Episode 4 - The Devil In Me
That was a rough one.
If you’ve been listening to the show since the beginning, you know how we walk the line between horror comedy, and often go back and forth between the two. Some of the topics we deal with are terrifying (come on, admit it, the whispers freaked you out the first time you heard them), but still manage to make you laugh.
The Devil In Me was going WAY out of our comfort zone. Like, four comfort zones over, really.
This story almost was an Interlude, but I thought it would be really good to tie it altogether into the main story…but instead of happening TO our characters, have it happen around them. As in it would have happened, regardless if they were there or not. That’s what I like about the show; weird stuff goes on, but it doesn’t always have to be focused on Jonathan, Buddy, and Ami. Hell, even Buddy’s line of “I knew it was going to be about you!” in 4.2 was a direct reference to the fact that everything has happened TO them so far…but this was a nice departure.
The initial idea for Episode 4 came to me with the ending already intact; what if there was a story where the ending is never explicitly stated, and the listener can draw their own conclusion? I kind of love stories like that, and wanted to try it out here, leading into the ambiguity of life itself. I dug The Twilight Zone vibe I got from it, and dove in head first.
DW Washburn was a character I had in mind already, but he just happened to fit nicely into the mold for this story. Sure, we all know the devil has been portrayed as the bad guy forever, but what if he really wasn’t? Something about the ultimate personification of evil trying to make amends the best way he can really appealed to me, and so he was the perfect foil for the crux of the story.
Andrew and I spent an entire day arguing about his powers and appearance, though. Andrew fought for the idea of DW being an invisible entity, only seen by Jonathan. Jonathan was to serve as his proxy, inserting himself more into the story, and being the reason for Sanderson’s choice. I even tried writing a bit of it like that, but I couldn’t make it work without it seeming too hokey. In the end, though, we went with what we have, and Andrew agrees that was the way to go.
I also wanted to start connecting the dots to previous threads. Since a lot of folks kept asking us who WAS that guy who found Jonathan way back in Episode 1, I thought it might be nice to explain that a bit. The fact that the episode takes place entirely in Big Joan’s, the oft-mentioned but never seen diner, played into that, too.
The heart-wrenching story that evolved from it was always the idea early on, as I thought it did tie nicely into the choice that had to be made. The whole idea of Sanderson and the impossible choice stemed from a short film idea I had way back in college, that I tucked away until a rainy day. Turns out that rainy day was Episode 4.
Because it strayed so far from our normal plot lines and story structure so far, I was incredibly nervous. Hell, just WRITING the entire thing was nerve-wracking for me. It was incredibly tough to write, because I knew I didn’t want it to become melodramatic…that would kill the whole vibe. I wanted it to be sincere, sad, and really pull at your heart strings. I went to a dark place writing Sanderson’s tale, and it wasn’t pretty.
And for such a heady tale, I knew I needed a talented actor to pull it off. I struggled for a long time to find one, with every person auditioning being great, but just not what I wanted for the role. But then, Kc Wayland, my friend from work AND of We’re Alive fame, gave it a shot, and blew me away. Over the course of the two hour recording session, he plunged his emotional depths and tapped into some deep within him to give the performance of a lifetime. And for that, I am forever thankful. He did an amazing job. Also, shout out to Kori Celeste for composing that amazingly somber, yet sweet, backing track for it. I am so astounded at her work every week, and am so thankful for her.
Speaking of characters, it was the exact opposite for the titular role of the devil. I knew from the on-set that Clarence Leonard was going to be DW Washburn. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I slow danced with him while he was wearing a gorgeous gown last October during The Alone Experience’s Absorption (ALONE is my favorite immersive theater event in the Los Angeles area, and if you are here when they do one, I urge you to attend. Seriously, look how much I have written about them for HorrorBuzz). From there, he appeared in countless thesis films at the university where I work, and paths kept crossing when I would bump into him in the hallways. We chatted a long while about acting, his career, and his love of radio dramas…and that’s when I knew I had to have him. I wrote the role FOR him, and I am so glad he agreed to do it. He played DW with such ease, it was like he was always waiting to do it. Plus, him being a NJ native like myself didn’t hurt, either! (And speaking of ALONE…well…just stay tuned…)
The relationship that formed between DW and Buddy just sort of happened. It wasn’t planned, but over the course of writing the episode, it just clicked into place. I didn’t want it to be thrown into anyone’s face, either, by going “Look, we have a gay couple, aren’t we progressive?!” I HATE when shows do that. Instead, both Clarence and Forrest played it with such subtly and grace that I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I don’t know when, but we WILL be exploring more of their relationship in the future, because damn, I ship them SO hard.
Seriously, though, my nerves were at an all-time high just before we released 4.1. I didn’t think it would go over well, compared to the stories we’ve told in the past, and was so nervous that people would hate it. But instead, people flocked to it, and had so many kind words for, and I quote, “making us laugh one week, and then punching us right in the gut the next” (This is, by far, my favorite review so far).
Part of the reason we released that darker-in-tone Interlude (I Wish You Could Swim) just before Episode 4 was to prepare people that we’re going to be getting a little heavy now and then. I think it was a nice primer for what was to come, and really set people up for the tragedy of what was coming next.
This entire episode was an exercise in something new for us, and we are all really glad everyone enjoyed it. Thank you for all your kind words, your encouragement, and your support. Really, thank you.
Up next is Episode 5, The Spirit of Greed, in which we get back to our main storyline, and learn a bit more about what Jonathan is up against. Think of it as one of the mythology episodes of The X-Files, and you’ll be on the right track.
And after that? Well, we WILL be taking a hiatus when Episode 5 concludes, to catch up on writing, recording, and sleep. We will more than likely be taking the entire month of August off, and returning with the next round of episodes in September. But don’t worry, you have a whole month before that happens.
And now, back to writing the live performance and the next batch of episodes.
Until next time…