Ask anyone you meet about their first viewing of The Exorcist and they’re very likely to tell you a story that involves not sleeping for a few weeks or leaving the lights on and the covers over their heads. A new television series from FOX is in the works starring Geena Davis, Ben Daniels, Alfonso Herrera, Brianne Howey and Hannah Kasulka and fans at the San Diego Comic-Con got a chance to watch the pilot and hear from the cast and writer Jeremy Slater.
The show is definitely scary, opening with a priest hearing dogs barking and a young girl screaming in Mexico City. Though we begin there, we quickly cut to a church, where young Father Tomas is giving a sermon. His flock clearly adores him, including his sister’s son. Angela (Davis) seems concerned about something, as does her older daughter (Kasulka) Casey. Later we learn that her younger daughter Cat (Howey) has been through something horrific and is completely withdrawn. Her mother is concerned that there is a demon in the house. Meanwhile, Father Tomas is having dreams of exorcisms done in Mexico by another priest (Daniels) and it’s starting to feel all too real.
Though we didn’t get to hear from the actors for very long, as the pilot took up much of the panel and we don’t want to spoil anything, we did learn a few things. (FYI: If you have trouble watching animals get harmed, you may want to avoid this show as there was a lot of it in the pilot.)
Slater told the crowd that he does expect some backlash from fans and possible those of a religious persuasion, he thinks it’s “part of the appeal of the show.” He explained that attendance at Catholic mass went way up after the film came out in 1973. He said that there is something comforting in the idea that there is a grand design behind the evil in the world and that there are going to be a lot of nods to the original. We certainly heard the music in the pilot, and he mentioned the Georgetown exorcism being mentioned. He wanted everyone to know that this is part of the universe of the film. It happened in this world and this takes place with all new characters forty years later.
Davis was asked about whether or not she’s started to feel maternal towards the young women who play her daughters. She jokingly said no, but then pointed out the fact that she’d dyed her hair blond to look more like them. She said, “I’m a huge fan of the movie. Scarred me for life. Like everybody else, right?” She noted the challenging characters and how she was excited to play this one. She also said that the cast has a lot of fun, something Herrera echoed when asked about the tone on the set. He said you’d think it was scary, but that it was really a blast.
Daniels said he loved working with the team, but that his role was actually written for a 30-year-old American and that he had to work to get the part, mostly through his agents getting him in the door. He said he’s a “complete horror film nut,” and that he did the most research into actual exorcisms. He said it freaked him out. He met with a priest who explained exorcism in a more psychological way, but then told Daniels that his best friend was an exorcist and proceeded to tell him a “freaky story.” He said, in terms of his belief, “Now I sit in an area of I don’t know.”
Howey, who grew up Christian in the bible belt with a grandmother who was a pastor, said it freaked her out a bit. She joked that she was in church plays and was always cast as the angel, but wanted to play the devil because the role had better makeup and music to dance to. We won’t reveal the rest of what she said because it’s huge spoiler if you haven’t seen the pilot, but we will say that it was implied that the twist may not be a twist at all. You’ll know what we’re talking about by the end of the pilot.