Some TV shows are only as good as their premises, so it always helps to have a completely unique and endlessly explorable concept when putting a series together. Just such a broadly explorable idea was built into USA's chaotic TV adaptation of The Purge, which centers on an anti-holiday that labels almost all criminal activity permissible for a 12-hour period. If Purge Night were a real thing, the biggest issue would obviously be the general, rampant murdering that goes down, but there are myriad other details and situations to consider.
CinemaBlend was invited to The Purge's set earlier this year, and I interviewed the bulk of the main cast members, at certain points asking each about the random and weird thoughts they had, both on the set and off, when considering a world where Purge Night was a legitimate event. And there are some pretty intriguing answers to be gleaned here, so let's jump head-on into everyone's responses.
Gabriel Chavarria - Miguel
On The Purge, actor Gabriel Chavarria portrays the incredibly determined Miguel Guerrero, whose season mission is to track down his in-trouble sister. Because he's playing a U.S. Marine, Chavarria had to get into that kind of mindset while filming, and though the character is a bit of a loner, the show features flashbacks depicting Miguel with other soldiers. As the actor put it, he and the other actors wondered a lot about how things would play out in a Purge-friendly world, and it's the military-related ideas that are the most thought-provoking.
I get curious a lot about stuff, honestly. There's a lot of stuff. You know, we're comfortable knowing that the show is over the top, as far as the holiday and stuff. But, if it were to happen -- which I don't think it'll ever happen, but if it were to happen -- there's a lot of questions. . . . What we talked about on the set one time [involved] the class of weapons that are used, that we're allowed on the day. We were [discussing] what if someone broke into a military base or something. Now you got tanks, and 50 cals on Hummers. Because there's no law, and no crime, and that's considered a crime, right? So it's acceptable. So you can go out and break into places, so how does that play? What are the rules?
The various Purge films have taken on a number of different topics and angles, but definitely nothing like the kind of military base takeover that Gabriel Chavarria brought up. I love the idea of a specific group or organization getting the sole focus for a horror project like that, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more action-ready setting than a military base. Chavarria then took it a step further.
But also, let's say it was heavily guarded. Let's say it was a coup, because some general wanted to take out his general with an agenda or whatever. So him and his boys, they gather and they take out [the rest]. But it's the law. It's just one of those questions that's fun to ask, and fun to go into the 'What if?'
Before, Gabriel Chavarria's pitch was just a generic plot about some people taking over a military base, and now it has morphed into a general-gone-rogue revenge tale. Such is the power of The Purge concept.
Hannah Anderson & Colin Woodell - Jenna & Rick Betancourt
Playing the only married couple that viewers are mostly meant to root for on The Purge -- though I know full well that some fans out there probably adore Reed Diamond and Angela Frankie's NFF backers Albert and Ellie Stanton -- Hannah Anderson and Colin Woodell hit it off quite well behind the scenes and developed a fun rapport that helps the believability of their on-screen relationship. And also made for a fun conversation on the set. Jenna and Rick own a real estate design firm together on the show, and when I brought up how real estate markets would fare around Purge Night, here's how they responded.
Colin: Honestly, dude, that's crazy to think about. People saving up for The Purge, so that when people are no longer homeowners...yeah...
Hannah: Insurance. I wonder about Purge insurance. It must be very expensive.
Seriously, the concept of various forms of Purge insurance is enough to derail an normal conversation for hours, and the same goes for discussing how the housing market would look in the days both before and after Purge festivities. Companies would probably be founded dedicated solely to flipping Purge-desecrated homes. Perhaps gated communities would group together to keep Purgers outside the boundaries. And so on.
Now, when it comes to actually taking part in Purge Night festivities, both Anderson and Woodell questioned whether or not they would have the motivation or the chutzpah to go out and have an "adventure."
Hannah: I wonder, like, I've never actually stolen anything in my life. I tried to once steal an envelope. Not even the card, but just an envelope from like a drug mart or something. And I couldn't even get myself out the door, because I turned beet-red and my breathing was [fake gasps]. I have a pretty intense moral compass when it comes to that kind of stuff, so I'd be curious how I would behave in that world. It'd be tempting to do something illegal.
Colin: Yeah, but even with that, there's the price of having to leave your home. Which, that is scary, you know, stepping out of your front door on Purge Night sounds terrifying. But now, there's no person that I despise that much that I'd need to do anything drastic like that. But you know, maybe a little stealing wouldn't kill me or anything.
So if anyone is wondering, you'll probably see Hannah Anderson out and about if Purge Night enters into existence, while Colin Woodell will likely stay indoors, possibly going out to take advantage of a five-finger discount somewhere.
Amanda Warren - Jane
With roles on shows such as The Leftovers, Law & Order: SVU and NCIS: New Orleans (to name a few), actress Amanda Warren is often portrayed as a generous and providing character. But The Purge's Jane Barbour does not exactly share those characteristics on a broad scale. She's trying to achieve something through more nefarious means that only become available on Purge Night, but never looks very comfortable with her own decisions. Perhaps with a similar headspace present, Warren had nothing but frightful words to say about the possibility of Purge Night becoming a reality.
I think about how it might be in American society, and the fact that we are the leading country of the free world, how that would affect our global community. When I'm on set, when I'm reading the script, when I'm preparing or practicing lines for rehearsal the next day and to film -- the scariest part for me is during these times, anything is possible. The realm of possibility, anything is within reach. We are such a fractured global community right now with such extreme thoughts and extreme ideas, that this story definitely provokes people to think how possible things are in our world. I think that alone, without getting specific into different work forces within America, within the world, I think that's scary enough and horrific enough and chilling to the bone. And it shakes me to my core when I think about it, and when I'm working on it at home and here. It helps that everyone is super kind, respectful, fun and professional, where we can have a chuckle in between takes.
Without giving much thought to the incidental and offbeat side of a Purge-stricken America, Amanda Warren had a far more dour take on the prospect. Which, for all intents and purposes, is probably the more objectively sensible way to look at it. Since, you know, Purge Night is fucking horrifying. So here's hoping that the actress' worries are for naught, and that any unrest currently happening in the country fizzles out long before legalized murder becomes a thing.
Lili Simmons - Lila
Lili Simmons' Lila Stanton doesn't share much in common with Amanda Warren's Jane Barbour, and the two actress' responses couldn't have been more different, either. When I asked Simmons about the real world details she was curious about in the Purge universe, she told me this.
The funeral business is probably booming. . . . Security companies armoring your houses, all that stuff to keep out the bad guys.
Indeed. There is probably an offshoot sequel to be made that tells a Wolf of Wall Street-style story about one or more young entrepreneurs who make billions by taking advantage of Purge-related economics with warehouse-sized funeral homes and giant security companies. Maybe just import Patrick Bateman from American Psycho into this universe, and have him do it. Hmm, I may have taken this too far.
Lili Simmons also talked about how she would probably handle things if she happened to live in a world where Purge Night was as annual as Christmas. And she had a sense of humor about it.
And I think if I were to have a Purge Night, I'd either hide or I'd go and steal some shit, I dunno. [laughs] Go 'shopping.' Maybe I would jaywalk. Break that law. 'Guess what? I'm walking.'
What do you think the world would be like with Purge Night happening once a year? Tons of jaywalkers, right? Let us know in the comments, and tune in for new episodes every Tuesday night on USA at 10:00 p.m. ET. And if you're in need of something more lighthearted to watch in your downtime, head to our fall TV premiere schedule for all the other big hits and future classics.