INTERVIEW: ‘The Exorcist’ Creators & Stars on what to expect from S2

It feels like all Hollywood is doing these days are remakes, reboots and sequels, and while that can sometimes be quite frustrating, you occasionally get the gem. The Exorcist is one of those rarities. Set in the same universe as the films (and connected to them in a way I’m not going to tell you about because you should watch the show and not be spoiled), it manages to continue the story, while also bringing a new and thoughtful discussion to the table. And yes, even on network television, it manages to bring the same scares and thrills one would expect from The Exorcist franchise. Also a lot of that gross stuff you came to know and love from demonic possession (pea soup vomit, anyone?)

Season 2 takes its lead Exorcists, Fathers Marcus and Tomas, away from the streets of Chicago, and into the dark, rich territory of Vancouver (which gets to at least stand in for the Northwest United States, which means we get to see those lush forests). Set 6 months or so after the original series, Fathers Marcus and Tomas are working together on a new case, as Marcus continues to train Tomas in the ways of exorcism without the support of the Catholic Church. So this time when we meet the pair, we’re thrown right into the fray with them as they try to exorcise the demon from a woman we’ve never met before.

“One of the things we wanted to do this year was to hit the ground running,” says Creator and Executive Producer Jeremy Slater. “Any time you tell a possession story over the course of 10 hours you always have kind of that getting to know the family; getting to know the possessed case story that you kind of have to slow burn it. If you just start it, and by the end of that first episode our possessed person is kind of bouncing off the walls, and vomiting pea soup, it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to escalate in the next 9 episodes”

He continues, “Last year we definitely struggled in the first four episodes of finding compelling, exciting stuff for Marcus and Tomas to be doing while we were slow burning the Kacey Rance storyline. So this year we said we still want to slow burn the family storyline, because it’s important to get to know these characters and care about them before the shit hits the fan. So with Marcus and Tomas, let’s tell a very aggressive, sort of a James Bond opening where we come in at the end of one mission before the next mission starts. So for the first two episodes of the season you’re going to see a big propulsive, exciting storyline happening for Marcus and Tomas while we’re getting to know this family, and then it’s going to settle down into probably the rhythms of the show that the fans are familiar with for the back eight.”

While the first season did include some diversity, having a co-lead in Father Tomas, and his Mexican heritage, the second season of The Exorcist ups the ante in representation as instead of a white, suburban, middle class family at the core of the story, the family we meet this time is diverse foster family lead by actor John Cho. “I couldn’t think of an Asian face in American horror, and I thought it would just be interesting to do that,” says Cho on why he decided to join the show in its second season. “When you have a diverse world on camera, my personal reaction is that it feels more real, and therefore you’re more inclined to care about that world and the characters in it, because it looks like the world I walk around in.”

I think that is one of the strengths of television over film, to be honest,” adds Slater. Speaking from his own experience in the film industry before his move to television, he continues, “It’s hard to get diversity into films because everyone is afraid. They’re gambling a hundred million dollars on something, and it becomes about ‘how can we just make this lead role for Channing Tatum and no one else.’ And so that was one of the most gratifying and liberating things about coming to TV, is its kind of the exact opposite, especially at Fox, where there is a mandate to get different voices in front of and behind the camera. Let’s tell different stories about different people. It’s part of why I think TV is experiencing this kind of golden age right now.”

And that diversity continues behind the scenes as well. On its second season The Exorcist writers room features 4 women and 5 men, and 3 out of their 8 directors are women. Plus, as it is a religious program, they felt compelled to make sure that they included every major world religion in the writing team.

But at the heart of the series is the developing relationship between Fathers Marcus and Tomas, two men from very different backgrounds who are working together to fight the forces of evil. So where will their story go in Season 2? “One of the things that was important to us was to elevate Tomas to where he’s not just the bumbling apprentice,” says Slater. “We didn’t want to do another season where Marcus was always right, and Tomas was always wrong.”

And so the story will delve further into a new power of Tomas’ that fans of the series briefly saw in episode 10 of the first season. “This ability to take the fight to the demon directly sort of flies in the face of Catholic dogma of how an exorcism is supposed to work,” explains Slater. “It’s really going to drive a wedge between them. One of the big emotional themes is the brotherhood between these two.”

The Exorcist airs Fridays at 9pm on FOX. And it’s back tonight, 29th September.