'Damien's' Glen Mazzara on Continuing 'The Omen': "This Trauma Comes Back to Him"

Damien still - H 2016
Courtesy of Ben Mark Holberg/A&E

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of A&E's Damien.]

When 5-year-old Damien took audiences by storm as the unintentional antichrist in the 1976 film The Omen, few knew it would lead to several horror spinoffs and remakes. On Monday, the next stage of that resurrection unfolded on A&E with the series premiere of follow-up series Damien.  

The series picks up 25 years after the horrific events of the first film, when a 30-year-old Damien (Bradley James) is celebrating his birthday in Damascus by photographing a local siege. However when a mysterious woman grabs a hold of him he’s suddenly thrust back into long-forgotten flashbacks of his former life, and the doors to hell suddenly reopen. Before long he’s dealing with plenty of death, destruction and doom on a global level, setting up the rest of what’s bound to be a hellish season for anyone who crosses his path.

To learn more about Damien’s path, what kind of rules surround these character deaths and the role the bible plays in future installments, THR caught up with showrunner Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) to preview what to expect from the first-year series.

Why was photography the perfect profession for this character?

Damien has been looking for a rational explanation for all of the death and destruction that follows him everywhere and as a war photographer he’s been putting himself in situations in which people are suffering, there’s been high casualties, and it’s just a matter of time before he realizes that he’s not just a witness, but a participant.

Is he attracted to that suffering even though he can’t explain why?

He’s attracted to people who are at their lowest point, people who are in pain. Damien’s attracted to pain. He’s attracted to hurt, he’s attracted to people who are on the edge, they’re losing what little they already have. He sees himself as being like that in his own life, but he’s also looking for answers in places where other people don’t go.

How deep into the biblical references did you go in researching this?

I’m interested as a writer in the formation of the early Christian church in ancient Rome and looking at my bookshelf I have tons of books on that material. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading and learning about Christian theology. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. My uncle’s a priest. So I really wanted that to be part of the show. When the writers came in that was something we talked a lot about, it’s a very large part of the show and the backstory. It’s not something we just threw in, we take it very seriously. I feel like we’re being respectful. As characters are introduced they may have different points of view and agendas. I think that adds a different layer to the show. It’s something that continues to develop throughout the season.

What kind of tone does killing the main love interest off in the pilot set?

It sets the stakes, that not only is no one in Damien’s world safe, but it also makes him desperate. He wants to have a relationship. He wants to be close to people, he can’t. He wants to protect people, he can’t. And yet even if he tries to drive them away he puts them at risk. He has no good options. That really shows the situation he’s in but it also helps to explain certain parts of his personality. It shows where he’s been the past 25 years and what kind of life he’s been forced to lead.

Eventually to get answers he’s going to have to get close to some people, what’s your show bible on dealing with those deaths?

It’s different for every person and the roles are always changing. We as writers may understand the game that Satan is playing with Damien but I wouldn’t say there are any fast rules that people can use to stake stakes. So the audience will hopefully be on the edge of their seat and always guessing because what’s true in one moment might not be true in the next moment.

The initial pilot has a lot of set up with the original Omen story, is that a launch pad or you do you keep going back?

We use those to orient the audience up front and as Damien as this event that uncovers part of his subconscious that he’s buried, that this trauma comes back to him, we gain a lot of information. We gain information as he gains information and we have to deal with it as he deals with it. But the show pretty quickly becomes its own thing. Even though it has its roots in the film we become very hooked into Damien’s story in the present day.

Beyond the pilot what kind of international scope will the show have?

Damien’s role as a war photographer is very important, it puts him on a world stage. Whether the rest of the season plays out in New York—New York is certainly a big part of it—but a big part of the show is that Damien is a world wanderer.

Can you compare the original six with the back four episodes, given that you had different writing staffs and different networks?

We hadn’t figured out what Damien’s arc was. Before I saw the show I had figured out Damien’s arc for the first season and for multiple seasons. Whether that plot still gets developed and changed as you find things and cut certain other things, emotionally I know the journey that I want this character to take. When we first had the first six episodes, it actually felt like that journey was a little rushed and that we didn’t have the opportunity to go as deep into the characters as we wanted. So when we moved to A&E and expanded the order, it really gave us the opportunity we wanted to dig in and spend time with the characters and get to know them and care about them.

Does that mean your original season ender was extended to the finale episode?

We were able to take the end point and move it to the finale and really build out and deepen the connections of the characters so that the finale lands. I have to say I think that finale is one of the best episodes of TV I’ve ever worked on. I’m so excited for people to see it. When you see how everything in season one comes together in that finale in a very surprising way, it’s going to kick ass.

What would your ideal season order look like given how far you’ve plotted this out?

I do have a game plan and I’m not sure A&E or Fox would want me to say because I don’t want to box them into something. But we do have one and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to tell that story. There’s a lot of story and what’s fun about writing a psychological thriller like this is that there’s not only twists and turns with the characters but there’s obviously twists and turns with the plot. If we get to tell the full story the audience will be surprised because there’s a lot of unique territory we can go into that hasn’t been told with this type of character before.

Damien airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E. What did you think of the pilot? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling