Fans at Comic-Con International were treated to a pilot screening and panel discussion for the upcoming CW drama Cult. The executive producer and cast gathered to discuss the series’ origins, themes and future.
The show centers on journalist Jeff Sefton (played by The Vampire Diaries’ Matt Davis) who, while searching for his missing brother, is forced to delve deep into the fandom of a popular television series called Cult. Aided in his search by Skye (The Secret Circle‘s Jessica Lucas), a research assistant on Cult, Jeff begins to realize the show’s dangerously obsessive following may be more than he bargained for.
Running parallel to the investigation of Jeff and Skye is the storyline within the fictitious show itself. In it, Los Angeles Police Detective Kelly Collins (Supernatural’s Alona Tal) searches for her missing family while simultaneously on the hunt for mysterious cult leader Billy Grimm (Californication’s Robert Knepper), whom she believes is the catalyst for her family’s disappearance.
After the pilot screened, moderator Brian Truitt introduced stars Davis, Lucas and Tal, and creator/executive producer Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape). Knepper was announced next, but didn’t walk onto the stage. Instead, the room went dark and the actor appeared on video screens in character as cult leader Billy Grimm.
“This actor you are about to meet, by trade, is a professional liar,” he said. “Do not listen to any of his lies. He does not speak for me. If you hear my words, follow my wishes, when this curious little Comic-Con ritual, this so-called panel is over — I will reward you.” With that, an enthusiastic Knepper finally joined the panel.
O’Bannon discussed how he came up with the series’ concept, saying its origins could be traced back to Farscape, which aired at the dawn of social media, offering fans the ability to connect with their favorite shows. “The Farscape family is truly a family, a wonderful group of fans,” he said. “But as I tend to do, I started to think what if the show they were all rallying around wasn’t Farscape, wasn’t a sci-fi adventure, but was something that was darker, more edgy. What kind of fans might gravitate to that? That’s how the origin of the idea started.”
Davis, fresh from his stint on The Vampire Diaries, spoke about the aspects of Cult that most interested him in the project. “When I read the script I was really impressed with how many layers there were,” he said, “and I loved that it was addressing the nature of television and social media and how it began to blur the line between reality and fiction.”
Knepper, who has played antagonists on such series as Prison Break and Heroes, revealed to fans the secret to portraying a leader of men. “It’s acting 101,” he said. “You just play the opposite and you just be charming. That’s been a word I’ve tried to use with all those characters, including this one, but this one is different because he’s the most charming.”
Knepper and Tal play dual roles on Cult, and when the actress was asked which of the characters she was most eager to play, she replied, “I’m greedy. I want to explore all of it.”
Lucas was asked if there had ever been a movie or TV show that had captured her imagination enough that she had wandered into an online forum. “I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever taken it that far, but I was a huge fan of Lost,” she said. “I was drawn in right from the beginning, and I thought the characters were so strong. I was sad when that show ended.”
O’Bannon spoke about what viewers could expect from Cult. “The show in its essence, I’m hoping, is a crackling good mystery with a lot of twists and turns, but definitely a mystery with answers along the way,” he said. “There is an ultimate solution to the mystery that has been set in place in the pilot. In fact, there are clues to the last episode of the series implanted into the pilot itself so get your ‘pause’ buttons ready.”
He said he’s most excited about the chance to use and comment on social media as it relates to pop culture. “It’s an opportunity to explore that,” O’Bannon said. “There are really three levels to the show: the inside show, the Billy and Kelly show, the Jeff and Skye investigation portion, but there’s also this very thing we’re doing here today, which is the real world, our world, and all three of those integrate and are part of the Cult experience.”
Fans were given a ticket that enabled them to redeem a mysterious CD at the Warner Bros. booth located in the exhibit hall that contained a link to this creepy viral marketing site.
Cult will begin recruiting audiences on The CW as a midseason replacement.