Have you ever looked at one of those neon sign-bedazzled fortune telling parlors in an upscale neighborhood and wondered "how does that place pay its rent?" Well, Shut Eye creator Les Bohem has wondered that, too, and he made a show about it, which premieres on Hulu Wednesday, Dec. 7. According to Shut Eye, the answer is "crime."
Shut Eye tells the story of Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan), a mid-level crook who traffics in psychic scams. He and his wife Linda (KaDee Strickland) run a chain of fortune telling parlors, one of which he personally operates from his house. Haverford makes a living conning people using his decidedly un-psychic powers of observation. Jeffrey Donovan stopped by TVGuide.com's office and explained some of the techniques he learned while preparing for the role.
While the organized crime element of Shut Eye is fictional, the techniques the psychics use to get clients' money are very real.
"When people are trying to take money from you, and telling you that 'I can see your future,' it doesn't get any more simple than fraud," says Donovan.
He says that in his research for the role, he went to a tarot card reader, and learned firsthand about the "confidence" part of "con artist."
"She was the nicest lady," he says. She welcomed him in, made him some tea, had a nice conversation with him, read his cards and then politely requested the unexpectedly high sum of $55.
"It's all about that," says Donovan. Spiritual guidance is secondary to profit. "If I'm helped by that, great. If I'm seduced by that and I want to come back for more, even better."
Much of the transaction is in charm — which Donovan has in spades — but he also learned a little bit of how to read the cards; more importantly, he learned about how to read people. He can do a "cold reading," parsing visual information about a person before he even speaks to them so he can predict what they want to hear.
"And then when I start leading these questions" in the actual reading, he says, "I'm actually leading you down a road I want you to go down."
"It was very fascinating to read about it, then experience it, then just try to create a character that you believe as a viewer that I was really seducing these clients," he says.
The twist to all this? Charlie Haverford might actually have psychic powers.
Find out more about the seedy underbelly of psychics on Shut Eye. All 10 episodes of the first season are available on Hulu starting Wednesday, Dec. 7.