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Fox’s The Exorcist will look and feel considerably different when the genre drama returns for its second season in the fall.
When the originally perceived movie-to-TV adaptation premiered in 2016, the series faced an uphill battle with critics and diehard horror fans alike. Throughout its 10-episode run, the Geena Davis starrer was able to carve out decent viewership which, paired with being produced in-house at 20th Century Fox Television, helped score a renewal. Helping matters was The Exorcist’s dedicated fan base, which enjoyed twisty storytelling like episode five’s “Through My Own Grievous Fault,” when Davis’ Angela Rance revealed to have really been Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) all along. That shocker solidified The Exorcist as a direct sequel to William Friedkin’s 1973 film and not a dime-a-dozen TV reboot.
The series additionally flipped the script by bringing Pazuzu — the demon from the film — back to terrorize Angela’s youngest daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). In the process, viewers were introduced to a new team of exorcist heroes: Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera). The dynamic between the unlikely pair harkened back to the film’s Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father Karras (Jason Miller).
As Marcus and Tomas fought to save the Rance family from certain doom, a deeper mythology bubbled up under the show’s surface. A rogue group of religious socialites calling themselves The Friars of Ascension teamed with a few demons to infiltrate the Vatican in a quest for world domination. The season finale may have tied up the Rance storyline with a satisfying ending, but it also offered room for the church conspiracy to flourish.
Season two will resume with a six-month time jump that finds the dynamic between Marcus and Tomas significantly changed. Gone is the teacher-student relationship from season one. With Marcus stripped of his collar and Tomas having visions, the priest partnership will face new obstacles in season two as they touch down in Seattle to save a foster family in need. New to season two is John Cho (Star Trek), who plays Andrew Kim, a foster father of four. Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) also joins the cast as Verity, the eldest of the children in Andrew’s care.
As for the returns of Davis’ Angela Rance, Alan Ruck’s Henry Rance, Brianne Howey’s Kat Rance and Hannah Kasulka’s Casey Rance, at least one is expected to return, however briefly, in season two.
Below, showrunner Jeremy Slater talks with The Hollywood Reporter about what’s in store for season two.
The Exorcist movies have all followed stories of demonic possession — is it your plan to stay within those confines?
The DNA of our show is always going to be priests versus demons. I don’t think we’ll ever become a monster of the week show. I also believe in stories that have a beginning, middle and end. I think it’s always better to leave people wanting [more], as opposed to being the last person at the party after they turn the lights on. I would much rather figure out a natural end-point for the show and be working toward a satisfying ending than to just be spinning your wheels for as long as you can before they shut you down.
How much will Japanese horror play a role in season two?
Anytime you’re dealing with water, any time there’s creepy shit happening in the woods, anytime there’s haunted houses, you’re naturally going to get into J-horror tropes a little bit. But for me, it’s more early Steven Spielberg than J-horror because that’s my childhood and that’s where my love of horror came from. I said if we came back for season two, I wanted some Poltergeist in there. I want The Shining in there. I want some of the things that really scared me as an impressionable kid. We try to do some brand new types of horror and stretch our wings from season one.
There was a fleeting flirtation between Marcus and a male bar patron last season. Will his sexuality be explored in season two?
That’s absolutely part of the plan this year. I think part of the thing that makes him an interesting character is that here’s a guy who has lived his entire life ascribed to these vows of chastity, celibacy, poverty and everything else. Those rules no longer apply. He no longer has the church saying, “You’re not allowed to do this.” For the first time, all these options are open to him. This is a guy who truly believes that if you pledge to be an exorcist, sooner or later, you’re going to die by one of these demons. What happens when he’s confronted by someone who tells him that doesn’t have to be how it ends? That’s a really rich area to explore and it’s a side of Ben [Daniels] we didn’t get to see last year.
Will Davis or any of the original cast make an appearance?
They got their happy ending. You don’t want to drag them through more shit. There’s also nothing narratively interesting about bringing them back and showing that Kat has a new girlfriend, Angela is working at a hotel or Casey’s going to community college. At some point in the season, you will see one castmember from season one show up again for a fun little cameo. It’s going to happen in a pretty unconventional way. But, John Cho is killing it this season. I think he’s doing some of the best work of his career and these kids are so good. If we can capture even a little bit of that Stranger Things/IT magic, it’ll make our entire season.
Does this season connect to any of the films like season one did?
There’s a moment from The Exorcist III that every horror fan knows and loves. We’re looking into how we can get that moment in our show this year. It involves a hospital. It’s the single best jump scare in horror movie history aside from Ben Gardner’s (Craig Kingsbury) head coming out of the boat in Jaws. Also, I love the idea of a demonic serial killer. We’re not exactly doing the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) this year with the new demon. But, I think you are going to see that this demon has a pattern and a methodology. It’s a boogeyman throughout history that has claimed a lot of notches on its belt. It’s nowhere closer to being finished.
How will the church conspiracy affect the story?
That’s our larger mythology. That’s our X-Files version of the little green men or the black goo. We’re using Kurt Egyawan’s character, Father Bennett, and Zuleikha Robinson, who’s joining the cast in episode three as a brand new character. They are maybe the last two loyal members of the Office of the Exorcism within the Vatican. You’re going to learn early on in the season that the Vatican has been targeted by these outside forces. Last season, we saw some church cardinals have been corrupted and turned. You’re going to start realizing there’s a larger conspiracy at work. The only ones standing in their way are these two. We want to constantly be escalating the threat each season. So instead of just worrying about a corrupt police force and a few socialite demons … Well, evil has large designs and they’re not going to be content with small fry takeovers — they want the whole enchilada! They want church and state. And you’re going to learn that they’re pretty damn close to getting what they want.
The Exorcist returns Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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