of shows where teenagers nowadays, I feel like they all kind of live in mansions, and there's just the one token, poor character. And they're supposed to be the mysterious, edgy kid, but this show is just token practice.
Seriously, though. Even in, what? I was just watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and they didn't have Pig Pen in the Thanksgiving episode, but Pig Pen was always the one pushed to the side, just dusty and dirty, but he could play the hell out of a bass.
McKenna: This show is just a full show of those people. And then maybe a token, rich character somewhere.
And they always get it in the end, like the guy who was hiring the day laborers basically got crucified on the van, which actually brings up another point about Wayne. It's a show that I think would draw a lot of people in because of the action. Out of all of the shit that went on in those 10 episodes, what were some of the hardest fight scenes or action sequences to film?
Bravo: I would think about Episode 10. I don't have really any fight sequences besides punching Tracy in the face, which was... She's the most wonderful person in the world in real life. But it's so fun to get to play that. But I was thinking about you guys filming Episode 10? It's just basically the whole episode is just a fight scene?
McKenna: One long fight scene. The fight scenes were all very fun to do, though, especially with Neil [Davison], the stunt coordinator, because he's the sweetest, most harmless man in the world. Then I find out that he knows CIA disarming moves that could kill somebody.
Bravo: The nicest man in the world, and his hands are considered lethal weapons.
McKenna: He told me about something he learned once, and I was like, "Oh, could you show me?" And he was like, "Legally, no, I don't think so." And I was like, "Okay." The fight scenes, [Episode] 10 was definitely kind of the most tiring and also the most fun, purely because of how long that scene is. I think we did three days filming that scene? And it was just like three straight days of throwing my body around and getting thrown on top of desks. I think there's a few takes where I got thrown on a computer, and after a while we ended up breaking the computer, because I was thrown on it so hard. But they're never bad. And I'm never like, "Oh God, I have to do a fight scene." They're always fun, and because of how semi unrealistic they are, it makes it even more fun.
Simmons: Mark had a natural... He's one of those kids, I had a friend like this, who you're like, "Oh, you should try the skateboard." And then they're really good at it by the end of the day. And you're like, "Motherfucker, what?" And he's like this with a lot of things. He's one of those.
McKenna: I always find it funny that Shawn uses skateboarding as the example for this, because skateboarding is the one thing that I am terrible at. I've tried it so many times, and I can't do it.
Simmons: It's because my best friend—Jay—is the skateboard story. We went to a ramp, and by the end of the day, half pipes are no joke. They're scary as shit. And all of a sudden, he's dropping in, like six hours later, he's just flying. He had never skateboarded before. I'm a huge, huge, huge boxing fan. Mark had a natural ability to know how to fight, form-wise. And the first day I saw him, you saw him stand correctly, and people who know boxing say, "Look at the legs." When you watch anybody square up, like where they're putting their weight and how they're using their feet. And he naturally just knew. He did it. That made that easy, but we were a cheap ass show. We were the cheapest show. So, if anything made it difficult, it was not having enough days to do action the way we wanted. But I wonder sometimes if part of the charm of our show is that... And I intended this at the beginning, was that it looks like a little indie movie, a 1990s indie movie, which I grew up on and love. All my shit looks like that if I have it in my head. So, that was the only thing that was tough. Otherwise, we had all the best people. We had a great stunt team. Mark knew what he was doing, and [we had] directors making it work. Yeah, so if we get more money for Season 2, I would definitely be putting it there.
I read in some of the interviews, where Rhett and Paul were talking about how when you're writing things like action sequences, the idea is to make something that you haven't seen before.
Rhett Reese: When we write action, we try to inject personality into it, or, "What about that scene will make it memorable compared to all the other scenes you've ever seen?" So, an example was Mark handcuffed to the desk drawer while he's fighting. I mean, that's just a twist that makes the scene more memorable.
But I mean, so much of writing, I think, or what makes a writer great is their voice. And this is probably a little off-topic on the question, and voice is an inexpressible quality, but it has something to do with where you're from and your dialect and your socioeconomic status. And we're always on the lookout for amazing voices. And when that script dropped on our desk, Shawn Simmons's voice is unique, and it is fabulously entertaining. And that meant action, too, like the way he writes action too. Shawn's been in fights. He's been around people who've been in fights. He's won most of his fights. Lost only a couple of times to a couple of wrestlers. Am I wrong? Are there any times you ever lost a fight?
Simmons: Five-foot-eight wrestlers who knocked me on my ass before.
Reese: Shawn was like the arm wrestling champion of New England at age 18, but he has a lot of these qualities that inform this voice that just pops on a page, where you're suddenly transported to another place, and you feel like you're in good hands. And I think the best writers have unique voices, whether you're talking about Aaron Sorkin or Quentin Tarantino; when you watch their stuff, it just really pops. Action's part of that. I mean, action and the personality of action and how real it feels and how entertaining it is, is part of Shawn's voice. It's what makes him a great writer.
So, anyway, that's what drew us to Wayne. And then obviously, you want to find actors who can lend that voice to reality, and who have power and who elevate what they do. Ciara and Mark were that for us. You meet them, and their power just comes off them. This power and, I think, realism to what they do.
I love talking about voice, because I think one of the things about the show that pops out is just how funny it is. Every scene there's something, whether it's a quick line between Del and Wayne, there's just so much. Were there any particular scenes that stand out for you as some of the funniest?
McKenna: One thing that I specifically struggled in comedy was the principal scene in the pilot, because Mike [O'Malley] just kept improvising, and every single time it was hilarious, and it was so hard to get through a take without laughing. I actually think I laughed during every single take.
Reese: The whole time. He laughed the whole time.
McKenna: He just improvised so much. And then we were doing my coverage, and I was like, "Okay, this will be easier." And he just kept improvising.
Oh, no. [Laughs]
Simmons: Mark was also not used to that. He hadn't been trained to kind of withstand the power of a funny fucking person in front of him, so he was dying all the time, but we all were. So, Mike is a killer man. That's seen as a masterclass for Mike. He's great.
Bravo: There is one scene that ended up on the cutting room floor that I still laugh about to this day. I'm not in the scene. It's Stephen Kearin [who plays Sergeant Stephen Geller] when he's getting in his tiny little car, before they go on their road trip, and he starts adjusting his seat. And it's just slowly moving forward throughout the entire scene. And I thought it was the funniest thing I've ever seen. I'd love to have a cut of that, just to keep for me.
Simmons: I didn't even see that.
McKenna: It was, he did it during the rehearsal of the scene. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Just the whole time, he was having a full conversation and just-
Bravo: Slowly moving it forward. At the end, the wheel's right here.
Simmons: He's a world-class improv dude that flies to Norway and stuff to give seminars. He's been doing it for like 30 years or something. And I have written for him on a kid show, and he was the funniest, weirdest thing in the world. It was the one thing I really loved about that job. And then when you're creating a character that is written into the script as a... I wanted to flip it on its head and not be that gritty sergeant. I wanted it to be the opposite. So, I wrote him as a sergeant with the soul of a poet, and we get Stephen Kearin, and he's a great secret weapon.
It still all felt so genuine, almost like, I don't want to say like a Great Value Sherlock Holmes or something like that, but it felt like he was in his own world, in his own head, just trying to figure everything out. And again, those are the elements that make the show more than just people getting hit with hammers for 35 minutes every episode. Was there a lot of improv?
Bravo: I would say all of the improv really came from Michaela [Watkins], Stephen Kearin and Mike O'Malley. Right? Because they are obviously icons. I'm not a big improv person. And then on top of it, I find when you have words written so beautifully, the way that Shawn Simmons and our entire writing staff was able to do, it would feel like a sin for me personally, I was like, "I'm not going to step on this in any way, shape or form." But then you have people like Michaela, Stephen, and Mike who can just bring it to this whole other level. And because the writing is so great, I feel like they can find so many gems within that. So, I feel like it was a real mix.
Simmons: Yeah. I have kind of all hands on deck kind of, I'm not scared of letting people fool around. Sometimes it gets scary with money and time, but I used 30, 40 percent of the stuff people would [bring up]. LDean Winters was pitching me ideas for scenes, and a lot of time, you're like, "Oh boy, here we go." But that scene where he said, "How about we make it me, and I'm building that pool for my wife in the end?" That's incredible. If you encourage people, and you make them feel appreciated and part of the project, you get good stuff, man. People are stupid who tell everybody to keep their mouth shut, because I used great lines from all the actors all the time. All the time.
Reese: Was the moment where Del mouths, "Fuck you," to the little baby, was that in the script?
Simmons: That was in the script.
Bravo: That was in the script, yeah. I would love to take credit for that one, but I cannot.
Did you really mouth that to the baby, or that's just camera trickery? I don't know if that baby is going to be scarred. It's so-
Bravo: We're paying for that baby's therapy.
Shawn, you've said you have seasons two and three planned out, essentially. You know where things are going. How much are you letting Ciara and Mark specifically know about where their characters could evolve?
Simmons: We text several times a week, all of us. Rhett very much knows that when I have a feeling or an idea, you either get a text with me with that idea. It's always stupid, too. It's half baked. I haven't thought it out or anything, but I feel there's something about communicating it to people and sharing it that makes me feel like it could be real, or makes me feel committed to following through with thinking about it more. I have just a really weird process. So, Mark and Ciara new stuff about Season 1. They've heard almost all of Season 2. The other day, I texted Rhett about thematic Wayne stuff for Season 2 that I had just gotten really fucking excited about and written it down with exclamation marks.
Reese: And he's written scenes too. I mean, he's written the final scene of Season 2.
McKenna: There's a specific song that you have to listen to the song when you read this.
Bravo: That's what's great about Shawn. He always chooses the perfect songs that you have to listen to when you're reading the scenes.
Simmons: I demand it.
McKenna: It's like the scene alone will make you tear up. And then the song just pushes you over the edge a little bit.
Shawn Simmons: Yeah, there's some madness to music supervising a show that's not picked up yet, but...
I was going to say, who do we have to call? I'm going back over Reddit and stuff when it was announced that YouTube had canceled the show, and seeing the petitions that people were coming up with and stuff, again, who do I have to call? Is there an email? Is there any word on Wayne's future?
Simmons: I don't know. Rhett? I guess we can say that we're hearing that people are watching it, right?
Reese: Yeah. We're getting good feedback from Amazon. I mean, it's no sure thing, but it's been positive.
Simmons: Yeah, we've been hearing little things, but as you know, these networks don't share anything.
Right, and I guess, with the way the world is right now, it's probably hard for a lot of people to think about, well, when would production start? How's that going to look for people being on set in terms of safety and everything? There's a lot of, a lot of variables, but looking at the YouTube numbers on the first episode, it's at 43 million views. There should be some power and things like that,
Simmons: I think so. We're hearing positive things, but I don't know. You're a TV writer. Is this about stock shares? Is this about being able to not tell people where you are with things? I don't know why. They don't share any metrics.
Probably. I think a good percentage of it is just what is, "the future going to be?" In looking at why the show was canceled, and seeing where YouTube was going with their Originals, I'm not surprised that they said, "Okay, we don't want to do scripted." There's a lot of networks that are doing that, but it's about finding the people who are. Amazon seems like an amazing place for that type of stuff. They're trying a lot of different things, like The Boys. Who would have thought that a show like that would have gotten such acclaim, and they're just going with it. I want to say season two hadn't even started, and they were like, "Yeah, let's get a third one out there at some point." So, it can happen. I think it's just a matter of who's writing the checks, and what do they see for the next couple of years.
Simmons: The vaccine is very encouraging. Hearing that people are going to be on the front lines, getting it with doctors and nurses only means that people like us are going to get it, hopefully around April or so.
Simmons: So, listen, I have to open a writer's room if this happens. And if I'm opening my writer's room in February, and we're getting vaccines in April, we're all good. We're not going to be on set until May, June, something like that. Amazon has been great. They gave us a lot of support where they wouldn't give a second run show like this, the promos and the new trailer and posters. And they're doing all this stuff and treating us like a real new show, which is, they call it a new series, which is fun and interesting. I think we're in a genre and an age group that they are now, obviously for the past couple of years, very much after.
Outside of hoping for a Wayne Season 2 pick up, what's everybody else been working on? Ciara, you're on FX at this point, right?
Bravo: Yeah. I've got two very exciting things that I'm very extremely proud of. A Teacher, the FX show for Hulu, is airing right now, which is an intense watch. I'm so excited that I got to be a part of it in any way, shape or form. And then just announced is Cherry, the Russo brothers and Tom Holland movie that's going to be out early next year. Again, another one I'm really, really proud of. And I really can't wait for everyone to see.
McKenna: I did a pilot for a show last year that got picked up that started filming in New Zealand next year called One of Us is Lying. Based off a book. I don't know how much I'm allowed to say about it, but it's based on a book.
Simmons: I'm hoping for Season 2 on Wayne, working hard on this thing that doesn't exist yet. Rhett and Paul are producing my... I wrote two scripts, the first two episodes of a show that we're going out with. And we just attached a big actress, which I'm excited about, I won't give away because that's going to be an announcement, but half-hour comedy. Very dark. Lives in, again, in the world of the 90s indie movies I grew up with and not action-oriented, but yeah, so me and Rhett and Paul are really excited to get out with that. Because we're making that with the same studio that made Wayne and kind of the, whichever content I can kind of consider my home base, so.