'Wicked City': Producers Address Violence, Reveal New Anthology Plans

Wicked City ABC TCA Panel - H 2015
Image Group LA/ABC

Wicked City ABC TCA Panel - H 2015

ABC is delving into a chilling world with Wicked City.

The ten-episode anthology series, which premieres October 27, explores Los Angeles in the early ‘80s when the city was the serial killer capital of the country. “Not only did actors and musicians come [to Hollywood] for fame a recognition, but serial killers came here for the same reason," creator and executive producer Steven Baigelman.

The Sunset Strip in 1982, where punk and rock ’n roll were crashing into each other, provided the perfect setting for the series. “The party was really raging,” Baigelman continued on stage Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour. “It was a time before there were consequences — it was pre-AIDS, pre-technology, pre-crack, MTV was just starting. In some ways, it was not that different from today.”

Gossip Girl alum Ed Westwick leads the cast as Kent, a twisted murderer, and Parenthood vet Erika Christensen plays his equally maleficent love interest, Betty White. Earlier in the day, network president Paul Lee described the show as a “a folie à deu” (a French term for psychosis shared by two people), referring to the budding relationship between the two.

Westwick drew character advice from his mother, who is a psychologist, and also spent a significant amount of time researching Ted Bundy. “For me, that resonated when I thought about how Kent would be,” he acknowledged. For her part, Christensen was drawn to the role because it felt like a good one-eighty from Julia Braverman.

Baigelman revealed on stage that the show will focus on one case per season, and unlike other anthologies (American Horror Story, True Detective, American Crime, Fargo), certain characters will return in future season — that is, if they’re ordered. “Some of our characters will find their stories ending this season and some of characters will be moving on to another time and another place and another case,” he said.” Both Christensen and Taissa Farmiga admitted to having one-year contracts.

The show is heaving on violence due to the nature of the story. In one scene, Westwick’s character is seen gruesomely stabbing a woman performing oral sex on him. But Baigelman insisted that they weren’t doing “violence porn.” Fellow executive producer Amy B. Harris agreed: “It was very important to us that we not depict graphic violence. For me, that’s a very uncomfortable thing to watch, and I’m also very squeamish personally.”

She emphasize that the focus of the series is on Kent and Betty’s “warped” love story, though they still want to acknowledge that they are, indeed, a serial killer couple. “That’s the story we’re telling,” she acknowledged.

The music of the era will also play a key role in the show, and former rock stars will be making appearances, including Stephen Pearcy. “We’re looking to definitely do what we did with Billy Idol and Mickey Ratt and bring their likenesses back to create a reality in our show,” said Baigelman. But that’s not all, as he added in earnest: “Perhaps we’ll even create a band in our show and launch that band into the world.”