American Gothic: Who's the Killer in Boston's Most Murderous Family?

Marisa Roffman
American Gothic Premiere

What if one of your family members were hiding a killer secret? In CBS’s new nail-biter American Gothic, even the most picture-perfect families have a notable dark side.

After a tunnel collapse in Boston, a key piece of evidence in a long-dormant serial killer case dubbed “Silver Bells” is found in the rubble. But for the Hawthornes, an affluent family whose business is connected to the accident, the more immediate concern is whether they will assume liability for the destruction.

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Things quickly take a turn for the worse when the Hawthorne patriarch, Mitchell (Jamey Sheridan), suffers a major heart attack during a press conference and his kids Cam (Justin Chatwin) and Tessa (Megan Ketch) discover a box of (you guessed it) silver bells—as well as suspicious newspaper clippings about the case—hidden in their family belongings. Could one (or more) of their own have something to do with the brutal murders?

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“This is about what happens when you sit on secrets,” Chatwin says. “What happens to the next generation, behaviorally, and what if you don’t heal that trauma?” This idea is explored, and to keep things mysterious, the identity of the killer was kept under wraps from the cast. (The actors and crew made bets on whodunit.)

Watch this exclusive scene from the premiere:



For a primer on this twisty 13-episode drama, check out who’s who in this fractured family of suspects:

Megan Ketch

Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

Megan Ketch

Megan Ketch (Tessa Ross)

Where you’ve seen her
Ketch played the devious Susanna Barnett (aka Sin Rostro) on The CW’s Jane the Virgin.
Who is Tessa?
The youngest Hawthorne child, she’s married to Brady Ross (Elliot Knight), a detective who could benefit from solving the central case.
Family drama
Tessa is “the peacemaker,” Ketch says. “Because she’s the youngest, the other siblings feel protective of her. She probably uses that to her advantage—consciously or not.”
Why you may suspect her
“You hear Tessa talk about the nightmares she had as a kid,” Ketch teases, adding that Tessa suffers anxiety. “She is definitely unraveling throughout the series.”

Justin Chatwin

Christos Kalohoridis/CBS

Justin Chatwin

Justin Chatwin (Cam Hawthorne)

Where you’ve seen him
As Fiona’s con-artist beau Jimmy/Steve/Jack on five seasons of Showtime’s Shameless.
Who is Cam?
The recovering addict is struggling with feelings for his estranged wife, Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas). Also, their son, Jack (Gabriel Bateman), is beginning to exhibit some seriously psychopathic behavior.
Family drama
“Cam’s been the scapegoat of his family,” Chatwin says. “Other people in the family don’t have to focus on their demons if they can look at Cam.”
Why you may suspect him
“Cam has short- and long-term memory loss,” Chatwin previews. “He has hallucinations, and things start to come back.”

Juliet Ryalnce

Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

Juliet Ryalnce

Juliet Rylance (Alison Hawthorne-Price)

Where you’ve seen her
As socially conscious Cornelia on Cinemax’s The Knick.
Who is Alison?
A power-seeking councilwoman wishing to become mayor. She “feels like she’s got something to give,” Rylance says. “But the way she goes about it might not be entirely kosher.”
Family drama v“Alison remembers [family] life before they were millionaires,” Rylance says, and she needs to “achieve something to make up for the fact that her parents have given her everything.”
Why you may suspect her
Alison is “someone who compartmentalizes her life,” Rylance says. “That’s interesting in terms of the psychology of someone who is able to [commit horrific crimes].”

Anthony Starr

Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

Anthony Starr

Antony Starr (Garrett Hawthorne)

Where you’ve seen him
Starr played superthief Lucas Hood on Cinemax’s recently departed Banshee.
Who is Garrett?
This eldest Hawthorne child disappeared 14 years ago and has returned after his dad’s health scare.
Family drama
Garrett is “not comfortable being back in this world,” Starr says. “It’s almost like opening a Pandora’s box. The family is extremely curious but partially terrified about information he may or may not have.”
Why you may suspect him
“I think anyone who has been away for that long without any contact has a very good reason to be away for that long,” Starr intones about Garrett’s mysterious past.

Virginia Madsen

Christos Kalohoridis/CBS

Virginia Madsen

Virginia Madsen (Madeline Hawthorne)

Where you’ve seen her
The Oscar nominee (2004’s Sideways) is no stranger to TV, with recent roles on Elementary and Lifetime’s Witches of East End.
Who is Madeline?
As the matriarch of the family, Madsen says, “It’s hard to tell whether she’s being manipulative or fiercely protective.”
Family drama
The reappearance of Garrett has led to “very dark moments” between mother and son. Madsen hints that Madeline’s marriage is a “real love story…[until] it takes a dark turn.”
Why you may suspect her
Madsen admits it’d be fun to play a serial killer, but “can Madeline be physically strong enough to strangle, like, six people?”

Elliot Knight

Christos Kalohoridis/CBS

Elliot Knight

Elliot Knight (Brady Ross)

Where you've seen him
He played Merlin on Season 5 of ABC's Once Upon a Time.
Who is Brady?
“He is a recently promoted detective in the Boston police department," Knight shares. "He ends up on a cold case of a serial killings…they find a new piece of evidence, and he’s the detective on the case. He’s also married into this prominent Boston family, who ends up, one way or another, linked to the investigation. He’s a family man on both sides of the investigation he’s working on.”
Family drama
Before Brady started working on the Silver Bells Killer case, he was "very close with the family," Knight says. "He’s probably the happiest he’s been in his life." But as he dives down the rabbit hole "it has such an impact, especially when he finds out there might be a link close to home. It throws the whole perfect world into chaos.”
Why you may suspect him
“I believe Brady is a trustworthy character," Knight insists. "For me, he’s like the eyes of the audience, more than any other character on the show. I’d like to believe he’s the most unbiased and the least suspicious." But with the actors in the dark about whodunnit, "we’re navigating it as we go along," he acknowledges. "I don’t consider myself to be a part of this, but I don’t think it’s going to be something people expect or will make sense at the beginning. I hope it’s not him! I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

Justin Chatwin and Stephanie Leonidas

Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

Justin Chatwin and Stephanie Leonidas

Stephanie Leonidas (Sophie Hawthorne)

Where you've seen her
She played Irisa for three seasons of Syfy's Defiance.
Who is Sophie?
Cam's ex is "a very creative girl at heart," Leonidas says. "She’s managed to take a lot of drugs, and float along until now.” And her push-pull relationship with Cam “can only end up in one way," she notes. "I think Sophie is going to have to make a choice, and I don’t think she’s ready to change the way she’s living…Sophie isn’t in that place, and she’s like human heroin to him. Their relationship is like a drug.”
Family drama
An outsider to the Hawthorne family, "she thinks they’re nuts," Leonidas laughs. "I think Sophie can sometimes be a slight breath of fresh air. She’s sort of the most truthful character in some ways, because she’s very real. You walk into the Hawthorne family and it’s chaos…Cam and Jack are her family.” However, things are complicated with Jack, as her son has been displaying some terrifying behavior. "I think she’s in denial, a lot of the time. I don’t think she quite knows how to deal with it. If she really sat and thought about things, there would be a lot of self-blame for why Jack is the way he is.”
Why you may suspect her
“Everybody’s suspicious, and there’s nobody you don’t suspect at the moment," Leonidas allows. “I think Sophie might know something…I don’t think she’s the killer, but I think she knows something. She’s obviously Cam’s wife, but she’s very different to the family. She pops up in bursts, so you never get to know where she comes from, who she is. There’s a real slyness to her. She is a dark horse, really.”

Gabriel Bateman

Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS

Gabriel Bateman

Gabriel Bateman (Jack Hawthorne )

Where you've seen her
He played Dylan McDermott’s on-screen son, Ethan, on CBS’ Stalker.
Who is Gabriel?
As the only child of Cam and Sophie. “His mom is not around, his parents are both drug addicts,” Bateman explains. “He hasn’t been raised well, and his family is very, very messed up."
Family drama
Most of the Hawthorne family doesn't quite know what to make of the young man, but he quickly bonds with his uncle, Garrett.  “They both think very similar, and his uncle has a dark streak," Bateman says. "His uncle is the only one who looks out for him.”
Why you might suspect him
You won’t; due to his young age, he’s the only family member in the clear of the past killings. But keep an eye on the youngest Hawthorne, who has been embarking on chilling experiments.

American Gothic, Series Premiere Wednesday, June 22, 10/9c, CBS.