Eyewitness on USA Network Is a Riveting Character Study Trapped in a Thriller

Eyewitness on USA Network USA Network

Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak was in New York’s Comcast Building (Comcast owns NBCUniversal) and was on his way to a mandatory sexual harassment seminar when he ran into Dawn Olmstead, EVP of development at Universal Cable Productions. Hasak did a quick pitch for his latest idea — remaking the riveting Norwegian series Eyewitness for American audiences — and a week later she sent it straight to series.

“I came along this title, Eyewitness, in Norway and was absolutely blown away by it,” Hasak said. “Here was basically a character study trapped inside a thriller. It was an amazing story that I hadn’t seen before.” The limited crime thriller will premiere on USA Network Sunday, Oct. 16 at 10/9c.

The story centers on a small-town sheriff (Julianne Nicholson, Black Mass), and two teenage boys (played by James Paxton and Tyler Young), who witness a murder during their secret meeting at a cabin. One boy’s sanity (Paxton) begins to slip as he’s hunted by the killer and haunted by the fear of being outed as gay and potentially losing everything he has. The other boy, Philip (Young), is the sheriff’s foster son, who was rescued from the projects and was moved to this idyllic small town where believed he would have a fresh start.

“It was a story about two gay teenagers who witness a murder and the ramifications of what they see. Actually, one of the boys is gay and the other boy doesn’t know that he’s gay, and really if they admit to eye-witnessing a murder, they have to admit that they were in a cabin. They have to admit what they were doing. Covering the sexuality of the one boy, they have to also cover the murder,” Hasak explains. “I saw the murder almost as a metaphor for what this young man was going for, and I kind of envisioned it as David Lynch would’ve done it. In fact, it would’ve been a dreamlike story, almost like Mulholland Drive.”

Catherine Hardwick (Twilight) directs the first two episodes of the series. Hasak wrote all 10 episodes of the series and emphasized this is not a whodunit.

“It’s almost like the un-thriller in the sense that we know who the killer is. This is not a whodunit. We know who the killer is literally, I would say, 8 minutes into the show,” he tells. “Now we have 10 hours to … ‘Now what are we going to go do?’ There’s a twist with who the killer is at the end of Episode 2. I think the bone chilling, thriller moments are how does this murder affect the people. This circle of people: the boys, the sheriff, her husband, the FBI people who are investigating, and the killer himself, who becomes a major character.”

Eyewitness is structured similar to series like American Crime or American Horror Story, where a future season could feature the same cast members but with different “eyewitness” stories. The series also stars Gil Bellows, Warren Christie, Tattiawna Jones and Matt Murray.

Eyewitness on USA Network — Sundays at 10/9c beginning Oct. 16