When Kevin (Probably) Saves the World premieres on Oct. 3, audiences will be introduced to the titular character of Kevin, who has gone to stay with his widowed sister after his recent suicide attempt. But while at his sister’s, Kevin meets Yvette, a celestial guide who informs him that he’s the last of 36 righteous souls whose job it is to protect humanity. Now, Yvette has arrived to help him power up his soul through acts of kindness so that, eventually, he can find and anoint a new generation of righteous souls to save us all. Got it?
EW sat down with showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas to talk about the new series. (Plus, watch an exclusive sneak peek from the pilot above!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where’d the idea for the series come from?
TARA BUTTERS: Back in early November, we had a different pilot for ABC. Due to various reasons, it got blown up the day after the election. And we wanted to write something that would speak to how we were feeling in the moment. Whether you’re on the left or the right politically, we all had this terrible year of: Every time you turn on the news, it’s pretty awful. Then when you turn on your television to escape, it’s the murder of the week. The world has gotten really dark and so this was us writing for ourselves, and we were just hoping other people were maybe feeling the same thing — that need for a show that could be funny, dramatic, emotional, but at the same time, be hopeful.
MICHELE FAZEKAS: I remember at the time we were writing it, somebody had blown themselves up somewhere or driven a car into people. Because we’re in the 24-hour news world, you can’t escape it. It does start to get to you. What I like about how Kevin came out was: The underlying stories in the pilot are serious stories. It’s about attempted suicide, it’s about the loss of a spouse or a dad, and it’s about somebody who’s a little hopeless. The way we tell them and the lens that we tell them through, that’s where it can get fantastic or funny or silly, but we found the underlying stories always have to be about something real. It has to be about real emotion. We didn’t want it to just be a throwaway story. It can be fun and funny and fantastic but still be about something.
When you all were writing Kevin, did you have anyone in mind for the lead role?
FAZEKAS: Sometimes you’ll have an actor in your head. I had a bunch of different people in my head — sort of Bill Murray from Groundhog Day…
BUTTERS: A little Paul Rudd…
FAZEKAS: A little Paul Rudd, a little The Dude from The Big Lebowski. There was a bunch of different influences. And we knew we were going to live or die by Kevin. It was somebody who had to be both a very good dramatic actor and a very good comedic actor, and that’s not always easy to find. And then Patrick Rush, who’s our casting director, put together a list of actors and Jason [Ritter] was on the list. I’ve always liked him, and I knew he could be funny because I’d seen him on Drunk History and we weirdly — sidebar — wrote an episode of SVU for his father. So Jason came in and as soon as he did a screen test, we were like, “There he is. We don’t have to look at a single other person.” I don’t even know who would be in that role if it were not for Jason.
BUTTERS: He brings something to what’s written on the page to make it his own. We’re incredibly lucky with how good this cast is.
What can fans expect from the show on a week-to-week basis?
FAZEKAS: There’s the long arc and then there are episode stories. The long arc is he has to find and anoint 35 other righteous, which he’ll probably find maybe two or three in any given season. What he has to do episode-to-episode is build his spiritual power so that he can find these righteous. There’s a line from Yvette where she’s like, “You have to do something you’re unaccustomed to, which is, be selfless.” After he successfully completes his mission, he’ll get this little weird vision, but what he’ll figure out over the course of the season is: It’s pointing him into a direction of the first righteous person. He’s got to put the pieces together to figure out where that person is.
BUTTERS: There is an episodic nature to each week in which there will be a fun story of Kevin trying to be a better person, and then you have all the continuing story lines with each of these characters.What he’s doing week-to-week impacts those relationships and we explore those in every episode.
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World premieres Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.