Kevin Williamson Defends Violence in 'Stalker,' Insists It's Far Cry From 'The Following'

The creator insists the Maggie Q/Dylan McDermott drama is "apples and oranges" to the "popcorn thriller" gore of his Fox serial-killer series.
Richard Cartwright/CBS

Kevin Williamson wants everyone to know that CBS' Stalker, about detectives who investigate stalking incidents for the Threat Assessment Unit (TAU), and Fox's serial-killer drama The Following are completely different from each other — even though both rely upon eerie visuals and gruesome violence while striking similarly dark tones.

"In my mind, it's apples and oranges," creator and executive producer Williamson told reporters Thursday afternoon during the summer Television Critics Association press tour session. "The Following was meant to be a popcorn thriller, a page-turner — [with] twists and turns, and it has that violent stabby-stab. [Stalker] is a procedural. … It's a tonally different show. It's eerie."

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The idea for Stalker predated The Following. Williamson thought of the concept in 1998 following Scream 2, when he became aware of the real-life Threat Management Unit (TMU) after he found himself dealing with an overzealous fan. Williamson recalled a conversation he had with CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler, who shared that the network was looking to add a horror show like Stalker.

Critics barraged Williamson with questions about the show's disturbing undertone, which often comes with a show centrally focused on a difficult subject like stalking. Series star Dylan McDermott called Stalker "a hot button." And when a critic asked pointedly why a show like Stalker was fun and entertaining, Williamson fired back: "Turn off the channel."

When another insisted that Williamson has a penchant for stylized violence (see: Scream franchise and The Following), he didn't see it that way. "I don't think of myself who writes and makes stylized violence," he defended. "I'm looking for the Dawson's Creek montage [at the end of the episode] … I'm looking for the moment after the scary."

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As Williamson told it, Stalker will loosely borrow from real-life cases. "We are ripping the stories from the headlines to some degree," Williamson said, revealing that upcoming story lines will feature a young kidnapped child. "Every element of a crime usually has a stalker element to it. It's a vast world of storytelling."

Even so, Williamson insisted that there will be "levity" in the episodes. McDermott and Maggie Q's banter "is such that we try to keep it real. In the darkest moment, sometimes someone utters the funniest line," he said, though he noted that "there may be some dark humor."

The opening scene — which saw a stalker putting a stalking victim's car on fire with her in it — was "flashy" strictly for the shock factor, Williamson said, insisting that that would not be a recurring thing.

Though many stalking victims are female, Williamson has intentions of balancing the victims between males and females. "I don't want to to be a show that's about violence toward women," he said. "Everyone could be a stalker. Everyone could be a victim."

Stalker premieres Oct. 1 on CBS.