Evil - Michelle and Robert King interview

Evil's creators are the husband and wife team behind acclaimed legal drama The Good Wife.

Evil - Michelle and Robert King interview

Why did you decide to create a show that explores the relationship between science and religion?

ROBERT KING: A few years ago, we wrote a script called Vatican City. It was like The West Wing, but it was set in the Vatican. It was about the first female papal spokesperson and we absolutely loved it. We had so much fun with the show and we had so much fun researching it. We started to think about another way to get at religion - and that was to question the darker side of it. I guess people are more engaged by darkness than they are by light. Obviously, this is well fought over ground because of The X-Files and other similar shows, but we thought we could do it differently.

You mentioned The X-Files. Is there any nod towards science fiction in Evil?

MICHELLE KING: I wouldn't call it a sci-fi show. However, it does touch on the metaphysical and there are elements of mystery and horror.

ROBERT KING: This is not about flying saucers, but we take science seriously. We wanted to create a show that will always surprise the audience with the way it goes, whether it's towards the logical or the mysterious. In many ways, that's why the show should be interesting to science fiction fans. I read a lot of science fiction. Hopefully, this is a way to take science fiction seriously.

Mike Colter as David Acosta and Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard.

Mike Colter as David Acosta and Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard.

Was there anything else that inspired the show's creation?

ROBERT KING: I'm a Catholic.

MICHELLE KING: And I'm an agnostic Jew!

ROBERT KING: For the last 30 years, we've been having debates about the meaning of life and a variety of subjects. Here's the thing... Michelle and I are both very respectful of each other's religious or secular beds. When I forget I'm not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent, Michelle's the one who reminds me. But when we get angry about somebody in politics, we always ask questions like, "What are the repercussions of being such a bad person? Does that person go to hell? What is the comeuppance?" And also, we ask the question, "How do you defend something that seems indefensible?"

What are the central themes you set out to tackle?

MICHELLE KING: The primary theme is, "How do you explain evil? What is the cause of it?" Do you explain it supernaturally through religion or do you explain it through human psychology?

ROBERT KING: How do you react in a world that seems to be getting worse? And what are your personal thoughts on the matter?

MICHELLE KING: I see evil all around me, but I think it is created by people and it needs to be stopped by people.

ROBERT KING: And I've been brought up on the Catholic idea of original sin. I think we all have some bad in us and it's about battling that bad away - but there's also some supernatural presence in our lives and we're always struggling with it. By the way, even if that turns out to be not true, it's a good metaphor to live your life around and that's what the characters are about, too. Is there a placebo effect to some of these things that are about supernatural but in fact help or are they just people who are psychologically damaged in another way? Does the metaphor of supernatural help them overcome things?

Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard and Michael Emerson as Leland Townsend.

Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard and Michael Emerson as Leland Townsend.

What kind of mysteries will we see in the show?

ROBERT KING: There's an episode about a miracle, which is based on reality. It's about a young woman who had a cardiac arrest and died on the operating table. They never opened her up, she just died and they continued CPR for 38 minutes but they couldn't get a pulse. This was in a hospital, so she was sent to the morgue. When they started to conduct the autopsy, they cut into her chin and her eyes blinked open. She was alive. In this episode, we ask the questions, "Are singularities in medicine miracles or are they just singularities? Is a miracle just what science hasn't explained yet? Or is a miracle something else? Is it an oddity or a freak of nature? Or is it blessed in some way?" It's fascinating.

The show seems fertile ground for demonic possession... will we see any exorcisms?

ROBERT KING: We're limiting it. We're doing one episode about the difference between Muslim, Christian and Jewish exorcisms. It's comparative.

MICHELLE KING: The emphasis is on the investigation and trying to figure out what caused the evil, more than how do you ultimately get rid of it.

The supernatural genre is very well established - has it been a challenge trying to bring a fresh approach?

ROBERT KING: I'm a horror fan, I love it and I watch everything. I would say the things we're trying to get away from the most is The Exorcist - both the movie and the series. There are so many movies out there, like The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. We're trying to avoid all of those ideas, but there are a lot of pitfalls. In the writers' room, we'll say, "Oh, this would be cool. This would be a good idea." And one of our writers - who is a horror encyclopedia - will say, "They've done that on this show, this show and this show." We are always dodging the bullets of what other shows have done. Creativity is always about limiting options, it's true, but at a certain point your options are so limited that you become stuck in the mud.

Mike Colter as David Acosta and Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir.

Mike Colter as David Acosta and Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir.

What conversations did you have with the actors during the casting process? Did you ask about their beliefs on religion and the supernatural?

MICHELLE KING: In terms of the hiring process, we didn't have a discussion or an interview to find out what their beliefs were.

ROBERT KING: I think we probably told them that the show wanted to have two parallel tracks. One where you could answer everything you saw on the show scientifically, but another where if you were of the supernatural bent, you could see there was something beyond science going on. We wanted the actors to represent that, too.

MICHELLE KING: The one thing we stressed was it was important to us that the conversations between the characters be respectful. We want them all to respect each other's point of view, because there's a situation going on right now where nobody is listening to each other respectfully. We wanted to show characters that have very different points of view but are able to listen to each other, even when they don't agree.

The show's title is very striking - it's kind of amazing that it hasn't really been used in this genre before. How quickly did you settle on the name of the show?

ROBERT KING: Evil was our first choice.

MICHELLE KING: We hit on Evil and then we thought, 'Oh, wait a minute... we're also going to be talking about miracles, so is the title confusing?' In the end, we thought it was such a powerful title that we stuck with it.

ROBERT KING: At one point, we thought, 'Should it be Good And Evil?' But that suddenly sounded like a Dostoevsky book. We are more than happy with Evil.