The creator and writers of One Bad Apple, a new female-led supernatural drama being sold by ZDF Enterprises, discuss with TV Drama what went into crafting this “woman’s version of Darth Vader” in a lead character.
Described as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clueless meets Riverdale and The Omenwrapped around Indiana Jones, the new drama One Bad Apple was recently unveiled to the global market. The series was created and developed by Tuvalu Entertainment and is being co-produced and distributed by ZDF Enterprises (ZDFE). The story follows what happens when the Devil’s daughter is enrolled in a respectable English boarding school and begins to take over. The central character is Mercy, who doesn’t know that she’s the child of Satan himself, nor does she initially realize that her mission at the boarding school is to find and destroy an ancient artifact in order for her father to come back to Earth.
“When I created the idea for One Bad Apple, I wanted to explore what a strong, British, female-led drama would look like, that would have a woman’s version of Darth Vader—and that’s certainly what Mercy becomes very quickly in the first season,” explains Paul “PJ” Johnson, executive producer at Tuvalu. “I loved the idea of having a female who was trying to come to terms with being a woman while trying to comprehend that she can now control the minds of people around her and ultimately use this newfound power through the worlds of politics, media and business.”
Johnson shared the concept with Robert Franke, the VP of ZDFE.drama, who says he was “immediately intrigued.” He tells TV Drama that it “ticks all the boxes of what we’re looking for,” in that it is a high-concept, female-skewing drama that taps into a younger demographic. “We see that there is a lack of female-skewing drama series; it’s something that’s underserved and I’m an advocate for it. One Bad Apple is also a unique blend of drama and the fantasy genre, with themes that we all know in some way but haven’t seen before in this combination.”
To carry out his vision, Johnson tapped the father-daughter writing team of Gavin Scott (whose credits include The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles for George Lucas and Small Soldiers for Steven Spielberg) and Rebecca Scott (Investigation Discovery’s Blood Relatives and Murder Among Friends). The pair went about crafting a story arc that organically lends itself to returning seasons, which are already on the planner.
“We were very inspired by the idea from the beginning,” says Rebecca. “My father and I are very close, but we’re really different as artists and as people in terms of our creative processes. Once we put our heads together and started throwing out ideas—and there are no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming—everything just came [together]. It was like a fountain unleashed. We were both building on each other’s ideas so quickly, and a lot of momentum came very naturally…. We could see the lives of the characters being mapped out in front of us as we created the first episode.”
Gavin adds that he was able to approach the story with his “historical imagination” as well, thinking about the mission Mercy could be on and the artifacts that might actually be hidden in the setting of the English countryside. “Rebecca and I gave this a wonderful, strong, dramatic arc, but in addition to that, it has a universal theme: in your teenage years, you discover who you are. Mercy’s mission is a dark one, but that’s interesting too.”
Mercy has an adversary in the story as well, Lydia. When the women meet, each knows instinctively that the other is her enemy. Lydia, it turns out, is the last of a long line of women sworn to defend the Holy Grail and the mysterious artifacts that surround and protect it. “The story becomes the battle between two teenage girls who have a really fascinating, dramatic situation to deal with,” says Gavin. “But both of them are having to discover who they really are over the course of this. Rebecca and I both [recognized] that this is really what goes on when you’re a teenager.”
Franke agrees that there are universal themes in One Bad Apple that add to its broad international appeal. He says that elements of fantasy and magic are strong draws for the younger Generation Z and millennial demographics. “It’s a coming-of-age story, and that never goes out of fashion. At the same time, it’s so much more than just another TV series for a young demographic because there are many multilayered characters besides these two main characters. It’s for every demographic, and that is very appealing. There is nothing similar in the marketplace right now.”