ABC’s creepy drama “The Whispers” follows children who, sparked by an imaginary friend, begin committing unthinkable acts. As FBI agent Claire Bennigan (“American Horror Story’s” Lily Rabe) launches an investigation stateside, defense department operative Wes Lawrence (“Revenge’s” Barry Sloane) makes a discovery halfway around the world that drags him into the mystery.
Ahead of the series premiere at 10 p.m. Monday, Sloane discusses his character, supernatural occurrences while filming and the atmosphere of the set.
“The Whispers” airs tonight — what’s it all about?
The first five minutes are quite shocking, in the fact that a young girl endangers her mother by making her fall to a dangerous position, shall we say. She’s doing this because she’s hearing something — a friend, an imaginary friend, or whatever you choose to believe, influencing her to make this decision.
My character is sent to Africa, to Mali, to look at something that’s happened there. It’s a strange, strange geological formation that, certainly, my character’s never seen before. It warrants the Malian government to panic enough to ask other people to get involved, and then we have to see if these two things are linked. Obviously they are, and then we’ll go on a mystery from there.
There’s a lot of interwoven stories and I think it’s a pretty unique story that I’ve never heard before and that was one of the things that attracted me to this subject. It’s not a show that we’re going to try to drag out and make people be frustrated at the end of the season. It’s a wonderful story that unravels week to week and you’re rewarded with something each episode. It’s not like you’re going to get nine episodes in and not know a thing.
In “The Whispers” you play Wes Lawrence, a powerful defense department operative. The role is quite different from your role on “Revenge” as Aiden Mathis. What has that shift been like?
I think it’s important from job to job to try to play something very different and this script and this character was something that intrigued me. Coming off of that, playing someone like Aiden who was a trained killer, there was never really any threat in pretty much every scene I played. I always had the upper hand and, at least behind the scenes, he was never in danger; he was always going to come out on top.
What I like about Wes is he’s an accidental hero. He’s a very smart man, obviously, to get to the level he has within the powers of defense at his age. He’s very clever, very driven, and he’s made the right choices up until this point and the amount of things that go on in this story.
He has so much weight on his shoulders and what intrigued me is how many times can he get up. It’s a bit of a “Rocky” story; it’s like can he get through this, can he deal with this, can he shoulder the burden of these decisions and make the right call? The heroic nature of this man was him trying to stay calm while other people were panicking and I think that takes more bravery than most.
The show has otherworldly elements to it. Do you believe in anything supernatural? Have you had any odd experiences?
We were filming up at Winterview insane asylum in Vancouver and we had a few scares during filming. One of the episodes later in the season, we had a few times on set where the lights would click out or we had sound issues. I think there was some spirit at play while we were filming this.
Given the creepy nature of the show, what is the atmosphere on the set like?
There was a real tension to our filming and that was something that myself and Milo (Ventimiglia) and the other actors like to maintain; a feel around the place. The tension that was very evident throughout every episode of the season really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It was tough filming at times. When we watched it back, we managed to capture some form of that tension on screen and I think that’s going to be evident to people, even if it wasn’t so pleasant to film (laughter).
Do you have a favorite moment from filming thus far?
I think the show really sparks to life around episode five and becomes something quite special, as far as I’m concerned. Some of the performances and the stories and the interactions from that point on I’m incredibly proud of and I’m just anxious for people to get to see them and enjoy what we made.