Olivia Welch, Mike Faist and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut have landed lead roles in Amazon Studios’ YA pilot Panic, from writer Lauren Oliver based on her best-selling book and producers Joe Roth & Jeff Kirschenbaum
Written and created by Oliver, Panic centers on a forgotten rural town where every year the graduating seniors risk their lives in an illegal, high-stakes game to win life-changing money–and a chance to escape. Anonymous judges force the players through a series of challenges that will compel them to confront their deepest fears – and upend their ideas of who they are, who to trust, and who they might become. This year, 47 players — three of them played by Welch, Faist and Chestnut — will compete for the biggest pot ever. All of them will be changed. Only one will win.
Welch will play Heather, a talented writer who is deeply uncomfortable in her own skin and nowhere near realizing her full potential. She thinks her only chance of a decent life is to save up what money she can and go to Accounting school. When Heather realizes her mother has stolen all of the money she has saved, something changes inside her, compelling her to join the deadly competition and prove to everyone in town that they are wrong about her.
Faist plays Dodge Mason, the “new kid” in town, one of the only kids who wasn’t born a local. He’s maintained a distance from the others, but still holds his head high with confidence. Dodge enters the competition, to everyone’s surprise.
Chestnut will play Natalie. To the point with a dry wit, Natalie is determined and focused: her mind is made up to join the potentially deadly competition and maybe leave the town of Carp forever. Despite putting all of her eggs in one basket, Natalie is realistic and supportive of her friends, hoping she can enjoy a summer with them before everything changes.
The book centers on the Heather and Dodge characters while the TV adaptation is more of a small ensemble with Heather still considered the lead.
Oliver executive produces the pilot with Joe Roth & Jeff Kirschenbaum of Roth Kirschenbaum Films and Elle Triedman. Alyssa Altman serves as co-executive producer along with Lynley Bird of Glasstown Entertainment, the company led by Oliver and Lexa Hillyer. Leigh Janiak is directing the pilot.
The Hunger Games-flavored Panic is one of three YA pilots greenlighted by Amazon in June as part of a push in the space.
Welch, who also is recurring on the upcoming Netflix series Unbelievable, is repped by Osbrink Talent Agency, LINK Entertainment and Morris Yorn. Chestnut, who recurred on Homeland, is repped by D2 Management and APA. Faist is with Abrams Artists Agency.