Cult (CW): What to Expect

Cult - CW

The CW’s new series, Cult, premieres on Tuesday February, 19. The cast, including Matt Davis, Jessica Lucas, Alona Tal, Robert Knepper, as well as executive producers Rockne S. O’Bannon, Josh Schwartz, and Len Goldstein were on hand at TCA 2013 to let people know what they could expect from the show’s first season.

Here are a few things we learned about Cult.

The show will shine a magnifying glass at the idea of rabid fandoms. Asked about the premise of the show and how it plays into some things that have happened within fandoms, O’Bannon said, “Believe me, after the current events that have occurred, when we went back into the writers’ room the next day, it was something that played very much on all of our minds. And what’s interesting is our show actually kind of examines that phenomenon. It’s something we’re very cognizant of, but I think that, unlike other shows, we have the advantage of actually kind of putting a magnifying glass on that idea itself.”

On the same subject, Goldstein added, “We were really taking a look and asking some questions, I think, more than anything else about the relationship people have to their shows, which is certainly more pronounced than ever before. People watch them certainly more critically. They’re more interested in them. There certainly is a fan passion for a certain type of show. We’re looking at asking questions just generally about the relationship of television to society. And as the show goes on, we certainly ask some questions about do events in society influence what the shows are.”

The catalyst for Cult was another genre show: Farscape. Asked about where the idea of the show came from, O’Bannon said, “The origin of the show actually did come out of my Farscape experience where I witnessed the kind of incredible fan passion for a show and the ability of fans to kind of find each other through social media and connect up. It started me thinking what if the show were something with a little bit darker edge and what kind of fans would that then draw? And so Farscape obviously was the kind of catalyst for the idea.”

There is nothing that would be considered too meta for the show. A show within a show is already treading in very meta territory. Asked how far the show is willing to push that line, O’Bannon said, “From our perspective, there is nothing too meta. Part of the fun for me in creating this show was I kind of liken it to a roller coaster ride in that you’re on the ride and there are twists and turns and all sorts of surprises. But the other thing about when you get on a roller coaster, and one of the pleasures, I think, is that for that minute and a half, or whatever it is, you kind of lose control of the experience. And for me in creating Cult, one of the things that I really got excited about was how to create a show where we kind of hook into an audience and create not just an emotional experience for them and perhaps a kind of intriguing idea, but also create a visceral experience for the audience and to really kind of try to break down, take the glass away from between the television show and the audience and really kind of and so take away that control.”

Watching one episode of Cult will actually be like watching two. Asked to talk more about the show-within-the-show idea, Goldstein said, “The inside show story has an arc similar to the outside show and they work off of each other. And our hope is by the end of the season there will be as much satisfaction. You’ll find yourself getting lost in the inside show, forgetting that it’s only a representation of a show if we’ve done it right and, thanks to [the actors], it does feel like all the arcs that they go through are as real as anything that the outside show characters are going through.”

Alona Tal prepped separately to play both of her characters. Asked to talk about playing two characters on one show, Tal said, “One of [the characters] is quite similar to our life personally. For me it wasn’t very difficult to chime into that one. And then the other one was just – you approach it just like you approach any other character. You do your homework. You prepare yourself and you come to work. You don’t do both of them at the same time normally. The inside show is very specific, the inside show. It’s shot separately. We don’t break character very often. And then there’s very clear differentials between Marti, who’s the outside show actress, and Kelly on the inside show.”

Robert Knepper was chosen for his role because he had the presence to pull it off. Asked to talk about casting Knepper, Goldstein said, “The role of Billy Grimm is hopefully an iconic role and we needed a true television star to come in, someone you might have some prior recognition of, but someone who could wholly invent a brand new character. And just seeing his body of work, he comes at you. I think someone said earlier you feel like he’s talking to you sometimes and that is the feeling we really wanted with that kind of character. He had to transcend the inside show world to be a presence in the outside show world. And there really was you know, it was a very obvious choice for us. We were just thrilled he signed on and he liked what he read and wanted to do it, because he was our ideal when we started.”

The show will definitely be busting down the fourth wall. Asked about how fans will interact with the show, O’Bannon said, “[The] second screen, we definitely have something planned for that. And the social media. I think what’s interesting to CW marketing is the fact that it isn’t just social media being used to help promote a show, but the show itself is about social media and that sort of connection. And that the opportunity to kind of, again, break down that fourth wall, if you will, and create a sense of how real this interaction is with fans. The CW’s been fabulous in terms of letting us use CW logos and bugs on screen. And we worked with the marketing division at the network to come up with a logo for the show that they would use in promoting the series that we’re up here promoting.”

The series will run 13 episodes, uninterrupted. Asked about how the series will air, O’Bannon said, “That was part of the thing that I was very excited when Mark Pedowitz picked up the pilot and said very specifically that the intent was to do the 13 episodes a year, more serialized than normally they would. And [it was] very important to him, and the network as well, that we complete the season so that we have all the episodes and can play them uninterrupted. Because I think that’s been something that’s perhaps caused trouble for some other more serialized shows on various networks in the past. But we will be 13 episodes, week-to-week. And audiences can hopefully tap right into it and not have to wait a couple weeks to catch up.”

What do you think now that you’ve heard more about Cult season one? Are you excited to start watching this show within a show? Do you think it will be as freaky as the previews make it look?

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