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'We knew Fantasy Island was going to be dark and twisted'

Maggie Q, Lucy Hale and Michael Pena star in Fantasy Island, a horror adaptation of the 1970s TV series, about a magical island resort where guests can live out their wildest dreams. Kerri-Ann Roper talks with the cast to find out more

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Tropical idyll: Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell and Michael Pena in Fantasy Island

Tropical idyll: Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell and Michael Pena in Fantasy Island

Horror show: Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Lucy Hale, Maggie Q and Jimmy O Yang

Horror show: Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Lucy Hale, Maggie Q and Jimmy O Yang

Tropical idyll: Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell and Michael Pena in Fantasy Island

It's the question with infinite answers: if you had one fantasy you could fulfil, what would it be? For actress Lucy Hale, it would be the chance to "drop everything" and travel the world. Or perhaps, if unrealistic options were on the menu, she'd pick "flying or talking to animals" as an option too.

They are not choices her on-screen character in her latest venture, the horror film Fantasy Island, would agree with.

The 30-year-old actress, who rose to fame playing Aria Montgomery in US series Pretty Little Liars, plays Melanie Cole, one of a group of people given the chance to live out their fantasy in a seemingly-idyllic tropical paradise.

The film, directed by Jeff Wadlow, whose other credits include Truth Or Dare and Kick-Ass 2, is based on the successful TV series from the Seventies, which saw the lead character, Mr Roarke (played then by the late Ricardo Montalban) and his assistant Tattoo, indulge the varying fantasies of island guests.

Having previously worked with Wadlow on Truth Or Dare, she says she was drawn to the genre. She explains: "I clearly love the horror genre, I've done a couple of them, but Jeff was like, 'I think this is a character you've never played before' and this movie is not just one thing, it's a lot of things.

"It's almost like mini-movies within one big movie, like each fantasy represents a different genre, and represents different types of people in the world."

Despite not having watched the TV series, she says she "knew enough about it going into the movie, and about this island where everyone's wildest dreams can come true, but I knew we were making a very different movie than the TV show, it was going to be dark and twisted".

The cast and crew were in Fiji in the South Pacific for filming, and lived on a cruise ship for a few weeks.

"I mean, it's exactly how it looked, it was absolutely breathtaking, we would wake up every morning right on the water, I saw colours there I didn't even know existed - it was just so stunning," Hale says.

For Honolulu-born Maggie Q, full name Margaret Quigley, who plays Gwen Olsen, filming brought her closer to one of her life's big loves: the ocean.

The actress, known for her roles on small screen hits like Nikita and Designated Survivor, said: "There are obviously local people who are concerned with their own environment and are very attached to it emotionally, but one thing I did notice when I went diving there, was the bleaching of the reefs.

"Obviously, when global ocean temperatures rise, the reefs die off, they have to exist in water that is much colder than it is currently, and so what you start to see is this bleaching of the reefs where you're now swimming over these coral pieces and big structures that are supposed to be vibrant in colour. There's supposed to be life that's teeming, and you're not seeing that any more.

"Even in a place that's as isolated as Fiji, so I had a very deep sadness about that, because it's certainly not something they're not doing, it's something that globally we're not doing."

Given that her character's fantasy could be described as a 'do-over' or second chance, asked what she would wish for humanity if we had a do-over, it would be replacing "who's in charge".

She says earnestly: "We're dealing with a lot right now, environmental regulations that are being pulled back in the US right now, that we fought to put in place for 20 years, and as an environmental and animal activist, I am just furious.

"I can't believe that decision-makers live in a world where they have children, and their children have children, and they don't care - that's very shocking to me. I would change who's in power - that's what I would do, that's my do-over."

Notable changes in America under its current leadership include the initiating of proceedings to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

As a passionate animal and environmental campaigner, the actress has also founded Qeep Up, an activewear range that has ocean conservation as its ethos.

Asked about her passion for saving the oceans, she says: "I was born and raised on an island, so for me, it hits home in a way it might not for most people.

"Because I have the heart of an islander, I'm able to bring that heart to the masses, people who can't really see the destruction that we deal with on a daily basis.

"Growing up next to the oceans and in the oceans my whole life, I knew that was our life source, but it literally is.

"We have to have healthy oceans to have life on planet Earth. I think this is our most urgent concern, it should be - and that will be one of my messages 'til the day I die.

"I don't want to leave this planet to my nieces and nephews in an irresponsible way. It's not okay".

For actor Michael Pena, who takes on the big screen incarnation of Mr Roarke, filming at such a heavenly location was also a dream come true.

"It's exactly like the UK, you know, all these palm trees and beaches and stuff," he quips with a laugh.

"But it was pretty amazing. It was an interesting day of work you know, because it is work, you don't get to appreciate it as much as you should, but being on a boat, going to work every day, being dropped off on an island - it's really cool."

As someone who was familiar with the TV series, he had more personal reasons for finding the role appealing.

"I watched a little bit of the show when I was a kid, I was like 'Wow, that's a Latin guy', so that's always kind of cool, kind of interesting, he kinda looked like my father a little bit.

"And so I thought it was a challenge, because I normally don't get these kind of parts anyway, so how to really live and be like a great host for an adventure like this, and try to get the audience to come follow me through this adventure.

"But it was a challenge too, because I didn't want to imitate Ricardo Montalban as Mr Roarke. Instead, I studied him and he's from Mexico City, he did a lot of theatre, was trained in Shakespeare and stuff, so I was like 'Ah, that makes sense'. The way he is, with his gestures, it's a learned thing."

And if he could pick a TV series to give the big-screen treatment to?

"Probably The Office, that'd be pretty cool - anything that doesn't quite make sense you could turn into a horror movie, but I think let's see... what if the Monty Python was a horror movie with all those jokes... I think that would be kind of rad."

And now for something completely different...

Fantasy Island is in cinemas now

Belfast Telegraph