'Evil' Star Aasif Mandvi Shares His Not-So-Evil Thoughts About Season 1
Evil had a good run on CBS this season. Well, at least the philosophical supernatural thriller Evil did.
The smart and scary show follows priest-in-training David (Mike Colter), skeptical psychologist Kristen (Katja Hebers) and rationalist scientist Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). At the behest of the Catholic Church, they assess unexplained events, often involving crimes. Is there a logical explanation to what occurred or did the devil, literally, do it?
Evil’s first season was released on DVD June 12, with extended and deleted scenes as well as behind-the-scenes discussions with the cast and producers Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife and its sequel The Good Fight).
Mandvi clues us in on the show below.
Evil’s viewers are quite passionate about the show? Why do you think that’s so?
Aasif Mandvi: Because it delivers so much more than what people expect it to. It’s not just an exorcism of the week or ghost stories; the story is much more psychological and relationship-based. The Kings very smartly have written a show that never answers any questions but constantly creates more questions, so you kind of end up going down a rabbit hole. You think you know what it’s going to be, and then suddenly it’s a lot more complicated and nuanced.
Is the show about a battle between religious faith and science?
I don’t know if it’s a battle as much as a conversation. It’s a conversation that can turn into a argument that can sometimes resolve itself, but not quite in the way that you thought it was going. It’s a complex sort of journey.
David is the trio’s man of faith (though he can struggle with that) and Kristen is the skeptical shrink looking for psychological answers. Who is Ben? The hard-core atheist of the group?
Yes. He’s the pragmatist, the atheist and the scientist, who doesn’t believe in anything that you can’t touch, taste, smell, feel. He's the one that says, “I don’t believe it,” that calls bull s**t. You need him in the conversation.
Ben’s family is Muslim. Does that enter into his mindset?
Ben has travelled away from his family, who is much more religious in that way. His religion—if you can call it that—is science.
Evil is a show that is building a story, so watching it from the beginning makes sense. But for those who simply like to get the chills, what are a couple of the scariest episodes?
People should watch in order, but here are a couple of the scariest shows: Episode 4 [Rose390] doesn’t live in the world of ghosts and goblins, but in the world of a child who could be psychotic. What ends up happening is disturbing and scary in a whole other way. Episode 7 [Vatican 7] is about a woman who may be possessed by a demon, who has killed kids in a graveyard.
Episode 4 was particularly creepy. One of the conversations with the cast on the DVD is titled “Does Evil Exist?” Which actor fits the philosophy of his or her character the most, and which the least?
Michael Emerson [who plays the sinister forensic psychologist Leland, a possible demon] is going to hate me for this because he is such a wonderful, delightful man, but you can see Leland sometimes in the intensity that he brings. Mike Colter, who hasn’t seen a church in 30 years, I’d say is the most different from his character, an aspiring priest.
I know that Robert King believes there is such a thing as evil, while his wife Michelle doesn't share that theological point of view. Do you have debates about that off-screen?
The show is very much inspired by that debate the two of them have and have been having for their entire marriage. We don’t debate on set so much. I don’t think any of us are particularly religious. Katja is Dutch , so she’s never even heard of religion. [Laughs] I do think that most of are in the Michelle camp. I did grow up like Ben in a more traditional Muslim family, so there was a period where I was more religious than I am. I think that there are definitely elements in religion we can learn from as there are in psychology and in science.
Are there any deleted or extended scenes on the DVD that you are happy people can see now?
A lot of fat gets cut out [in the editing process], because the plot drives the day. Some of that fat is juicy and has some real insight into the character. I’m glad the Kings put some of that into the deleted extras. There’s a scene on the DVD between David and Ben when they were talking about the mystical symbol of a triangle. I personally regret that it got cut, because I had to learn so much science and a lot about geometry. I spent two days learning this stuff and it actually gives you some insight into Ben's and David’s characters.
Well, now you can show off your knowledge at cocktail parties.
Exactly, now I can impress people with knowledge of, uhh, I forget it already.
As someone who was a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, among other gigs, are you the cutup, the funny one, on set?
I am. Mike is funny as well.
Are you thankful for the flashes of humor in the show that break up the intensity?
Yes. If you’re going to write stuff that’s so intense and scary, you have to offset it with a bit of humor and lightness. Otherwise, fatigue will set in with the audience if you’re just hammering them over the head with ‘Scary, scary, scary!’ The Kings do that really well.
Will Evil be able to return in the fall or be pushed back to midseason?
Obviously with the virus no one knows when we can get back into production. But we’re hoping sooner rather than later we can get back together and make the show.
Evil, Season 1, Available Now, CBS All Access and on DVD