The Writer/Producer explains how he brought this passion project to TV
In Wraiths of Roanoke, Adrian Paul stars in this story about the famed missing colony. In the late 16th century, colonists on Roanoke Island, Virginia, found themselves under siege against evil spirits left behind by the Vikings. The Wraiths are hunting the innocent souls of the first-born children in order to get into Valhalla.
We recently had a chance to talk with Writer/Producer Rafael Jordan about this movie's production and his long standing fascination with the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
What attracted you to the story of Wraiths of Roanoke?
Rafael Jordan: Growing up in Virginia, I was always very familiar with the Lost Colony of Roanoke. I found it utterly fascinating - and terrifying - that 117 British colonists attempted to create a permanent settlement 20 years before Jamestown, and not only failed, but completely vanished. What really kick-started my imagination, however, was when I first saw Brotherhood of the Wolf in 2002. On the surface, the two films might not seem to have very much in common, but what really struck me was the fear inherent in dealing with a horrific, possibly supernatural situation in a period where people were decidedly ill-equipped to deal with such a thing.
I immediately thought to myself, there really ought to be an American version of this, and while talking to my brother, we basically led each other to the same idea - Roanoke Island. What better unsolved mystery in America could you ask for? It lent itself perfectly to an The X-Files kind of horror twist. The idea of just how utterly isolated - and helpless - those colonists must have felt really stayed with me. Add in a little Norse mythology and a few undead wraiths, and you've got yourself a real predicament!
Since the story is rooted in history did you do a lot of research?
Rafael Jordan: Yes, most definitely. Obviously, some creative liberties were taken, but it was very important to me that the story be in line with the recorded accounts and known facts, like the "CROATOAN" clue left on the tree. There are some things in the movie that you'll think I made up, but I didn't! The colonists really did find Fort Raleigh deserted when they first arrived except for a single skeleton... How wild is that?!
What was the production like?
Rafael Jordan: The production was absolutely great. And by that, I mean incredibly challenging and rewarding. We shot the film in Bulgaria, which might initially seem like an odd choice to double for modern-day North Carolina, but the scenery and the locations were beautiful. Untamed wilderness as far as the eye could see. Also, the production value was incomparable. The fort we were able to built rivaled the one from The New World. From top to bottom, everything was first rate, and both the cast and crew worked extremely hard. I think we went into overtime literally every night but one.
As a producer and writer on the film did you find that you were able to get your vision on screen exactly as you had hoped? Or, was there still a decent amount of give and take?
Rafael Jordan: Unless your last name is Lucas or Spielberg, you probably never get your exact vision on the screen, and you know, that's probably a good thing. Matt Codd, the director, was fantastic. He really, truly got the script from day one, and was incredibly respectful of my vision. His background is in illustration and concept design, so he really brought an amazing sense of artistry to the table. Adrian Paul was an absolute pleasure to work with as well. He truly threw himself into the character, and did an incredible amount of research and preparation. Both he and Matt came in with a lot of ideas, and I'm not too proud to admit the script was much improved for it. In the end, a lot of people shepherded this along - the American World Pictures producers and the Sci Fi Channel executives were all integral in helping to develop it. I can't imagine it having gone any other way.
Do you think that there are other, similar stories about the the early settlers of the US? If so, do you plan to make more movies about them?
Rafael Jordan: I'm not sure if there's anything else in US history that quite measures up to the Lost Colony in terms of sheer horror potential. That's why it seems to pop up from time to time in pop culture. Just last year, Supernatural did an episode about it, and Dean Koontz touched on it in Phantoms, to name just a couple of examples. But as far as exploring historical horror goes, I'd love to. And there's a lot of North American history that's not necessarily US history...
What would you like viewers to take away from watching Wraiths of Roanoke?
Rafael Jordan: It's an unrelentingly dark film. If the viewer can experience even a fraction of the horror or dread that the characters feel, I think it'll stick with them for awhile, and I'll consider it a great success. They may even remember some of their high school history, too.
What do you have coming up next?
Rafael Jordan: I've got some other scripts coming through the pipeline for Sci Fi that I'm really excited about. Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon and Copperhead are a pair of creature films that shot earlier this year and should be a lot of fun. I've also just written an action/adventure film about Sir Francis Drake (with some fantastical elements, of course), that starts filming in just a few days. My friend Dave Flores is directing, and I'm out here with him to do the second unit. It's gonna be a great. And by that I mean very challenging, and hopefully very rewarding.
Wraiths of Roanoke airs Saturday, October 13 at 9/8C on the Sci Fi Channel.