Mixing Mystery & Modernity – Where In The World Is Wally?

Sunny Major
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Stylist | Cardell McClam

Photographer | Hiram Carey Photography

Mix Bahamian folklore and creativity with a cast that oozes star power and a gripping and timely narrative? You get Where in the World is Wally.

Debuting on Our TV, January 20th, 2020, the serial show follows the story of Wally – a bar owner and musician – who is officially missing yet peculiarly finding himself in random locations all around the world.

With no memory or recollection of what happened to him and no idea of why he is traveling in the first place, Wally’s disappearance leaves his family members and friends confounded as they seek out solutions to the mystery.

Initially presented at Cannes as a short film, Where in the World is Wally is the brainchild of Bahamian filmmaker Travolta Cooper, who stars as the main character alongside other prominent and talented Bahamian entertainers; Timico Sawyer (SawyerBoy), Bodine Johnson (BodineVictoria), Leah Eneas, and Renel Brown-Rolle.

Renel Brown wearing a Cardell McClam Original
Renel Brown wearing a Cardell McClam Original

Travolta describes the show as an “exhilarating ride,” a project that he has been actively working on long before starting the screenplay in 2018.

“It’s a story that been in the making for about three generations now.”

The story is based on Bahamian folklore, and interestingly enough the story it takes its main inspiration from is a cautionary tale of drinking that Travolta heard from his grandmother. In this folktale, Wally is a man who drinks himself to the brink of death and begins ‘traveling’, a phenomenon that involves one’s spirit leaving their bodies and traveling to different places. This term is used by older persons throughout The Bahamas when discussing the condition of people who are dying, however today we may be more familiar with the name ‘astral projection.’

Our disappeared friend Wally is perceived to be ‘traveling’ or ‘astral projecting’ as well, as various characters acknowledge feeling his presence in a room when he is not physically there. The show itself features scenes from Travolta’s personal travels around the world as he has been producing numerous documentaries over the years, including a posthumous global biography for the late Dr. Myles Munroe.

Travolta Cooper in a Cardell McClam Original
Travolta Cooper wearing a Cardell McClam Original

A fitting departure from the documentaries that he has produced, Travolta’s newest fictional narrative explores deep themes of loss, grief, crime, and ‘traveling’ both in a physical and metaphysical sense, encapsulating a story that could not have come at a better time contextually for The Bahamas. The social importance of this story is certainly not lost on its local viewers.

In an exclusive interview with Hot Patty Magazine, Travolta expresses that this script was a challenge to conceptualize. After all, adapting an old folklore tale to a modern story that would be both relevant and entertaining to the Bahamian public is no easy feat.

However, after Dorian devastated the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in 2019, it became clear to Travolta why this story had to be told. He stated that this show, a serious “lamentation,” has “always been” a post-Dorian project.

“It was always supposed to be this time. We’ve been getting tons of feedback on #WWWally. But the most RESOUNDING from the Bahamian audience is how “fresh” it is. They feel it is a welcomed departure from the comedy and buffoonery that has ruled Bahamian screens for years. Look, there’s a place for comedy. But if it’s just comedy we’re seeing? Then it’s a stereotype we created. We have to be more than comedy. Especially post Dorian. And some of the weighty issues affecting our #nation right now are no laughing matter. Yes, we can cry and be real. In some ways that is essential given our current national space. ”

Leah Eneas wearing a Cardell McClam Original
Leah Eneas wearing a Cardell McClam Original

It’s true that Travolta had no way of knowing that a storm like Hurricane Dorian would ravage his home islands. Seeing the parallels after the disaster, Travolta gained new inspiration and went back to revise the script. The show retains and solidifies its relevance and relatable nature to a Bahamian audience, a number of who can relate to the idea of a family member who is ‘traveling’, and can, therefore, see themselves in the characters that Travolta has created.

Referring to the deadly aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Travolta laments, “We’re in a time right now where Bahamians are still missing.”

While #WWWally is a departure from the usual comedic tone of a lot of Bahamian media and narratives, the perspective of this show has been called “fresh” by viewers, who relate to the narrative in a more personal way.

“Our intention with this story is to create a dialogue about those things that all Bahamians know about, but… we don’t talk about openly.”

Each episode reflects this, taking on subjects of crimes, miscarriages, and more. What makes these themes even more sobering, though, is the distance some of the actors put between their comedic personas and the more serious roles that they play.

When casting for this show, Travolta made the unusual choice of casting talent who had never been seen in this light before. Bahamian actor Renel Brown-Rolle, who held a lead role in Maria Govan’s 2008 film Rain, is more accustomed to performances of a more serious tone. In an unexpectedly perfect role, stands Bodine Johnson, who is a prominent entertainment figure, musician, and radio personality. Notably, two individuals that the public associates with the word “funny” are inverting their own personas to play a more somber role. Comedians Timico Sawyer and Leah Eneas addressing the darker side of emotion may come as a shock to their fans and Caribbean viewers.

Timico Sawyer as the no-nonsense detective Sam Jones may be the most wildcard performance. The public is certainly used to indulging the SawyerBoy brand of comedy, like his crazy girlfriend character Kalika. As he investigates the mysterious disappearance of Wally, the public gets to see him in a new light.

Timico "SawyerBoy" Sawyer reprises his role as Detective Sam
Timico “SawyerBoy” Sawyer reprises his role as Detective Sam

Another surprising performance is Leah Eneas as Lisa Rolle, a bartender who runs the bar alongside Wally, and the grieving ex-lover of Wally. While we are used to seeing her play more comedic and light roles, like Gen in Tara Woodside’s Growing Up Gen, her role as Lisa in Where in the World is Wally allows us to see her tackle a wider range.

Both of these cast members still bring a lighter, comedic tone to the show from time to time, but what makes this choice of casting unique and at times even seamless is how they perfectly capture the dramatic weight of a situation.

Cast alongside this duo is Renel Brown-Rolle as Atlantis Jones, Sam’s superstitious wife, and Wally’s sister. Renel’s acting skills have been recognized across The Bahamas since she created waves in the 2008 film Rain, and similarly, she brings a very raw and authentic performance in this show, connecting to the more serious tones extraordinarily well.

In the same vein, Bodine Johnson, a Caribbean pop artist known as BodineVictoria, shows a new side of her as she plays the antagonist of this show– the mysterious Rovel.

Travolta admitted to Hot Patty Magazine that Bodine’s role wasn’t supposed to be a permanent role, but she impressed him so much during the filming of the first episode, he created a whole character around her. Bodine has always been revered for her talent within The Bahamas, but her newly found mysterious aura as she takes on the role of Rovel is captivating.

Bodine "BodineVictoria" Johnson in a Cardell McClam Original
Bodine “BodineVictoria” Johnson wear a Cardell McClam Original

“She had this expression in her eye… She showed up for episode 2 and blew the cast and crew away with her performance! Bodine charted a whole role for herself in season one of Wally.”

Finally, Travolta Cooper oozes star power in his role as Wally himself, often taking on two or more roles within the character of Wally. As the main character of the folktale and the show, it is no surprise that Travolta’s performance is one of the most impactful and memorable within the show.

Travolta expressed his initial fear in his casting choice, however, stating that he was not sure how the public would take it.

“These people… are known for comedy,” Travolta says, “but I’ve stripped them of comedy. They’re serious. They’re actors, they’re dramatic actors.”

This statement could not be any truer as all cast members step out of their comfort zones, some to give their dramatic acting debut, to deliver compelling and hard-hitting shows every episode. The cast themselves, according to Travolta, feels like the roles they are taking on are perfect for them and perfect for this time. It seems that they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This production has been inundated with synchronicities and coincidences.” Travolta states. “Everyone on the cast has a story. The universe wants this story told.”

Perhaps what makes the performance of the cast so stellar is not only the great on-screen chemistry that they share, but that the cast members relate to their characters in their real lives, according to Travolta. They often share stories among one another of how they can relate to the fictional character they’re playing in their day-to-day lives.

Despite Travolta’s initial fear, the public is receiving the show very well, as it is now one of the top-rated shows in the country. OUR TV has stated that Where in the World is Wally has had the most viewers in the Monday 8:00 pm slot on Bahamian television, overtaking the viewership of international networks like ABC, HBO, and TLC.

The success of this show will surely be the pride and celebration of Bahamian creatives across the world. In fact, Travolta’s success is further paving the way for a broader sense of success for all Bahamian creatives.

Travolta tells Hot Patty “This show is meant to grow and create opportunities for everybody,” including the actors and actresses he cast. He wants this show to “connect to the culture” and create as many opportunities for Bahamians as possible.

In our exclusive interview, Alexia Coakley, the station director responsible for OUR TV, joined Travolta. They share the same goal of giving Bahamian talent a platform, and this is why Coakley states that the opportunity to air Where in the World is Wally seemed like “a good fit.”

OUR TV was established and went on air in the year 2000 under the name Cable 12. It was once only available New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Grand Bahama Island, but it is now on satellite TV, airing all around The Bahamas. The channel has always been focused on giving Bahamians a voice, but over the years it has become more aimed towards creating the type of content that will take rocket Bahamian media around the globe.

“In 2015, there was a significant evolution of the brand,” Coakley recounted.

“It transitioned fully to a new brand, much broader than a community channel seeking to create a network for and by Bahamian content producers; showcasing the best in programming, all driven by Bahamians, and investing in local content.”

Travolta and Coakley both expressed their interest in reaching people with relatable and creative stories like Wally does, and have preliminary plans to air shows across the Caribbean diaspora—with an eventual expansion to Canada, and the Tri-state area.

“After all, the REV promise,” according to Coakley, “is to give Bahamians that platform and create the industry for Bahamian creatives to thrive.”

Through Where in the World is Wally, one can see that this promise is one that OUR TV is dedicated to keeping.

Where in the World is Wally airs on OUR TV every Monday night at 8pm, however, if you miss a premiere, it is rebroadcast on Wednesdays at 9 pm.

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