We hold these horror truths to be self-evident: Unless you’re the “final girl” at the end of the slasher flick, women and people of color are usually the victims in scary movies and TV shows, not the heroes. (Just ask Michael Che, who made a too-real quip about it on this week’s Saturday Night Live.)
The Exorcist — Fox’s small-screen follow-up to the iconic William Peter Blatty novel and 1973 film adaptation of the same name — bucked that trend right out of the gate, choosing to center its story around two priests, one of whom is Latino (Alfonso Herrera’s Father Tomas Ortega) and one of whom is gay (Ben Daniels’ excommunicated Father Marcus Keane) — two perspectives that aren’t often serviced in mainstream horror projects.
The show isn’t about race or orientation, so these character traits are just that — one small facet of our heroes’ complex personalities; informing their identities without standing in for them. (Aren’t you looking forward to the day when that kind of realism is so unremarkable that we don’t have to remark on it anymore?)
“To be part of a show that doesn’t portray Latinos as a stereotype is something that I really celebrate,” Herrera told us during a recent press conference for the show. “I thank [executive producers Jeremy Slater and Sean Crouch] to allow me as an actor and allow me as a Latino to give something more real and grounded about my culture, about who I am as a Mexican, and Tomas [is] as a Mexican.”
Season 1 of the show featured (no spoilers) a demonic possession that plagued the WASPy Rance family, but the narrative was still decidedly female-driven, giving meaty roles to Geena Davis, Hannah Kasulka and Brianne Howey. Season 2, on the other hand, features a foster family with a group of kids from different backgrounds, enabling the show to add a variety of life experiences and baggage to the mix, lending the horror series an authenticity even when it’s dealing with the supernatural.
Before the first season premiered, Davis — who founded the eponymous Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to push for equality and tackle stereotypes surrounding women in entertainment — noted that the executive producers were determined to craft an inclusive narrative, which encouraged her to sign on for her first series regular TV role in a decade.
“When I was first approached, they were very earnest about letting me know, ‘We know what you do. We want you to be proud of this show. We want you to not have any problems with how we are doing everything,'” she told reporters last year. “So there’s a lot of great things happening with us. Half of our writers’ room is women, which is very exciting and unfortunately unusual, and there are more female important characters than male in the story also.”
Season 2 has doubled down on that mission statement, meaning that Ben Daniels is the only white male series regular, starring alongside Hererra, Kurt Egyiawan, Li Jun Li, Brianna Hildebrand and John Cho. That’s still pretty unprecedented, even in today’s eclectic TV landscape.
Season 1 had two female directors in its 10-episode season, while Season 2 has tapped three female helmers across its eight episodes.
“We were hoping for fifty percent everywhere,” admitted showrunner Sean Crouch. “We got four female writers and five male writers [in Season 2] so we came close, and we got every major religion in there; for a religious show we wanted to make sure that we got every voice that we could get… It was part of what we wanted to do to make sure that we aren’t handicapping ourselves, to make sure that we have enough voices everywhere, in front of the camera and behind the camera, so we get every possible story.”
“I think it’s one of the strengths of television over film, honestly, as someone who comes from the film side of things and had 10 years of experience. It’s really, really hard to get diversity into films because everyone is afraid – they’re gambling 100 million dollars on something, and it just becomes like, ‘how do we make this lead role for Channing Tatum and no one else?'” said series creator Jeremy Slater.
“That was one of the most gratifying and liberating things about coming to TV, it’s kind of the exact opposite where, especially here at Fox, there is a mandate to ‘let’s get different voices in front of and behind the camera, let’s tell different stories about different people.’ It’s part of the reason I think TV is experiencing a golden age right now, where the film industry is not. It really is a testament to Fox of how much they were supportive of that vision from the very beginning.”
The show’s inclusivity (and willingness to upend horror conventions) was apparently also part of the appeal for Cho, who previously had a recurring role on Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, albeit with a villainous — and far less developed — character.
“That was one of the reasons I was compelled to join – I just couldn’t think of an Asian face in American horror, and I thought it was just interesting to do that,” he admitted. “I thought it seemed fresh, and the show was already diverse. When you have a diverse world on camera, my personal reaction is that it feels more real, and therefore I’m more inclined to care about that world and the characters in it a little more, because it feels like the world I walk around in. So I’m into it.”
And while one show can’t make up for the lack of diversity across an entire industry, The Exorcist‘s commitment to presenting the world as it really is (give or take a few demons) represents a welcome change for a genre that’s been slow to evolve.
As the old saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” and much like its holy heroes, it seems like the cast and creative team behind The Exorcist want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
The Exorcist airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
HBO drops new ‘Westworld’ Season 2 photos for you to analyze and obsess over
Evan Rachel Wood is not your Season 1 Dolores anymore
We are so very close to returning to Westworld, which premieres on April 22. HBO just released the very first new images and they are as tantalizing as they are gorgeous.
Some include interesting new developments that hint at where Season 2’s plot will go:
Here we see Maeve with her human capture, as we’ve seen bits of in the trailer.
But something we haven’t seen much of yet is evidence that Maeve goes back to Westworld. Presuming this isn’t a flashback, we’ll see her in the new host-ruled park again.
Talulah Riley had a pretty minimal role in Season 1 as the cheerful host who greeted guests during the flashback scenes. But Deadline reported that she would be taking on a bigger, lead role in Season 2: “She will prove to be one of the last faces many guests will ever see.”
Bernard and corporate shill Charlotte teaming up together? Say it ain’t so, Bernard!
The relationship between Dolores and Teddy is definitely about to take an interesting turn.
And here’s a look at the rest, which include new and returning cast members (who are confirmed not dead):
Welp, now we know why ‘Good Girls Revolt’ was canceled
Jeff Bezos’ Hollywood dreams aren’t just coming true they’re paying off.
Reuters has acquired Amazon financial information that for the first time provides insight into just how profitable and widely watched Amazon’s Prime Originals and streaming service are. Significantly, the documents shed light on the financial strategy of Prime Originals — specifically, how Amazon’s entertainment venture contributes to the growth of its Prime subscriber base, and overall subscription business profitability.
Amazon has never released statistics on its total Prime subscriber numbers. But according to the documents, Amazon Prime has a total U.S. audience of about 26 million viewers, which includes its originals as well as shows it licenses from other companies.
Prime Originals’ top television shows drove 5 million new Prime subscriptions by early 2017, according to the leaked documents. Reuters notes that using entertainment programming to draw customers to a Prime subscription is a key proponent of Amazon’s business strategy, a strategy that Jeff Bezos spoke to at a 2016 technology conference. Bezos said at the same conference that users who come to Prime through entertainment are more likely to convert to full-fledged subscriptions through free trials, renew subscriptions annually at higher rates, and even buy more products. So a Prime subscriber drawn in through Originals programming is a valuable one.
And Amazon knows it.
The documents show that Amazon calculates a direct return on investment for each show, based on what it costs to produce versus how many Prime subscriptions it drives. For example, The Man in the High Castle cost $72 million to produce and market, but drove 1.15 million new Prime subscribers. That comes out to a cost of $63 per new Prime subscriber — which is far less than the annual Prime fee of $99. Cha-ching!
The show Good Girls Revolt didn’t achieve similar success in converting viewers to subscribers. It cost $81 million to produce, but only drove 52,000 “first streams” (i.e. new viewers) on Amazon. That made its cost per new customer $1,560 — more than ten times the cost of a one year prime subscription.
Guess which show is still on the air.
(It’s ‘High Castle‘ — Good Girls Revolt was canceled after its first season despite a massive outcry from fans. Now, we know a bit more about why).
Reuters provides a handy graph to illustrate the direct comparison between a show’s overall cost, and its cost per new subscriber.
Critics have questioned Amazon’s programming decisions, saying at times that they were driven by sexism, at times that it was the experiment of a Hollywood outsider. But these financials show that there is indeed a method to Amazon’s madness.
However, is there a downside to evaluating shows based on the new viewers they bring in, as opposed to how well they’re satisfying existing customers? The documents don’t reveal whether this is part of the cancel vs. renew equation. But for loyal Amazon subscribers and viewers, it’s not a good look.
Whether you approve of Amazon’s apparent new viewer-to-subscriber business strategy, one thing’s for sure: Amazon’s entertainment venture is paying off, big time.
We’re already invested in the ‘Rise’ companion web series
NBC’s Rise — a new show about a group of high school students putting on a musical and their trials and tribulations — is about the kids who are stars. The companion web series, however, focuses on an entirely different part of high school theater: The understudies.
The Understudies‘ digital videos will follow students not at the forefront of Stanton High School’s production of Spring Awakening. Though we find out about the group through Michael (Ellie Desautels), we’ve already got a core cast of stage-starved misfits ready to charm.
The first installment of Understudies isn’t super subtle, focusing mainly on one girl who thinks she deserves a lead in the musical because she put in time with the teacher and did tech for a whole year (tech ≠ acting, so not sure where that experience was going). Instead of plotting any ill will against the main leads, the understudies hang out, bond, and play a game of Never Have I Ever.
The Understudies will total nine episodes throughout Rise‘s first season. Who knows, if the show gets renewed, some of them may get a shot at a lead.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.