The world of “Peak TV” has given fans a nearly endless supply of shows to watch on any given night, but with new streaming services and programs popping up all the time, it can be hard for series to stand out in such a crowded entertainment landscape. Surprisingly, YouTube Premium is making a lot of noise with its original programming, the latest of which just might be your new binge-watching obsession. Created by Shawn Simmons and backed by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as executive producers, the new action-comedy series Wayne is poised to follow in the footsteps of Cobra Kai by becoming YouTube Premium’s newest hit show.
Wayne stars Irish actor Mark McKenna—who previously made a splash in the acclaimed musical Sing Street—as the titular anti-hero, a quiet but tough teenager from the rough streets of Brockton, Massachusetts. After his father dies from cancer, Wayne decides to set his life ablaze by skipping school and embarking on a roadtrip to Florida with his girlfriend Del (Ciara Bravo) in order to retrieve his dad’s stolen Pontiac Trans Am.
While Wayne always fights for the little guy, he’s definitely a dangerous, violent character, so don’t get on his bad side. In the debut episode—which has already been viewed more than 9 million times, while the first season as a whole already has a 100 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes—he uses a trumpet to beat up a bully who’s harassing his friend at school and bites the nose off Del’s abusive father after getting into a skirmish involving fireworks. According to Simmons, revenge thrillers like Death Wish and John Wick served as inspirations for Wayne.
Wayne creator compares YouTube series to John Wick as a teen
“My father had raised me on ’70s crime thrillers—Death Wish, Rambo, First Blood, that stuff. He raised me on that type of stuff I really wasn’t supposed to watch, late ’70s stuff, always the revenge thrillers,” Simmons tells Metro. “I kind of thought, ‘What was Dirty Harry like as a 15 year old? What was John Wick like as a 15 year old?’ And that made me laugh.”
“I graduated from those movies to the boom of the indies ’90s stuff which I fell in love with,” he adds. “I wanted to take those tropes of those revenge thrillers, John Wick, Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and put them inside the influence of those ’90s indie small movies.”
In addition to paying homage to Simmons’ favorite films, Wayne shows his old hometown of Brockton a lot of love. Not only is the series set in the Boston area locale, but the series also doesn’t shy away from showcasing the grit and toughness of its native inhabitants.
“I have an incredible amount of affection for those people, and I hope people can see that in the series, because I do, I love those people there,” Simmons says. “It’s a hard working town, and I think like a lot of towns in this country, Boston has a thousand ton brick on its shoulder not just a chip, and if anybody says anything about Boston people, it’s that they’re tough. So you can magnify that a bit and it sounds like Brockton a little.”
Simmons, who went to college at Emerson as well before moving out to Los Angeles, recalls one rough and tough moment from his childhood that actually inspired the opening scene of Wayne.
“I was about eight or nine years old, I was too young to do anything about what I was about to see, but this kid was just getting the crap kicked out of him by five or six kids,” Simmons explains. “The minute they finished, kind of got tired of beating him up, they started to wander off, pointing at him, laughing, and that kid picked up a rock and threw it at the group of guys and they beat his ass again.”
“I never forgot that because that kid, whether he had no mom or no dad or no whatever, you weren’t going to take his pride too,” he adds. “So those are the types of kids I grew up with, and Brockton was the type of town where we fought on the weekends, we got into fist fights on the weekends, like in a lot of towns in this country.”
Aside from all the violence, there’s a lot of humor and heart in Wayne too, which makes sense since the writers behind Deadpool are involved. However, instead of the fourth wall-breaking, raunchy zaniness of the superhero flick, Wayne instead takes a page out of teenage rom-coms by focusing on the awkwardness of that age.
“Shawn and I always talked about making sure the characters were grounded at all times. The comedy comes out of the awkwardness of these two teenage characters,” the pilot’s director Iain B. MacDonald says of the humor they found in Wayne and Del’s relationship.
There’s a genuine romance budding behind all the laughs and violence in Wayne, though, which is something that fell right in line with Wernick’s work on Deadpool.
“This really is an action comedy that has heart, is a love story. The dirty little secret about Deadpool, it was a romantic comedy,” Wernick told Metro ahead of the Tribeca TV Festival last year. “This really is a love story, a romance, disguised as an action adventure. It’s the story of this boy, Wayne, who falls in love with Del, also 14-15 year old kid. It’s action, it’s adventure, it’s drama and, most importantly, it’s heart.”
Simmons goes even further, comparing Wayne and Del’s fast romance to Twilight, since they end up meaning the world to each other even though they’ve just met.
“If you see like Twilight, when you’re 13 year old to 15 year old girl everything is absolutely all or nothing, everything is so intense,” says Simmons. “It’s funny that people that laugh at movies that star adults like ‘Geez, they just met and they’re so intense.’ Wait, have you ever seen 14 year olds? It’s teenage kids, it’s all in time travel. He’s everything and you have to have him or she’s everything and you have to have her. It’s the end of the world.”
“But all in all,” he adds, “I think that this is a show about two kids looking for their place in the world.”
Wayne is now available to stream on YouTube Premium. Watch episode 1 below.