Exclusive Interview: Series Creator/Writer Jeremy Slater Talks FOX’s ‘The Exorcist’

FOX is ready to terrify us with their upcoming The Exorcist television series starring Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Geena Davis, Brianne Howey, Hannah Kasulka, Kurt Egyiawan and Alan Ruck.

ScarePop caught an early press screening of the pilot episode and afterwards spoke to the series’ creator, executive producer and writer Jeremy Slater about the pilot, his horror background, and some of what we can expect from the upcoming series as it progresses.

Talk to us about your horror background – how have you drawn upon that for “The Exorcist” TV series?

Jeremy Slater: I’m really a horror nerd, first and foremost. I’m the kid that Jaws changed my life and I’ve never stopped trying to play with the rubber shark. I got my start in features doing horror movies. I’ve only had a couple with my credit on there, but I’ve been working on them pretty steadily kind of behind-the-scenes for the last 10 years. I’ve had a lot of experience with not only horror, but with the low-budget model of horror filmmaking, which, once you get into weekly episodes, you’re basically making a 3-million dollar movie every 8 days. So, I think I’m pretty good at this point at figuring what would work and what wouldn’t.

As a self-professed horror nerd, what were your ideas regarding bringing a horror classic like The Exorcist to the small screen?

Jeremy Slater: I’m really just trying to make a show for me – this is what I would want a show called The Exorcist to be, where it’s not remaking the original, it’s not writing the original out of existence – it’s telling a brand new story, but hopefully trying to bring some of the same scares and terror and moral complexity that the original film had and try to tackle those big issues of faith and the battle between good and evil and hopefully in an entertaining way.

Over and above the scares, there are some surprisingly poignant moments in the pilot too…

Jeremy Slater: We kind of lucked out with our actors. We have a pretty phenomenal cast. Our biggest problem right now in the writer’s room is that we have too many good actors and we’re trying to write enough scenes for all of them in every week. It’s a really nice problem to have as a writer – knowing that no matter how crazy a scene gets or how deep you need someone to go, you know that you have actors who can deliver. Especially on the TV production schedule where you don’t necessarily have days or weeks to do these big horror set-pieces, you kind of have hours to pull them off, and if you don’t have actors that can deliver, there’s just no way to do it.

What was it like working with [director/ep] Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)?

Jeremy Slater: It was amazingly collaborative. He was really protective of our original vision but at the same time brought a lot of energy. I really think our show looks like nothing else on the air. Our goal from the beginning was to make a mini-movie every week and to have something that doesn’t necessarily look like your average TV procedural. Rupert Wyatt and our Director of Photography, Alex Disenhof, were pretty much the key components of making that happen.

The dynamic between the two priests is really interesting… can you give a hint as to where the story may be heading?

Jeremy Slater: I think the big question everyone asks when you say it’s a TV show called The Exorcist is like, “How do you sustain that?” How do you drag that story out for an entire season much less in seasons beyond? And our answer was to use the initial possession that you see in the pilot – that’s our season one story. That’s the story that kind of brings these two priests together – one who has a lot of faith but no experience and one who is very experienced but is having a bit of a crisis of faith when we need him – bringing them together to solve this one case, but at the same time, as the season goes on we’re going to start building a much larger mythology. You see a little bit of that in the pilot…little clues that Evil has a plan at work that’s a little more ambitious this time around than maybe just the possession of just one person. And hopefully that’s what gonna drive this show. I kind of grew up not only on The X-Files but Lost and Battlestar Gallactica, all of my favorite shows are kind of these sprawling genre shows that really have these rich mythologies, and that would be my dream is to do that here.

The Exorcist premieres Friday, September 23 on FOX.

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