So, turns out you’re the Antichrist. No, not the kind your mom called you when you decided to shave the side of your head and start wearing blue eyeliner. The literal inverse of Christ. For all that he’s holy and good, you’re unholy and bad. He’s rainbows and forgiveness, and you’re eternal damnation and violent dismemberment.
The kicker is that you didn’t even ask to be the Antichrist! And you thought inheriting your dad’s receding hairline was a bummer.
This is the story that A&E’s new series “Damien” aims to tell. If that weren’t enough to spark your interest, this also serves as an official sequel to the 1976 horror classic The Omen. Yup, we’re talking about that Damien. With the titular character now in his 30s, it’s time for him to take his rightful place as the herald of end times. The problem is that he doesn’t remember any of that being the spawn of Satan stuff and isn’t quite sure how to take it.
As if making a serial drama about the Antichrist as a sequel to a film that’s 40 years old wasn’t already a big enough task, this also replaces the canon that the second two films established. Even if you are of the opinion that this is probably a good thing, it’s still a monumental task.
So when the good people at A&E reached out and asked if I’d like some time to talk to a few of the cast members and the executive producer at WonderCon 2016, it didn’t require any divine prophecy for me to figure out my answer.
At the forefront of my questions was a simple one, “Why? After all this time, why make a ‘Damien’ show? What story do you hope to tell?” It’s a loaded question despite being simple, but one that I think most fans are honestly thinking. Luckily, I was able to address this right off the bat as I sat down with executive producer Glen Mazzara. Here’s what he had to say about the show:
Glen: When the people at [production company] Fox approached me, it was after the success of shows like “Hannibal” and “Bates Motel,” and they were wondering what they could do reviving their other iconic characters. They came to me and asked, “What would you do if you could make a show based on The Omen?” So I thought about it and realized that I wondered what that character was like now. With “Damien,” I had a chance to tell a unique story. You see all kinds of devils and demons in TV and movies, but I haven’t seen a really good telling of what it would mean to be the Antichrist. As a Catholic, I was taught that Christ was fully human and fully divine. With Damien, I wanted a character that was fully human and fully evil. Both of them are still men. They both have the capacity to doubt and have folly. No matter how much they might struggle against it, they can’t change what they are. It’s more than just destiny; it’s who they are incarnate.
I got the chance to ask him about the decision to disregard the second two films and what respect he had for the canon. Here’s what Glen had to say about that:
Glen: At the end of Damien: Omen 2, Damien is fully aware that he is evil and has a task. You get into this rhythm where he looks at someone funny and they get killed in an accident. I felt that would constrain me to a repeating style of storytelling. With the story that I wanted to tell, the struggle between the human and evil side of Damien, I needed to split from that formula. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have an incredible respect for the source material. We really thought about the world that “Damien” is set in. For example, the seven daggers of Megiddo. We thought about, “Where did these daggers come from, and who made them?” So we added to that mythology. In the Book of Revelations, there are seven original churches. In the show, each of the daggers bears the name of one of those original churches. Now that these daggers are in play, who has them, where they are, or if they are missing adds characterization to that story element. I felt that the original film was rich enough to just pull from, and my goal was to take that and deepen it.
A bit later, he went on to explain some more of the creative choices he made:
Glen: By about episode three or four, we are telling our own story. This isn’t just an appendix to The Omen. We took what we needed, built upon it, and are telling our own story now. We start in Damascus with Damien working as a war photographer so he already knows the dark depths of reality. A fundamental part of this story is that evil exists in the world already. I didn’t want this to feel magical and hokey, like the apocalypse was some supernatural event happening at midnight on this exact date, and it’s only a matter of getting the right talisman with the right spellbook to do the banishing incantation. We wanted this to be real, how people examine questions of good, evil, God, our nature, and all that. It’s about characters, not a plot. It’s grounded in the real world.
It was a fascinating discussion. If you were on the fence before, you should check it out with what Glen said in mind. There’s more to “Damien” than initially meets the eye.
I was eager to follow up with the cast to see what they had to say about all of this. First up after Glen was Bradley “Makes Watching This With My Girlfriend Awkward” James, star and portrayer of the titular “Damien”:
Bradley: While portraying Damien, it was crucial that I tap into that darkness that’s within all of us. We all have it, those thoughts in the back of our mind that if anyone heard we’d have a lot of explaining to do. For Damien, that darkness is closing in around him and becoming harder to avoid. He hasn’t lost his moral compass, but events keep happening that make the needle point ever more directly into this role as the Antichrist.
He went on to explain more about the grey area that both the character and show “Damien” inhabit:
Bradley: It would be very easy for Glen to have written a show about the Antichrist where he shows up twirling a moustache and sowing chaos and destruction. People would have fun watching it for a few episodes, but it would get boring. What’s compelling about Damien is that there’s a truth to his character. Evil in the show isn’t just pure “evil.” He’s given compelling reasons to turn to the darkness that we can all relate with. Even saving a child, there’s no telling what kind of person he’ll grow up to be. Damien isn’t just succumbing to darkness because it’s his destiny; we can see the reasons why. There’s a truth to that in all of us.
Barbara Hershey (Ann Rutledge) had more to say on this:
Barbara: With the quality of Glen’s scripts, we don’t have to look hard for our motivation. My character, Ann, is a true believer in the Antichrist. She isn’t some cultist in a robe; she truly believes that the darkness is more true than the light. She doesn’t believe that this is all “God’s” plan, but someone else’s. She’s devout. It’s why she fits in so well into this more subtle world. Even when falling on the extreme spectrum of worshiping evil, Ann is believable. It doesn’t come off as forced or fake because we can see her point. Even if we don’t agree with her, we can understand how she believes this.
If you haven’t checked out “Damien” yet, hopefully this will give you some insight as to what to expect. It’s a slower paced show that doesn’t sacrifice characterization for scares, and that alone might make it not for everyone. In my opinion, it’s exactly this kind of slower progression that makes it a worthy successor to The Omen.
A new episode premieres tonight on A&E, so tune in and see if it’s for you. You might be a little lost in the thick plot, but I think the quality of the writing speaks for itself.
Fan of the show? Looking forward to trying it out? Wondering if Bradley James is as devilishly good looking in person? (Trick question, he’s even more gorgeous up close.) Let me know in the comments below!