‘Evil’ Cast on the Investigations Into the Supernatural & the Sinister

Tribeca TV Festival
Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Is there a scientific explanation for all evil, or are there other forces at play? That’s the question for CBS’ bid for scariest new show.

In Evil, forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) quits her job at the DA’s office because she refuses to lie and must find another way to make money to take care of her four children. “Then Kristen met Mike Colter‘s character [David], and he asked her to help him assess if somebody might be possessed by a demon, which sounded completely insane,” Herbers told TV Insider at the Tribeca TV Festival. “But she said, ‘How much are you going to pay me?'”

The money isn’t the only reason Kristen takes the job. “She’s interested in David and why he believes these things. She’s amused by his view of the world,” the actress explained, also recalling her character’s past as a climber. “There’s something about the thrill of climbing and the danger and the adrenaline that also maybe drew her into interviewing serial killers. That’s her mental climbing of a mountain. She misses it, and she tries to find that tension and scare somewhere else.”

While Kristen’s the skeptic, priest-in-training David is very much a “devout believer,” Colter said. “He believes in things that are being haunted, possessed, he believes in demons, and he also believes that everything is not as it appears.” That’s why he enlists the “very smart, very quick-witted” Kristen and Ben’s (Aasif Mandvi) help, to figure out if something is supernatural or “more sinister on a human level.”

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And he’s willing to see both sides. “His emotional intelligence allows him to let people express themselves and try to poke holes in his theories as well as him trying to poke holes in their theories,” he explained. “It’s a give-and-take.” And it’s one that may get a bit “testy” between David and “devout disbeliever” Ben. “They are completely in disbelief at some of the things they say to each other because Ben believes that everything David says doesn’t make any sense,” Colter continued. “But there’s always evidence to support David’s theories.” Plus, David is Ben’s boss, meaning Ben “has to still respect [his] opinion [and] do the job.”

That job involves evil caused by villain Leland Townsend. “He appears to the public to be a well-mannered, likable, responsible human,” Michael Emerson previewed of his character. “He has a secret life of course. He’s a kind of improviser of misrule. He brings calamity into the world if he can, like the character in the insurance commercials that wrecks everything he touches, only on a little more of a spiritual level.”

(John Paul Filo/CBS)

While Leland may be hiding quite a bit, he’s not the only one. “Everybody’s hiding something,” Colter teased. “There are things that are going to come up that will bring [David and Kristen] closer together, and they’ll start to talk to each other about things from their past. She’ll find out things he didn’t want her to.”

Part of David’s past includes a history with Leland. David “doesn’t trust Leland and definitely thinks he’s dangerous,” Colter said. “They’ve been at odds for many years and they know a lot about each other that each of them is unwilling to say to anyone else,” Emerson added. “That war will continue.”

As for the people David’s working with, Leland considers Ben and Kristen “nuisances that he would like to destroy, but he would like to have fun with them first,” his portrayer said. Along those lines, he warns, “You should worry about [Kristen]’s family.”

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Speaking of her family, her husband is still a climber and away from home, following his dream and leaving her to care for their children. What’s their marriage like? “They’re very supportive of each other,” Herbers said. “It’s a bit much to leave her with four children, but let’s see if he ever comes back. He must have a lot going for him.” After all, she pointed out, “You don’t have four children with somebody if there’s not a lot of good stuff there.”

Her mother would disagree. Sheryl doesn’t approve of Kristen’s husband, according to Christine Lahti. “She would like her to get rid of her husband because he’s a deadbeat,” she said, adding that her “wild” character did just that with her ex-husband. “She’s a really powerful person and creative person, and she felt squashed by her ex. She feels like [Kristen] married a man like that, so that makes her sad.”

(Jeff Neumann/CBS)

And since Sheryl is “a rock ‘n’ roll, unconventional, very, very liberated, empowered woman,” she sees some of her daughter’s choices as “conventional and safe.” That’s why she’s excited about Kristen’s new job, and she shares her daughter’s skeptical beliefs. “It’s explainable through science and mental illness, the lack of empathy,” Lahti said.

For those wondering if Sheryl might get involved in the investigations, the actress hopes she does. “There’s something I can’t say she gets involved in that’s really exciting,” she teased, adding that the same is true for her love life.

Joining Sheryl as a skeptic is Dr. Boggs, Kristen’s therapist and friend. “He is a scientist, and he deals in facts and what can be proven,” Kurt Fuller said. “What [Kristen] is doing is mythology as far as he’s concerned.” That’s why he’s “okay with” Ben. David, on the other hand, he sees as “dangerous.” “He’s worried about how strong a personality he is and how he’s influencing her,” he continued. “[Dr. Boggs] wants to make sure she sticks with evidence — factual based, scientific methods.”

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But if there’s evidence that something is caused by the supernatural or spiritual, he’ll change his mind.

While Kristen takes on this new job, expect to see Dr. Boggs as “an anchor for her.” “What she has done, taking up this job with the Catholic Church, really has thrown her into the deep end of the pool. It’s overwhelming,” Fuller said. “If we didn’t have our sessions, if we didn’t talk, if she wasn’t able to vent about what’s going on, I don’t know whether she could do it. She really needs someone to keep her from spinning out of control.”

Get ready for an intense, terrifying ride.

Evil, Series Premiere. Thursday, September 26, 10/9c, CBS