Every week, Emerald City executive producers David Schulner and Shaun Cassidy will bring EW behind the scenes and explain the ins-and-outs of the new NBC dark fantasy series inspired by the Land of Oz books. Here, Cassidy spills on episode 6, “Beautiful Wickedness.”
Like every small, petty man who’s ever conned his way to the top and then silenced all opposing voices, Emerald City’s “Wizard” isn’t running from his enemies as much as he’s running from himself. Frank Morgan’s self-loathing is so painfully evident that he compensates by telling everyone how “great and powerful” he is while cloaking himself in a bad wig and a poor Orson Welles impersonation.
But as Vincent D’Onofrio, the brilliant actor who portrays this sad character, knows all too well, Frank wasn’t born a demagogue; he just saw an opportunity and exploited people’s fears to become one. In “Beautiful Wickedness,” the sixth chapter in our tale, we get our Wizard’s origin story. Smartly written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (with story by Leah Fong), it offers a number of surprising character revelations, a stunning ending, and one of my favorite scenes in the series. Late in the show, in flashback, we see Frank seated before some children in the Munja’kin village. On the surface, he’s showing them how to make an electrical battery, but what he’s really doing is using the crowd’s adoration to try and fill the cavern in his soul. One of the kids asks if he’s doing magic. “No… not magic… science!” Frank insists. “I’m a scientist!” Now, Frank is no more a scientist than our Toto is a Cairn terrier, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and when he’s shown up by a witch, Nahara (played with lovely simplicity by Mia Mountain), a fuse of rage is lit inside him that will not be extinguished until every witch in Oz has been killed, imprisoned, or made to serve him.
Unfortunately, none of the women he’s subjugated, starting with Dorothy, will ultimately bow down, and in the coming weeks, they will all march upon him with a fury. Emerald City is a work of fiction. We hope it’s serving as a pleasant diversion from the issues of the day.