Like a few notable hit shows before it — think The CW’s Vampire Diaries or Gossip Girl — ABC’s fall entry 666 Park Avenue has been adapted from a best-selling series of books, by author Gabriella Pierce. This past summer, at the semiannual TCA convention in Beverly Hills, the unique new supernatural sudser stood out from the otherwise typical network crop of family sitcoms and procedural dramas, and had critics abuzz.
As he appeared on a panel with the show’s stars Dave Annable, Rachael Taylor, Terry O’Quinn, and Vanessa Williams, creator and executive producer David Wilcox cited the similarly spooky films Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, as well as real-world events like the Bernie Madoff scandal, as his influences in adapting the show. Later, Wetpaint Entertainment scored an exclusive interview with Wilcox to find out a little more about just where the hell we can expect 666 Park Avenue to take us.
Wetpaint Entertainment: How closely will 666 Park Avenue stick to the popular series of books?
David Wilcox: Warner Brothers owned the [original] book it’s based on, which has the same title. But I would just say that I was encouraged to depart from the book, and come up with my own take. We thought ABC would be a great place to have this show, and fortunately they agreed.
You mentioned Rosemary’s Baby, which was set in the famous building, the Dakota. Did you want
your fictional building, the Drake, to look like that?
We shot our pilot at [New York landmark apartment building] the Ansonia. But it’s a much different kind of energy — obviously the Dakota is so iconic in that world, so we were really looking for kind of a different flavor, and a different approach. But that said, we looked a long time to find the right building.
What were the criteria for the right building?
Obviously it had to be historic. It’s hard to explain. It’s something about the energy of a place, when you walk in and you just kind of know, “Okay, this is kind of scaring me a little bit.” We shot in the lobby of the Ansonia, and the lobby itself has these incredible lines. It was sort of ready-made. And then we got in there and started shooting, and we found out: The Ansonia has this incredible history. Some say it’s haunted. I feel like we were really drawing from some of those vibes.
Where will you shoot the series?
For the series, it’s not practical to shoot in someone’s building, obviously. There are families living there at the Ansonia. And we inconvenienced them enough, and they were great. But we really needed to figure out a new way of doing it, so we built on our soundstages the lobby of the building. We’ve built so much, actually, on our stages.
Did you use soundstages in the pilot, or purely the Ansonia?
We shot all over New York. Many different apartments, many different buildings, all to bring it to life. A lot of location work, except we did shoot some stuff on stage, like a lot of our visual effects.
Are you afraid that there may be critical New Yorkers who will recognize the Ansonia and say, “Wait, that’s not on Park Avenue!”
I think New Yorkers are often very critical when people don’t get the city right. But that said, as much as this show is grounded and real, and we strive to have a high degree of verisimilitude with our writing, there’s always a little bit of license that you take in playing to the wish fulfillment of what the show is. So I think it’s one little piece of license, that for people like this show, they’ll get over it.
What are the themes of the show in terms of how they reflect what’s going on in the real world?
I think more than anything, this show is incredibly topical. Because this is a world of the 99 percent, looking at how the 1 percent lives. That’s at the heart and soul of this show. This young couple, who gets an opportunity to see how not even the other half, but the 1 percent lives. That was important for us, to capture that. Additionally, the driving concept of the show is, we all have needs, wishes, desires, ambitions. And what do we do to make those happen? I think that that more than anything right now, that is so relevant. I think people, as much as they watch television, and look for that kind of escapism, they look for a sense of aspiration as well. And I think the “be careful what you wish for” is a theme that could really resonate.
Are we going to see anything more supernatural in the show than the characters of Gavin and Olivia?
Oh yeah! The building of the Drake is a character in and of itself. The Drake has a lot of secrets, many supernatural.
Again, as compared to the Dakota of Rosemary’s Baby, can we expect secret passageways and that fun stuff?
All of that! The building is this crazy puzzle box that Jane will explore. This is a world of ghosts and spirits and people coming back from the dead. It’s not just going to be based on deals. The building itself has a presence, a spirit, a character.
By the end of season 1, will the roles of Henry and Jane have changed at all in the story? It seems like they can’t remain that naïve or innocent forever.
If you have a season 2, will “fresh meat” characters have to be brought in to play the naïve parts?
In Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary’s husband Guy was in on the plot. Is this story about the temptation of Henry and Jane?
Very much so. It’s always about seduction and temptation. Henry really is driven by his ambition. And Gavin clearly has a plan for Henry, but also, as we’ll come to find, has a plan for Jane as well.
What do you most want people to get out of 666 Park Avenue?
I think more than anything else, I hope they have a hell of a ride. I hope they dig in deep to the show. The show will go very deep into this world, into a mythology. I think it’s going to be, for real fans of horror, a fun treat. I’m drawing on the films that I grew up watching, from Hammer Studios, and The Omen, and The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. Really strong psychological horror. These are the movies I spent my Saturday afternoons watching, and which left a very deep mark on me. And that’s something that I hope people will get the same enjoyment out of when they watch this show.