Evil - Mike Colter interview

Mike Colter plays David Acosta, a former journalist studying to be a Catholic priest.

Mike Colter interview

What attracted you to Evil?

Robert and Michelle King are two of my favourite writers. They are also two of my favourite people. I love the way they tell stories and I love their writing. Before this, I worked with them on The Good Wife. I often joke with them and say, "At the time I joined The Good Wife, everyone on the show - including the guest stars - were all incredibly established actors. Somehow, I found a way on the show despite that." I always wanted the opportunity to work with them again in some way and, subconsciously, I was hoping for a project like this.

What did you think of the first script you read?

When I read the first script, I was hoping for something completely different than anything I'd done before. I wanted to do something that would challenge me and something that would bring me to another audience. I love the idea of the show because it pushes the boundaries of good versus evil and faith versus science. Personally, I think it's very healthy to debate and disagree with people in conversations without getting upset, without getting angry and without someone losing their temper. What I love about this material is the fact that there's a constant debate going on. It's intellectual, but at the same time there are a lot of questions that we can't answer.

How political is the show?

The Kings are known for touching on politics, but I don't think this show will be very political. That's what The Good Wife and The Good Fight are for. I think Evil is going to be more fun. It's interesting because it's a mix between a drama, a supernatural show and a genre fanboy show. There are a lot of ways we can go with the stories, but I think the core of the show is about our characters. There's a lot of character-driven development in Evil.

How would you describe David Acosta's backstory?

Robert, Michelle and I have talked about his past. He travelled the world a lot. He was a photographer for soldiers in battle, so he has seen things that are unworldly and he has opened up his mind to different cultures. Now, he's finally come to a place where he can find something that can utilise all of his experiences. He's a priest-in-training and this role gives him a purpose that can ground him and anchor him. The church is able to fill a big hole in your life.

How true to life would you say the character of David Acosta is?

I think we're pushing the boundaries with how Acosta is portrayed. However, I was drawn to the character because he's had an interesting and challenging life prior to choosing this path. It makes you think, 'What makes a person who looks like this and comes across in this way choose this path?' It does not seem to be the path a person like this would choose; especially someone who's now going to be celibate. He doesn't look like that kind of guy. That makes me love his dynamic with Katja Herbers' character because I think there's a palpable tension and a palpable chemistry there. It makes you think, 'What is this going to lead to? And why did he pick her in the first place?' If he's building a team, why would he build it with someone who may or may not challenge his faith and his decisions in life?

So who's really in charge - Kristen Bouchard the sceptic or David Acosta the believer?

I think Acosta has a presence, but I don't think he's the kind of person who walks into a room and is in charge. At the end of the day, I think he's way more about intellect than anything else. I think he's very humble in understanding that he doesn't know everything. That's why he's building a team with people who may or may not know more than he knows - and he's leaving that open so that he can learn himself.

What similarities do you share with David Acosta?

I love debates. I love to be a contrarian. I get into a lot of trouble because I often pick the opposite side of someone else's opinion just to hear what they have to say. If you have a position on something, I may agree with your position 80% but there's also 20% of things that can contradict our position. Well, I'm going to bring those things up to see what you say. If I can get a debate going, I'm going to lean more towards contradicting you.

How does that usually work out? People often don't like to be challenged!

People think I'm pushing buttons, but I'm not really. I'm excited to hear what you have to say. Would it be more exciting if we fundamentally disagree? Sure, I would like that even better. If we fundamentally disagree, then there can be so many things to talk about. But inevitably, the people who disagree usually get very upset when someone starts to challenge their notion of what they believe and what they feel is fact. If you can't argue about something logically, you start to doubt it yourself and it doesn't make you feel comfortable - and now you have questions. That's fine, but people don't like walking out doubting anything that they were 100% certain about before they got into that conversation. They just can't deal with that.

What if the tables were turned - would you like being challenged in this way?

I don't mind walking away and scratching my head, thinking that 50% of what I thought was real or factual could be BS. I don't mind walking away and thinking, 'Well, now I've got to go and rethink things a little.' To me, that's what life is about. Life is about change and challenging stuff like this. I reserve the right to change at all times. I don't have to be the same person you met a year ago and that's what's great. I have no obligation to consistently be the same person.

The show's storylines can be quite sinister. Does the material stay with you and give you nightmares?

In order to have nightmares, you have to get a lot of sleep! I don't think I get enough sleep to have a good dream. I don't have a lot of nightmares, but I hope the audience does with this show. I hope this stuff scares you. That's part of the charm of Evil.

Is it daunting to portray a religious figure in a new show? Are you conscious that religious communities might aim criticism your way?

When you're doing something that's first and foremost fiction, I think people have to leave you some room. However, I hope people in the religious sects look at the show. We are going to touch on topics that people are going to want to talk about. I mean, this is the Catholic church and there are certain topics they are going to want to jump on right away. The Catholic church is the backdrop of a much more interesting story that we're trying to tell between two people and the stories that come out of these debates - but it's just a backdrop.

Do you believe in the supernatural yourself?

I definitely don't discount people who are into witchcraft and voodoo. If you tell me you're into voodoo, I'm not going to leave you a piece of my hair. I'm not going to let you have anything personal that belongs to me. I'm not going to let you have a picture either. No, I'm sorry. I'm not going to do that. I'll be honest. There's not one thing I'm 100% certain about except for the fact that all of us have to die at some point. That's pretty much the only thing that's 100% certain.

What are your thoughts on the mysteries in Evil? Is there a chance that these events are purely supernatural or are there real-life tangible explanations?

I think it's a combination of the above. There are people who are sociopaths. There are people who are psychopaths. There are people who are manipulators and liars. There are also people who are looking for an excuse. At the end of the day, it's all going to make for good drama. Even if you don't believe in something and you doubt it, you find yourself asking the question, "I don't believe that, but how is this happening?" Sometimes we're going to be able to figure out how and sometimes we won't. If you walk away from an episode going, "Well, I don't know", that's good. I'll be happy with that.