Do you support your local Purge? Are you a real patriotic American? Are you in favor of all the good that The Purge does? These are the questions your hometown politician will be asking, so make sure you have your answers at the ready – lest you become a target yourself on the annual Purge night, when all crime, including murder, is legal for twelve hours straight.
Based on James DeMonaco’s popular Blumhouse horror franchise, USA Networks’ The Purge television show follows basically the same premise as the first three films. Set in a dystopian America under the rule of a Totalitarian party, the TV show takes place in the year 2027, between the second and third film, The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year. The Purge will be an anthology show, with all new characters, set mostly during the twelve hours once a year that the Purge is active, but also containing flashbacks which will help further explain each characters’ past and how he or she came to be in each person’s specific position on Purge night. It only makes sense that a franchise which can so easily veer off into different directions would eventually delve into television for deeper world building, if for no other reason than to explore the freedom that a multi-episode cinematic universe offers. Just imagine the type of character development that can happen when the writer isn’t limited to two and a half hours!
Also, based on the impressive amount of bank that the series has churned up so far — $447 million in profits from a combined budget of $35 million – it stands to reason that director-producer Jason Blum would like to see how far his dollar can stretch when bringing his trustworthy formula to the small screen, especially with such a reliable new director behind the camera, Golden Globe award winner Anthony Hemingway (American Crime Story, Orange is the New Black, Empire, Shameless). Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form are also set to executive produce the show under the Platinum Dunes banner.
Bloody Disgusting was fortunate enough to visit the set of the new Purge TV series, down in New Orleans, Louisiana, and learn all about the exciting upcoming spin-off and how it will expand the mythology of this extremely popular horror franchise. Read on to see what we learned, and make sure to tune in when the show is aired simultaneously on USA Network and SYFY in September.
First of all, let’s back up for a second. For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, the original 2013 Purge film starred Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, and played out a kind of Rio Bravo scenario in a strictly suburban neighborhood. The first movie introduces the idea of the Purge, which is the new Founding Fathers’ very Machiavellian response to the increase in crime and depletion of resources that the nation has been experiencing as of late. In the eyes of the 1%, sharing the wealth is just not an option – it’s much easier to just kill off everyone below the poverty line and throw whatever goods or monetary gains they possessed back into the system. Thus, The Purge was born, the one night a year when all crime is legal, all emergency responders are dismantled, and the only citizens sure to survive till morning are the ones who are rich enough to afford an elaborate security system that prevents any Purge participants from entering the premises. James Sandin (Hawke) is one of the lucky elites who gets to stay home behind the safety of a steel barrier on Purge night – the security system he helped create, in fact – but when a lone straggler screams for his life outside in the street, Sandin’s son Charlie (Max Burkholder) lifts opens the barrier and lets the stranger into their home, thus leading a large group of masked killers to their home and turning his family into targets if they refuse to give up the man in return for prolonged peace.
In the second film, The Purge: Anarchy, the fight is taken from suburbia into the streets, and a whole new vantage point of this barbaric annual tradition is explored. Three stranded groups of people find their lives intertwined as they fight to stay alive on the most dangerous night of the year. The gang is led by soon-to-be-franchise-favorite Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who, after having a change of heart on a night would he could have gotten away with getting an eye for an eye, continues on into the next film, The Purge: Election Year, and capitalizes his protection skills when he joins the security team for a local senator who vocally opposes the Purge. Eventually, coming in after all the rest but serving as a prequel, The First Purge relays the story of the very first year that America underwent its first Purge night, and the consequences of such a treacherous game of trial and error.
Set to premiere September 4th, 2018, The Purge television series seeks to continue the commentary that the first four films started, while simultaneously delivering an entertaining program that seeks to expands the wickedly creative world building that the series previously sparked. The movies have always been more a cautionary tale than a fully conscious debate about current events, and the show will follow the same set up. Set mostly inside a lavish party held by wealthy and proud Purge backers, the story sees what happens to seemingly morally sound citizens when placed in such dire consequences.
When we walk into the warehouse in New Orleans, it appears as though we’ve wandered into a cozy little dive bar, complete with cutesy wooden tables, bright blue neon signs that read things like “Best Ales” and “Fine Imports”, and even a sweet little corner to leave your weapons in before you stroll into the Cantina. Sitting on the chairs in front of the bars are a series of dummies modeling the Purge television shows’ many cool new masks, including a hoodie-wearing piglet, a doe-eyed cartoon blonde with larger than life pigtails, a scrub wearing doctor with a gas mask, a man with a mesh mask and a zipper where his mouth should be, and a white-faced nun with blood streaming out of her black eyes. It’s a terrifying scene we’ve just wandered into, but as Tom Kelly, the head honcho and showrunner for the show tells us, this is actually the safest place to be on Purge Night – it’s a safe zone where no violence can be committed, but participants can pause for a minute to grab a frosty beverage before wandering back out into the night to commit more heinous crimes.
Amanda Warren as “Jane”
“Jane is a thirty-two-year-old successful, determined woman with a lot of drive,” explains Amanda Warren about her character. “I think what is most important about her is that she’s a self-made career woman who has ascended the corporate ladder without apology, and without compromise.” Convinced that she has hit a glass ceiling at her investment firm, Jane hires an assassin to take out her boss, Don Ryker (William Baldwin). However, over the course of the evening, Jane begins to regret her decision, and opts to leave the safe haven she’s always held out in on Purge night in order to reverse the action she’s taken, and hopefully save her boss in time.
“Jane is a woman with a very strong moral compass, she is a good, good woman and sets certain things in motion on Purge night that have consequences that she wasn’t anticipating,” says Warren. “She tries to remedy it that very night.”
Jane has no experience on Purge night, as she has never participated, meaning she has put herself in a safe haven whereas participants whether they elect to or not are either preyed upon or are the predator themselves simply by being outside as it’s open season. That’s not lost on her.
Just like The Purge franchise has always been as much about bringing the horror as it has been about sparking a debate, Warren wants to make it clear that this show isn’t just about making a statement. Entertaining audiences is a top priority, and the rest all falls into place.
“We know that we’re making ten hours of entertainment, and at the same time hopefully provoking thought and igniting conversation between human beings, and between people, which we’re just not doing. We’re communicating on tech devices. We’re just trying to get people to ask questions – we don’t necessarily know what the answers are.”
When inquired as to why she believes anyone would participate in the Purge, Warren provides a thought-provoking answer.
“What are we binging? Are we binging tolerating one another? I think so. I mean that’s been my experience, just reading the scripts that are coming in,” Warren pauses. “In our real world, we’re such a result-oriented society, with reality shows – where is the cliffhanger, where is the kiss, where is the fight with the bodyguards coming – we want that at the end of forty-five hours of programming. That’s not what you’re gonna get here. So, that’s what’s important about the work that Tom [Kelly] and James [DeMonaco] have done here. That one night a year, when we’re finally going to look at one another in the eye, is right before we kill each other.”
Gabriel Chavarria as “Miguel”
A straight edged type of guy, Miguel is a US Marine with a stern outlook and a strict set of morals. When his little sister Penelope (Jessica Garza) sends him a cryptic letter, Miguel faces his deepest fears, and wanders out into the streets on Purge Night. Prepared to take on whatever may wait for him in the world where crime is legal and senseless violence is encouraged, Miguel uses his military given skills to hunt down and retrieve his sister, and reunite his family – the thing that he cares about more than anything else in the world.
Jessica Garza as “Penelope”
Lost and a little unsure of herself, Penelope joins a Purge-worshipping cult, led by Good Leader Tavis (Fiona Dourif), and even offers herself up to be sacrificed to the cult in the name of the night they all worship, and for all the good that the Purge does. Second guessing her decisions once she learns a little bit more about the ghastly reality of the twelve-hour period, Penelope sends a cryptic letter to her older brother Miguel, who then makes it his mission – literally, as he’s a US Marine – to track down and find her, before it’s too late, and he loses her forever.
Hannah Anderson as “Jenna”
Jenna has always been devout in her anti-Purge mission, devoted to charitable causes and the like, but also has the luxury of locking down on Purge Night as a result of having the available funds. However, for the very first time, Jenna has decided to wander out into the night with her husband Rick, and attend a party, one in which might bring the pair political gain, but will ultimately cost them the price of their souls.
Fiona Dourif as “Good Leader Tavis”
Sooner or later, it was inevitable that a Purge-worshipping cult would pop up in this sick little cleverly twisted cinematic universe, and said cult would need someone to lead them. Enter one Good Leader Tavis, played by none other than genre fan favorite Fiona Dourif, who gained acceptance within the jaded horror community with her performances in Cult of Chucky and Curse of Chucky. In the Purge television show, Dourif plays Tavis, a much-adored and charismatic leader who leads her cult with false love, even going so far as to convince little Penelope that she ought to sacrifice herself for the good of the people, and the night they all hold so dear.
Lili Simmons as “Lila”
Young, rich and rebellious – or so she thinks – Lila is the daughter of a very wealthy set of parents, and although on the outside, she adamantly opposes Purge Night and all it stands for, she still relies on her parents for money and accepts the power that their position yields for her. While attending one of their annual socialite parties, Lila runs into an old friend Rick, and his wife Jenna, a couple who will soon need her assistance, and who she will be all to willing to lend a hand.
“Lila is layered with a bunch of different things,” explains Lili Simmons about her character Lila. “I mean she has this extreme confidence, she is sexy, she is charming, she’s also kind of playfully devious. I feel like she’s one of those people who, and I connect to this, you think you know her, but she’ll never tell you. So this Purge Night, you get to see inside her heart for once, and see her fighting with her morality.”
Although Lila is choosing to attend her parents’ annual Purge party, she has ulterior motives at play.
“Lila comes to her parents who are Ellie and Albert Stanton, and they are huge supporters of the Purge, they’re a very wealthy and privileged family,” states Simmons matter-of-factly. “She comes back to see them and go to this party that they throw every year as members of the NFFA. She’s coming to the party to find certain people who she knows are going to be there, and she knows they’re going to be locked in this house all night. That way, she can deal with some unfinished business.”
Colin Woodell as “Rick”
After a lifetime of bootstrapping, Rick is finally climbing the soldier ladder. He’s even been invited to a Purge Night party hosted by one of his wealthier new companions, and although he might inwardly oppose the event that the New Founding Fathers have constructed, he drags his wife along anyway in the name of his career. At the party, Rick discovers that rubbing shoulders with the pro-Purge elites presents unexpected challenges to his marriage, and begins to question what he’s willing to give up in order to achieve the American dream.
“Rick is an interesting guy. Rick grew up very underprivileged, sort of had to fight for what he has, because he lost his mom at a young age,” explains Colin Woodell. “We meet him on Purge day at a peculiar time, because he’s beginning to climb this social ladder.”
Rick is married to Jenna who is a very morally sound person, and they’re business partners. Together, the pair own a Real Estate Development firm which builds innovative lower income housing. They want to push the business further, but in order to pull it off, they need a massive investment. Just when they’re about to give up hope, the couple gets invited a party at Albert Stanton’s house – the richest man in town. Stanton just happens to do his biggest deals on Purge Night at this party, so naturally, Rick and Jenna decide to step out for the first time ever on Purge Night, making them extremely vulnerable for the first time, while also trying to maintain their morals.
To add worse to wear, their marriage has been on the fritz for a while now – or more specifically, been in a rut. It just all feels so routine. In a strange way, Purge Night actually injects some excitement into their stagnant relationship.
“It adds an exhilarating factor to this evening. While you can despise it and hate it, and think that it’s horrible, I do think that Purge Night brings out characteristics and qualities in a person that you never imagined existed within yourself,” ponders Woodell. “That’s been one of the fascinating things thinking about this concept, as far as being a part of it versus just being a fan and an audience member. Just thinking about what would I do, and realizing that you can’t really predict what you’re going to do because none of us have really been faced with life-ending instances. When you see your life flash before your eyes, or you see someone murdered in front of you, there’s no real predicting what you would do, and that’s what’s so unique about this concept is that it sheds light on qualities about people that they never even knew existed inside themselves.”
Lee Tergesen as “Joe”
Armored, masked, and seemingly ordinary, Joe drives through the streets on Purge Night, occasionally intervening in the ongoings of the gang members, and the everyday people turned gang members for an evening of ultra-violence. Listening to the taped lectures of a motivational speaker, Joe is a complicated character, and it’s always up in the air as to what he’ll do next.
“Joe is a hero. He is a man among men,” muses Lee Tergesen about his character. “Joe is a guy who has lost his way. He is a typical American guy who has seen better days and wishes it could be the way it used to be, and is struggling with the fact that life keeps going on. He’s somebody who believes in his country and he’s very patriotic and he’s sort of brings a little bit of hope.”
Joe steps in to stop wrongdoing he sees done while he’s driving around on Purge Night, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely opposed to the existence of the Purge. Joe has always considered himself to be a steadfast American, and that means always supporting the government, even when it’s heading in questionable directions.
“He is trying to be true to himself, but he’s trying to find a way through the night,” says Tergesen. “Joe believes America is about the Purge, and ponders why it is something to be embraced. He just thinks it’s a night that you can make it whatever you want it to be.”
William Baldwin as “Don Ryker”
Played by William Baldwin, Don Ryker is a Managing Partner and boss at Jane (Amanda Warren)’s investment firm. Suave, good looking and powerful, Don appears on the outside to be a big Jane supporter, but when she feels as though Don might be the reason why she’s been hitting the glass ceiling as of late, Jane hires an assassin to kill him before the night’s end.
So far it appears as though there will be at least three major storylines happening simultaneously.
Married couple Jenna and Rick wander out into Purge Night and into a wealthy party in order to attain a higher status in their society, but their decisions over the course of the evening will have them questioning the morality of their actions, and each other. The party will be held at Lila’s parents house, who, much to Lila’s avail, are proud pro-Purgers. Lila is an old friend of Rick’s, and will help he and his wife survive all of the chaos that ensues over the course of the evening.
At the same time, Jane, a steadily advancing businesswoman at a very well respected investment firm, feels that she has hit a blaring glass ceiling. She blames her boss Don Ryker for this halt in her career, and although she has never participated in Purge Night before, decides to use the evening to hire an assassin to clear her boss’ influence from her path, once and for all. The only problem is, Jane begins to regret her decision as time ticks on, and so she ventures out from her usual safe haven to try to put a stop to her plans before they’re carried out and she’s forced to live with the choices she’s made forever.’
Simultaneously happening around the same time across town is US Marine Miguel’s hunt to find his little sister Penelope before she sacrifices herself to Good Leader Tavis and the Purge-worshipping cult she leads. After Penelope sends a cryptic letter to her brother, Miguel sets out on Purge Night to find her, and will stop at nothing to protect the one thing he loves most – his family.
The last little storyline is a bit unclear, but we know for sure that Joe will be wandering out into Purge Night, armed to the teeth, and interact with various characters he finds on the road. Masked and seemingly ordinary, Joe will drive through town, occasionally intervening in the events he sees, all the while listening to the taped lectures of a motivational life coach.
The Purge franchise has always carried with it an air of entertainment, but also a sharp, deep cutting commentary about the status of society and the way in which politicians treat the poor. It’s been a delicate balancing act, bouncing back and forth between creating enjoyable genre films while simultaneously making movies that say something about human behavior, but Jason Blum and James DeMonaco have always stuck the landing. From what was learned on set in New Orleans, it’s clear that that tricky two-edged sword will most likely be swiftly handled yet again.
“What really got me was the fact that in the first movie, you’re ten minutes in and there’s a black guy being chased down the street by a white mob,” explains showrunner Tom Kelly. ”So, to me, right away, it was like okay, [James DeMonaco] is not just doing a horror show or a drama show. There are other themes that are being addressed that are relevant to the world we’re living in today.”
With its purposeful attack on the poor, it has been questioned in the past whether or not The Purge is a racist event. Is it possible that the elite are merely using this horrific event as an excuse to carry out the genocide of people of color?
“Jane is an independent, American made black woman, and we don’t shove that down anyone’s throat, but it’s there in the dialogue, and little things you pick up on,” relates Amanda Warren. “People see her as a woman or someone who’s black, but I’ll just leave it at that. Tom [Kelly]’s writing is really well done. We want to provoke our audience to think for themselves. We aren’t interested in shoving any results or any ideas down anyone’s throat, we just want people to be ignited by thinking and hopefully get a conversation brewing where people can sit down, put the laptops down, put the phone down and get to know one another again. Just talk about what’s happening in our society versus the society that Tom and James have created.”
Be sure to check out The Purge TV series when it hits USA Network and SYFY on September 4th, 2018, and in the meantime, do your part to support your local Purge.