Created by Adam Milch (Greek), Twisted follows 16-year-old Danny Desai (a very charming Avan Jogia) as he re-adjusts to life back in high school after spending five years in juvie. But Danny isn’t your average bad boy with a penchant for crime; when he was 11, he murdered his aunt. Now, five years later, he’s back in school, but when you're labeled as a “socio” by the student body, it’s not exactly easy to make friends.
Enter Jo (Madelaine Hasson) and Lacey (Kylie Bunbury), Danny’s childhood best friends who drifted apart in the aftermath of the murder. Lacey is now the Queen Bee, while Jo is the social outcast. Will Danny’s reappearance help rekindle the friendship they once had? Will Danny convince his former friends that he’s not the socio everyone thinks he is?
Wetpaint Entertainment chatted with showrunner Adam Milch about his new series, Danny’s motivations, and whether or not this complicated trio could ever become a complicated love triangle.
Wetpaint Entertainment: One of the most intriguing aspects of the series is that we don’t know whether we can trust Danny. Is that something that becomes clear as the show goes on?
Adam Milch: The idea of who Danny is, the question of his character, is something that’s really essential to the show, and we want to keep that going. We really want to explore the idea there’s a killer living among the people of this town. But at the same time, you want to sympathize with him and love him. He’s also a dark character. The idea of living with someone you know has killed someone before, from his mother’s point of view, from his friend’s point of view, from the people in the town’s point of view, has always been central to the show.
Would you say that he’s a Norman Bates [Psycho] or Patrick Bateman [American Psycho]?
I don’t want to say exactly who he is. When you think Patrick Bateman, that takes you to some pretty dark places. I’ve only thought of him as a real, teenage boy. He is, perhaps, capable of things that most of us are not capable of, but that’s the question of the show. What exactly is he capable of? Clearly, he’s not your normal teenage boy, but at the same time, you want to sympathize and empathize with him. When we were working on the pilot, it was very important to find those moments of humanizing Danny, and there’s a scene in a psychology class that’s key because you don’t really know if what he’s saying is real or not. He’s a real person going through something that we can all relate to, which is being an outcast. Obviously, there’s a darker element to it because of what he did in his past.
One of the things that struck me the most in the pilot is how unaffected Danny seems.
Right. And then there are moments like in that psychology class where he puts on this front because it’s not easy to have the entire class stare at you. But it’s hard to tell if that’s real or not. We actually don’t know what happened with his aunt or what lead him to do that. What happened there is still a mystery. The idea is that you never quite know what to expect from him, and I think that’s what makes this show different from a lot of these teens shows. It has this lead character who is a huge question mark.
Avan Jogia does such a brilliant job as Danny. It’s the perfect amount of snark and sincerity and creepiness.
Casting was crucial for this series. Avan is absolutely amazing. We saw at least 100 actors — pretty much every young actor of that age range in Los Angeles — and we definitely put him through the ringer. We auditioned him multiple times, we tested him with the network twice, and he kept getting better. It became increasingly clear to everyone that he was Danny. You need charisma to sell that character. If the character isn’t charismatic, you don’t understand why everyone is so interested in him. Why Jo and Lacey are drawn to him. Why he’s fascinating to the audience. You either have it or you don’t, and Avan has charisma.
He’s also extremely sarcastic, which I guess you need to be if everyone thinks you’re a sociopath.
Yeah, for sure. I am endeared to people who can use humor in difficult situations, and he’s in an incredibly difficult situation. He handles himself well, and I think that makes him more likeable and more relatable.
Is this a town in which everyone has a secret? Danny is the one with the target on his back, but other characters, like his mom for example, seem to be hiding things as well.
One of my original conceptions for the show is that Danny is the one being targeted as a sociopath, but the question is, who really is the sociopath? The show is called Twisted, which at this point could refer to anyone. It’s not just about Danny. He’s the object of people’s scorn, and he’s ostracized, but is he the actual sociopath? Or is it someone else? We’re going to explore that question. Everyone that you meet in the pilot is a suspect in some way.
Twisted seems to be premiering at the right time. There’s a huge trend in TV right now within the thriller genre. Bates Motel on A&E has been doing extremely well, and then you have The Following on FOX and American Horror Story on FX.
I guess American Horror Story had just come out when I thought of this, but I’ve always been more connected to the emotional aspect of the show, the idea of someone coming back and how these two girls are affected — how it affects their relationships with each other and with him. How do childhood relationships transition into adolescence and what does that mean for all three of those characters? I don’t think I ever set out to make a teen thriller. I think that came out of the original concept. It definitely became more of a thriller as I worked on the pilot. I think what makes this show different from those other shows is that this is probably more emotionally grounded, and that’s what we’re going for. It’s more like a My So-Called Life or Dawson’s Creek teen show, mixed with a thriller. And I think the other thing we’re really excited about is the humor, which you get a lot of in the pilot. It lightens it up.
There’s a bit of Glee bashing in the pilot!
Yeah, I hope we don’t piss off Ryan Murphy. Sorry, Ryan! It’s meant affectionately. I worked on Greek, and we did a lot of pop culture references. That’s always fun. I love that kind of stuff.
And, like you said, these are teenagers.
I wanted it to feel real. I didn’t want it to be too heightened. It’s a heightened concept in an emotionally grounded world with characters who feel like people you could know. It helps to have the humor.
There’s a beautiful line in the pilot where Jo tells Danny that what he did took away her childhood, and we as viewers realized that Danny wasn’t the only one affected by this. It literally changed everything for Jo and Lacey too.
Their friendship, the one between Jo and Lacey, is the heart of the show for me. What exactly went wrong for these two? Obviously, there are suggestions as to what went wrong, but we’re going to explore exactly what happened. It’s a key element to the show, as well as how Danny complicates that relationship. With those three, it’s a very complicated trio dynamic.
Is “complicated trio dynamic” another word for love triangle?
Well, they are three hormonal teenagers, and Avan Jogia is pretty attractive, but I don’t want it to become just another love triangle. I’m almost as interested in Lacey and Jo’s relationship and their friendship as I in each of their relationships to Danny. But I do think it’s going to get complicated for those three. But that friendship between Lacey and Jo is as important to the triangle as the cute boy.
Catch the series premiere of Twisted on Tuesday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Family.