WRITER’S NOTE: This story contains minor spoilers for seasons one and two of ‘Day 5.’
AUSTIN – Most shows and movies revolving around the apocalypse have the “enemy” as zombies, asteroid or even the Earth itself, but one Austin-produced show has survivors fighting the body’s need to sleep.
‘Day 5’ takes place after an event in which sleep becomes lethal. The first season of the Rooster Teeth Productions show followed several people who were awake for various reasons at the time of the event. Jake (Jesse C. Boyd) was on a drug bender, Ally (Stephanie Drapeau) was working at a hospital, Ellis (Davi Jay) was piloting a red-eye flight and Sam (Walker Satterwhite) was waiting for his dad to come home from work.
“In the middle of the night one night – like 3 a.m. – sleep suddenly becomes lethal and everyone who’s asleep in that instant dies, and anyone who falls asleep after that’s going to die unless they can figure out what’s going on,” showrunner Josh Flanagan explained to KVUE during a visit to the set in May 2017.
While season 1 focused on a small group and their search for answers, season 2 will show other parts of the world.
“We’re kind of expanding our view from this small group of survivors to basically the whole world and seeing how different pieces of the world dealt with it,” Flanagan said. “We’ve got Electra Avellan, Ryan Cooper, Jake Busey, Adriene Mishler, and also we have a really cool guest arc from [William] Sadler.”
Flanagan described Mishler’s character Gabbi as a “hard-edged war journalist who’s got sort of a bigger picture view of what’s going on and has put some of the bigger pieces together.”
“She shows up kind of tightly wound up and zipped up. Later we see her unpack, but in the beginning it’s really fun because she’s been following a lead,” Mishler said of Gabbi's introduction.
Flanagan said many of the new characters were survivors before the event, including Gabbi and Avellan’s character Paula, a Honduran immigrant who came to the United States with her young son.
“Season 2, we’re sort of playing with this idea that sleep is a commodity. There’s all these workarounds in season 1, but in season 2 there’s kind of this myth that’s sprung up about this place in Nevada where people can supposedly sleep called the Sandman’s Oasis,” he said.
"As soon as the epidemic happens, [Paula] starts running for this “safe place” and encounters Aidan, who’s played by Ryan Cooper," said Avellan.
The production crew built a camp set near Alpine with plans to shoot scenes for three weeks, but the weather had other plans.
"Literally the first day we got there on the lunch break, the wind just picked up the set and threw it," said Flanagan. "We’d planned to shoot more of it out there and have a really detailed camp out there and not do as much stage shooting like we’re doing."
The city's interconnected film community and long production cycle on season one had many Austin actors aware of the show before is June 2016 premiere.
“I was kind of in the know of the season that was being created and then of course I followed it to watch and support my colleagues,” Michler said. “I was already kind of hip to the show, the storyline when I was invited to read for this character in season 2.”
Avellan, who previously worked with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, was introduced to the show through friends.
“When I got the opportunity to audition for it, I looked it up and I was really amazed at what they had done and the reach they got, the amount of fans that got behind it because it really resonated with so many people,” Avellan said.
Her experience with the show mirrored that of many fans, in that they want to know more.
“When I finally watched the entire first season and got to the end episode, I was enraged because I didn’t have enough answers,” she said. "When I clicked off of it I saw thousands of comments under the last episode siding with me, of all the fans that felt enraged at the same reason: we didn’t have answers and we wanted to know why."
“We end up spending a fair amount of the first episode, I think, is going to give people some immediate answers to some of those threads we left hanging. Then there’ll be some entirely new questions we’ve got,” Flanagan said.
In addition to new questions, Flanagan promised to fill in some gaps left by the first season.
“Season 1 kind of had these cold opens that were jump backs. We’re gonna fill in some of the gaps, too. So you’ll see some stuff from what we’re calling ‘Zero Hour,’ the hour it all started,” he said.
The first episode of ‘Day 5’ is available for everyone to watch on Rooster Teeth’s website and YouTube. Subsequent episodes require a subscription through the company’s FIRST program. (NOTE: The show does contain violence and strong language.)