'It gets much worse for the good guys,' showrunner Jeremy Slater teases
By joining the second season of Fox’s The Exorcist, John Cho isn’t just adding an Asian face to American horror; he’s also getting over a personal demon.
Growing up in a religious household meant watching films like The Exorcist was considered, as he puts it, “taboo.” He never saw a single horror film — except for the time he and his family accidentally wandered into a viewing of a grisly flick called Death Ship 2. (It’s a tale Cho laughs his way through telling. Long story short, Cho’s father thought every film playing at the one-dollar, second-run theater across the street would be G-rated. He thought wrong.)
“Within, like, 10 minutes I saw a woman get impaled on one of those giant fishing boat hooks. I’ll never forget it,” Cho recalls, laughing. “My parents quickly covered up me and my brother’s eyes with their palms, but we did not walk out, because we had paid four dollars, so I spent most of the movie with my dad’s hand on my face.”
Now, Cho’s an adult who can watch any horror film he wants — and even star in a horror drama. In The Exorcist‘s second season, he plays Andy Kim, a widowed ex-child psychologist tending to five foster children who will be right inside the eye of a supernatural vortex taking place on the sylvan island off the coast of Seattle where Andy and his unconventional brood lives. “This family is in a tremendous amount of danger,” showrunner Jeremy Slater teases. “There’s something terrifying working in those woods and it’s set its sights on one of the kids under Andy’s care. It’s coming for the kid, and since this is The Exorcist, all hell is going to break loose.”
The setting is a 180-degree (head) turn from the first season’s Chicago-centric story, but that’s not the only change underway for season 2. Slater calls the season, subtitled “The Next Chapter,” somewhat of a new pilot for the series, because this time around, Fathers Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and Marcus (Ben Daniels) will be sharing the screen much more often as partners.
“When those guys are on screen together, that’s when the show really sings,” he says. “We knew going in that we wanted to avoid some of the mistakes of season 1, when unfortunately, some of the ways the plot twisted and turned constantly pulled our guys apart.”
In season 2, they’ll be working together — even if they’re not getting along perfectly. “As we meet them, there’s a slight tension starting to creep into their relationship,” Daniels teases. “There’s a certain way of performing an exorcism that Marcus knows about, but thinks is very dangerous, so we go from there.”
Still, the partnership does mean bringing out a new side to Marcus: “Tomas has opened a certain humanity in him,” Daniels explains. “He’s been very closed off and like a lone wolf for years and years and years, and suddenly God or the Devil — we don’t know — has brought this other person into his life and it’s cracked something open in him… He’s definitely not the same Marcus that we saw last season, which is really exciting.”
And hey, at least those two won’t have to deal with Pazuzu anymore. Slater promises that the demon of the original Exorcist and season 1 will not reappear as a midseason twist — nor will this season pull the same trick as the last, when halfway through, Geena Davis’ character was revealed to be that of the older Regan MacNeil from the film. “We do not have a central gotcha twist,” Slater says. “Season 1 was definitely tying our show to the overall franchise and saying, ‘Here is why we have the name Exorcist on our show.'”
With that done, the goal of the second season is to expand the world of the show. “We hinted last year that evil has grander ambitions than just targeting one girl here or one random person there, that it actually started infiltrating different levels of church and state,” he explains. “That story’s going to become much more prominent in season 2.”
After all, Maria Walters (Kirsten Fitzgerald), the rich woman who practically begged to be possessed, isn’t done with her mission just yet. Expect her to factor into the story, and for Father Bennet (Kurt Egyiawan) to be doggedly investigating the religious conspiracy abroad. “One of the things Bennet is going to come to realize very quickly is that if you thought a few socialites and corrupted priests and police commissioners last year were a problem, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Slater says. “It gets much worse for the good guys.” Well, it always has to get worse before it gets better, right?
The Exorcist returns Friday, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.