The Antichrist is coming to A&E on March 7th with the premiere of Damien, a sequel series to 1976's The Omen. Ahead of the show's debut, Daily Dead recently took part in a conference call with Damien executive producer and showrunner Glen Mazzara. In addition to discussing his new series, Mazzara also recalled one of his favorite memories from working on The Walking Dead and talked briefly about studying Stanley Kubrick's style while writing Overlook Hotel, a prequel to The Shining.

On re-teaming with Scott Wilson, who played Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead:

Glen Mazzara: Scott and I loved working together on The Walking Dead. I just think he’s such a huge talent. One of the best nights of my career was talking to him late one night while we were filming the barn burning scene and we had Norman [Reedus] riding around on a motorcycle shooting zombies, and I was trading Dennis Hopper stories with Scott off to the side. He’s just become a great friend.

I really wanted him to be a part of this. I wanted him to be a power broker. He was on Walking Dead and we were talking one time and he said, “I’m going to be killed off the show. They just killed me off the show.” And I said, “Oh, well I’m sorry to hear that, but that’s great news, because ow I can have you for Damien.” And he said, “Great.” So we created that character of John Lyons and brought him in. That role was created specifically for Scott.

As far as bringing other people over, I’d be very interested in that. I had a great experience working with tremendous actors on The Walking Dead, on The Shield, Crash—I’ve been very, very lucky to work with a lot of talented people. So, it’s a matter of really finding the role and writing something that’s fun and interesting for some of these actors. I like to do that. I like to have somebody in mind and then create a role for them that I know they can just chew up. So I am interested in bringing in people that I’ve worked with. I like doing that.

Mazzara discussed his nearly three-year journey working on Damien prior to the premiere:

Glen Mazzara: This process started in summer of 2013 and by the time we air our finale, it will be almost three years that I’ve been involved with season one—it really is like making a feature film. And it was a very interesting story. The concept was that Fox was interested in developing a show based on their Omen property that I did originate with one of our executive producers, Ross Fineman.

I was working on some other projects and I was asked if I would find a writer and supervise that writer and attach as an executive producer. And I love that film so much that I said, “Well, I’m interested in writing that myself. I would love to write that character.” So I worked on that script. We originally sold it to Lifetime. It was moved from Lifetime to A&E the first week we were shooting. We were lucky enough to have Shekhar Kapur direct it and A&E was so excited about the first four days of footage, they called us on the Friday of the first week and said, “We love the show, we want to move it to A&E and we want four more episodes [in addition to the originally planned six episodes]. I had never heard of that happening just off of dailies. They hadn’t even seen a cut episode.

On humanizing Damien Thorn and only referencing the original film from The Omen franchise:

Glen Mazzara: I think there’s an entire journey for Damien to take. I really wanted to ground this character in his humanity. And to do that, I deliberately had to ignore the two sequel films—there were actually three, one was an attempt at a pilot—Damien: The Omen Part II and Omen III: The Final Conflict, we’re ignoring those. So we’re just relying on the 1976 David Seltzer/Richard Donner film. In that film, you’re not really sure what’s going on with the little boy until the end, when you’re aware that he’s got this nature within him. He seems to know what’s going on. So I wanted to have that, where there’s something within Damien that he knows that this is his cross to bear, if you will. Maybe pun intended, I’m not sure [laughs].

But I really wanted to see a guy who is fully human, who is wrestling with this. It was that idea that made me feel like this could go multiple seasons, and I do have a plan to bring him on an entire journey. I felt that if we just had a guy who knew he was evil and was just all power and following a very obvious path, I thought the audience would get bored with that, I thought it would just be a matter of him eliminating threats, I knew what that show was. The idea of a guy fighting against his destiny and going kicking and screaming into Hell is really interesting to me.

On wanting to further explore the backstory of Barbara Hershey's character:

Glen Mazzara: There’s always layers to still be peeled back. During season one, we’ll reveal the nature of everyone’s relationships, how people know each other, but there’s always secrets that still need to be revealed. And I’m interested in hopefully future seasons—I hope the show does well of course—and we get to tell the full story. And I want to go back and explore more.

Barbara’s done a phenomenal job. She’s an incredible pleasure to work with and she’s really made that character incredibly complex and I sort of want to know everything about her. So I’m interested in not just the audience meeting her and learning her backstory to a certain extent, but I really want to dive into that because I think that character is complex enough that there is a lot more story to tell.

Mazzara discussed how he's been able to work consecutively on projects within the horror genre, including The Walking Dead, Overlook Hotel (a feature-length prequel to The Shining), and Damien.

Glen Mazzara: You know, what’s interesting is that the three works that you’re mentioning are all very cinematic to me. I think Frank Darabont created a very cinematic show in Walking Dead, and when I was his number two, I learned a lot from him about how that needs to play out and I was fortunate enough then to really learn there.

And then I took some of that idea of horror being a cinematic experience and went right into Overlook Hotel. And I really had to study Kubrick’s filmmaking there to understand the nature of tension and horror. If you look at The Shining, it’s an incredibly simple film. There’s not a tremendous amount of plot, and yet it’s frightening as Hell. And it’s all tone. So that was a great learning experience.

And then to sort of apply that to another work that’s coming directly out of a classic film is kind of exciting. So I think I’ve really spent a lot of time paying attention to not only the character moments and the writing and all of that, but the rest of the filmmaking experience. And that adds to the character and it makes me feel like I can take my time and we can be patient, and if the characters are realistic and the world feels realistic, we can let the story develop organically.

On how you don't need to be familiar with The Omen to enjoy Damien:

Glen Mazzara: The show is designed that you can just jump in and watch the show and we’ll release the details of Damien’s backstory and his life and what he understands throughout the season and the first few episodes. But pretty much the story of his current dilemma picks up right away, and I don’t think the audience will feel lost at all. We give them the information they need and he catches up and we’re off and running.

If you’re a fan of the original film, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing how we pay homage to the original film, and there are certain things that are said in that film that we reference, there are certain props that we have, there are certain relationships that when we comment on we’re sort of building on what was there, so we’re certainly honoring that original film, which I think will add to the experience for fans, but we have designed the show to build a new fan base and I don’t believe at all that people will be lost. We give them everything they need to know up front.

Mazzara also talked about his love for horror and some of his earlier experiences with the genre:

Glen Mazzara: I would say my love of the horror genre started when I was probably a teenager. I’ve always loved horror. I do love horror movies. I’m a big Stephen King fan, I’ve read maybe two dozen of his works. I’m interested in this. I actually played a zombie in my friend’s high school film. I think I threw up oatmeal or whatever, I was supposed to be gross and everything. I think I was fourteen or fifteen when I did that [laughs].

...I think we end up loving what we experience when we’re thirteen or fourteen. An American Werewolf in London was my first R-rated movie. I was so terrified, I stood up and said I was calling my mother to pick me up. The side of my house that I was growing up with in Queens actually really looked like the house from Amityville Horror. The two windows that look like eyes, my bedroom was between them on the inside wall, so I was basically sleeping in the sinuses or whatever. So my whole life I’ve had these odd little experiences and I don’t know, it’s fun, it’s interesting. I enjoy it.

On once again working with composer Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead) to create the music for Damien:

Glen Mazzara: Bear actually was the first call I made after I took this assignment. I was driving out of the studio and I called him and said, “Hey, if I do something on The Omen, will you do it?” And he said that Jerry Goldsmith’s score was his favorite score. Because he’s so busy, I wanted to book him up, and I think he’s done some of his best work on this score. I’m really, really lucky to be working with him again.

On using footage from The Omen for the flashback sequences in Damien:

Glen Mazzara: One of the things I wanted them to do was use the footage from the original film as these flashbacks. And people thought I was nuts. A lot of people involved in the creative team had never seen that done before, and I’m not sure if a TV show has done that. So the idea of doing that, I really had a vision that this original film could play as repressed memories being violently ripped from Damien’s subconscious. And that sort of added emotion to that character. I could feel what he was feeling when that came out and how frightening that would be. And I thought that would be a great way to incorporate the original film.

…And then we started really looking at the characters. I’ve mentioned this before somewhere else, but when Mrs. Baylock says in the original film, she says to Damien’s parents, “The agency sent me.” I wondered, “What does she mean?” We just think she’s lying, that there’s a nanny agency that she’s lying about. What if there is an agency? What if there’s a bigger group? Who is sending her? And you get the sense that she’s coming from some type of conspiracy. So we started thinking about, “Where does Barbara Hershey’s character come from? Did they know each other?” And that was really a lot of fun to work on with the writers.

The history of the Catholic Church has always been of interest to Mazzara, and he discussed how his years of religious research have been a great resource for the show:

Glen Mazzara: And then as far as the biblical stuff goes, I actually am very interested in the development of the early Catholic Church. I’ve done a lot of reading and listening to different podcasts and college courses on tape and I have bookshelves full of studies of the development of the early church, early Christianity—the first 300 years before the Roman Empire converted to Christianity. So that’s sort of been a dream project—could I write something about that?

And now I realize I’m using all of that research to talk about Damien building an evil church. And all those dynamics that Christ and St. Paul and St. Peter and the church fathers went through to build the Roman Catholic Church—I just have, I just know it, I understand it, I’ve spent years studying that and now I finally have a show in which it makes sense to reference that stuff. So all of the references are accurate and come from many years of me just being interested in that material.

*Above photo courtesy of A. Rentmeester Flynn / A&E


Damien premieres Monday, March 7th at 10:00pm EST on A&E. Below, we have photos from the series as well as the recently released trailer.

  • 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.