A&E’s newest show Damien has brought the classic horror film, The Omen back to life, and David Meunier‘s character, Detective James Shay plays a big part in Damien’s freshly awakened path now being explored on the small screen.
We got to have a chat with David about his character in Damien, collaborating with Glen Mazzara, and finally getting to be on the good side of the law!
Yes, I did get to see it. I thought it was great! Of course, I’m a little biased but, I’ve actually seen the first five episodes and, I’d have to say even if I wasn’t in the show, I think it’s a pretty great show!
That’s good, to have that objective view of it as well!
Have you seen The Omen recently? Or when you were younger? Do you have any strong memories from it?
I vaguely remembered it from years and years ago, but when I got the call about this I watched it again to refresh my memory ’cause I love Gregory Peck and thought, “Oh yeah that movie with the little Satan kid.” So I went and rewatched it and I quite liked the movie. I remembered when I met Glen Mazzara for the first time, the questions I had for him about the pilot episode were specifically about those flashbacks.
I asked him if they were going to reshoot those scenes or how they were gonna do that. And he (Glen) said, “No, no we’re gonna use the actual footage from the original movie,” so that got me really excited. I’m so glad they used the original pieces from the movie. I said this to somebody else, but it’s the only series on television with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick in it.
It was really impressive with the way they incorporated it, too. Technically speaking, it was done very well!
Yeah as I understand it, they took some time with the original footage and then digitized it, cleaned it up, and then color corrected to sort of match the palette. It’s got the grainy quality, which serves the purpose because they’re flashbacks in his mind. Technically speaking, it works perfectly. It doesn’t jump out like bad 70’s footage.
Did any knowledge of the original 1970’s film come into play when deciding on how to proceed with your character, Detective James Shay?
It did as the season goes on because I am investigating this “Damien Thorn,” person. There was some research into his dad who was a famous ambassador and some of the stories that happened there. Having the movie in my mind definitely helped because it put a lot of pieces together.
And then I know we see Detective James Shay introduced in this week’s episode…
Could you give us a little insight into what we’ll be seeing in the episode, especially in regards to your character?
Well I’m a detective so we first meet my character at a crime scene – you know there’s no spoiler there, that’s what cops usually do. (laughs). I happen to see Damien Thorn at this crime scene, so that’s our introduction to each other. And from the very beginning, I think there’s something not quite right about this guy, based on the circumstances of when we meet. “Why he’s there, what he’s doing?”
So that’s just sort of the catalyst set up from his past where I’m just trying to figure out what his story is. Then I connected backwards to the events we see in the pilot episode – namely the girl dying in that sinkhole. His involvement with that, and it’s sort of a cat and mouse game for the remainder of the season.
You know, it did! I’m familiar with the genre but I’ve never been in the genre. So certain things in my experience are that you’ve gotta go, “Oh, okay, it’s the genre – I get it.” Rather than trying to say, as an actor, “Why am I doing this?” Well, the genre sort of helps dictate certain things. It’s like, here’s an idea – when you’re watching a movie and you’re like, “Why is that girl gonna go into the basement in the dark? Why would she do that?”
Of course logically, nobody would do that but then that’s sort of what the genre is. It’s that suspense, it’s that psychological thriller that people are doing these things and you’re on the edge of your seats, watching them do it. So giving up certain things for the genre is certainly helpful, and it makes it kind of more fun. You’re liberated, in a way.
Were there any non-spoiler moments where you thought, “This isn’t like anything I’ve done before!”
Well, the character in general. You’re right – I’ve done crime dramas, but I usually play the part of the guy on the other side of the equation. I don’t usually get to wear the badge, I’m usually the guy who’s getting arrested or beaten up by the guy with the badge. (laughs). So getting to play the detective was very exciting for me. Getting to be that guy, sit at my desk and have a computer, and getting to investigate somebody was fun.
I’ve joked in the past when I get a script, I look at the last couple pages and my character’s either dead or in jail. And this is the one opportunity where I get to be a cop and put another character in jail or eliminate him/her in some way. So that was fun to be on the other side of that equation.
I know in Justified you’ve definitely got more of a vigilante thing going on so this will be a huge switch for you!
(laughs) Yeah! I’m not a drug-dealing bar owner in Kentucky anymore. It’s a big difference.
What do you think about this new trend of bringing these classic films back to life in their own unique spin-off series like with Bates Motel, and I understand there’s talk about a series based on The Exorcist, and now with Damien.
I find it interesting! If the story is interesting and can give us more of a particular character’s story. Like in Bates Motel, we see Norman Bates before we meet him in the famous Hitchcock movie, so it’s a whole history that’s been developed into a TV series.
Then with Damien, we’re not really paying attention to the sequel movies, we’re just focusing on the original. And now we’ve fast-forwarded to his 30th birthday, and he’s a war photographer and we’re gonna see how he struggles with his own humanity and inhumanity.
Those I find interesting! I don’t care for remakes – I feel like it’s just regurgitating the same thing. If you’re going to take an element and explore further, that’s exciting.
One thing I did see from a lot of fans, especially when the episode premiered was that they were excited to see it would be continuing on from the original film.
Yeah, I don’t want to speak for all the fans of the franchise, but it’s a mixed bag from my understanding. Some people either loved the original and they think it should’ve stopped there, and then there are people out there who loved the sequels. I personally like that we stuck with the original in its simplicity in where we are, examining the little kid who’s now 30. It’s just like – boom, here we are.
There’s meaning to that- we learn in the pilot episode that Jesus was baptized when he was 30, he started his ministry in his early 30s. So that was Christ, and now we’re telling the story of the Antichrist. So the parallel works – if we were gonna pull from the sequel movies, we wouldn’t have that nice storyline.
It’s fun! I guess because the subject matter is so dark, when we’re actually filming we do laugh a lot when the camera’s not rolling. In fact, Barbara (Hershey) and I worked together and that’s coming up in a couple of episodes and us getting through the day without laughing was an achievement!
It’s a great group of people. Bradley’s great to work with and everyone’s very collaborative. It was a lot of fun to explore their world together, I think we all had a good time doing that.
That’s awesome! How do you personally see the show lending itself to The Omen franchise- for example, do you think it will tie up any loose ends left unanswered in the film?
That’s a great question. I think it’s gonna expand elements of the film. I don’t know how to say anything without spoilers. (laughs) So in the pilot episode, we see now the church is getting involved. We see that he produces one of the daggers of Megiddo. I think it’s also cool that Damien is a war photographer, and photography was such a huge part of the original film. We have this photographer who gets beheaded and he sees these flashes of light or these images in the photographs.
Now we look at Damien, with this old lady appearing in all of his photographs. I think its complimentary to the movie and it expands the ideas the movie introduced. It goes a little deeper, a little further with them. I’m not sure where the daggers of Megiddo and all these things — I obviously know some things but can’t talk about them, but as a big picture, I don’t know how far we’re gonna go. If I had it my way, we’d have a season two and really go for it!
Well, I think even in the first episode, so many shout outs to the film were in it.
Yeah, that was very important to Glen because a lot of people loved the film and he knew it needed to be revered in a way.
When I asked him about the original footage in the pilot episode, and he said they’re gonna use the original footage, they’re not gonna reshoot it – part of that decision was because how important that film is for people, and to reshoot it would almost be blasphemous to a large group of people. Why do that when we could use the original film? So I’m glad they went that avenue, and that was important to Glen to do that.
I’m really excited to see how in further episodes, the original film will pop-up in terms of flashbacks, but we’ll have to wait to see that!
Yeah, to be honest, I can’t remember how far we go with the movie. I think there is some sort of limitation because we want to start telling our story moving forward and not spending so much time going backwards. There is definitely more of it, it’s not just in one episode.
Well we do have one more question we like to ask, and that’s what’s something that makes you nerdy?
What makes me nerdy? (laughs) Well, I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek. Actually, I’m a big Star Wars geek. I have quite a Star Wars collection, all of the original stuff from the original trilogy. Some of it’s not even opened! So I started collecting when I was a kid and stopped playing with it and kept collecting.
The new movie – the new J.J. Abrams movie, I was happy about. I did not care for the prequel movies that Lucas did. But yeah, I’m pretty nerdy about that!
You can catch Damien on Mondays, 10/9c on A&E. Be sure to follow David Meunier (@david_meunier) on Twitter as well!