If you own a television, chances are you’ve seen either Rose McIver or Wyatt Nash pop up on it at some point in the last few years. She’s had notable roles on Masters of Sex and Once Upon a Time; he’s appeared on Pretty Little Liars and Rake, and was also a contestant on Survivor: Redemption Island in 2011. (Back then, Nash went by his given name, Matt Elrod; he switched to his middle name and Nash, for Nashville, after leaving the show. “I kind of wanted to start at ground zero and really work my way to where I am now,” he explains to EW. “I didn’t want to use [my experience on Survivor] as a leg up.”)
But even if you’re familiar with either actor’s work, you’ve never seen them like this before: playing grown-up siblings Cathy and Christopher Sheffield (formerly Dollanganger), a pair of blonde bombshells who are secretly in love with each other.
Yep: Petals on the Wind, Lifetime’s followup to its hit adaptation of Flowers in the Attic, doesn’t shy away from the incest plot introduced in V.C. Andrews’ first twisted tale. In fact, Petals doubles down, making Cathy and Christopher’s relationship even more extreme – which came as a bit of a shock to Nash, who wasn’t very familiar with the material before his audition. “I watched Flowers in the Attic, and then I went in for it,” he says. “I don’t know if I was totally paying attention. But after I was cast, I started to watch it again, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness! There is so much emotional turmoil and trauma and abuse.’” McIver cottoned on a bit quicker: “The audition scene was Cathy and Christopher first reconnecting after having not since they’d been in the attic,” she explains. Translation: That comes “right before the sex scene.”
Neither actor had much time to be shocked before getting to work. Petals was on an incredibly accelerated schedule from the get-go: Nine days before Flowers’ Jan. 18 premiere, Lifetime announced it was already developing a sequel. Production began Feb. 25 in Los Angeles. McIver says she was cast just two weeks before that start date, giving her only 14 days for intensive ballet training. (Cathy is a dancer who dreams of stardom in New York City.) For Nash, the timeline was even more compressed: “I found out I got the role on a Saturday,” he recalls. “We started shooting the following Monday or Tuesday.” About three weeks later, “the whirlwind was over” – leaving both stars feeling more than a bit of whiplash.
Clearly, making Petals was an intense experience for everyone involved – which could explain why Nash and McIver both came out of it feeling sympathetic to the plight of their characters.
Nash says that initially, he was “a little turned off” by Cathy and Christopher’s incestuous relationship. But eventually, he found himself rooting for them as a couple – with a few reservations, of course. “It’s almost as if they weren’t together, they would go on leading these half-lived lives,” he explains. “If I would have thought that they could have moved forward and had happy lives apart from each other, I think I probably wouldn’t have rooted for them as much as I did.”
For what it’s worth, McIver agrees with her co-star: “They know it’s a taboo, but nobody else understands them the way they get each other. They went through something that nobody should ever be forced into, and that trauma is really hard to connect with somebody else over,” the New Zealand-born actress says. “So I think [Cathy] finds a strength and a safety in Christopher.”
Little does she know that Christopher might not be entirely noble: If Petals’ four main characters ever found themselves in a Survivor-type situation, Nash has a plan in mind. “Mother is pretty, pretty evil. I”m not gonna lie. Grandmother’s a little out there, she’s a little loopy,” he muses. But ultimately, “I’d probably just sit out of it and let the women take each other out, and I’d try to come out at the end on top. Play to your strengths.” Any way to work that plot into an adaptation of If There Be Thorns?
Petals on the Wind premieres May 26 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.