Mark McKenna, 24, says he’s only “relatively, not extremely” famous in Ireland. That, he argues, is mostly due to everyone having seen his acting debut in the charming 2016 musical Sing Street. Many have yet to see him as the ball-peen hammer-wielding, house-razing, gut-punching crusader in the exhilarating series Wayne, which has been described as “John Wick meets John Hughes.”
Wayne (McKenna) is told that his father’s car, a ‘79 Trans Am, is his for the taking – but it’s in Florida, and Wayne is in Massachusetts. Together with his new girlfriend Del (Ciara Bravo), he Wild Hogs it on a busted road bike down the east coast to retrieve his prize.
Wayne first aired in January of 2019 on YouTube Premium. Its pilot raked in a staggering 41 million views and the entire series received unanimous praise, garnering comparisons to The End of the F***ing World. Like the dumb fate of so many series that showed promise after a first season – the kids-with-no-parents drama The Society, the supernatural Chambers, or the violently Christian Teenage Bounty Hunters – so, too, did Wayne see the chopping block. However, the series didn’t get canned, per se. It got “Quibi’d”, meaning YouTube Premium, the platform that hosted it, shuttered.
Nearly two years later, the discourse around this show has once again flared up. As collateral damage, Wayne has now been rehomed on Amazon Prime, where – if its creator Shawn Simmons is to be believed – if enough people watch, it will be greenlit for a second season. Fans of the series are rallying behind it, campaigning on social media for people to stream. And Mark McKenna? He’s sitting pretty in Dublin, mostly focused on making music with his four-piece pop band Milk, hoping beyond hell he can once again play Wayne.
How did you get the role of Wayne?
I got sent an audition from my agent. Then my agent rang me and was like, you’re gonna go to LA and screen test. I flew to LA. I literally landed in the morning, did my audition, went back to my hotel, then I got up the next day to go to the airport and the casting director rang me while I was in the airport and she was like, “Don’t get on the plane!” It was very dramatic. I got pulled out of the airport and I had to go back to the casting director’s house because her husband is the cinematographer. I had to do another tape in her garage. We didn’t have another night booked in the hotel so she let me sleep in her guest room and dropped me at the airport the next day, then rang me before I got on the plane and told me I’d gotten the part.
That’s one of those weird Hollywood stories.
I feel like most of my experiences of getting cast in things are weird stories.
I assume you met Ciara Bravo [who plays Del] on that trip.
Yeah, I screen-tested with Ciara. We did two scenes together. I met her that day, in the room. It was a very brief, hi, how are you, what’s your name, did the scene and then I didn’t see her again until we shot the show.
Do you remember what scene you did?
We did two scenes, the one where she comes to the door selling cookies the first time I meet her. Then the one in the bedroom where she asks how tall I am and then we stand back to back.
When you did finally get to read the script, what appealed to you about it?
The massive obvious juxtaposition in who he is as a character: he’s such a sweet, quiet and innocent kid, but he’s also this horribly violent kid (killer?) at the same time. He’s either one or the other, he’s never in between on anything.
He reminds me of so many people in a weird way.
It’s one of those things where it’s like everyone can relate to it in some way because everyone goes through a stage in their life where they themselves don’t know how to register or process emotion, or they’ll know someone else who can’t. That’s exactly what Wayne is, someone who can’t process emotion, it comes out as anger because he doesn’t know how else to deal with it.
My theory is that the show is so good because it depicts lower class people in a really relatable way – it doesn’t feel like poverty porn. A lot of TV shows, especially teen ones, are about elitist kids in big cities. Otherwise, it’s a weird reality show like Honey Boo Boo or something.
I definitely feel like there are very few – no shows that I know anyway – that could really compare to Wayne in terms of the theme and characters. Most shows, like Riverdale and stuff like that, the characters live in mansions. It’s really hard to relate to people who live in mansions. I doubt the entire audience of that show lives in one. It’s one of those things where Wayne as a show is either something you can directly relate to, or you know those people. I don’t know anyone who lives in a mansion so it’s much harder for me to relate to that kind of thing.
What do you make of the comparisons to The End of the F***ing World?
Yeah, I could definitely see that coming a mile off. I even auditioned for that show as well. I think there definitely are some similarities, but you need to sit down and watch both to realise they’re very different shows.
How do you feel about the idea that the show glamorises violence?
I think it’s less of a glamorisation. It’s more trying to show you that although the violence in the show does kind of lift off the ground a little bit and gets unrealistic sometimes, that shit happens in the real world. There are people who could be like, this show’s so violent, but that stuff happens and it’s a very real show. There’s no point in skipping out on it just because it’s gonna maybe offend somebody.
Can you tell me a bit about the stunts you do? Did you do a lot of them?
I did most of them as far as I can remember. The only ones I wouldn’t have done were the crazy ones, like ones that I wasn’t allowed to even if I said I’d do it.
Like driving off a motel balcony into an above ground pool?
Yeah, I didn’t do that one and obviously my stunt double did the scene when the car skids out from behind the truck and chases it. Other than that, it was mainly the one from the balcony into the pool, other than that I gave all the stunts a go. It was fun, it was cool that I was allowed to do that. I’m sure there are some sets where they’re like, the insurance! They won’t cover this!
I remember there was one day where there was a stunt jumping out of a tree, and I expected it to be a small tree and you just jump out. Then the stunt coordinator was like, so I’m gonna harness you up and I’m gonna lift you up into this really tall tree, and then I’m just gonna drop you. But just before you hit the ground, I’m gonna pull the rope – it’ll be fine. That was the one time where I was like, “That’s kinda scary.” He was like, “You can trust me, it’s fine.” We did five run-throughs of the stunt before actually filming it, and it turned out to be very fun but the thought of it was very scary. It was a big tree. He would hold the rope so I was in the air, and then let go of the rope so I would just fall, and then he’d grab the rope again just before I hit the ground. I’m sure they had a much more professional way of doing it but that’s how it seemed to me.
I know you’ve read the script or know the story for the rest of the show if it were to get a second season.
What can you tell us?
I don’t know. Shawn [Simmons] has said it, and it’s obviously a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t finished season one, but Wayne is in juvie in season two. He has the script for the first episode of season two, and it’s one of the best Wayne scripts I’ve ever read. It’d be very nice to be able to make that. Other than that, I don’t think any scripts have even been written, Shawn just knows exactly where the story’s gonna go. He’s told me little scenes that he has planned. It’s all very, very good. I hope we actually get to make it, because almost all of his ideas are genius.
What do you make of this kind of campaign to get it renewed?
I think it’s cool. It’s really cool that [the fans] care that much. There are very few shows that I would do that for.
Does Shawn know for certain that if it gets enough views it’ll get renewed? Or is this some kind of conspiracy?
I actually don’t know, to be honest. As far as I know, if it does well and gets enough views, I think then there is a season two or it’s a possibility or an option. All I know is that it’s possible. I don’t know how likely it is or how it’s even doing so far, how it’s performed on Amazon. I try not to think about that stuff too much and get my hopes up in case it doesn’t happen.
How does that make you feel?
It’s something I try not to think about too much, but my biggest fear is if another job came along and I was like, “I’ll take it,” and then Amazon is like, “We’re making season two!” That’s my main fear. I’d definitely like to prioritise Wayne in terms of my career, but I’d also need a more concrete idea of what’s happening for me to do that.