Last month, Robert and Michelle King, creators of the supernatural thriller “Evil,” were anticipating that CBS would announce at its upfront that the show’s COVID-19-delayed second season would be on the network’s fall schedule. Then there was a sudden change in plans: Instead, “Evil” would move to Paramount Plus, ViacomCBS’ rebooted streaming service.
David Stapf, the president of CBS Studios, where the Kings have a production deal, told them it was good news, Michelle King recalls: This way, “Evil” wouldn’t have to wait until the fall, it was a chance to “broaden the audience,” and it would allow them to put the show out “in a premier way.” The Kings are no strangers to Paramount Plus, after all. When “The Good Fight” made its debut in 2017, it was the first original scripted series on what was then called CBS All Access.
“We’re just the silly creatives that are like, ‘OK, guide us along — tell us why this is a good idea!’” Robert King says.
Now, their two shows will premiere within days of each other, with “Evil” Season 2 coming June 20 and the fifth season of “The Good Fight” premiering on June 24.
The switch to Paramount Plus certainly makes sense to the Kings, given “Evil’s” sensibilities — and considering that when the show went to Netflix in October, there was an explosion of excitement on social media. “Everybody, including us, had been saying, ‘Well, we’re sort of doing a streaming show on the network. Isn’t that peculiar?’” Michelle King says.
That was true budgetwise too, because of the show’s visual effects, the creators say. “We were an expensive show for CBS,” according to Robert King.
“Evil” revolves around Catholic Church investigator David Acosta (Mike Colter), a soon-to-be-priest who’s a true believer, and forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), who’s a skeptic. They assess potentially demonic possessions, with a will-they-or-won’t-they twist — and Kristen herself may be, uh, possessed. Moving to Paramount Plus means that the show’s sexual undercurrents can be less subtextual, they can swear, and they’re not, as Robert King puts it, “bound into that 42-minute straitjacket.”
“Creatively, it’s a godsend,” he says.
The Kings assembled the “Evil” writers’ room over Zoom in spring 2020, after production on “The Good Fight” shut down because of COVID. With most of its episodes written because of that early start, “Evil” began shooting its 13-episode season in New York City in the fall.
Despite its plots being driven by, as Robert King puts it, “ghost stories, and stories you would tell around the campfire,” the show will also be informed by current events, as is generally the case in the pair’s projects — though it’s sidestepping the pandemic, for the most part.
There will be a police-focused episode informed by the murder of George Floyd, and David will face racism in the church, they say. And the evil Leland (Michael Emerson) will taunt David, saying, “Why would you want to be part of this racist institution?” according to Michelle King.
The Kings were in the middle of editing Episode 5 when they got the Paramount Plus news, so they’ve re-added scenes they’d cut from the first episodes because of length — and also edited in things “to do with language and sexuality,” Robert King says.
“We had footage that was a little like, ‘Oh fuck, we’ll never get this past standards and practices!’” he continues.
Michelle King says: “We are now editing with Paramount Plus in mind. So it will feel like a streaming show.”
“It’s been tough to do sin with network standards,” she says with a laugh.