Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) and John Cho (Star Trek Beyond) are the latest additions to the world of The Exorcist TV series, joining several returning actors in a new season that will take Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) from the streets of Chicago to a foster home off the West Coast. While at Comic-Con in San Diego, Daily Dead took part in interview roundtables with The Exorcist cast and executive producers Jeremy Slater and Sean Crouch, who shared what fans can expect in the second season that premieres on Friday, September 29th on FOX.

When did you find out that you were joining the cast, and what can you tell us about your character?

Brianna Hildebrand: Not that long ago, maybe a month ago. It's when I got a letter from the producers and writers, and they were explaining to me what character they were offering to me or that they thought that I would be great in. It really wasn't that long ago. It's kind of been a whirlwind since then.

My character's name is Verity, she's the oldest of foster children at this house. She's led by Andrew, who is her foster father. I think there are four foster kids. And she's on the verge of turning 18, she's on the verge of being kicked out of the system, and maybe put on the streets, most likely.

John Cho: Same for me. They came to me, I watched some episodes, we had a meeting, we discussed what might be in store for the character and there's all kinds of juicy little things going [on]. I was impressed and also kind of enamored of the idea of entering into a genre I hadn't played in before.

I play a child psychologist whose wife has recently passed and he's left alone to tend to this family now, of foster kids. They couldn't have kids of their own, and on this island off the coast of Seattle—there's something very interesting to me—again, I'm not really sure why things get really attractive, but I know that there's something about this family setup that was very interesting to me. I think just being a dad, not having really been a father on screen, it just spoke to me. And then having them be in the most intense peril imaginable, that was an interesting playing field, and we'll see where it goes. I'm pretty sure somebody gets possessed. I don't know for sure, it may be one of us.

Have you see the original Exorcist and did you catch up on the movies and TV series to prepare for the role?

John Cho: I also want to see the original movie, which I was prohibited from seeing. I think also there's a part of the taboo of it. I grew up in a Christian household. My dad was a preacher, and The Exorcist, not only was I not allowed to see it, but I also would have felt very guilty about seeing it. And the whole genre was very taboo. And watching the first season, it's very faith-affirming in a weird way.

Brianna Hildebrand: I grew up watching horror movies with my friends. My friends and I would just sit around and we were so into it. We'd have contests to see who would scream first and all that kind of stuff. But I remember watching The Exorcist, I think I was in junior high, maybe high school. I'm pretty sure we watched all of them, and it was a great time for me. I thought it was awesome.

So, I'm going to start at the beginning with you guys because, obviously, the first season you knew you were going to tie it into the original movie somewhat. You had kind of an idea of where you're going. Season 2 is a blank template for you guys, so how is it different to approach season two as opposed to season 1?

Jeremy Slater: It's great because a lot of the pressure is off in terms of having to prove to people that turning the greatest horror movie of all time into a network show isn't a terrible idea. There was a lot of fan skepticism in year one and we really had to prove that we deserve to exist [and] that we have a story worth telling. The fans who gave us a chance, I think they were really rewarded with that and they've been so passionate and vocal and they're the reason we came back. We've kind of proven that we belong and now it's about rewarding the fans for their love and for their support.

Sean Crouch: [We're] hopefully evolving the show, in us going into other types of horror that we didn't get to do as much in season one, like working with fans of Japanese horror. So, we've been doing Dark Water and we have this very nature-based storytelling, urban-based storytelling. We've been going to other cultures and other types of horror, which is really interesting, while still playing into that Exorcist sandbox.

Following up on that, are you sure you don't have any more pressure, because your first season was off the hook.

Jeremy Slater: Well, now I do.

Sean Crouch: That's a good pressure to have. That means we have to do the best show possible. We can't just rest on the [first season]. I love that type of pressure.

Jeremy Slater: Yeah, I think we're all perfectionists and kind of impossible people to live with and everything else. We're all working very hard and we have an amazing writer and an amazing cast, so there's a tremendous amount of passion to get it right and to not disappoint anyone. But, I think the challenge in year one was "why is this a thing? Why does this exist?" Now, the challenge in year two is "how do you do it better?" How do we give people what they love but make it more emotional and make it scarier and make it more suspenseful and make all the pieces tie together in a cleaner way. It's a lot of pressure, but it's the kind of pressure you want.

Sean Crouch: Yeah, we have three stories that we're going to dovetail by the end of this season and I hope it works. Because if it does, it's going to be great.

Can you tell us anything about these stories?

Sean Crouch: Yeah, absolutely. One, we're going to increase the mythology of our show. We're going to partake of adding to the Vatican. We'll introduce things like the [Zuleikha] Robinson as sort of a female rogue exorcist. We're going to smash them together. We're going to see the office of the exorcist at the Vatican, which is a thing that actually exists and has existed for a thousand years. That's one of our big events. That's the mythology that hopefully will carry us for five or six seasons, hopefully, down the line, then in our other story we're changing from the Rance family to John Cho's foster family.

Jeremy Slater: Yeah, the challenge is to do a family that feels totally different. Instead of an urban-suburban family, it's a family that lives on a secluded creepy island off the coast of Vancouver. Instead of a traditional nuclear family, it's a foster family and John Cho is the foster parent who has four or five kids under his charge and we're not necessarily sure which of those kids has been targeted by the demon. We just know his family's in trouble. It gives us the opportunity to have some fun. Creepy stuff happening in the woods, have some fun, children in peril, poltergeist moments to really kind of pull some more toys out of the horror toolbox or toy box that we didn't quite get to last year. Then, of course the heart of every season is going to be Marcus and Tomas, these two guys journey together. We're going to catch up with them. They will be on the road. Marcus will be training Tomas in the ways of exorcist. It's a little more of that great Annakin / Obi-Wan vibe.

We'll be spending some time with these guys. Last year, unfortunately our plot kept pulling our main two characters apart. I think the show is more fun when they're together. They have such great chemistry and it's what the fans love. Our goal this year was, let's get them together as much as possible. Lets watch them bounce off each other. Let's watch their sort of bromance evolve and develop. Let's see some new shades to both of them.

For the second season, was it always the plan to start fresh with a new family or from the beginning of the first season. Was that always a plan?

Jeremy Slater: Yeah, when I first pitched the show to FOX, I said, "We can't put one family through hell seven times in a row, you would lose your mind." It's not an anthology show because we are following Marcus and Tomas from season to season, but every season we'll have a new possession case. We'll have a new sort of central storyline. That doesn't mean we'll never see some of those characters from season one again. It just means that we don't want to just come back and stick a demon in Alan Ruck and say, here we go.

Do you have any inspirations for the new family?

Sean Crouch: As a father who grew up on the melting pot in the ’70s, we kept hearing about the melting pot and how that made America great. That's what we have, this great foster family with a father and then five broken children basically that he's taken under his wing to heal. To me, it's the scary choice of what happens if one of your children is possessed by a demon and they're going to kill the other four children. How do you protect all five of your children? That's the really important step. As a father, that's the thing that scares me more than anything.

Jeremy Slater: That's a good answer. I was just going to say I like putting kids in danger.

Sean Crouch: That's the difference of a guy with kids and a guy without.

Jeremy Slater: Yeah, that's right.

[Is season 2] inspired by true stories or are there elements of truth in it [with] exorcisms?

Sean Crouch: I studied in a Catholic church and seminary school, so I did study some of that part of the religion. We do look into whatever the true stories are, but I'm a skeptic at heart. Because every culture throughout humanity has these stories, we're doing a Catholic show, but every religion, every culture—we're shooting in Seattle, where one of the first nation-type cultures, their ideas [were] of totems and possessions. It's really interesting to open up the toolbox as you said, or toy box.

How was the casting process? You did cast that first season so well, how do you then follow up finding another great strong ensemble of actors to carry this season?

Jeremy Slater: It's tough, it really is. John Cho was the first name we threw around. Literally, our writers on board had "John Cho does this" and "John Cho-"

Sean Crouch: Before we even named the character.

Jeremy Slater: Before we had a name for the character, we were already putting him on the board because he was our first choice and we were very lucky that we actually got him. Then in terms of kids, it's really about discovery. It's about, obviously Brianne [Hildebrand]'s awesome and everyone loves her work in Deadpool. She was a no-brainer. For the rest of the kids, we really look for discoveries. We looked for kids in Canada, in Vancouver that have great faces and great stories and great personalities. We're trying to do the Stranger Things approach of finding these amazing child actors and then tailoring the story around their strengths and making you fall in love with them.

[Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels discuss returning to Comic-Con and the positive reaction to the show's first season]:

Alfonso Herrera: Well, specifically, because of what you just said, when we came here to Comic-Con for the first time, there was a lot of skepticism of what the show was going to be. Fortunately, the fans were very loyal, and we had a very positive reaction. We are happy to be back.

Ben Daniels: Totally thrilled. We had such a good time making it and it was really, really great to see that turnaround. And not just fans and the press as well. It was across the board—the nationals to people blogging online. It was just such a positive reaction. And the online stuff is kind of where it's at really for a show like this. So it's really great to get that immediate feedback from social media and online reviews. It's fantastic.

So, do you still go online to see what people have to say every episode?

Ben Daniels: Well, FOX makes us, but I think maybe we would anyway. I can't think of any other show that I've done where I've been so interested because I love it! I'm as geeky as the people that are tweeting. I absolutely love my horror. So I find it deeply satisfying.

Kurt Egyiawan: I think it's only natural, that reaction that people first had to it. When it's material that's so loved and so cherished by people—both the book and the film. So I think that just gave us a sense of pressure, really, to do it justice and do something new with it. It's not a remake. [We] do something new with it, something contemporary that people felt was more an addition to the original works.

Something I realized, in terms of watching the first season, is how cool and how much I loved watching priests kick butt. So is this going to be the team in the next season? Because I would like to see you guys.

Ben Daniels: The butt-kicking priests. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Alfonso Herrera: That's a good name. That's a good name.

Ben Daniels: Yeah, you're going to see a lot of us, as a team, as a fractured team, as a team together again. There are lots of ways it's going to go this year.

You just said you're a big horror fan. What is it about people, like why would someone intentionally [want to be scared]?

Ben Daniels: Because, you're in this kind of safe environment, really. I was drawn to it as a kid. I used to suffer from sleep paralysis, right till I was in my 40s. I don't know if anyone has ever had it, where you wake up and you can't move, and it feels very demonic and terrifying, like you're going to die. And it was so terrifying to have that as a real-life thing that it was really nice to watch horror as a kid, where it was formed in such a way that there was a beginning, middle, and an end. And the end was invariably good until you got into the mid-’80s when there was nihilistic horror. But I always found it very satisfying as an art form to indulge in.

[Turning to Herrera and Egyiawan] Are you guys horror fans?

Kurt Egyiawan: I think there's a pleasure in finding out where the walls are in your room, you know what I mean? Like what pushes your button as a person? What creeps me out? There's definitely that side to it as well. When people want to go, "what kind of ticks my boxes?" It's chilly, isn't it? My sister eats peppers to the point of tears and you're like, "Why are you doing that?"

Ben Daniels: Just to see how far she can push herself.

Kurt Egyiawan: There's just a pleasure in the pain for her about it. I scare so easily. I didn't really watch a lot of horror. I watch stuff that's very story-based, like the original Exorcist movie. I love that. Because it's really just a good movie rather than a genre picture. I love films like Misery because they kind of do the same thing for me. When it's kind of psychological or character-based like that, that pulls me in.

Alfonso Herrera: Before doing the first season, I didn't watch a lot of horror. It was not my genre and after that—my wife, she's a huge horror fan. So she, in a certain way, made me look at some films together, and right now I can say that I understand it and I enjoy it a lot. And I have the possibility of now watching The Omen. Not so long ago I watched The Babadook. I am looking forward for this new spinoff of The Conjuring, which is The Nun. I am looking forward to that. So yeah, it opened me to these new possibilities. Before I was skipping the terror and now–

Ben Daniels: Bring it on.

Alfonso Herrera: A completely new possibility's opened for me.

Kurt Egyiawan: You know, it's another world with different rules. I think people like that. That's the escapism part of it. It's another world with totally different rules, like sci-fi. We were talking about that earlier. I think it shares that with it.

Alfonso Herrera: This duality in film exists. It doesn't matter if it's horror or in many, many other genres. But in horror, it takes that battle to the extreme. So I think that's why it's so interesting, too.

*Above photo courtesy of Alan Hess/FOX © 2017 FOX BROADCASTING


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