Netflix releases a lot of content and sometimes, stuff simply slips through the cracks. Other times, something can quietly debut, only to explode in the coming weeks. Such is the case with the recently-released Daybreak, a post-apocalyptic, YA series that has caught fire ever since it debuted in October.
The show centers on a teenage outcast and his group of friends who are navigating a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies and Mad Max- esque gangs. It's got zombies (or Ghoulies, rather), witches and just about everything we've come to expect from the genre, all packed together in a crazy little package.
I recently had the chance to chat with star Austin Crute, who plays Wesley on the show. We discussed his big year, his hopes for Daybreak season 2, should that come to pass, and much more.
You've had what a lot of actors would probably call a really good year. You were in Booksmart. You're now on Daybreak, which has been kind of blowing up on Netflix. So what's that been like for you?
Austin Crute: It has been really, really fun It's been crazy. It has been a big transitional period in my life. Everything kind of started popping off senior year of college. I was doing Booksmart during graduation, and then after I graduated Daybreak was my first job out of college... It is interesting. It's fun. My followers have been going crazy since my birthday, which was the day that Daybreak dropped. I've never seen anything pop off like this before. It's been an acclamation, but a good one.
That's awesome. Wait, it dropped on your birthday. The show debuted on your birthday?
Austin Crute: Yes! On my my golden birthday. I turned 24 on the 24th. I was in Portland, Oregon, shooting at the time, so I didn't really get to celebrate my birthday. So when I got back my friends like surprised me with this whole set up in my apartment. A little bit of this is on instagram.
That's so amazing. So the show has been doing really well based on whatever Netflix is willing to tell us about it, but it throws a lot of stuff in a blender. It's, Mad Max, zombies. It's a love letter to a lot of different things. But were you a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre before you got into this? What we're your favorite things from that genre?
Austin Crute: I love post-apocalyptic. When I was younger, I was a little scaredy cat. I did not watch anything. I was afraid of everything. Now I'm watching The Walking Dead. I started watching Shaun of the Dead because there is so much media I avoided when I was younger, but now the post-apocalyptic thing is so good. But this Netflix project was unlike anything I had ever seen. Even if you cook the Ghoulies out of it. I mean, just the fact that it's kids running around cursing, being vulgar and everybody else is out of the picture. The scope of the stuff that's been happening. That, in itself, was incredible and crazy. So when they added the Ghoulies and the radiation and the powers, the mystic stuff. That set it over the top.
Definitely. It sets itself apart because it's so many things. But specifically, like zombies have been, really the last decade has been just a really weird golden era for zombies. So how do you think Daybreak sets itself apart in that genre? Specifically the zombies, compared to something like The Walking Dead.
Austin Crute: Well, The Walking Dead is full of traditional, what we understand zombies to be. We call our zombies Ghoulies because they're set apart by how they are created and how they are chemically, biologically made up. Angelica and the witch are still trying to figure out the science and the anatomy of the Ghoulie-ness. However, we do know that it is radiation, no disease, that makes the undead undead. With zombies, you get bitten and you turn into a zombie. We learn that's not the case with Ghoulies. You get bitten and you will not turn into a Ghoulie. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with the bomb that went off. And they can speak! But they can only say the last thought that they thought before they died. So it's a little bit of a departure, in that, it's taking on more of an irreverent kind of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland type energy when it comes to the presentation of the Ghoulies, of the zombies. And how they are, their traits and characteristics, how they're specific to each Ghoulie, rather than it being like a hoard of zombies that are all the same zombies.
You play Wesley So, in influencing your performance, were there any specific actors or even figures from pop culture that influence your portrayal of Wesley?
Austin Crute: I would say no. I think it was really my upbringing that influenced Wesley more than anybody did. I would say that Wesley is a very introspective, reflecting, philosophical guy. And I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor. I'm a pastor's kid. We had a big, big church in Atlanta, and growing up was all talk about God and religion and the universe, and spirits and the spirit realm. So when my audition side was me teaching Josh, I was able to channel that wisdom, harnessing nature, into that character and then kind of mixed it with big jock energy. I knew how they were in high school. I knew how they are. I did drama in high school. I didn't do any type of sports. But I was the type that would sit with the jocks and sit with the soccer players, and the basketball players, and the football players, and rolled with them. Be in group chats with them. All of that stuff. So I definitely knew how to channel that energy from that time, and Wesley was born. Then you add that weed in there.
To a more broad point, the show has a really unique narrative device, that point of view driven thing. So as an actor, how did that influence things while you were filming? Because each one of the episodes is centered on someone else's point of view of the same events.
Austin Crute: So it's interesting because Wesley is the only character, besides the Witch, that doesn't narrate his own story.
Right, which is I guess why I was asking, because you were in that unique position.
Austin Crute: First of all, I thought that was so cool that it goes from Josh to Ally to everybody. And you can get the fourth wall breaking. Then when you get to the fifth episode, it stops breaking the wall for like, two seconds... When you're watching it you're so interactively involved, it's almost like this collaboration in experiencing the Daybreak world between the characters and the audience. Then that collaboration kind of stops at episode five when you're more or less watching what's going on, instead of interacting with what's going on. And the RZA, who narrates my episode, who I have yet to meet but oh my God. It is so crazy to see his presence, his likeness, his voice, all over my face. All over the episode. It's so crazy. It's like the narrators are still there, but the narrator is there to bring the audience into the story without putting them literally in the story.
Then the questions that the audience should be asking, or that Wesley should be asking himself, are coming through the RZA. It's just an interesting tool I think for a change of pace. For a change of scenery. And also, he's a samurai! And samurai are known to be humble and don't really talk about themselves as much. Wesley kinds of is like that as well. In his own words, "The guy behind the guy." I think that it's actually fitting that Wesley has a story that's not told by himself but told by like a fantastical third party. That was really cool.
There hasn't been any announcement yet or anything, but have you guys had talks about season 2, and if you guys get to do a season 2, what are your hopes for it?
Austin Crute: I hear stirrings and rumors, nothing has been confirmed. When it comes to season 2 what I would love for Wesley...the wardrobe for everybody is so incredible. Everybody has swag in the apocalypse, meaning, everybody has designer in the apocalypse. Everybody has Gucci and Channel. I'm hoping that in traditional comic book type, style fashion, there will be a reimagining of everybody's look for season 2... Now that we all know what this world is, I would love a reimagining of season 2 Wesley. A season 2 Angelica. A season 2 Josh. I'm excited to see if that's gonna come through.
Daybreak season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.