Pictured (l-r) Dascha Polanco as Patti Hitchens, Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir, Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard and Mike Colter as David Acosta Photo: Jeff Neumann /CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.
By Victoria Richards
Empower Magazine was invited to an advanced screening of the new CBS television series EVIL at The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York City for a roundtable interview with creators Robert and Michelle King. The Kings have proven themselves to know a thing or two about producing a legal drama television series. Does the five-time Emmy-winning, and Golden Globe-nominated show The Good Wife ring any bells? Now Robert and Michelle have switched over from law to the supernatural, but they haven’t removed logic. We wanted to ask the questions that get to the nitty-gritty of their creative process and why they felt like the timing was right for a show like EVIL to hit the airwaves.
EVIL is a psychological mystery that questions the root of evil while confronting the thin line between the supernatural and science. The great debate over religion or science is a repetitive theme, to say the least, but it’s the collaboration that makes EVIL unique and interesting. David Acosta (played by Mike Colter/Luke Cage and Breakthrough), is a priest in training that believes in the supernatural and Kristen Bouchard (played by Katja Herbers/Manhattan and Westworld) is an inquisitive psychologist with a firm belief in science. The lead characters are on opposite sides of the religion vs. science debate but appear to connect on an intimate and intellectual level. Their opposing views are arguably a reflection of Robert and Michelle King’s relationship.
EM: As a married couple with drastically opposing views, how do you co-exist creatively? Has collaboration over the years been challenging?
Michelle: It seems like the easiest thing in the world. It feels like discussion. And a long-time discussion. So, we’ve never particularly tried to change each other or been disrespectful of the other’s point of view, so that has made it fairly easy.
Robert: We’ve been married 32 years and it just feels like that respect is pretty much there at the top. It always worked out with our daughter because she is fascinated with the history of both sides. It makes for interesting conversation.
The EVIL creators might be on to something in regard to “interesting conversation.” In the age of social media and technology, it isn’t challenging to fire up an interesting conversation and end up turning it into a viral debate. At the roundtable interview, the conversation really began to heat up behind the scenes in regard to mental health, demons, religion, and science. Does one have to choose? And how do we know, as writers and creators, when the timing is right for such a conversation?
EM: Was it uncomfortable for you to explore a controversial topic such as demons vs mental disorders like psychosis?
Michelle: It hasn’t been difficult because we never doubted that mental illness is real. Everyone in the show acknowledges that mental illness is real. There’s just the question of whether what we’re seeing is mental illness.
Robert: We have this show where two people really respect each other’s opinions because they’re both smart. One believes mental illness is the extent of what she will accept logically. Mike Colter’s character accepts that it can move on into something supernatural. It’s only when there is crucial moments when life and death issues are happening when those things become fights. Before that they’re debates. But there’s a certain point when someone is in fear of dying and then it becomes an actual fight. There’s no time to decide.
Michelle: Do we proceed with an exorcism or do we rush someone to the hospital?
Why EVIL as a choice for the title of the show? How did you know this was the right fit?
Michelle: When Robert began speaking about the crucial moments between life and death, it seemed natural to turn our attention to the name of the show. EVIL. Why such a blatant and strong title for such a controversial yet intellectual show where hot topics like mental illness are being explored?
Robert: That was before the writing room got together. I think we were worried that The Good Wife was penalized for its title. There were a lot of people who penalized the show and didn’t watch it because of that. But on top of it, that is the subject. Having said that, the second episode is about miracles. It’s not all about the bad side of things but you’re in the present age seeing gunmen shooting up schoolyards you have to face the fact there is evil in the world in a way that has changed. Where it’s a little more viral and you communicate between people through the internet, and that is what I think fascinates us.
Do you hope that EVIL will create a conversation around how society defines what evil is?
Robert: We wanted to do a show that looks at the root of evil. Is it genetic? Is it medical? Is there a supernatural element to it? Is it medical? Is there a supernatural element to it? New technology is changing our lives so quickly. How is it changing people’s perception of evil and how they act?
As a viewer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a supernatural versus science-based show. Would I be forced to reckon with one perspective versus the other? After watching Colter and Herbers together in action questioning an obviously troubled serial killer, I immediately got the feeling that EVIL would explore much more than science vs religion. I was right. This show is way more than what meets the eye. How will Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) determine if her night terrors are psychological or actual demons? And how did the troubled serial killer know the name of the demon attacking her at night? Is he really going to kill her daughters?
It’s reassuring and refreshing to speak to television writers that are exploring controversial topics that will create productive conversations for society rather than scripting any television series that will get the people talking no matter who it might hurt. With the current state of our affairs in our country, perhaps it is time to have a serious conversation about our perception of evil. That conversation may start with opposing views and blossom into an interesting creation, much like what Robert and Michelle King have accomplished with their new CBS show EVIL.
EVIL premieres this Thursday, Sept. 26 on CBS at 10/9c.