Q&A with USA’s ‘The Purge’ at San Diego Comic 2018

When it comes to pop-ups, The Purge franchise easily won San Diego Comic Con. Walking down Tony Gwynn Drive looking directly at the Padres’ Petco Park, there looks to be your average run of the mill party store built into the stadium. When you look a little closer, you notice the only items to buy are items to help you commit crimes. Visitors received purge dollars to buy everything from gasoline barrels, razor wire, to your favorite purge merch.

The first trailer for the upcoming 10-episode event on USA dropped at Comic Con. (See Below). We caught up with the cast, director and producers to see what they would do on purge night and to dig a little deeper into their role on The Purge TV show. The series premieres this Fall.

Anthony Hemingway – Director – Chill

Sling TV – You’ve had directorial experiences with uniquely American crime stories, Tupac and O.J. as well. How did working with those crime stories influenced you in your directorial role here?

I think they’re like the neighbors to all of us really, and even to the characters that we explore within this narrative, on this platform. We all have something to learn from each other and I think that I like to say “Don’t judge a book by its cover. As we get into this world of perception with no time to react or make a perception. We’re just quick to make a judgment or a decision or choices.

I think this has allowed even myself to get lost in a place of challenging my own judgment and just continuing to kind of see someone, respect someone, be open to rid of ourselves of what we are forced into because of our social climate currently. I think we’re in a place where if we don’t act or learn or change, this is an example of what can happen. I learn from everything I do. I love the ability and opportunities to continue to find my contribution, what I do as a filmmaker and an artist. This is just adding to the fabric of what I hope to leave as a legacy.

Gabriel Chavarria – Miguel – I would not purge. I would just hunker down. You know what I would do, actually?  I would like be like the cop in our show. He’s a great character and he does a great thing. Let’s leave it as that. Leave that as a teaser.

Sling – You play a character US Marine in The Purge, how did you get into the mentality of a military serviceman?

I have been fortunate to be part of projects in the past that have to do with the military so I brought that with me approaching this role. This stuff happens throughout purge night, so we pick up and go right at the beginning of the purge night, so we get right into it. You get to see Miguel’s Marine skills.

Every project is different. Everything is different every time you step into a new production. The most exciting thing about approaching this role, I knew as I was reading the first couple scripts I knew he would go through some crazy stunts. It’s awesome, it’s great.

Sling – You did your own stunts?! You’re a modern day Tom Cruise!

Shout out to Tom Cruise!  It’s very physically demanding, for sure. There’s a lot of depth in all the characters. Our creators, writers did a good job of creating these characters, so I think the audience will get emotionally connected to them. We do a really cool thing like a flashback with the show so we really dive into these characters to see how and why they are in the situation now just before they start this purge.

Sling – How did you take the past movies as inspiration for this part?

I saw the first one and I thought it was very cool, it was different. I caught up with the rest of them and they just kept getting better and better. With the purge, it’s perfect for a television show because you get to really dive into the full hour of the night and you get to tell a story from all kinds of different angles and you get 10 shows to do it.

Fiona Dourif – Cult Leader: Good Leader Tavis – Truth be told, I wouldn’t ever hurt anybody.  I feel really bad eating industrialized meat.  What would I do? You know what I would do, I would rob like finance folks in Manhattan. I’d rob the bad guy.

Sling – You played an assassin in another role. Were you able to apply any of that background to your role in The Purge?

I played Bart an assassin on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. There’s not a lot of crossover here except that both these roles were written for men and when I was cast, all of the pronouns were written as male and they had to change them.

Do you know why that was the case and then you got a part? 

I don’t know if I would give myself the credit, but it’s the creators and the writers opening it up to “What would it be like if they were cast as a woman?” It’s the more interesting roles for me, somebody who’s so intensely not defined by my sexuality or by a man at all. Both those characters are not trying to be sexy, I’ll tell you that.

I didn’t have to change very much, which is interesting. I am an ambitious woman. I’m not a caregiver for anybody in my personal life. I think it’s how society views women is shifting, as opposed to what I needed to do to shift.

How did you relate to your character?

The Good Leader Tavis a passionate benevolent woman of faith who is convincing teenagers to kill themselves on Purge night. She’s a true believer and all I did was watch a lot of preaching. If I was really, really convinced that something was real, to try to get people to do what I knew was right. It was really scary, because they’re like, can you be more charismatic?  I’m like “This is what you got!”

Sounds like you pulled that from a very real life experience, even though this seems sensationalized. Can you expound on that a little bit?

My mother was a deeply convicted woman. She was kind of a psychic and people who worked for her that were prepared for the end of the world at one point. My mother was a very smart, wonderful passionate woman, so I think I had a little of my mom in this.

Tom Kelly – Executive Producer/ Showrunner – Bank Heist, I want to steal money that’s insured so no one really gets hurt now do they?  We have four children for which to pay college education.

Sling –  What do you want to accomplish in a TV series that you couldn’t accomplish in a movie?

Starting my writing career as a novelist, I look at movies as short stories and TV series as novels. I’ve never written short stories but I’ve written three novels. What’s attractive about this, it’s such a beautifully pure premise, Purge. It’s kind of genius, because you can tell 1,000 different stories based on the premise. I felt with this as opposed to movies, movies are 10 minutes a character and 80 minutes where they survive the night.

With the series, because we have 10 hours, it takes place over that same one night, but we get to drop back with flashbacks and explore who our characters and what in the past informed their decisions they make on the night they occur. It’s a way to make the characters even more relatable than you ever could in a movie. They’re in your living room now as opposed to on the movie screen. I think it’s been a great opportunity and I think we’re doing it in a way that’s respectful to the fans of the movie franchise. I really feel like this will expand the audience because we get into a lot more into the characters than a movie allows you.

Amanda Warren – Jane – To keep my checking and savings account at a particular limit which I would keep to myself.

Sling – How did you prepare for this character who is in the finance world who has hit a glass ceiling letting it affect her decisions on the night of the purge?  

Jane’s a young Ivy league educated woman who’s driven and is super passionate about what she does. And who has advanced in a unique way where I was wondering when reading the script why she hasn’t advanced as far in title at Writer Corp. She finds a way to remedy that situation with her idea of being to hire a purge assassin.

I started with finding where she and I overlap. Which is we’re both hard workers. Which I find especially in the American work force that applies to any and all of us. That was a great place to start, it was a strong platform. And the writing was there. Tom Kelly’s writers are pretty solid.

Yeah the Purge was a fun thing to do as a show because the content of the Purge in the moves – & the moves are very plot driven. So it was fun to have 10 hours to say how the behavior changes during a purge and by having 10 hours to do that we got to explore people’s behavior, as opposed to just their actions, which are largely what the movie supports.

Lex Scott Davis – Nya from the prequel film The First PurgeI would hide out in the basement of a grocery store so I could snack.

Sling – You played Toni Braxton in a film which is a very historical role. The premise of The Purge can be sensationalized. How do you relate those roles? How do you ground The Purge, kind of like you did with Toni?

I was fortunate enough to be involved with The purge that was already grounded with the writing. What James Monaco did was give us the opportunity to know these characters before this wacky holiday existed. So we’re figuring it out along with the audience, so it wasn’t much for us to reach for in terms of keeping it grounded. These are just average folks in this neighborhood. They want the best for their community.

I play Nya, so she’s a little bit more ahead of what most of her peers are aware of what’s going on with the NFFA. She’s really trying to make her peers aware of what’s really going on which is driving the lower income community into participating in this crazy night. It didn’t exist for these characters, so it’s already naturally grounded.

I relate to Naya in so many ways. Just fundamentally the fact that she wants to help everyone she can reach, she wants to help her family and friends. It touches me, I hold that very dear. Especially people who are not strong enough to defend themselves, too young or too old to defend themselves. Just to be the voice of reason for everyone, to stand up for people who may not even understand what’s happening to them. She’s very aware and very intuitive and she’s very relatable.

Sling – What excites you about your movie The First Purge, going to a TV show?  It sounds like you get to expand the narrative.

I am a huge fan of The Purge series beyond me being in it. To hear there is a show, I am so excited. I am going to be tuning in just because I want to see where these characters go. It’s 10 years later and I am aware that some of these characters have lost family in my purge night. That’s very interesting for me to see how James takes into the writing and how we stretch it out over 10 episodes.

Jason Blum – Executive Producer – I’d have to want to steal something from somebody who did something wrong to me to get them back.

Sling TV – You’ve won Emmys for your work on TV movies, how did that experience help you adapt The Purge movies into a show?

Yeah the Purge was a fun thing to do as a show because the content of the Purge in the movies. The movies are very plot driven. So it was fun to have 10 hours to say how the behavior changes during a purge and by having 10 hours to do that we got to explore people’s behavior, as opposed to just their actions, which are largely what the movie supports.