In the opening scene of CBS’ Stalker, a woman is doused with gasoline.
Running from her attacker, she takes refuge in her car. He pours gasoline on that, too, then flicks a lighted match at the car. She’s hysterical, crashes the car and it explodes, instantly killing her.
It’s a horrifying image and one that begs the question of just how far this drama from The Following’s creator Kevin Williamson will go.
“The Following was always sort of meant to be this little horror movie every week, and it was a popcorn thriller. It was meant to be a page‑turner, like reading a book where you just fly through twists and turns, and fun and just sort of a thrill ride, and it had sort of that violent stabby-stab-stab element to it,” Williamson says. “But this is a crime drama. We’re on CBS. This is a procedural. This follows the lives of these detectives, of this unique unit that sort of investigates crime, the crime of stalking, on a weekly basis. And it’s a totally different show. It’s eerie. It’s creepy. It’s suspenseful like a thriller. It has sort of a ‘what lurks in the dark’ quality.”
Series star Dylan McDermott recalls reading the scenes for Stalker (premiering on CBS Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 10pm ET/PT) and acknowledges the series is “legitimately a scary show.
“There is going to be controversy and a reaction,” McDermott continues. “I hope people do talk about it, in any fashion. We need to be able to communicate with each other without being violent.”
The series follows Detective Jack Larsen (McDermott), who is a member of the fictional Threat Assessment Unit of the Los Angeles Police Department, led by Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q). Some viewers may click away from the gruesome opening. Those who watch might wonder if Stalker is too misogynistic.
McDermott, however, tells us he was attracted to the role of Detective Larsen for the completely opposite reason. He looks for roles that expose crimes against women and open up the dialogue to stop the violence.
“That always plays a part in things,” he says. “I am always sensitive to violence targeted toward women.”
His father was married to women’s rights activist and playwright Eve Ensler, who adopted McDermott. Though that marriage ended, McDermott and Ensler remain close. McDermott is also painfully close to the subject of women meeting violent deaths. He was 5 when his birth mother was murdered.
“My own personal history plays a part of that,” McDermott says of his choice in roles. “I always want to defend women and save them.” When he agreed to play this detective, it helped, McDermott says, that “Jack is very good at his job.”
Jack may be good at his job, but his boss has her own suspicions of him and his motivations. And she’s right. Jack’s estranged wife and son have moved to Los Angeles and Jack followed. Now he spends some of his free time stalking them, but McDermott argues that his character is not a criminal.
“I would not say he is a stalker,” McDermott says of Jack. Instead, he defends his character’s actions as being a result of him being cut out from his son’s life.
The pilot’s cliffhanger — and premise overall — will probably have viewers worried about safety in general. That, however, can be a positive outcome, McDermott says.
“Any time you want to open up a dialogue and let people talk about it,” he says, it is for the better. “Celebrity stalkers are out there. And, there are normal people this happens to every day.” In fact, the pilot includes a segment with Maggie Q’s character giving a lecture to students in which she states: “Over 6 million people are stalked each year in the United States. One in six women and one in 19 men. … Anyone can be a stalker. Anyone can be a victim.”
Photo: © 2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved Credit: Richard Cartwright