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'This season is a little bit about temptation'
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 3 premiere of Evil, "The Demon of Death." Read at your own risk!]
A new year means a new night terror on Evil. The first season of the supernatural procedural belonged to Kristen's (Katja Herbers) menacing sleep demon, George (Marti Matulis). Season 2 introduced a flirty, retainer-wearing succubus for Ben (Aasif Mandvi). In Season 3, it's David's (Mike Colter) turn — but it's safe to say one of these demons is not like the others.
Evil's third season premiere, which debuted Sunday on Paramount+, picks up exactly where the stunning Season 2 finale left off: with Kristen kissing the newly ordained David immediately after confessing to murder. She strips off his robes, and he throws her on his church-approved twin bed, but the mood shifts when David gets a look at the scars on Kristen's stomach, crosses she burned onto her skin last season while struggling with what she'd done. Kristen apologizes for kissing him and bolts, only to seemingly come back a minute later. "I want you, David," she tells him. "I want you more than anyone I've ever wanted, and I'm not leaving here until you f--- me." And he apparently does.
But it turns out David isn't breaking his vow of celibacy the way he thinks he is. The woman he believes is his partner is actually a demon (or hallucination? As always, Evil leaves it up to the audience to decide), which becomes clear when she returns to his bed and shows off her forked tongue. David confirms with the actual Kristen that she never went back to his room after their kiss, but the demon appears to him again at the end of the episode, straddling him while the ghost of a nun looks on.
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Only on Evil can a season finale cliffhanger kiss get resolved like this. Star Katja Herbers told TV Guide it's a clever solution to the problem series creators Robert and Michelle King (who wrote the Season 3 premiere, which Robert directed) gave themselves at the end of Season 2. "I don't think they knew where this kiss was going to go, and then they came up with this great way that we can both have our cake and eat it too," Herbers said.
While a new version of Kristen now lives in David's head, the actual Kristen pivots to home renovation to fix her relationship with her husband, Andy (Patrick Brammall). Meanwhile, she, David, and Ben work a case that goes sideways when a terminally ill priest (Wallace Shawn) dies and comes back to life. Herbers spoke with TV Guide about working with Shawn and the late Peter Scolari, who played Bishop Marx in the first two seasons. She also revealed how she and Colter cracked that loaded moment of hesitation between David and Kristen and shared her take on her demon doppelgänger.
This is the first season of Evil to actually be written for streaming, since Season 2 was originally written for CBS. Did it feel different?
Katja Herbers: The biggest difference is that we no longer have to adhere to 43 minutes [per episode], so that's really nice. Some episodes will be 46, 48 minutes, and it helps in terms of making scenes land better, or not having to cut something that they really like. And then the other thing, I guess, is that I'm taking my clothes off. [Laughs]
David and Kristen almost sleep together in this episode, but there's this moment where they hesitate. David looks at Kristen's scars. Did you and Mike talk about how to play that?
Herbers: Yeah, we first thought maybe he sees my cesarean, because I used to have a cesarean — in some scenes. I don't know if I always have it, actually. But it's such a good moment, something that brings us back into reality. I think it happened in rehearsal, and then we added the crosses on [Kristen's stomach]. We actually stopped, and I went back into the makeup trailer. We thought, OK, this is a good way to snap out of it, so we waited for like half an hour to put the crosses back on there.
What do you think is going through the characters' minds at that point?
Herbers: She's laid herself entirely bare for him and shown the darkest parts of herself, and things that she's least proud of, when she confesses to being let off [of murder] for white privilege… and he's able to still love her or accept her in that moment. And when that transitions to passion, it feels like either they're going to have to just be together forever, or — it can't be a one-off thing. So it's good that they snap out of it, because they also really respect each other and are really good friends. I don't think Kristen wants to mess with his life path.
But the Kings wrote themselves into a bit of a corner at the end of the [second] season with the kiss, which is, I think, what they intend to do at the end of every season… I don't think they knew where this kiss was going to go, and then they came up with this great way that we can both have our cake and eat it too. David now lives in this fantasy world with Kristen, this other Kristen, who I approached as a demon with a heart who also just wants love like everyone else and who can't stand this bitch Kristen. And she tries to be her but fails. First she's kind of just this cliché sex object, and then she finds out that Kristen might be more than that… That was such a fun thing, but it also really creates distance between them because David obviously has this whole other reality in his fantasy, or in these visitations, that Kristen isn't privy to. She misses him a lot. And she tells him as much.
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The first time we see that fantasy, we're not supposed to know yet that it's not really her. How did you approach filming that?
Herbers: I just approached it as though: What if it was Kristen? I can imagine her doing that, although it wouldn't be very respectful of him. But I leave his room, and then there's a beat in the hallway where I remember playing a moment of hesitation, so that justifies me coming into the room later. And we've seen Kristen be quite sexual in previous seasons, with the head of the Church of Satan and with her own husband, with the masks on. So I don't think it's too far out that she would tell [David], "Don't turn around. We're going to do this. We're not going to do it ever again. We're not going to ever talk about it, but we want each other and we're just going to have to do this." I actually think I just played it as Kristen, and not as much as this demon character, because the story does the rest of it.
How close were the fantasies on the page to what made it to screen?
Herbers: There were little fun bits that we added. You know, sex scenes are always quite weird because they're not really written out. It's not written out like, "He touches her there." The only thing that we did have was this tongue; I have this really weird forked tongue [as the demon], so we played around with them kissing and then David noticing that her tongue's weird. I added a line which actually I think is really funny, where he's like, "What the f---?" when he sees this forked tongue, and demon Kristen's like, "Yeah, I just got it done. Do you like it?" As though she had a boob job or lip injections or something. But Mike and I are luckily very comfortable with each other, so it was good to get to do it with him. Robert [King] directed the first [episode], and we don't get much rehearsal time on Evil… but I asked to have rehearsal time for this sex scene so that it just becomes more of a choreography.
David's bed is also so small. Was that tricky?
Herbers: It's so small! It's hilarious. I love those kinds of obstacles though. That actually really helped with the choreography of it because we had to find a way to make that work.
How will the kiss affect David and Kristen this season?
Herbers: We see David's perspective on this more than we see Kristen's perspective on it this season, because he gets to process what happened in these night terrors. And we don't really see how she processes it. She does go to therapy, and she says, "I'm distracted and my husband's home," and Kurt Boggs is like, "Well, isn't that a good thing?" And she's like, "Yeah, I'm not sure." She really does a 180 and thinks, "I'm just going to have to block this part of my brain entirely and see if I can put all my effort into my marriage."
Kristen has a conversation with her daughters where she tells them, "I'm talking to you like more mature girls now because I need you to be." How do you think her relationship with her girls is changing?
Herbers: I think she has no choice but to tell them about this threat. Because Leland is so insidious and persistent and evil, she feels that she needs to bring them in to what a threat he is. But obviously she doesn't know the extent to which her children go to actually take him down, which is so funny… I remember when Robert was directing that episode, when I talk to the girls and I say, "I need you all to be more mature girls." He said to me, "Remember your girls are liars. They lie to you."
Wallace Shawn is so great in this episode. Tell me about working with him.
Herbers: Isn't he? Oh gosh, that was a dream. He's a legend. And he's a delight to work with. The first episode is dedicated to Peter Scolari, who we lost last season, which is so, so heartbreaking. Peter came in [late in Season 1], but it felt like he was part of the weird tone of the show in such a big way. I love what he did with those scenes that are really quite hard as an actor, when you have to just give us the assignment for the episode. And he managed to do that in a way where it would always be really interesting. He would always crack me up, and every take he would do something different. And he's just one of the most wonderful actors that I ever worked with. And with Wallace Shawn it feels a little bit [like that]. He's also somebody who's so unique and fits into this world so perfectly. We wish we could keep him, and this might be a spoiler, but maybe we do keep him in a way.
His character's story is about temptation and not living with regrets. How do you think that relates to Kristen?
Herbers: This season is a little bit about temptation. What happened between her and David, it would disrupt both their lives in such a big way if they would continue to do that. And although they love each other and lust after each other, there is also a way that they can enjoy each other's company and keep the passion out of it, or just enjoy it in terms of flirting, or whatever is still allowed. She makes a conscious decision to try to do that, and she focuses on all these other things. Evil seems to be in the construction [of her house]… last season, it was more inside of her body. It's now not inside of her body anymore, but it seems like evil is in her house. And there's just so much that we're going to explore.
New episodes of Evil premiere Sundays on Paramount+.