'666 Park Avenue's' Terry O'Quinn: 'It's getting better every week'

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It's probably not a coincidence that "666 Park Avenue," a new suspense drama premiering Sunday, Sept. 30, on ABC, opens in a glittering New York concert hall where an elegantly dressed audience listens to a classical performance. The orchestra's concertmaster is in the middle of negotiating a tricky violin passage when suddenly the strings of his instrument begin cutting into his fingers, as if dipped in acid. Gritting his teeth in pain and mounting terror, the musician manages to get through the passage as drops of blood fly onto the music pages. In the audience, Gavin Doran ( Terry O'Quinn, "Lost") and his beautiful wife, Olivia ( Vanessa Williams, "Desperate Housewives"), smile enigmatically.

Suffice it to say that violinist's night quickly goes from bad to the worst imaginable, but that sophisticated opening sets the tone for this series set in the Drake, a stately New York high-rise that seems to have a mind of its own. The show doesn't stint on occasional jolts of horror, but "666 Park Avenue" is more interested in inducing a sense of mounting dread, much like "Rosemary's Baby," another horror classic set in an eerie old New York apartment building.

Gavin, a real estate entrepreneur, owns the Drake, where he and Olivia seduce at least some of the residents into entering into infernal bargains to achieve their hearts' desires. Of course, eventually payment comes due, usually in the form of the person's life and/or soul. That's why, as the series opens, there's an opening for a new building manager (the previous one, we are told, recently "moved to a warmer climate"). Enter young couple Jane Van Veen and Henry Martin ( Rachael Taylor, Dave Annable), who jump at the chance to live and work in the opulent world of the Drake. What they don't know is that Gavin and Olivia already are plotting a way to get their hooks into them.

terry-oquinn-666-park-ave-gallery-abc-325.jpgO'Quinn, who won an Emmy for his work on "Lost," admits he isn't a fan of horror himself, but he thinks the stylish chills of this new series may click with viewers.

"I think it feels like a bit of throwback, and the more we shoot, the more it feels that way," he tells Zap2it. "It's getting better every week, I must say. I think that sense [of evoking classic horror of the past] is intentional, and they're doing a really good job of it.

"I've never especially liked being scared or unsettled. To be honest, my favorite things are probably romantic comedies or other light stuff. The occult or supernatural never really appealed to me, but that being said, it's fun to play. But the more possible [horror] is made to seem, the less I want to watch it."

If O'Quinn isn't a horror junkie by nature, "666 Park Avenue" creator and show runner David Wilcox definitely is, fondly recalling such classics as Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting," the Antichrist thriller "The Omen" and, of course, "Rosemary's Baby."

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"Those early horror movies were really the inspiration for doing this," Wilcox says. "The horror genre has been popular for so long. I mean, you also think about 'The Exorcist' and some of Hitchcock's movies. I thought, 'That's how you could make horror work on network television,' where it's really so much more about the psychology of the characters and the subjectivity about the stories of these people who are experiencing the supernatural.

"Everyone has a different barometer for what they find scary, and our show may not be for people who like more gore and things like that, but I think for a TV audience this kind of show delivers thrills and scares and lets people have fun with it, as well as juicy character, 'soap' elements."

The series is nominally based on a book series of the same title by Gabriella Pierce, which was about witchcraft, but Wilcox says he kept only the title and broad supernatural premise for the TV series. O'Quinn says he pointedly asked Wilcox not to give him back story information that's not directly relevant to whatever scene he is playing, so he's still not sure of the exact nature of the eerie relationship that seems to exist between his character and the (living?) hotel.

"It seems to me that there is a symbiotic relationship between the Drake and Gavin," O'Quinn says. "What I don't know yet is who has the upper hand. For me, if I have to make up any part of my story, it's that Gavin doesn't have complete control of this and isn't always aware of the outcome of any given choice or action. Maybe he's following instructions, as it were, or the Drake is the boss."

Wilcox says there's no such thing as a standard episode template for his show.

"I'd love it if every episode kind of felt a little different," he says. "The show is character-driven suspense, with elements of a very sexy soap, in the sense of relationship drama. Every story, although it's episodic, is serving the much larger premise of the show. But we're not going to do 'resident of the week' stories. We're trying to avoid a 'Love Boat' or 'Fantasy Island' model. You'll be meeting residents and other characters who may reappear for multiple episodes. Mainly, we just want to capture the full world of life inside the Drake. And it's a huge building."
Photo/Video credit: ABC