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‘Blockers’ Star Kathryn Newton to Headline Netflix’s Latest Teen Survival Drama

From the minds behind ‘Party of Five’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ this series is bound to be more than a little melodramatic.
Kathryn Newton Supernatural
By  · Published on July 25th, 2018

From the minds behind ‘Party of Five’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ this series is bound to be more than a little melodramatic.

Netflix is at it again with the outrageous teen drama programming, with specific emphasis on the word “drama.” Per The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming service has commissioned a 10-episode series that is said to be a modern-day take on William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies.” And yes, it’ll be different than that gender-bent adaptation of the actual book that was announced last year.

The as-yet-untitled show will be the brainchild of Party of Five creator Christopher Keyser and The Amazing Spider-Man and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb. The series will be headlined by blossoming young actress Kathryn Newton, who most recently broke out into studio comedy success in Kay Cannon’s directorial debut, Blockers.

According to the official Netflix press release for the show, a group of teenage protagonists is bizarrely transported to a version of their town where their parents are nowhere to be found. But it’s not enough that these kids are now in desperate need to uncover the mystery surrounding their plights in order to find their way home. They also have the added pressure of simply surviving in their new environment, forming alliances and attempting to establish order in the town.

As the teenagers are thrust into roles of responsibility well beyond their years, they (as stated by THR) “party, panic, grieve, fight, and [will] ultimately be forced to decide how to deal with the unthinkable.” On its own, the premise of this series isn’t the most arresting. It feels several years too late to the bandwagon of terrorized children who inhabit dystopian societies. Not even the recklessness of a “Lord of the Flies” inspired show — including all of the book’s violent moments — is enough to make it stand out as a wholly original concept. But when we consider the people involved in this production, there could really be something worth looking out for.

THR further reports that Webb is slated to direct the Lost-esque series, but the official press release only definitively states that he and Keyser will executive produce the show. Regardless, looking at their filmographies, putting both of their names together for a show with such a premise may be the gateway to some serious melodrama. And at the very least, Keyser and Webb are genuinely masterful at navigating the most extreme of dramatic set pieces.

Keyser is no stranger to crafting stories that put young protagonists to the test. Prior to Party of Five, he and his writing partner Amy Lippman created Significant Others. The show centers on a group of 20-somethings living in Los Angeles — all of them a little aimless and confused, but relatable just the same. Unfortunately, not enough of Significant Others made it to air, and the show never fully found its feet. The series was canceled after only three episodes.

However, that made room for Keyser and Lippman’s next venture, which definitely hit the jackpot. In six seasons, Party of Five tells the story of five siblings – a young adult, two teenagers, a child, and a baby – who must decide how to carry on with their lives after the untimely death of their parents. There is plenty of hardship in the series, so much that the show definitely hit an angst threshold eventually (mild spoiler alert, this has to do with a cancer plotline). However, the best Party of Five seasons demonstrate that the show’s protagonists were justified in their inner turmoil. They were also importantly allowed to work through their complicated feelings in ways that felt genuine.

In comparison, Webb has been dealing with bombastic emotions throughout his career as both a music video and film director. When taking account his big screen work alone, Webb’s best movies have a strong throughline relating to relationships. A lot of them tend to be romantic, but he’s no stranger to portraying family strife either. Webb shepherded a particularly gloomy Spider-Man to the masses in 2012 and made a lesser sequel in 2014. Nevertheless, I personally have no beef with Andrew Garfield’s iteration of Peter Parker, and part of that is due to Webb’s keen eye for chemistry and emotional beats within his movies. The Amazing Spider-Man and its follow-up undeniably work the best in their quieter, character-driven moments.

After an extended break from moviemaking after the disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, two Webb-directed films hit theaters in 2017. One of them, The Only Living Boy in New York, happens to be thoroughly unlikable. The script produced a taxingly self-centered protagonist who had very little redeeming qualities. Yet, on the flip side, Gifted is a far more lovable Webb feature. The film’s affectionate screenplay hits home despite its saccharine and idealistic nature. And you can’t really beat having a cute kid and Captain America himself – Chris Evans – as your main father-daughter duo, completely intent on making any audience feel all the feelings.

Individually, Keyser and Webb have ushered in memorable dramas, but they also had the help of stellar cast members bringing these stories to life. And really, Newton is a capable young actress who could carry a show like this. She’s been sneaking up on all of us for a few years now. Personally, she caught my eye in Paranormal Activity 4 as the sole good thing about that movie, and I’m glad that she has gone on to be remarkable in more varied projects. The CW’s Supernatural lets her be a monster hunter (although the network ended up passing on a planned spin-off that her character was due to lead). Newton has worked wonders playing the stock rebellious teenager, too, holding her own against the stacked casts of HBO’s Big Little Lies and AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and briefly in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Additionally, Newton’s most recent triumphs have been in ensemble pieces that showcase her ability to riff off others as much as steal scenes. Both Blockers and PBS’s Little Women are onscreen statements of women’s empowerment in their own ways. The former portrays young women embracing their sexuality and is surprisingly sweet in spite of its raunchy content. Newton and her co-stars especially save Blockers from being written off entirely for being too choppy. In contrast, Little Women depicts a lovely coming-of-age – if age-old – tale about sisters growing up and messing up before growing some more. Newton is electrifying as the mischievous Amy March, and crucially never lets viewers discard her as plainly annoying due to her empathy with the character.

For the time being, we obviously won’t know whether this untitled Netflix series will turn out to be the most heavy-handed thing in the world. But individually, Keyser and Webb have shown that melodrama is not all bad. And with a thriving leading lady like Newton, this show has the potential to pay off.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)