If you haven’t watched the season finale of Damien, stop reading and come back when you have. Cause we’re going deep on the meaning of the insane final moments with EP Glen Mazzara and Bradley James. What lies ahead for Damien after his big sacrifice? Check out what they had to say.
What was the meaning behind Rutledge’s daughter’s death?
Glen Mazzara: What’s happening, that’s in episode nine obviously, that is that the evil around Damien is being loosened. It’s in the grave – is related to the vines and it’s just a chaotic evil. I think a lot of people feel that, “Oh everything should be very methodical in this evil plan.” But there is…it’s the devil. I personally feel if a devil did exist, it would be chaotic. It would be not so neat. So I think that was just evil being loosed in the ground and it just kind of wanted blood. She was there. The other thing about that particular death is that it is a nod to Evil Dead, I think that’s a fun nod and I’m a horror fan, but it’s also a profane death. There’s a sexual nature to it. The vine penetrates the wound, comes out through the mouth. So there’s a really kind of dark, sexual evil there. I feel that when you look at classic films, like say The Exorcist, a lot of evil needs to be profane in a way. There was sort of that. When Damien comes out of the grave, the first thing he does is he uses the knife and penetrates the nun. There’s a whole methodology to that; it wasn’t just, “Oh this will be a cool scare” or whatever.
The Vatican is now unleashing the warrior priests.
Glen Mazzara: Hopefully, we get a season 2 and we get folks coming in. I think that’s something that we’re setting up. The idea that Damien has been allowed to grow to be 30 and the Church is very, in my mind…and they said, “We’ve been dealing with this for two thousand years” – there’s a quote like that in episode 5. They feel that they have time. But now that Damien has been activated and everything, they feel, “Ok, we need to take this on.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue the story and have some ninja priests. Every show could use that.
One of the really good things you’ve done with the last episode is it is shades of gray on both sides. Even the church is not really doing the best things. How important was it for you to set that up? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Glen Mazzara: That’s a whole show. From a storytelling aspect, every time you think you know what’s going to happen, we pull the rug out from under you. Those first few episodes, we’re setting things up. Then just as you get comfortable and think “this is the show,” we do the hospital episode. Then you’re, “Ok, this is kind of trippy.” Then we do episode 6 – then we go into this…. We’re constantly trying to make the audience uncomfortable, because that’s part of the horror nature of the show and the psychological thriller. What we spent a lot of time in the writer’s room working on is that everybody has to have a specific point of view. We don’t want that to just be black and white. We want people to really live in what their perspectives are. I’m very proud of the scene with Robin (Weigert) and Barbara (Hershey). That’s a wonderful scene. I was waiting all season to get those two on stage to have a philosophical debate. You really feel like they’re both right to some degree. That’s the whole thing – that everybody is right. David Meunier’s character, Detective Shay, everyone thinks he’s insane. He’s completely right. Everything he’s saying is right. That’s kind of fun to have everyone so committed to a point of view and yet all those points of view were right. Then we somehow turn it all upside down, too. That was really a lot of fun for us to work on as writers.
The supernatural is strongly connected with the dark side. As we going to see the supernatural emerge as a force for the light side, as well?
Glen Mazzara: I’d have to think about that because I couldn’t make the case that…and I think we’ve said that if this is all God’s plan, you could say that this is all God’s doing, not necessarily the devil’s. So even that goes back to the shades of gray question where we’re constantly flipping it.
Things just seem stacked in Damien’s favor since he’s the only one who can manipulate these forces.
Glen Mazzara: Right, but he just performed a miracle. He just did a good thing by sacrificing himself. By sacrificing his soul. So he’s set up to do evil, but he’s actually coming it at it from…it’s just constantly turns. It’s fun.
What are the implications now that he has sacrificed his soul? Are we going to see him embrace the dark side?
Glen Mazzara: Yeah.
Bradley James: I think, just to pull it back, because there’s no…it’s harder to pick up on what Glen’s just talking about because there’s no manifestation for you to clearly see as an audience. It’s not obviously there. It’s something that you suddenly are picking out after and go, “Oh yeah, I suppose…” That’s picking up on the idea that the good deeds that are done. Sorry to interrupt that question.
Glen Mazzara: No, go ahead.
Bradley James: That’s all I wanted to add. That I think something that’s happened with the show, and certainly early on, there was not that clear presence of what is this and what is that. People struggled to differentiate for themselves. It became…the waters were a bit too muddy for some people and that’s something that is probably the case here with regards to that good and evil aspect. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a physical representation so that people can go, “Whatever that person is doing is good. Whatever Damien is doing is bad.” I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as that.
Glen Mazzara: I think that’s right. Everybody has mixed…I don’t want the show to be black and white. So when Barbara…when Ann Rutledge is grieving for her daughter, she’s having a sincere emotional reaction and, hopefully, you’re moved by that. You don’t expect her to have that humanity, yet she’s the person who’s willing to orchestrate this entire ascension, as she calls it. Getting back to the question…I think it’s a few things. You clearly see him using a power. I would say that the highest body count is in this episode and you could really argue that that opening scene has a very high body count. That’s on him. He’s already a mass murder, as far as I’m concerned. And yet there’s that plausible deniability cause he didn’t fire a bullet. That’s what’s interesting. You do see clearly at the end, there are all these people coming out of the graves – they’re not dead, they’re just kind of appearing – that’s the dark church that Lyons is referring to at the top, “There’s thousands of us.”
Now, I think Damien has to lead this movement. Part of this story that has not been a part of antichrist stories or even the original…the two sequels, is the…in the Book of Revelations, the antichrist is described as a messiah. We say this in episode 1. He’s a false messiah. People worship him. When Shay drops to his knees, he’s actually converted. He believes he’s witnessed a miracle. He’s a disciple. That’s the tract that I would like to go down – is that Damien is seen as a force for good, any yet he has this evil nature with him, this power. He wants to control it on his terms. There’s clearly supernatural forces that have their own plan. He’s “entered into”…and this is the key phrase. This last scene was really thought of before we even sold the show. This is a Faustian bargain. He’s entering into a contract. He’s actually signing a contract with the devil with his own blood. That’s not a contract you can get out of easily. He has to still go down and I’m sure he’ll always be reluctant to some part. But it’s a process. We do…hopefully, the show will be around to tell the story…this is the antichrist who will bring about the apocalypse. I think we’ve been on that track, we just haven’t done it in a way that people have expected us to.
Obviously, it’s a challenge to have a protagonist be the antichrist. Can you talk in general about that?
Glen Mazzara: Even though there’s a supernatural element in the show, I think we’ve kept the show emotionally grounded. It feels very emotionally honest. If you look at the process of this season, he’s been hiding, he’s been denying what he’s been going through. On some gut level, he realizes that’s probably true. He doesn’t want to look at it. He comes to accept…he gains certain facts in the first episode, what does he do? He tries to tackle it in a way that a normal person would. He starts gathering facts. He starts, “I want to know who Ann Rutledge is.” He’s doing surveillance on her. She says, “No, this is a bigger problem. There’s been evil following you your entire life.” He doesn’t want to accept that. But when he encounters the supernatural in the VA hospital in episode 5, he says, “I’m in over my head. I’m going to try suicide.” He can’t try suicide, we see in episode 6. The inner workings of his mind…there’s wish fulfillment in that dream episode. Then he wakes up and his life is a nightmare. He’s trapped in a hell. He tries to take control of that, he’s been building that. He’s been trying to find answers. He’s been realizing that there’s this power to control. He’s just cornered. He’s like a rat that’s cornered at the end. So finally, he enters into the Faustian…“What do you want? You want me? You want my soul? I need to protect her. I killed her sister, I can’t kill her.” And he promises the one thing he can. He can’t give up his life – he has to give up his soul. That’s an entire, nuanced journey – every episode. Kudos to Bradley and the rest of the cast that everybody has the craft and the willingness to go along with an idiot like me to try and find all those different layers. Don’t settle in. The minute something is done in one scene, we develop it. I think that’s what’s added to the layers – all the character work.
Bradley, do you see Damien embracing his new path in a way where he thinks he’s a savior?
Bradley James: I don’t think anybody ever goes out necessarily thinking that they’re a bad person. I don’t think anyone goes out and is essentially going…twiddles their moustache and says, “I’m doing evil.” If you watch any film, pre-Millennial film, then yeah, they’ve created characters…we have plenty of examples of characters who think that. But essentially, everyone’s just looking out after their own interests. Even good characters. Nowadays, I think society is a lot more aware of us, the individual, of our desires. We don’t see each other as just purely that good and bad aspect. You can’t label people quite quickly or as quickly because we have a deeper understanding of each other through…I’ve been saying social media is a big key to that. Just as a social growth. For Damien, I don’t think he’s going to be aware of whatever he’s doing being good and evil. He’s just going to be making choices that suit him – and suit him in the sense that I believe there are people who we view as altruistic and I don’t believe that for a second. I don’t believe anyone’s altruistic. I believe if you can do something for lots of people but the benefit that you get from that takes away the idea of altruism. The reward you almost get from people saying, “Oh well done, you helped a lot of people,” that’s…it’s good if that’s all you need, and you’re still helping out lots of people, that’s great. But I think that Damien can find himself in that situation. Doing something for a lot of people which he sees as good, but…I want to take out that idea of altruism. I don’t believe in it at all in people anyway. Not pure altruism. I believe there’s that to a level. But you’re always going to receive some sort of benefit. I’ve gone off on a wild ride about altruism. To summarize, I don’t think Damien is essentially going to be making choices on the basis of him going, “Ooh, that’s a good choice, that’s an evil choice.” I don’t think he’s going to be that. It’s going to be whatever suits his drives.
Glen Mazzara: I would agree with that. When Damien understands the world in a way that’s different, how everyone else would understand…he’s actually, let’s say, Satan’s son. He’s a pawn in this game in a way that everyone else is just a casualty or an expected casualty. I could see him, we haven’t started any work on a season 2, I could see him building an evil church and sort of teaching people about his understanding of reality. But it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to say, “Well, if this appears to be a prophecy coming true, isn’t that God’s work and not necessarily Satan’s plan? If I’m supposed to bring about the suffering of untold millions, well, that’s pre-ordained no matter how I try to….” There’s a lot of different ways that people can justify evil actions. We’ve spent 10 episodes showing that there are a lot of different ways of looking at it. There’s a lot of different perspectives. I would like to have a show that examines the different…from a philosophical, from a political, from a social point, from a religious point of view…why is there suffering, why is there death, why is there cruelty. As long as the characters are grounded and all these things make sense from a character standpoint, I think we get to do that. I’m just thankful to have a show where we were able to push a little deeper into these questions. Hopefully, it’s still entertaining and all of that, and it’s a wild ride and it’s a thrill. But there’s something underneath, too. Clearly.
Can you talk about where you want the story to go if season 2 is greenlit?
Glen Mazzara: Well, I think the shift would be that, you know clearly he does have power, clearly he does have a say. Anne’s relationship with him is that she’s raised him from afar, raised him from a child and we’ve seen this, we’ve known him as a child. And now as a man who is fully informed as much as he can be, fully active, I don’t think people might try to manipulate him, try to seduce him… I imagine the Vatican might want to eliminate him. So there’s a control or a power there, but I don’t think…I think he’s more of an active player going forward. Because he’s actively chosen this role.
Can you tease a little bit about Simone, where she’s going now that she’s getting closer to Damien?
Glen Mazzara: Well what do you think? Well, she’s – there’s some religious imagery around her. She’s washing his feet. She’s there and she’s now resurrected too. That’s interesting. I think moving forward she is a person who – the way we developed that character we originally had her in her sister’s shadow. And she was always designed this way. We introduced her in Kelly’s shadow. She has grown and become active thru-out the season herself. She’s had to develop a voice. She doesn’t really say much when we first meet her. Then she stands on the pulpit and delivers a speech but we’re not really with her, we’re not really hearing her. When she tries to speak and say I saw this bleeding statue people say you’re crazy, be quiet. I feel that’s something people try to do that to women. Women are constantly told you’re crazy and we wanted to dramatize that. And he’s saying just leave me alone, stop telling me what to do. It’s about her finding her voice. And really what she does, I don’t know if you could see it but she steps in front of him and takes the bullet. And it’s her blood that’s covering his face. She’s part of the religious aspect of the story. And she’s a significant character. One of the reasons why Kelly was killed early on was because I wanted the tension every time Simone was on screen. So that you’re convinced she’s going to be killed. I don’t know if that played out for people. The intent was that she was killed. I know from my history on The Walking Dead whenever we killed an AA character people were like – there they go again. So when she gets the bullet at the end I imagine some people were like I was just waiting ten episodes! But then the twist is she comes back. We haven’t seen that yet on the show. She’s a major character going forward.
Bradley, what is your biggest challenge or favorite part playing Damien?
Glen Mazzara: Both is working with me. Your biggest challenge and your favorite part.
Bradley James: Simmering down the wrath of Glen… Biggest challenge. I was about to say something else… the biggest challenge. That’s an interesting question. It’s a challenging role which is what drew me to it. Essentially I describe is as a cathartic experience. Because Damien – as you are probably aware – he has something of a stressful lifestyle. He carries a lot of pain around with him. Whilst trying to get on with it – he doesn’t just sort of wallow in it most of the time. He’s seen a lot, been through a lot. He’s seen a lot more than most thirty year olds have. So the experience for me was having to very much dig into my own pain resources, and use those. And through that, exploring a lot about myself which is something you don’t get to do it other professions IN such a way that you can bring it to your job. But when you’re acting you can go through all manner of crap that’s happened in your life and use it to your benefit. I’m making it sound like a sad experience like I was going through a torturous time. But it was – again I use the word cathartic but it was a very enjoyable experience because I loved the character from the moment I read the script. I sort of related to him and felt for him, very early on. Yeah. Just got to use a lot of myself in certain moments where in certain life experiences had set me up quite nicely for certain scenes. So that was the challenge, connecting the two and relating that to the audience.
Where do those crazy death scene ideas come from and what was your favorite?
Glen Mazzara: Good question. A lot of them came from my mind. I watched one of the episodes with my wife and she was like – what is wrong with you? But she said that with The Shield too. I really want the show to be an experience. I want the fans and horror fans to know we take the horror seriously. We’re pushing that. I don’t want to just do something that’s been done before without twisting it. That’s how we did it on The Shield and that’s how something I’ve carried through with my career. We spent a lot of time trying different things in the writer’s room really pushing, and really focusing on the cinematic experience. Where you’re watching and leaning in, and the sound – we write a lot of the sound effects in. We pay attention that that. We write the shots in, we really try to make it feel like a cinematic experience meaning the suspense is there. I feel like a lot of tv shows -a nd I’ve said this before, play as dark horror, or they’re just graphic images thrown at the audience. And when I watch a movie – you know, it’s the suspense. That you’re trapped in the scene, someone’s creeping down the hallway and they’re going to open the door. And you’re like – don’t open the door! That kind of thing. We write that on the page. And we spend a lot of time doing that. You know this last sequence here, it was written shot by shot, we try to do that. And of course, Nick Copas did a great job directing, I’m really ecstatic about the job he did on this particular episode. I think it’s just coming from being a fan of horror. If that makes sense. I mean you can see, that last shot of him looking – I hope you get that’s the last shot of The Omen. He’s turning to the camera and there’s a wicked little smile and you’re not sure if he’s in on it, or thinking about it. Or what is it – what are you supposed to take. To have a series, a season of tv, and call back to the movie in that way – we’re doing it not only to pay respect to that movie because it’s our source material but because we’re also a fan of that film.
Speaking of the movie, was there ever a temptation to use the theme?
Glen Mazzara: We use it in the first one and we use some of the score in episode 5 when he goes back to his house. There is some of that score there. I’ll be honest, since it’s a Fox film, it’s a Fox production, the show is also a Fox production so it was easy to get rights to some things but you also had to pay for it. So you have a division of Fox paying another division.We could have used as much as we wanted But at a certain point, the show becomes its own entity, it becomes its own story so we had to break out of that shadow. That’s why we had the clips early on in the first two episodes because we weren’t sure how much of the audience would be familiar with a forty year old film. We just wanted to use enough of the film to orient the new audience, to satisfy the old audience but then we needed to get our show up and running. Which is sort of if you think of it, is Damien’s journey also. He’s coming out of the shadow of the events of the film and now he’s becoming his own person, going on his own journey. It’s a weird little metaphor.
Can you talk about the old woman? I can’t predict when she’s going to pop up… What is the rhyme and reason for when we see her and what her role is in Damien’s journey?
Glen Mazzara: She is there at transitions. Let’s say she is of a supernatural force and she is always there at transitions sort of a gatekeeper to lead him from one part of the journey to another. The little girl is somewhat of a messenger. She’s another supernatural force. They’re both sort demonic in some sense, but obviously play on a subconscious level. A lot of people find those two to be the scariest figures in the show. The little old lady in the kerchief really freaks people out. My 12-year-old son does not like the little girl is on the screen. There’s the girl – I don’t like this Dad. That’s our rhyme and reason. One is there as a gatekeeper and the other one is the messenger.
Why is she looking a little pestilent at end?
Glen Mazzara: That’s the performance the actress chose and the director. The thing about the supernatural presence is that – I do think they would be deformed in some way. You see pictures of Hell you see people in hell, you see people tortured and broken. I haven’t really discussed this with the press but when we do see a type of demon, whenever we see that demonic presence, they are broken. Look at the seven soldiers – they are all wounded and now this force possesses them. In episode four when the creature rises out of the pool, it’s stretched so you not really sure what you’re looking at. That sets up what Damien sees when he’s in the grave during the exorcism. I think these are less than human they are not fully formed in a way. So that was part of the creative thinking behind that. Part of the imagery – we wanted to have some type of representation but not very clear. I think the less you see the better a lot of time with horror but also it felt they would be sub human in some sense. Less than human. That’s why Damien is above them, because he is part of them but he is also human.
Just to clarify, in episode 6 the dream. You mentioned earlier this was wish fulfillment. How much of it was really completely a dream or this is an alternate path he could have gone down?
Glen Mazzara: It’s all a dream that turns into a nightmare. It starts to turn into a nightmare when he wakes up when he’s in the ambulance. At first, oh there’s a plausible explanation, it’s a tattoo, it’s this or it’s that. Clearly there’s some sort of buried attraction that he doesn’t want to deal with with Simone. He doesn’t want to make out with his dead girlfriend’s sister. Even the anti-Christ wouldn’t do that! But then it turns.
Can I mention something about Simone – I watched the Twitter feed and in the dream episode it was interesting there were three tweets a little before saying I don’t understand this reality but nobody saw that a dream was coming. And hopefully no one is writing spoilers – no was has picked up that he’s walking through the hospital and just before he encounters the seven soldiers and everything gets trippy, Simone is having an autopsy and her skull is being removed and nobody has ever noticed or mentioned what this means. We’re setting up a headshot five episodes prior. So all this, a lot of this was figured out, this ending was figured out before we had – If you recall the show was originally picked up for six episodes but we expanded to ten, so we always had this finale in a different shape. We had the Faustian bargain at episode 6 and we moved it to episode 10. But we always knew there was going to Simone’s death. So maybe we kept it too much a secret because people didn’t pick up on the imagery. There’s a lot of imagery buried in this story and there’s something about this ending makes you want to go back and see…