It seems that every American Satan, Black Veil Brides and Asking Alexandria fan is eagerly anticipating the soon-to-be-announced release date of the film’s spinoff series, Paradise City. After American Satan made its silver screen debut in 2017, Sumerian Records and Films CEO Ash Avildsen quickly began working on the follow-up to the film. Following the storyline of the Relentless and its founding members, portrayed by Andy Biersack and Ben Bruce, Paradise City is set to offer further perspective on the main characters as well as delve into the world of rock ’n’ roll.
Although a network and release date have yet to be announced, Alternative Press caught up with Biersack and Bruce to discuss the pending series, how their characters develop throughout the show and what it was like working with rock ’n’ roll legends on set.
In American Satan, both of your characters were left in really strange situations. Leo was trying to stick up for Johnny and also mourning the death of one of his best friends. And with Johnny, you’re not sure if he’s losing his mind or if he’s going to be locked away. How did you both push beyond those situations that you were left in?
BEN BRUCE: Honestly, for me, it was just taking each day as it comes up for the longest time. I was trying to convince Ash to bring Ricky back. I was like, “That’s where I want my character to go.” And he was like, “Well, how would that work?” And I was like, “Hear me out. He comes back as a ghost. There’s loads of black magic and darkness in this film. But no one can see him [except] Leo.”
So I thought it would be cool for my character to go down this road where he’s talking to himself, and he’s lost himself to drugs and alcohol. He’s depressed by the death of his friend, but at the same time, his friend is there. And so you catch Leo just talking to and having conversations and making decisions. And people are like, “What the fuck? This guy’s lost his mind because of his friend’s death.” But in reality, I’m still talking to my friend and battling with that. I thought it would be a really interesting character.
For a while, we talked about that being a real possibility. So I got in the headspace that [it] was gonna be a thing, and that’s where my character was gonna go. And then it got brought to me that, “OK, no. Leo’s moved on from Ricky. He’s not necessarily depressed over his death anymore.” Because we couldn’t get John [Bradley-West, who] is somebody who’s obviously widely sought after. So now it became, “He’s gone through the mourning process, but now he’s just not accepting the death of his friend.”
So as you see in the show, he’s gone a completely different path, and he’s going through some different shit. He’s not mourning the death of his friend. He’s just trying to figure out how to get past that stage in his life and maybe, “How can I get in touch with him again? How can I bring him back?” He’s in denial almost that the whole thing’s happened. So that was a big switch for me when I was mentally preparing. I really genuinely thought I was gonna go back in there as this guy that had lost his mind but still had his friend, and no one else really realized.
ANDY BIERSACK: When we did the Boston Film Festival for American Satan, we were at dinner, and Ash gave us an abridged version of what the idea for the series was going to be. And from that point on, I had an idea of where Johnny was gonna go. There’s a pretty big twist that occurs in the course of this. And that was the first thing that we knew about as, “Oh, this is where it’s going to go.” And so I had been preparing myself for what that would be.
When we first started this whole thing, I was several months into my sobriety and playing a character who was going down the other path where he was getting into the darkness and all that stuff. And so that was a really interesting twist. But then with [Paradise City], Johnny’s on the other side. He’s trying to make his life better. But all of the demons from his past are making it more difficult for him to do that. And so I’m very little like Johnny. Other than our faces are the same.
There are certainly parts of his character that you can see. And I’ve always said, his story, while it has many huge differences, I can see where my story could have ended up there with a few different choices. The character is from Ohio, from Columbus, not Cincinnati. There are little things that are similar but different. And then once we get to Hollywood, it’s where our lives really change between what Andy is and what Johnny is. And so at this point, this is several years down the road of constant worst-case scenarios occurring for this guy and him trying to juggle all those things. He doesn’t do a very good job.
There was one scene that we were doing, and I remember I almost started laughing because we were filming it, [and] it was like, “This guy is such a shithead.” You’re doing things that are outside your own character, but you root for him. You want him to do well. You want him to make the right decision. He’s the heart of the idea of this story. He’s gonna get back on the right path [and] he’s gonna figure his way. And you just want him to. I love finding more depth in the character and getting an opportunity to separate myself even further from who this character is.
In the Paradise City series, a number of artists in our community, including Juliet Simms, Kellin Quinn and Randy Blythe, join the cast. Andy, what was it like working with your wife on set? Did you think it was important for real-life musicians to be cast in a series that heavily focuses on the music industry and being an artist?
BIERSACK: It was amazing. Our storylines don’t really cross at all in the show. I think there’s one scene at the end where we end up in the same situation at some point. I don’t want to spoil anything. But our storylines are different. Her storyline and her band are this whole separate thing in the show that people don’t really know. This show is not just American Satan, too. It’s a whole different group of people that you’re learning about and following. And I know that Ben’s character had some scenes with Juliet’s band and members of Juliet’s band later.
I’ll say this: It was awesome because I remember the first day I showed up on the set, I was filming something separate and in a location near where they were filming. And I showed up to my trailer. And Juliet had been there since like 6 a.m. and showing up and everyone being like, “Holy shit, she’s so good. How has she never acted in anything?” She was just killing it and impressing everybody. And there was such a buzz around the set.
BRUCE: I had a really good time with Juliet filming this. I know one side of Andy really quite well, and she knows a completely different side of him, so we had a lot of fun comparing Andys. [Laughs.] I dare say there were quite a few days that were quite frustrating for both of the Andys on set because [he] had [us] squawking at him like, “Oh, we just found this out about Andy.” And he’s just like, “Oh, good, you two are here again together.”
BIERSACK: Truth be told, we all get along so well, and [we] just tease each other. We’re just shit talkers. [Laughs.]
I will say that from the perspective of other musicians being in the show, that is an Ash thing. Ash believes firmly in rock ’n’ roll in 2020 and 2021, 2022, 2023 and forever. He believes that the heart of our industry and who we are as musicians and this genre of music that some people feel has become antiquated or whatever else—he believes in its viability. He wants to show the world that this is just as much a “look at this shit” as it is anything else.
A show full of rock musicians about rock stars in the modern era that is going to do really well and be seen by a lot of people is as much a fuck you to the people who don’t believe in rock ’n’ roll as anything else. So I think people should understand that Ash is one of the best advocates for our genre in our scene. It really is out there. He cares a great deal about making this viable. And that’s why he put all these musicians on the show.
It was announced on the official Paradise City Instagram that a portion of the TV series’ proceeds will be donated to the Cameron Boyce Foundation in honor of the late actor. What was it like working with Cameron Boyce on set? How are you personally honoring his memory and talent?
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Cameron Boyce stars as a leading character “Simon” in all eight episodes of the first season of Paradise City. The series was filmed just months before his tragic passing. He gave us an incredible performance as a young musician, band leader and aspiring DIY executive in the music business. Cameron was a truly one of a kind spectacular talent. ❤️💙💜 Every scene he was written in was shot and completed in the first season. We will be donating a portion of the tv show’s profits to @thecameronboycefoundation #cameronboyce #paradisecityshow
BIERSACK: It’s really interesting because I think people immediately assume because of the way American Satan was that, as I said earlier, our storylines are all connected. And the reality is Cameron is a main character in the show just as much as Johnny or anybody else. But the storyline is separate from ours by and large. It is one of someone who is coming up through the ranks, not dissimilar to the story of the Relentless in the beginning, but in this story, you’ve got the Relentless as an established band. This is a kid that’s coming from nothing and trying to build his life out. And his story is integral to the whole story of the whole season.
But I did not work with Cameron apart from maybe 15 minutes in the whole process. I met him quite a bit on set, and he was just wonderful. He’s the kind of guy that had every talent, the nicest person, hilarious, great looking, can dance, can sing. He was just one of those people who was a star. He really had that star aura around him at all times.
BRUCE: I only got to work with him [for] a very small percentage of my time on set. But I saw him more than I worked with him, primarily because he was such good friends with Booboo [Stewart]. And he was just always such a pleasure to be around. And I never met someone who I was more drawn to. It was weird. I couldn’t keep my eyes off this kid. Every time I looked at him, he’s doing something that made me smile more than I thought he would be. This kid was just a beam of happiness, and it was a pleasure to have met him a few times.
Watch the full, exclusive interview with Andy Black and Ben Bruce below.