The best creative works sometimes come to fruition in unexpected ways. That was the case with the audio drama Unwanted, which was created and written by Kyle Shevrin and Lamorne Morris.
Not even the pandemic could stop this show. “We weren’t able to record in QCode Media’s studio offices, so we recorded the entire podcast remotely over Zoom. We sent recording equipment to all our actors, and I used to hop on Zoom and direct them,” Kyle explained.
He also described how it all started.
To begin with, it is thanks to his dad that Kyle grew up watching movies like Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, hence becoming a huge 80s action-comedy fan. Fast forward several years into adulthood:
“One of my best friends and writing partner is Lamorne Morris. Most people know him from the sitcom New Girl, as well as films like Barbershop, Game Night, and Bloodshot. He had done a cameo on one of QCode Media’s shows, and their team asked him if he had any original ideas he wanted to turn into a podcast. He told them, ‘My writing partner has a fun action-comedy idea that might interest you.’ And as they say, ‘The rest is history.’”
Just like that, a seven-year-old script was dusted off and brought to life.
“The idea from day one was to essentially write a love letter to the 80s action films we grew up watching. Even the ads I voiced for our carefully selected sponsors were done to reflect the 80s vibe. QCode was totally on board. They were a wonderful creative partner to have. They simply trusted the vision.”
Not only did Kyle and the team need to break down the original 120-page script into eight 15- to 20-minute episodes, but they also had to make changes, considering there would be no visual component. “I had to flip the usual advice, because I needed to tell, not show,” Kyle said.
Robbie Wunder, Joey Wunder, and Dominic Blackwell-Cooper each penned an episode. Kyle reflected on the process: “We read the scripts out loud to make sure they were funny, and we actually made them much funnier in the process. You know, when actors use their skills to deliver your lines, they make the words 10 times better than you envisioned them in your head.”
Set in Kyle’s hometown of Livingston, New Jersey, the podcast has several location-specific references that come to the fore as Ben and Grant try to catch Shelly O’ Keith, an escaped convicted murderer.
After Kyle understood the possibilities of audio dramas, he started thinking about the sounds that would bring the story to life—loud sirens, helicopter sounds, dogs barking, and bullets whizzing by. “I enjoyed a fun, collaborative process, working with Source Sound, the company that did the sound effects. Their attention to detail was incredible. When Shelly gets hit by the car, if you’re wearing headphones, you’ll actually hear her roll from left to right. They did such a phenomenal job, listeners can just sit back and take it all in.”
Everything about this podcast is designed to feel authentic, right down to the score. “All the 80s films have their distinctive theme songs and familiar tunes, so the score was very important. I worked really closely with QCode’s Head of Music, Deron Johnson, whose resume reads like a who’s who Hollywood line-up. He delivered the sci-fi type of sound that would sell the idea that this was a project that had been locked in a vault for 40 years before being discovered and released.”
Of course, every 80s action movie has a memorable theme song. “Deron sent me the instrumental version, and that alone blew me away. We were getting close to the release date of the first episode, and Deron assured me he was working on getting someone to lay down some vocals. When he told me to check my inbox, I couldn’t believe what I heard. I had no idea that Deron and Rick Astley have been good friends for a while, so I was shocked to hear Rick singing the theme song. Since then, he’s released it as his own single and has performed it live on tour, in front of sold-out crowds in the UK. There’s even a YouTube lyric video!”
In terms of the cast, Kyle lucked out there, too. “Lamorne and Billy Magnussen gelled right away. I wasn’t surprised when listeners said that these actors sound like they’re best friends in real life.” From the beginning, Kyle felt assured that the main characters of Ben and Grant were in very talented hands.
QCode recommended Jamie Lee O’Donnell for the “badass villain Shelly,” as Kyle refers to her character. Kyle recalled, “She’s in Ireland, so we chatted over Zoom, and very quickly after that, it was a done deal.
“She has an excellent voice. In fact, each actor has a distinct voice, so listeners are never confused about who’s speaking.”
To fill the rest of the cast, Kyle reached out to friends like Rose McIver, who plays Kate. “It was great to get some close friends to voice some of the supporting roles … it was cool to watch them shine!
“Jake Johnson’s cameo was awesome, and we also had the incredible talents of Matt Walsh. Anne Camp, who played Grant’s girlfriend, was unreal. It was an all-around amazing cast.”
For those who have been listening to one dark audio drama after another, Unwanted, as one of the first scripted comedies, is meant to be a breath of fresh air.
What’s next for Unwanted? A TV show, or season two of the podcast are among the possibilities.
“Now that Ben and Grant have dived into the criminal world, they’ve got themselves into way more trouble than they realize, so there’s a lot more to explore.”
Fans of this amusing-yet-suspense-driven podcast will be eager to continue sharing in the adventures right along with the duo.
July 2022 Issue