If you take Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams, add two devilishly villainous roles and a sprinkling of paranormal activity on the Upper East Side, it certainly sounds like a recipe for success. At least that's what ABC is hoping for with its new supernatural series "666 Park Avenue," which brought O'Quinn and Williams to the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on Friday, along with co-stars Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, and executive producers David Wilcox and Matthew Miller.
"Lost" alum O'Quinn is no stranger to enigmatic roles, but his character Gavin Doran is a whole new breed of sinister -- so creepy that even John Locke might hesitate to tangle with him. As the owners of the luxurious Drake at 666 Park Avenue, Gavin and his wife Olivia (Williams) may seem charismatic, but they -- along with the building they inhabit -- are hiding an undeniable dark side.
O'Quinn expressed his enthusiasm for playing "characters [with] a lot of secrets," while "Desperate Housewives" star Williams compared her new character to one of her most iconic roles: Wilhelmina Slater on "Ugly Betty."
"I loved the world, without giving a lot away -- it's a world that i wanted to explore, it's the Upper East Side, it's luxurious," she explained, when asked why she was attracted to the character. "I thought about the Madoffs immediately ... And a little bit of Donald Trump, the power and mystique of his buildings. At this point, I see [Olivia] as a mafia wife, where [Gavin] has supreme power, but she is aware of a lot of things that happen. She doesn't know all the details, but she is aware of the makings of what goes on at the Drake ... [She's] sort of like Wilhelmina, where she worked her way up to the upper echelon."
Still, as evil as they may be, executive producer David Wilcox promised that Williams and O'Quinn's characters will also be "very human as well. It was very important in creating this show that the characters not be two-dimensional. We don't know a lot about the Dorans yet, but as the show progresses, we're going to learn a lot more about them, and I guarantee, they're not what you expect."
Wilcox, who is a lifelong horror fan, has been waiting to bring a spooky series to primetime. "To me, it's the kind of genre that really has a direct connection with the audience," he said. "When I was introduced to the [666 Park Avenue] books, I thought this could have the DNA that could really work on network television and could be a very scary, yet character-driven, supernatural soap."
Wilcox pointed to Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and the horror movies of the '70s and '80s as influences for the series, especially "The Shining" and "Rosemary's Baby."
Still, since it's ABC and not FX, Wilcox admitted that there are limits to how gory the series can be. "From the beginning, I told my writers, 'We don't have the tool of gore and blood and that kind of spectacle,' so it's forced us to be a lot more clever about how we tell these stories. We look at Hitchcock films, and how much of that story keeps playing in your head even when it's not playing on screen. There are people who love to see blood and murder and mayhem, and there are other shows on cable that have that freedom to do that. ['666 Park'] is a different kind of horror -- it's a psychological horror; it's driven by suspense, it's driven by mystery."
O'Quinn grew accustomed to theorizing about the twists of the narrative during "Lost," and that trend seems set to continue with "666 Park," since he's already trying to predict how his Faustian character may develop. "My theory is that Gavin's kind of a sharecropper on the plantation of evil; he gets his share and he uses people to his own ends, but he has to satisfy the farmer," he teased.
Wilcox wouldn't comment on O'Quinn's prediction directly, but did admit, "The building has a presence -- it has a spirit that seems to be working hand in hand with Gavin Doran. It may be more powerful than anyone knows."
"666 Park Avenue" premieres Sunday, Sept. 30 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. See a full list of ABC's fall premiere dates here.
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