‘The River’ Set Turns into a Real Life Horror Story


Shaun Parkes in The River (ABC)

The River,” is ABC’s spooky new drama about the search for an explorer who disappeared in an uncharted area of the Amazon.  What went on behind the scenes was as mysterious and scary as what was in the script according to Shaun Parkes, who plays Andreus Jude, the expedition’s videographer. When the show shot scenes in an abandoned children’s asylum that was next to a cemetery, the set turned into a real life horror film.

“The River” is filmed in Hawaii. Local legend had it that building was haunted. “People refused to work. They refused to go in,” said Parkes.  “They would be employed to work there, spend the night there as security, and then leave the next day because, [they’d say] ‘This s–t is not worth it. I’m leaving. I don’t care about your production. Good luck.'”

He was initially skeptical of everyone’s claims about the location, but after numerous people warned him not to go inside, he started to become wary. “That’s one of the scariest moments, when you’ve got people, when you’ve got big men who coming up to you and saying, ‘I’m not going in.’ They asked me if I was going in. [I said] ‘Well, I have to.'”  To calm his nerves, he persuaded himself that he would be safe.  “I said, ‘I’m protected. Don’t worry about me.’  [I figured] You have emotional baggage. You’re weak. It’s easy for something to come and attach itself to you. It’s like a bully. If you’re weak, the bully will come and find you.”

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Parkes really may have been protected by a higher power. “After all this talk, for some reason I wasn’t in any of those scenes. I was there. I was supposed to be in the scene. But because [my character] is the camera man, you don’t always see me. Normally I’m there because I’m shooting, but this particular director said, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to have you here.’ No other director has said that. So I had to spend hours just waiting. But I just thought that it was funny that after all of the talk, after being warned, that I was the only person that didn’t have to film in there.”

It turned out that the locals were right. There were numerous unexplained frightening mishaps during the filming. “This haunted place, it took a lot of people out. One of the lead actors, Thomas [Kretschmann, who plays Kurt], he broke his leg. Someone broke their elbow in the haunted place. Someone got something gauged out of their knee by tripping or falling or something. Many people heard their name called. No one was calling their name. I took pictures [there]and none of them came out. Stuff like this all adds up. It makes you think, ‘Okay.'”  Parkes reflected back on his earlier conversation. “As the week went on I thought, ‘Maybe I’m being spared or something.'”

The show’s mysterious premise and Hawaiian location has led to comparisons to “Lost.” Parkes is confident that, though it will appeal to many of the same viewers, once people watch “The River,” they will realize that there is nothing derivative about it. “I own ‘Lost’  on DVD and Blu Ray. The point being, I’ve seen six seasons twice over and to be compared to anything like ‘Lost’ is not pressure. It’s basically great. But is it like ‘Lost’? No. Why would anyone say it’s like ‘Lost?’ Well, yeah, we film in Hawaii and some of the trees might be the same…’Lost’ liked to mess with people’s heads. They liked to throw things out. A lot of things on ‘Lost’ I think were made so people would pause and have a look. Our show, people will very, very quickly realize we’re different. I don’t worry about the comparisons because pretty much after the first week all that talk will stop.”

Watch Parkes in action in the clip above, as his character films a mysterious incident on a boat. Then tune in to the series premiere Tuesday at 10/9c on ABC.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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