Liz Craft and Sarah Fain also tell TheWrap why Elena chose Ruby
(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the series premiere of Fox’s “Fantasy Island” reboot.)
Fox’s reimagined version of “Fantasy Island” debuted Tuesday and opened up a world of possibilities for its in-universe guests — and plenty of fantasies for viewers at home to live vicariously through amid surging COVID-19 cases. With the rest of the show’s first season ahead, including an episode featuring “Melrose Place” alums Laura Leighton, Josie Bissett and Daphne Zuniga guest starring as friends whose island birthday bash exposes the fault lines in their relationships, TheWrap broke down the first hour and those to come with series creators Liz Craft and Sarah Fain
TheWrap: How much do you plan on diving into the island’s mythology and the backstory of Elena Roarke (Roselyn Sánchez) — the great-niece of the original “Fantasy Island’s” Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalbán) — and her associates Ruby (Kiara Barnes) and Javier (John Gabriel Rodriquez) moving forward, versus the anthology aspect of the “fantasy of the week” show?
Liz Craft: I think that’s part of updating the show for 2021. I think viewers like to get into characters and follow their journeys and their arcs. And yes, I think in future seasons, we will definitely explore more of that mythology. I mean, it definitely is an anthology in that every episode we have fantasies that begin and end. But as writers and just as viewers ourselves, we love to know more about the characters. So that was something we wanted to bring to the show. We love the idea that you can enjoy it if you just sort of see one episode, but that if you are a regular viewer, it pays off and that you learn more as it goes on.
Sarah Fain: I think our cast is so extraordinary that if we weren’t sort of building them out, we would be wasting opportunities because they’re just so good. Like, we want to see them just have more layers and have more to do because they’re so fun. I mean, they’re just emotional and funny and everything they bring to the table, we really want to capitalize on.
At the end of tonight’s premiere, we learn that the terminally ill Ruby will be staying behind without her husband on Fantasy Island after he encouraged her to take the literal opportunity to relive her life that island steward Elena offered her. What is it about Ruby that made her a special enough person that Elena would ask her to stay?
Fain: Elena really feels like being on the island is a lot to ask. You really have to give up a lot to spend your life there. And Ruby is someone who, yes, part of it is that she’s going to die. But it’s also that she never really fully lived her own kind of authentic truth in her life. She had an amazing life and was surrounded by family and love. But she’s someone who made a really difficult decision when she was probably 19 or 20 to not be with the woman that she was in love with and instead marry Mel and live a more traditional life. So Elena really sees her as someone who has an opportunity to live again in a whole new way. And there aren’t that many people who come to the island who could do that. And also, it’s definitely a connection that they have. She sees in Ruby someone who’s had the kind of life that, I think, if she weren’t the guardian of the island, she would have had. And they just really like each other. They just get along, they’re friends — or at least they become friends.
Craft: Also, we love the idea that the island recognized in Ruby that she was a perfect fit and that the tattoo she gets, she chose because she was the person meant for this role. So there’s a magical element to her getting that tattoo. And when Elena sees the tattoo, she realizes this is the island speaking to me. And when the island speaks to you, you should listen.
Yes, let’s talk more about the tattoo, which Ruby picks out seemingly at random from options to have tattooed on her body during an island celebration. Will we learn why she picked this tattoo and what about this symbol is so special to her and Elena and the island?
Craft: We do touch on the tattoo in this first season a couple of times and learn a little bit more about it. I think moving forward, it would play, again, into future seasons. But yes, we do talk about it in Season 1.
Fain: One cool thing about the tattoo as it was designed by Ben Edlund, who was a writer on the show and a consulting producer, and he is the creator of “The Tick.” So he’s been an artist his whole life. And when we started talking about it, we were like, “So, Ben, you want to come up with some cool tattoo for Ruby that would evolve into something else?” That’s just kind of a cool nugget.
Aside from more about Elena, Ruby and the island, what can you tease you have coming up, in terms of guest stars and fantasies?
Fain: Well, of course you know we have the women from “Melrose Place,” they’re coming. We have given a round of notes on the director’s cut and it’s, I think, maybe my favorite episode of television ever. We have Leslie Jordan coming, playing a character who is just hilarious and also in desperate need of redemption. We have a couple of time travel episodes. One of our favorite things about the original were the time-travel episodes, because you really get to go into a different world and see a character who is used to this timeline experiencing something completely different. So we have a woman who goes back to the 1800s and we have another woman who goes back to 1960s Havana and gets to play music with an incredibly attractive man who turns out to be her grandfather. But it’s just wonderfully emotional. Oh, we have a great “Sliding Doors” that we’re all incredibly excited about.
Craft: And Javier gets a fantasy that is quite sexy.
New episodes of “Fantasy Island” air Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.