Shots were fired, loyalties were tested, and characters encountered true evil in Monday's Season 1 finale of A&E's Damien. With the first season now in the books, Daily Dead had a chance to catch up with executive producer/showrunner Glen Mazzara, who discussed Damien's journey so far, working with his outstanding ensemble of actors, the intense Season 1 finale, and what to expect in future episodes if the show is green-lit for a second season.

Now that the whole first season of Damien has aired and you have a little time to reflect, what goals are you the most proud of accomplishing on this journey so far?

Glen Mazzara: I'm most proud of the writers remaining committed to the story. When you lay out a season, there's a lot of input from different voices throughout the entire filmmaking process. We set out to develop a particular story and we focused that story on Damien. It was always a character-based story, and we took our time introducing elements around him in John Lyons, Detective Shay, his personal relationships with Amani and Simone.

We developed all of those characters, and we kept moving and developing and not really second-guessing the story that we were telling. The way that comes across when you watch it is every episode feels like it's getting better and better, with more and more twists. After a while, it just feels like you're on a freight train that's going toward this climax, and yet we always have those moments where you understand the relationship between the characters.

When Ann brings a dagger to Damien, or when Amani apologizes and they're sitting there all night drinking whiskey. We always have those character moments, and yet there's a sense of inevitability to that final scene, to the way everything comes together. We just really focused on telling a character-based story and didn't get distracted from that.

Was it important for you and your team to not back away from really pushing the envelope in terms of killing characters off the show?

Glen Mazzara: Yeah, that was always important. It was important that any of the deaths or the violence or the horror sequences had to support and come out of character moments. We never just killed somebody for a shocking death, or to spice up an episode, or because we felt things were dragging. I've worked on shows where sometimes that happens: "We need something to happen here. Our pacing isn't working."

We were always committed to the tone and the pacing, and so everything's related. All of those deaths and the horror moments—everything happens for a reason. It may not be the reason that the audience anticipates or suspects at the time, but everything does play into the devil's master plan to drive Damien to accept his role as the Antichrist.

We really wanted to push the envelope. We really wanted it to be a show that was taking chances. We have horror fans working on the show. I'm a horror fan, and we wanted to push the horror boundary. This is a very scary TV show. I'm watching it with the commercials, and I'm still agitated and on edge, and that's a hard thing to do. It might be easier to do on premium cable. It might be easier to do certainly in a film, because you're not interrupted, but we consistently deliver that tone, and that was something that we, as horror fans, wanted, for it to be an experience.

The show works on different levels, I think, but what was always important was that it was an emotional ride like a horror movie. It needed to be an emotional ride for the audience, and that meant more than just throwing stimuli at them. We're trying to get their blood flowing. We want to make sure they were emotionally connected to the characters.

We wanted to make sure that they were never frustrated, but confused and unsure of what was happening. Sometimes we played with the nature of reality, particularly in episodes 5 and 6. What's been wonderful is that you see fans online, people get it. When the show first came out, a lot of people didn't get it because they just expected Damien to be mustache-twirling and to be very obvious and cut and dry, and if you're going to do a show about the nature of evil, it needs to be more delicate, hidden, and serpentine.

Combined with the writing, Bradley James' performance humanizes the Antichrist and makes him a character to root for. Can you talk about how James really became this role and made viewers empathize with him but also be scared of him?

Glen Mazzara: Bradley had a really tough job in creating this role, and when I think about any show I've worked on in the past, I would say this is the toughest role I've ever seen an actor tackle. He's taken an iconic figure that people know and have associations with for forty years, and he has to make it his own and create a backstory that's not being dramatized onscreen, and he has to carry the weight around. He's been living in denial when we first meet him, and yet he suspects things. He's complex right off the bat, and he sort of has grown up off-screen, but the audience has an expectation of who he is.

Then he goes through a process before our eyes with those five stages: death, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance. He goes through that process, not in that order. Bargaining and acceptance become the same thing in our last scene.

He's lashing out, and he just keeps being constantly cornered. He thinks perhaps he's suffering from PTSD, and he ends up encountering a demon in the hospital. He attempts suicide. That's not a solution. He seeks psychiatric help and his therapist ends up killing a serial killer that he put in motion that he didn't even realize existed.

The poor guy is just suffering, and yet when he lashes out at the end, he becomes a mass murderer in the final scene, and yet he has no blood on his hands in the sense that he never pulls the trigger. His hands are always oddly clean in the end, and so he goes from mass murderer to sacrificing his soul to save Simone.

It's a really, really complex journey. I don't see any of the characters on TV having that kind of nuanced journey that also involves the baggage from a classic film. It was a really complicated thing, and Bradley is classically trained. He's a total pro. He's the sweetest guy. Hollywood legend has it that you never name a show after your lead character, because very often those actors end up becoming difficult as time goes on.

Bradley is not that guy. Bradley is one of the kindest, hardest-working actors I've ever had the pleasure of working with, but his work is so subtle, that I think many critics dismissed it at first. Bradley brought Damien Thorn to life in a way that I don't think anyone expected, and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.

The whole supporting cast has been great at bringing the characters around Damien to life. The Walking Dead fans will recognize Scott Wilson as John Lyons, and Jose Pablo Cantillo did a phenomenal job guest-starring in Episode 5. What has it been like to reunite with familiar faces from your career on this show?

Glen Mazzara: One of the greatest nights, not just of my career, but of my life, was standing in the field behind the barn on The Walking Dead set as the barn was burning, and Norman Reedus was on a motorcycle driving around shooting at zombies. Glenn and Maggie were in a pickup truck, and I was standing to the side watching all of this chaos, just shooting the breeze with Scott Wilson, and we were trading Dennis Hopper stories. We both worked with Dennis at one point.

That was just so not what I ever thought my life would be, but I was just so happy spending that freezing evening with Scott. It was just great, and he's so kind and thoughtful and really committed. The guy's done a lot of different roles, and yet he wants to talk through the material. He asks questions, and he always delivers.

What I like about my job is I like editing a lot, and when you have these performances by great actors, those scenes just kind of snap together, and they really make your writing much, much better. You can find layers that the actors are bringing that you didn't even think of as a writer. I have loved working with Scott, and created the role of Lyons so that I could get to work with him again.

When he called me and told me he was killed off The Walking Dead I said, "Oh, okay, great. I'll write a role for you," and I like to do that when an actor impresses me, or I have a great experience. I will find something for them. I either write a role and bring somebody in who I've worked with, not just because I'm comfortable that they could do the job, but because I feel loyalty is important. Jose Cantillo and I have done four shows together, and so he's my go-to guy. Robin Weigert and I have done three shows together, so when this role [of Sister Greta Fraueva] was available, we never auditioned anybody else. I just called Robin and said, "I would love for you to do this role of Greta." I like to do that. I like to do that with writers, directors, editors, certainly [composer] Bear McCreary. I called him immediately, and I only got to know him on The Walking Dead, but as an artist you have to really develop a sense of trust with the people you're working with.

In the final scene of Damien's season finale, there's definitely enough that happens to satisfy fans, but there are also some things we might not find out until later, particularly who's alive and who's dead, and what Simone will be like now that she's absorbed the Antichrist's blood. Should we not rule anything out in regards to who is still alive until we hopefully see what happens next?

Glen Mazzara:  Yeah, it had a high body count, but unless you actually saw a body, I would not assume that anyone is dead. Did we see Lyons' body? He's pretty mauled by those dogs, but we never go back and have that last shot. There was a hand coming out of the grave, and it's intentionally ambiguous whose hand that is and what that implies. I thought those small moments were enough to keep people invested, and also, I didn't want to just pile up the bodies. I didn't want it to be bleak. There is a risk when you're doing a type of horror like this that it could become sadistic or cruel, and I think you can see that that's not what we are looking to do. We want to be a horror show that also has a lot of humanity, a lot of heart.

The scene that really affected me in the finale was Greta and Amani in the grave. I'm really proud of the work [director] Nick Copus and the actors did. That's a tough scene to shoot and on a thoughtful, intellectual basis, you have to think, "Is Amani committing evil by putting her [Greta] in a grave? Is he complying with murder or not?" And then he's betrayed and he falls into the grave. And she's compassionate. She puts her arms around him and then she says this line that Catholics say when they are about to receive communion. So she sees her death as a communion with God, so her faith is right there at the end. Even though there's a moment when humans can betray each other, she doesn't believe God betrayed her. She believes this is God's will. And then you put Bear McCreary's gorgeous score on top of it and you just have these images—what's worse than being buried alive with somebody in a mass grave? There are so many different levels that came together in this heartbreaking scene. It felt real, it felt grounded, but I don't think it felt like it was just piling up the bodies for the sake of doing so. That's not what we do here.

Although it hasn't officially been announced yet, is there anything you can tease about what viewers can expect from the show if it moves forward in a second season?

Glen Mazzara: I'm very hopeful for a Season 2. I watched the [season finale] with the cast and the writers at my house and everyone's dying to get back to work. What I would want to address—when we first meet Damien, he's stepping out of the shadows of his life and it's a very personal story. It initially starts small and is centered around him, and these other elements are dragged into his orbit. Now he finds himself as the head of a dark church that he didn't even really know existed. Who were those people stepping out of the shadows? Are they of one mind or do they have many agendas. We see that the Vatican hit squad is in motion. That's bringing a lot of power. Things have escalated, and there's a certain amount of scope and scale surrounding Damien being a leader on a world stage. I would look at him really starting to build the church. We know he has some disciples around him, it appears that Detective Shay has a moment of conversion when he sees the miracle at the end. This is how a church starts to get built. So I would look at that journey to take place in the next season, given the opportunity.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.