The TV landscape is currently inundated with stories about normal people discovering they have extraordinary abilities. But Damien, A&E's new horror series from former Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara, turns the superhero genre on its head.
Sure, Damien is about a grown man who discovers a secret power within himself — but this time, the hidden trait is that he's the Antichrist, tasked with bringing about the End Times. Distinctly less cool than unlocking super-strength or the ability to fly, huh?
"I just felt that a man who had to deal with both his past and his supposed destiny was interesting, especially if neither of those were fulfilling or satisfying," Mazzara tells TVGuide.com. "The fact that he's been running from his past, and he's faced with bringing about the Apocalypse, the end of the world as we know it ... that's extraordinary. That's a power he may or may not want. What do you do with that? It's really about him coming to terms with all of that."
"Most stories that I've written in the past, people are looking for a way out," Mazzara says. "What's unique about this character is, he has no way out. ... If he gives in and embraces who he really is supposed to be, he ends up destroying everyone he knows and everyone he loves. If he fights what he's supposed to be, he ends up destroying them anyway, in a sense, because I think there's going to be tremendous pressure on him to get him to go along. So, he has no good options. The stakes could not be higher, and I just really thought of that as a great challenge to try to take on."
The series picks up 25 years after The Omen, introducing Damien as a freelance photographer who's stationed in Syria. He certainly doesn't seemlike the son of Satan — in the premiere, he helps old ladies, documents wartime atrocities, etc. But on his 30th birthday, strange things start happening — the old lady he rescues appears to be a possessed demon, for instance, and he's plagued by disturbing flashbacks to his childhood. Oh, and people around him start dying, as well.
In other words, no one is safe on Damien — which may come as no surprise to Walking Dead fans. But Mazzara, who departed AMC's zombie hit in 2012 amid disputes over the show's creative direction, says the approach to character deaths will be different on Damien.
"The idea of killing off characters for shock value, that playbook's been around for a little while, and we don't want to do something that the audience is going to expect," he notes. "What's fun about this is that it's not just that there's one cause of death. It's not just one threatening thing. Satan has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, and there's a lot of things that are threatening to Damien or to the people around him. So, yes, this is one of those shows in which nobody is safe, but it's not necessarily the same body count that perhaps other shows would have. I think we do something interesting with the playbook here and sort of try to push it a little further."
Damien was originally picked up by Lifetime and scheduled to premiere in 2015. It was then moved to A&E and pushed back so that the network could pair it with its other horror movie takeoff, Bates Motel — "two iconic characters back to back," as Mazzara puts it.
Just as Bates Motel chronicles how Norman Bates became Hitchcock's titular Psycho, Damien will explore how Damien was able to repress his past and lead a normal life, and why his true nature is being revealed to him now.
"The writers and I have filled in all those pieces," Mazzara says. "We don't want to overwhelm the audience with the backstory. But we have all those pieces filled out and we'll be able to fill them out when it pushes our story along. ... This is the beginning of a story that is arced out for multiple seasons. There's more of an idea, more of a story in place for this particular series than any other series I've seen, to be honest."
Damien premieres Monday at 10/9c on A&E. Check out a trailer below: