TVGuide.com: You play the devil on Reaper. Are you a religious or churchgoing person?
Ray Wise: I went to a Romanian Baptist church for a large part of my childhood. Since then with my own family we've gone to a Methodist church. We spread it around a little bit. My son is a religious-studies major at California State University-Northridge, and he's studying a whole variety of religions, so I'm getting the full treatment. I'm finding out all about the devil in every language and in every religion. I guess he's one of my chief consultants. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Describe your interpretation of the devil?
Wise: My devil is more like your best friend next door. One that you can trust. One that you confide in. And one that in every way seems to be looking out for your best interests.
TVGuide.com: But he really isn't.
Wise: Well, yes and no. The interest he has in the young man [Sam] whose soul was sold to him before he was born is genuine. I think he wants to see how he can affect that young man's life and see how the young man develops.
TVGuide.com: But in the pilot your devil threatens to take the mother's life if Sam [Bret Harrison] doesn't cooperate. Would he really have gone through with it?
Wise: Oh, without a doubt. Cooperation is paramount.
TVGuide.com: Why would the devil not be pleased that people are escaping from Hell and doing great evil on Earth? Wouldn't the devil be better served by opening Hell's gates and letting everyone out?
Wise: That's where people get the devil wrong. The devil was God's favorite angel. He was the morning star. They had a falling-out. The devil was relegated to his place. God was in his place. My devil looks over the nastier parts of human existence and those people come to me. And when they escape it's an affront to me. It's rather like a warden in a prison. If someone breaks out of your prison, you're offended by it. Your own ego is bruised. And my ego has been bruised by these escaping souls. It doesn't matter what havoc they wreak on Earth. That's immaterial. The fact that they broke out of my Hell is what's material to me. The devil isn't interested in evil for evil's sake. Evil and good are two sides of the same coin. We all have the capability inside each of us to be both. It's just a matter of choice. Some of us make the right choices and some of us don't.
TVGuide.com: Would it be fair to say that the role of Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks played a part in your being cast as the devil?
Wise: It would be fair to say that Leland Palmer and some of the other roles I've played in the past have led to this one. And this is kind of the apex. You can't get any higher in the hierarchy of Hell than Mr. D.
TVGuide.com: Do you believe in the devil?
Wise: I do now. No doubt about it.
Seek out some Reaper clips in our Online Video Guide.
Check out our exclusive interview with Bionic Woman's Michelle Ryan in the Oct. 8 issue of TV Guide. Plus: Get the inside scoop on the Sex and the City movie. Try four risk-free issues now!
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.