In ABC’s summertime thriller The Whispers, someone — or something — is manipulating our most innocent and beloved asset — our children — to commit the unthinkable.
When several D.C.-area children start communicating with an imaginary friend named Drill and the mysterious games he convinces them to play turn dangerous, FBI child specialist Claire Bennigan (American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe) is called in to investigate.
On the other side of the world, Defense Department operative Wes Lawrence (Revenge’s Barry Sloane) unearths a haunting and otherworldly geological phenomenon. And closer to home, a riveting and mysterious man named John Doe (Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia) lies in a hospital bed covered with nonsensical tattoos and muttering in Arabic. How are these two men related and can they help answer the question: What is happening to our children?
“The thing about children that makes them so vulnerable is also what makes them so beautiful, which is their openness, their ability to believe in anything,” says Rabe. “Children are these wide-open, beautiful vessels. Yet, it’s terrifying to think that something negative can then get into these porous, precious beings.”
Soo Hugh, The Whispers’ creator and one of its executive producers (another is Steven Spielberg), explains further: “One of the things Drill manipulates is he understands children and understands their vulnerabilities.”
Bennigan’s efforts to understand Drill and why he’s targeting specific children become even more frantic when Drill’s attentions turn personal, and the “games” that Drill instructs his pawns to play — and the tasks they complete — turn more and more ominously specific. “These kids are all chosen for a very specific reason based on who they have access to. And they all have tasks that they are being asked to do, questions that they are being forced to answer,” says producer Zach Estrin. “But certainly, we’re not doing an evil-kid-of-the-week show.”
But children are a central part of the show, and the young actors portraying them are integral to the show’s success. Rabe has been blown away with her youthful costars — her most frequent scene partners. She calls now 7-year-old actress Abby Ryder Fortson — who is jaw-dropping in the show’s pilot — “One of the best actresses I’ve ever worked with.” Rabe continues, “She’s incredible. Every take was different. She’s all of the things you ever want in a scene partner, which is someone to be unpredictable, and challenge you, and connect with you. You just never got the same thing twice, and yet she really had an understanding of the material. It was so beyond her years.”
Rabe also starred in another famously secretive series, Ryan Murphy’s anthology American Horror Story, so she enjoys that the lead-up to The Whispers premiere has been shrouded in mystery. “There’s so many things that you don’t want to give away, that we’re not supposed to reveal for the audience’s benefit,” she says. And when the intricate thriller premieres this June, we can’t wait for what The Whispers say next.
The Whispers > ABC > Mondays at 10pm ET/PT beginning June 1