The new A&E series Damien is based on the original 1976 Omen movie — and that’s where all similarities with the crazy Antichrist franchise end. This show will give us a totally different view of Satan’s spawn, and offers the possibility that evil isn’t quite what you thought it was. Today at Comic-Con, we got the scoop.
Helmed by Glen Mazzara, who produced brilliantly dark cop series The Shield as well as several seasons of The Walking Dead, the show is set 25 years after the events of the original The Omen. (Mazzara said he is a “huge fan” of the film). Damien, played by Bradley James (Merlin), is a 30-year-old war photographer who has forgotten everything about his Satanic past. As James told press this afternoon, he’s “not a villain.” He’s “a good representation of humanity—he’s neither good nor bad. He’s just like us, going from day to day. [But] there are strange things going on, and his life is not what other people’s lives seem to be.”
Mazzara said that the show’s style will be similar to the 1976 movie, and that it’s “realistic” and “grounded.” There will be a few special effects associated with Damien’s powers, but mostly the show “fits into our world.” Expect elements of horror and thrillers. After all, as Mazzara put it, “Damien is involved in a conspiracy that’s being run by Satan. Hopefully that’s thrilling.”
He added that Damien is “always facing a question of faith versus free will.” There are higher powers trying to push him down a path, but he’s struggling against that. The story grows out of this struggle between his regular-guy humanity and the destiny that Lucifer planned for him. Mazzara also compared Damien to The Shield, where the main character tries to gain control of his life but things go wrong—terribly wrong. “There are moments of horror and character moments as well,” he said.
One of the forces that’s pushing Damien to embrace his Antichrist side is Ann, a powerful woman played by Barbara Hershey who has been watching over Damien for his entire life. Hershey said that Ann isn’t just an evil manipulator—she’s a complex character who is motivated to protect Damien. “She’s been in the shadows, guiding the situation and protecting him from all of these elements that want to destroy him, or absorb him. There are a lot of forces at play,” Hershey said at the Damien panel at Comic-Con. (She added, “My first question to Glen was, ‘Is she human?’”—the answer is yes.)
She also said that the show will ask us to question how we view Satan. “Lucifer means ‘bringer of light’,” she told reporters today. “One could argue that the Antichrist is bringing an era of enlightenment.”
She added that the show mostly centers on how Damien copes with the sudden discovery that he is the Antichrist. After years of repressing memories of his Satanic childhood, he’s suddenly confronted with a destiny he never expected. During the first season, we won’t see much about how he might take on the mantle of power that comes with his Satanic status. We will meet the forces who embrace and oppose him, but his destiny remains a mystery.
Also on the show: The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson, shorn of his Hershel ponytail, who was coy about exactly who he’ll be portraying. “He has known Damien’s parents, and he’s known Ann for a long time. He walks the corridors of power. He’s a power broker,” Wilson said at the panel. “But you won’t know for awhile who he is. It will be fun, I think, for the audience. The characters reveal themselves in interesting ways.”
Mazarra told the Comic-Con crowd that Deadwood vet Robin Weigert has also joined the cast, as “someone sent from the Vatican to investigate strange happenings in the world of Damien.” He was raised Catholic, he notes, but he’s not worried about the show being the target of religious protestors. “I think good horror has to be shocking, not gratuitous, but it’s there to solicit a strong response. In my career, I’ve tried to tell stories that make people uncomfortable, that push the envelope. It’s not for everybody, but it certainly has a strong point of view.”
Ultimately, said Glen Mazarra, this is a show about how all of us have the potential for good and evil. That’s what makes Damien so human—and so fascinating.