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Having just released its fourth film into theaters on the Fourth of July, the Purge franchise is far more alive and well than many of the films' villains are by the time the credits roll. It'll soon expand to television for USA's The Purge series, which will introduce a brand new group of characters and troublesome situations. When CinemaBlend visited the set earlier this year, showrunner Tom Kelly talked about diving into the horror genre for the first time, and how the TV show will differentiate itself from the movies.
I watched some of the movies, and what I liked about it was, it's this great concept that sort of puts the audience in that position [of] 'What would you do?' . . . And for me, we wanted to do the show to take it past the movies. As James would say it, the movies are like ten minutes of character and 80 minutes of 'Will they survive the night?' In a ten-hour format, we get to do much more. We really get to delve into character. And one of the ways we do that is through flashbacks. We don't just see our characters on the night of. We get to learn about them and see what in their life led them to their decisions that they're going to make on the night of. So it's been kinda great to dig into character the way the movies aren't afforded the time to do
Tom Kelly hit the nail right on the head there. As fun as the Purge flicks can be on a conceptual level, character development is probably the element that could use the most work overall. But that's not the easiest thing to do for a film that only focuses on specific intervals within a 12-hour time frame, as well as when there are lots of genre-based stunts to showcase. For USA's The Purge, however, the creative team had five or six movies' worth of screentime to play around with, and a lot more main characters to focus on. And Kelly also confirmed that each episode will focus on a different character's flashback away from Purge Night festivities.
These characters won't just be scream queens and action heroes, either. We have Amanda Warren's Jane, a businesswoman who feels the need to purge for the first time in order to advance her stagnant career. For Colin Woodell's mostly moral Rick, becoming pro-Purge could finally be his ticket up the social ladder with the local elite, which causes issues with his anti-Purge wife Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson). Gabriel Chavarria's Miguel is a U.S. Marine who returns home to find his imperiled sister Penelope, played by Jessica Garza. The point here is that these and the TV show's other characters are facing mostly relatable situations and problems that fall somewhere outside traditional horror genre set-ups, and the show will make good use of the flashbacks to build up these stories appropriately.
To that end, showrunner Tom Kelly spoke a bit about how the show will mix its genres.
It's more, at times, a straight drama. You know, we're doing it in a way where we see these people, particularly in flashbacks, that they're just average Americans going through different things in their lives and having to deal with it. It's kind of a hybrid. It's definitely of the franchise very specifically, but is also a way, I think, to sort of expand the franchise. And maybe even hopefully expand the audience.
Now, don't go thinking The Purge TV show is just going to be nothing but straight-faced people being serious about their life problems, eschewing all of the maniacal mayhem that makes the franchise so popular with filmgoers. Tom Kelly assured us that even beyond the more intense and horrific sequences tied to the main plot, every episode will have a selection of moments and scenes that are fairly exclusive to the Purge franchise, such as the randomly ridiculous violence happening in the backgrounds of exterior shots.
While this isn't about being the same or being different, Tom Kelly did talk about how the film franchise's existence in general gives the TV show an automatic hook that opened up some leeway in other areas of the creative process, as well as how the flashbacks will be used to buffer the horror. In his words:
I feel like we have this cool [element] which helps us: it's fucking Purge Night. There's tension by definition, so we felt like we could relax a little bit on the storytelling at times, knowing the audience is still waiting: 'Is someone going to jump out and shoot him in the face right now?' So I hope we use that well to our advantage, where it's tense because of Purge, but there's other stuff going on in the scenes. And I think the flashbacks are, again, if they work they way we want, it's some relief for the audience, too. It's a little more intrigue, like what's happened, and how'd they get here, and then you're back in the night, and anything can happen at any moment.