Cult Roundtable Interviews: Rockne O'Bannon and Matt Davis Talk the Show's Uniqueness, Scare Factor, End Game, and More
On February 19th The CW is moving outside its comfort zone with a chilling new series entitled "Cult," which promises to push the limits of what you've seen on the network before.
Dread Central took part in some roundtable interviews with the show's creator, Rockne S. O'Bannon, and four primary stars, Matt Davis, Jessica Lucas, Robert Knepper and Alona Tal. We have here Part One of the highlights of what audiences can expect from "Cult." Read on for what O'Bannon and Davis shared about the series, and look for Part Two tomorrow.
Rockne O'Bannon is the series creator and also head writer of "Cult," which is the story of a television show within a show. O'Bannon discussed the ability for audiences to interact with the program. "This is so their world in terms of using social media to promote shows," O'Bannon said. "The campaign we're using… to be sure, social media is a big part of it. I'm very aware of how important social media is in promoting the show. To me the whole foundation of "Cult" is born out of my previous show, "Farscape," and the fan interaction around that. And being part of that fan community, that's kind of where "Cult" was born. And hopefully the "Farscape" fans will come over, and hopefully we'll build on that as well."
O'Bannon continued on his beloved "Farscape" fan base. "The "Farscape" fan community was such a wonderful, loving group," he said. "We've had marriages come out of it and people name kids after it, but that's what started me thinking of the premise for "Cult." "Farscape" is a big sci-fi adventure show, and the fans are all very wonderful people. But what if the show everyone was rallying around wasn't something as benign as "Farscape," but something darker, a little edgier, and what kind of fans would that draw? That's where it all began."
"Cult" will be a bit more extreme than any previous programming on The CW, and O'Bannon talked about why he felt the network was a good fit for the show. "The appeal for me with The CW is the youth of their audience," O'Bannon said. "This is a show that's a very unique viewing experience. You don't watch "Cult" necessarily like you watch other shows. Not only will you be watching "Cult," but "Cult," in a way, will be watching you. A young audience will be the most inclined to embrace that. And they also interact via social media. My teenage son does 3,500 texts a month, and his phone usage is seven minutes. So he and his friends never talk on their phones, but they're constantly tweeting."
Finally the creator talked about the beginning - and end - of the show. "The plan for the series? I know the very last episode of the series, but it's going to be a journey," O'Bannon said. "And there will be steps along the way. It's a mystery, but it's a mystery with answers. You will have a very satisfying conclusion at the end of the entire series. In fact, there are things in the pilot that speak to the very last moments of the entire series. Having said that, there will be solid success and climaxes every season."
Matt Davis, best known as Alaric on "The Vampire Diaries," plays the role of Jeff Sefton on "Cult". He gave us a little background on his character. "He's a somewhat cynical journalist who's pulled into finding his brother, who's gone missing," Davis said. "He's cynical because his brother is always in trouble so he can't tell if this is just a youthful indiscretion. But he goes to check on him and discovers he's gone missing, and there's a crime scene so it pulls him into a world that he thought could never exist. So his investigative journalistic background compels him to find his brother, and that takes him into the underground world of the "Cult," which is also a hit TV show that has an underground fan base that is committing all these murders. So he's a journalist who goes to uncover the mystery of the "Cult"."
Davis continued on his character's past, "He did an expose on the police force in Washington, DC, and he cut a few corners, and there is something in question on how he executed the story that got him fired and disgraced in his own way," Davis said. "So that background is going to set him up in a negative way in terms of the law." As far as getting sucked in with the "Cult" members, Davis said, "I don't know if he gets sucked into it. I think they'll play on that. How far will he go, how deep will he get sucked into it? Will he save the day and find his brother?"
"Cult" is looking to scare the hell out of viewers with different techniques. "I think this show will play upon the psychological terror of things and meld it with a procedural quality of things and play it in a way that heightens the audience's terror," Davis said. "I was surprised when I read the script that The CW was going to produce the pilot. I thought it was totally against what you expect from the network, and for that reason I'm glad to be a part of it. I know the network wants to shift some of the programming and expand a little bit and maybe get beyond preconceived notions of its traditional programming. So I'm grateful to The CW and "Cult" for challenging what's expected of the network. It's dark, and I like that."
As far as his previous character, Alaric, Davis hopes fans of "The Vampires Diaries" will bring their enthusiasm and get behind "Cult." "I think fans were sad when Alaric got killed," Davis said. "But I think they've been somewhat comforted by the fact that there's another show to jump into. I'm pretty sure there are plans to weave my character back into "The Vampire Diaries"' fourth season on some level. How that will be, I'm not sure. We'll see."
Much like O'Bannon, Davis understands the importance of social media on the show. "I'm fascinated on how social media is changing the landscape of television and how audiences now have a direct link to the cast and the creators and producers. This whole dynamic is changing everything. And I'm really grateful to The CW for embracing it as much as they are, and I'm really excited about this particular show. It's beginning to address how television and social media are affecting the fan base and vice versa." Davis and the creators of the show want to use this new dynamic to make "Cult" a completely unique viewing experience. "I've talked with Rockne, and I know the network is on board. There are ways of integrating the narrative into social media and making it a much more interactive experience. So I think this show, at least my intention for this show, is to engage the audience beyond the television screen. Through the computer, through the phone, maybe a television monitor at a gas station. Whatever it is, it's going to be a much more interactive experience only in the way that social media would allow. So it's a new frontier, and I'm certainly excited to explore that creatively."
"Cult" Episode 1.01 - "You're Next" (airs 2/19/13, 9-10 pm)
Investigative journalist Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis, "The Vampire Diaries") has learned to live with his younger brother Nate’s (guest star James Pizzinato “Alcatraz”) relentless string of obsessions, especially his latest rant that a hit TV show called “Cult” intends to harm him. When his brother mysteriously disappears, Jeff enlists Skye Yarrow (Jessica Lucas; Cloverfield, “Melrose Place”), a young research assistant working on “Cult,” to help with his investigation into the dark underworld of the TV show and its rabid fans.
Meanwhile, in the parallel worlds of the show-within-a-show, the cult’s ruthless leader, Billy Grimm, is played by actor Roger Reeves (the double role of Billy/Roger is played by Robert Knepper (“Prison Break,” “Shameless”), a man whose primary agenda is winning back his former follower and lover, Kelly Collins, played by actress Marti Gerritsen (the double role of Kelly/Marti is played by Alona Tal (“Supernatural,” “The Killing”). Since escaping from the cult, Kelly has become an LAPD detective who finds herself drawn back into an investigation of the group’s activities as she struggles to keep Billy at a safe distance. As the television show grows in popularity, cast members Roger and Marti begin to feel the effects in their “real” lives.
Jason Ensler directed the episode written by Rockne S. O’Bannon.
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