Sitting in a posh hotel suite in Pasadena, Calif., James D’Arcy, British star of the A&E Network serial-killer drama “Those Who Kill,” premiering Monday, recalls taking the first-time plunge into an open-ended TV series.
“The nature of television is you have a vague idea of where you’re going, but that can change,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve done something where I don’t know what the end was when I accepted the role. It’s the first time I’ve done anything where I didn’t read all the scripts.”
“That’s always challenging for me as well,” says his co-star, Chloe Sevigny, who’s done film, stage and TV series (“Big Love,” “Hit & Miss,” “American Horror Story: Asylum”). “You don’t have any control.”
Luckily, both are doing a show with a TV veteran at the helm. Glen Morgan (“Wiseguy,” “The X-Files,” “Millennium,” “Bionic Woman”) adapted it from the Danish series “Den som draeber” (which means “Those Who Kill”), itself inspired by the books of Elsebeth Egholm.
Also starring are James Morrison (who worked with Morgan on “Space: Above and Beyond” and “Millennium”) and Omid Abtahi.
Sevigny plays Catherine Jensen, a homicide detective in Pittsburgh (where the show is filmed), who seeks the truth behind her brother’s disappearance while tracking down serial killers.
Morgan says serial killers are “our 21st-century monster. It’s the same as the Wolf Man and stuff, but everyone knows now there’s no Wolf Man. … But that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to talk about … the ramifications of violence, of what the victims have to suffer, and it’s not just done when you lock the guy away or he happens to die or whoever it may be, the perpetrator of it. It rings out, and that’s what our show is trying to be about.”
Cases also don’t wrap up neatly each week.
“We have the pilot,” says Morgan. “It’s kind of stand-alone-ish in terms of the case. We have other cases that are three episodes, we have one case that’s two episodes, we have one that’s just one, we have another that’s three. So I think hopefully that keeps the audience on their feet.”
Catherine is teamed with forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer (D’Arcy), who has problems of his own — but also has a loving wife (Anne Dudek) at home.
This runs against the TV trend to make people who hunt serial killers lone wolves themselves.
“He’s really happily married,” says D’Arcy. “She has a charm and a sweetness about her, and you really root for her. They’re really trying. By the way, I can’t give any details, but I really put her through the mill. We were personally extremely good at not taking it home with us. We found great restaurants, we had movie nights, we had good times.
“Thomas is not very good at leaving it at the office.”
Catherine, though, has no such comfort or distraction.
“I saw her as a very troubled person,” says Sevigny, “a person that is really bogged down by what happened to her brother, that couldn’t properly grieve or move on, because she hasn’t had any closure. She’s just obsessed by trying to avenge the death of her brother. She can’t carry on any other relationships. She’s totally isolated herself, and she’s stuck in this spiral.
“I know a lot of people get very stuck in the grieving process, and especially if there’s an unsolved crime, something that happened to a loved one. … That’s how they pitched the show to us. What made it interesting to us is there are these women and men, victims, whose stories aren’t told. That’s what drew us both to the project.”
There’s a popular theory that people who have fears, phobias, disabilities or tragedy in their past gravitate toward professions connected to those things.
“I think that’s true,” says Sevigny.
“That’s absolutely right,” says D’Arcy. “Anybody who’s been traumatized in their life, there’s a way you’ll find subconsciously to repeat that trauma in order to try to close the ring of it. That’s my feeling about it. Certainly what your character does” — he nods toward Sevigny — “and mine also have found this area that explores a very morally gray area and the fine line of sanity.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but there is in his DNA makeup as well — to what extent has he genetically inherited where his mind is at. Is he crazy?”
Says Sevigny, “I don’t think Catherine’s happy in her job — who ever is? — but I think her being so one-track to try to avenge her brother, she thinks that’s going to be the catalyst for change.
“Hopefully we’ll get to do another season, because maybe you’ll see her confronted in that. So, I’m hoping.”