Review: ‘Sylvie’s Love,’ starring Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha

December 29, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha in “Sylvie’s Love” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

“Sylvie’s Love”

Directed by Eugene Ashe

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City and Detroit from 1957 to the mid-1960s, the dramatic film “Sylvie’s Love” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people and a few Latinos) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A young woman who’s engaged to be married meets and falls in love with a jazz musician who doesn’t meet her mother’s approval because he comes from a lower social class.

Culture Audience: “Sylvie’s Love″ will appeal primarily to people who like sweeping romantic dramas reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Regé-Jean Page and Courtney Leonard in “Sylvie’s Love” (Photo by Nicola Goode/Amazon Studios)

“Sylvie’s Love” is a perfect movie to watch if you’re in the mood for a rollercoaster ride of a love story that’s told in the epic and lush way that romantic movies used to be made in the 1950s and early 1960s. That’s the period of time when most of “Sylvie’s Love” takes place, and it’s from the perspective of African Americans. There are expected moments of passionate romance and crushing heartbreak, but there are also social issues in the story that have to do with race, class and gender roles in society.

Written and directed by Eugene Ashe, “Sylvie’s Love” shows the romantic saga between Sylvie Johnson (played by Tessa Thompson) and Robert Holloway (played by Nnamdi Asomugha) that begins when they meet in New York City in the summer of 1957, when they’re both in the early 20s. Robert is the saxophonist in the Dickie Brewster Quartet, a semi-successful jazz group that has been gigging around the city but doesn’t have a record contract yet. Sylvie works part-time in her father’s record store, but she is expected to eventually become a wife and homemaker.

Robert first sees Sylvie through the window of Mr. Jay’s Records, a record store owned by her father (played by Lance Reddick), who’s only identified as Mr. Jay in the movie. She’s watching TV while sitting behind the counter at the store. Robert looks at Sylvie in the way that viewers can tell that if it’s not love at first sight, then it’s at least major attraction at first sight. Robert sees a Help Wanted sign in the store window, takes the sign, and uses it as an excuse to strike up a conversation with the woman behind the store counter.

Sylvie is a TV fanatic and spends as much time watching TV as she can. And so, when Robert walks into the store, she doesn’t pay much attention to him. He browses through some records and asks her a question that she barely answers because she’s focused on watching TV. When he goes to the counter with an album, he asks how much the record would cost if he got an employee discount. He holds up the Help Wanted sign to indicate that he wants to work there.

She tells him that the store actually doesn’t need to hire any new employees. Sylvie explains that her image-conscious mother wanted the sign in the store so that if people who knew the Johnson family saw Sylvie working in the store, they wouldn’t think that the family was using Sylvie as free labor and that the family could afford to hire new employees. It’s the first indication that Sylvie’s mother Eunice Johnson (played by Erica Gimpel) is very class-conscious and obsessed with appearances. Not surprisingly, Eunice runs a finishing school for girls to teach them decorum and etiquette so they will be “proper” ladies for society.

Even though Sylvie told Robert that the store didn’t need to hire any new employees, when Sylvie’s father meets Robert, he takes a liking to the young man and hires him on the spot. Sylvie’s father tells Robert that he too was a jazz saxophonist, but he gave up his dreams of being a professional musician because of the financial obligations of taking care of a family. Robert has an easygoing, respectful manner, and it isn’t long before Sylvie is charmed by him too.

On one of Robert’s first days on the job, Sylvie accidentally locks the two of them in the store’s basement. While they wait for her father to arrive to unlock the door, they start talking about music, and she recommends that Robert get Sonny Rollins’ “Way Out West” album. Robert is impressed by how much Sylvie knows about music, but she tells him that her biggest passion is television. She says that her dream job would be to work as a TV producer.

Sylvie and Robert are showing signs that they’re very attracted to each other, but there’s one big problem: She’s engaged to another man. Sylvie proudly tells Robert that her fiancé Lacy Parker (played by Alano Miller) is the son of doctor and that she met Lacy at a cotillion. Robert doesn’t seem that impressed and he doesn’t know what a cotillion is until Sylvie explains it to him.

As time goes on, it becomes clear that this engagement to a doctor’s son is making Sylvie’s mother Eunice happier than it’s making Sylvie. Not once does Sylvie say that she’s in love with Lacy. She seems to be pressured into the marriage because Lacy is considered to be a “good catch” and Sylvie likes Lacy enough to commit to marrying him. Lacy is away traveling for a certain period of time, which is why Lacy doesn’t meet Robert, and Lacy isn’t around when Sylvie and Robert start to fall in love.

Robert tries to hide his disappointment that Sylvie is engaged, but he still invites her to see him perform with his band at a local club. Sylvie goes to the show with her cousin Mona (played by Aja Naomi King), who is also Sylvie’s best friend. Sylvie and Mona are enthralled by what they see during this performance, since the Dickie Brewster Quartet is very talented, with Robert being a standout player.

The other members of the Dickie Brewster Quartet are drummer Chico Sweetney (played by Regé-Jean Page), who is Robert’s extroverted best friend; bass player Buzz Walcott (played by Courtney Leonard), who has a somewhat goofy personality; and egotistical band leader Dickie Brewster, who is the group’s pianist and chief songwriter. Chico and Mona have an immediate flirtation, and they begin dating soon after they meet.

Sylvie has led a sheltered life and has never really experienced going to nightclubs. She’s intrigued and excited, but she also becomes acutely aware that she might not fit in with the fast party crowd that frequents the nightclub. One of the club regulars is a woman named Connie (played by Raquel Horsford), who’s about 10 years older than Sylvie.

When Connie sees Robert and Sylvie sitting at a table together and talking after the show, Connie makes it clear that she’s interested in Robert. Connie cattily tells Robert that he can hang out with her when he’s done babysitting. Connie says it loud enough for Sylvie to hear. Sylvie looks slightly embarrassed. When Robert walks Sylvie home, they kiss for the first time.

During that fateful summer, Sylvie and Robert spend more time together, and they become more attracted to each other. They have double dates with Mona and Chico. Sylvie tells Robert how much she admires his talent and encourages him in his musical endeavors. Sylvie tells Robert, “I’ve never met anyone who plays music like you do.”

Robert, who is originally from Detroit, opens up about his life and tells Sylvie that he used to work on the assembly line of an auto plant. But he decided to take a big risk and quit his job to move to New York City and try to make it as a professional musician. His mother died two years ago, and he tells Sylvie: “When my mother passed, I realized that life’s too short to waste time with things you don’t absolutely love.”

Robert and Sylvie’s budding romance hits a jealousy snag when he invites her to a party attended by a lot of his nightclub friends, which include a sassy woman named Carmen (played by Eva Longoria), who runs the boarding house where the the band members live. At the party, Sylvie sees Robert dancing with Connie and gets jealous. Sylvie leaves the party in a huff, and then Sylvie and Robert have an argument out in the street,

Robert tells Sylvie that she doesn’t have a right to judge about “cheating” since she’s engaged to another man. Sylvie says that since Robert invited her to the party, she wanted to at least feel like she was special. Then they both admit that they want to feel special to each other. And not long after that, Sylvie and Robert become lovers.

During the time that Robert and Sylvie begin dating, things start to progress in Robert’s career. A wealthy French socialite named Countess Genevieve (played by Jemima Kirke), who also goes by the name Gertie, has taken an interest in the Dickie Brewster Quartet. She recommends them for gigs in Paris, invests money in buying them new clothes, and eventually becomes the group’s official manager.

Just as Robert and Sylvie’s romance is heating up, it comes to an abrupt halt when the Dickie Brewster Quartet gets offered a series of performances in Paris. Robert invites Sylvie to go with him to Paris, but Sylvie decides that it’s best if she and Robert go their separate ways permanently. (This isn’t spoiler information since it’s in the movie’s trailer.)

And there’s another reason for why Sylvie breaks up with Robert, but she keeps it a secret from many people, including Robert. She doesn’t see him or communicate with him again until 1962, five years after they broke up, when she unexpectedly finds out that Robert is back in New York City to record an album. Sylvie is now married to Lacy, they have a 5-year-old daughter named Michelle (played by Lotus Plummer), and Sylvie has been working as an assistant producer for a TV series called “The Lucy Wolper Cooking Show.”

Sylvie loves her job, and her producer boss Kate Spencer (played by Ryan Michelle Bathe) is a supportive mentor to Sylvie. The movie’s comic relief is provided by the cooking show’s host Lucy Wolper (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey), who’s prim and polished on TV, but in real life she has a bawdy sense of humor. Even though Sylvie is very happy in her career, her marriage is having problems because the job requires her to work long hours, which irritates Sylvie’s husband Lacy, who is a sales executive for an unnamed company.

Lacy doesn’t have a problem with Sylvie working outside the home, as long as it doesn’t affect her ability to have meals ready for him at his expected time, or interfere with plans he makes when he wants Sylvie to entertain clients in their home or go to his work-related events. And so, when Sylvie sees Robert again, it triggers thoughts and feelings about their romance. Meanwhile, Robert has been growing tired of being creatively stifled by Dickie, so he contemplates an offer from record company executive Sid Shuur (played by John Magaro) to launch a solo career as a musician/songwriter.

What happens in the story at times veers into melodrama, but it’s entirely realistic. The beauty of this movie is in the credible and almost poetic way that Thompson and Asomugha portray the love between Sylvie and Robert. It’s an emotionally difficult journey fraught with uncertainty over the future and circumstances that can keep them apart. But it’s also a story of emotional fulfillment and chasing happiness where you can find it.

And even though the romance in “Sylvie’s Love” began out of infidelity, writer/director Ashe doesn’t make this a cheap and tawdry story. Rather, the movie demonstrates the hard choices that people sometimes have to make when they fall in love with the right person at the wrong time. Viewers will feel invested in finding out that happens to Sylvie and Robert because these characters are relatable on many levels.

Everything about “Sylvie’s Love” is a glorious ode to the era in which the movie take place. The direction, music, cinematography, costume design and production design are among the technical elements that fit this movie like a snug, elbow-length satin glove. However, you don’t have to be a retro movie fan to enjoy “Sylvie’s Love,” which has timeless themes about love and self-identity. It’s not a perfect film, but it perfectly captures the emotions of a complicated romance.

Amazon Prime Video premiered “Sylvie’s Love” on December 23, 2020.

2019 Tribeca TV Festival: recap and reviews

September 16, 2019

by Carla Hay

The third annual Tribeca TV Festival (which took place September 12 to September 15 in New York City) once again offered a diverse mix of programming representing various TV genres. This year, the entire festival took place at the Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City. In most cases, a new episode of a show premiered at the festival, and there was a post-screening Q&A with stars from the show and at least one executive producer. The event also featured a 25th anniversary reunion of “Friends” executive producers who curated two episodes from the classic sitcom. There were also “Tribeca Talks” celebrity conversations with Emmy-winning actor James Spader (who was interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg) and comedian Hisan Minhaj.

At the festival, I saw the first-episode premieres of two new series: The comedy “First Wives Club” (which launches on the  BET+  streaming service on September 19) and the crime-drama “Evil,” which debuts on CBS on September 26, 2019.

“First Wives Club” Review

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

The “First Wives Club” show is the TV version of the 1996 comedy film that starred Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three wives getting revenge on their ex-husbands, who dumped them for other women. The movie was rated PG, and the TV series (whose showrunner is “Girls Trip” co-writer Tracy Oliver) is definitely for mature audiences, since the show has nudity and explicit language that can be seen in R-rated movies. People will inevitably compare the TV show to the movie (which are both set in New York City), so here’s a helpful summary of the similarities and the differences:

Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in “The First Wives Club” movie (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

In the movie, the three women (who have known each other since their college days) are reunited in the beginning of the story because of the suicide of their college pal Cynthia Swann Griffin (played by Stockard Channing), who’s been depressed that her ex-husband married a much-younger woman. Keaton played Annie MacDuggan Paradis, an intellectual, super-organized type who likes to pretend that things are going better in her life than they really are. Midler played Brenda Morelli Cushman, the loud-mouthed humorous friend who’s still very bitter over her divorce. Hawn played Elise Eliot Atchison, an Oscar-winning actress who drinks heavily and has become so insecure about her looks that she’s addicted to plastic surgery.

From the beginning of the movie, Brenda is already divorced from her sleazy ex-husband Morton Cushman (played by Dan Hedaya), an electronics-retail businessman who’s gotten engaged to his gold-digger mistress Shelly Stewart (played Sarah Jessica Parker). Brenda and Morton have a teenage son, who’s often embarrassed by Brenda’s blunt attitude. Annie has a better relationship with her own child: She and Aaron have a young, adult lesbian daughter named Chris (played by Jennifer Dundas), who helps Annie get revenge on Aaron.

The movie shows the breakup of Annie’s and Elise’s marriages. Annie’s ad-executive husband Aaron (played by Stephen Collins) leaves her for Annie’s therapist Leslie Rosen (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Elise’s movie-producer husband Bill (played by Victor Garber) has been cheating on her with ditzy actress Phoebe LaVelle (played by Elizabeth Berkley), who’s young enough to be his daughter. Annie and Brenda gave up their careers to become housewives and stay-at-home mothers, so their divorces have a different type of identity crisis than Elise’s divorce, since Elise has no children and still maintained her career throughout her marriage.

Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

In the TV show, Ryan Michelle Bathe is Ari Montgomery, the counterpart to Keaton’s Annie MacDuggan Paradis. Ari is an attorney who has given up her law practice to become the campaign manager for her senator husband David (played by Mark Tallman). In the first episode of the series, Ari and David are having problems in their marriage (he’s become bored and uninterested in her), but Ari is still projecting an image to the world that her life is perfect. Although Ari and David’s kids are mentioned, they are not seen in this episode. However, in the Q&A after the screening, it was revealed that Ari and David have a lesbian daughter (whom Buteau called “gender-bending”) who first appears in the show’s third episode. The daughter’s name is Versace, and she’s played by Tara Pacheco. At the Q&A, Oliver declined to elaborate on what Versace’s storyline is in the show.

Michelle Buteau of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET

Michelle Buteau plays Bree Washington, an orthopedic surgeon who is the counterpart to Midler’s Brenda Morelli Cushman. In the first episode, viewers see that Bree is separated from her businessman husband Gary (played by RonReaco Lee) because she found out that he cheated on her. (The other woman, who is described as a one-night stand, is not seen in this episode.) Buteau, who’s also a stand-up comedian in real life, seems to have some of the best lines in the show. In one scene that has the three friends on a high-rise window-washing platform (in a nod to a similar scene in the movie), Bree yells, “Bitch, you got us out here like brown-tittied Spider-Men!”

Jill Scott of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

Jill Scott plays Hazel Rachelle, a fading R&B star who is the counterpart to Hawn’s Elise Eliot Atchison. Hazel isn’t as obsessed with her looks as Elise is, but Hazel is worried about her career and getting older in an industry that prefers young artists. Just like Elise, Hazel works closely with her husband, so when their marriage ends messily, her career is also in jeopardy. Hazel’s cheating husband is Derek Ellsworth (played by Malik Yoba), the head of her record company, and he’s been having a not-so-secret affair with a sultry young diva named Stella Bentley (played by Tasie Lawrence), whom he’s been grooming to replace Hazel as his next big hitmaker. The episode’s first big emotional meltdown scene comes when Hazel finds out about his infidelity, and storms into a recording studio to confront Derek. And yes, things get thrown, and things get broken.

Jill Scott in”First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

The main difference in the comedy styles of the movie and the TV show is that the comedy in the TV show is less broad and more rooted in reality, which is why there’s so much adult humor in the show. And in a switch from how most adult-oriented TV shows portray sex scenes, in “First Wives Club,” the men, not the women, are the ones who are shown naked (backsides, not full frontal), at least in the first episode. That might be because “First Wives Club” show has a female gaze, since the majority of the show’s writers and directors are women.

In one hilarious bedroom scene, Ari and David have unsatisfying sex, but David thinks he’s an amazing lover. In the episode’s other sex scene, Bree takes home a hunky bartender named Jesus (played by Angel Garet) after he flirts with her at the nightclub where he works. Showing the sexual needs of the three main characters in the TV series is a big contrast from the movie, where the three main characters do not have any sex scenes, and only one of them (Elise) seems interested in dating again after her marriage ends.

Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau, RonReaco Lee, Mark Tallman and Tracy Oliver at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

At the Q&A, Bathe said she can’t watch her sex scene in the first episode: “I still haven’t seen it. I closed my eyes!” Tallman replied, “You’re really good in it. I’m just embarrassing.” Buteau said she was happy to represent for “thick” women: “My husband could not be more proud. As a size 18 broad, no one [on a TV show] is like, ‘Oh, go make out and open your legs.’ You’re usually [cast as] the best friend. Body positivity, all the motherfuckin’ way! Let’s go!”

Oliver also talked about how the show breaks convention by casting two “thick” women in leading roles: “I remember on day one of shooting the pilot [episode], Jill [Scott] came up to me and said, “Thank you for having two thick girls in your cast. I’ve never actually had that happen’ … Let’s expand the definition of what beauty is, and not just make this all about skinny women, and really diversify what everyone looks like.”

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Jill Scott in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

A previous attempt to make a TV version of “The First Wives Club” for the TV Land network fizzled in 2016. Vanessa Lachey, Megan Hilty and Alyson Hannigan had been cast as the stars of the show, which was going to be set in San Francisco. After the blockbuster success of 2017’s “Girls Trip,” Oliver was asked to do the TV version of “The First Wives Club,” which was going to be on the Paramount Network before the show moved to the BET+ streaming service.

Oliver said at the Q&A that in an industry where people have to beg for work and have to deal with constant rejections, being given this opportunity as a first-time showrunner “almost never happens.” She added that she was just as surprised when she faced no objections to her requirement that people of color would be the stars of the show: “That was the one opportunity I’ve had where I said what my parameters were up front, and they agreed to it.”

Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

Another big change from the movie to the TV show is that there is no fourth friend who commits suicide in the beginning of the story. During the post-screening Q&A, Oliver explained: “With movies, you have the luxury of time. With a half-hour pilot [episode], if we’re laughing after a death within 10 minutes, it’s a little weird.” Instead, what brings the three friends back together is Hazel’s scandal-plagued and very messy divorce.

As for scenes from the movie that made it into the TV show, there are two memorable scenes that were mentioned in the Q&A. In the movie, Donald Trump’s first ex-wife Ivana has a cameo playing herself, and she gives this divorce advice: “Don’t get mad. Get everything.” (That became the tag line for the movie.) In the TV show, the famous ex-wife who delivers that line is Shaunie O’Neal, ex-wife of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. The movie also has a memorable scene with the three women, dressed all in white, singing Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Oliver said that the TV show also has a “You Don’t Own Me” scene, but she didn’t want to spill any more details:  “I can’t say anything about that, but what I will say is that we do our own White Party and a version of that [song] in the show.”

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

One of the best things about the show is that the chemistry between the three main characters seems very natural, not forced. And if the camaraderie looks genuine on screen, that’s because the three women have become friends in real life. Oliver says it was a stroke of luck, because before the show began filming, “They never actually did a chemistry read together, which is a disastrous way to ever do a show about friends … I don’t know how it happened, but they loved each other immediately.”

Buteau said of the trio: “We’re all fire signs. We’re all only children. We all have so much in common. We’ve all had to fight for our place in whatever Hollywood was giving us. For this all-inclusive experience, it was like showing up to work with smiles every day. Also, working with boss-ass bitches who are moms and get stuff done, I follow you!”

BET+ will premiere “First Wives Club” on September 19, 2019.

“Evil” Review

Mike Colter and Katja Herbers in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

Husband-and-wife TV showrunners Robert King and Michelle King, who created the Emmy-winning hit “The Good Wife” (as well as the spinoff “The Good Fight”), have another potential hit with the crime drama “Evil.” Just like most of the Kings’ recent TV series, “Evil” features a complex woman in the lead role, and the series explores themes that have to do with ethics, ambition, and gray areas of morality.

In “Evil,” Katja Herbers plays Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical female psychologist who teams up with priest-in-training David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) and carpenter Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate the unexplained mysteries uncovered by the Catholic Church. Kristen and David naturally clash in the way they investigate—she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and he does (which might remind people of the male/female investigator relationship in “The X-Files”)—and it wouldn’t be a King show without sexual tension. It’s revealed in the first episode that Kristen, who’s married with four young daughters, is sexually attracted to David, who has a colorful background as a world traveler and former war photographer. Kristen’s husband is frequently away from home, which explains why she’s feeling lonely. Because David is studying to become a priest (in other words, he’s preparing to lead a celibate life), it obviously adds a layer of tension to the “will they or won’t they hook up” subplot that the show is clearly setting up as an ongoing issue between Kristen and David.

Mike Colter, Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

The first episode of “Evil” is a little overstuffed with villains, and rushes through several things in order to pack in numerous plot developments, but the good news for crime-thriller fans is that this show definitely has plenty of scares and suspense. Without giving away any spoilers, the three villains introduced in the first episode are:

  • A demon named George (played by Marti Matulis), who looks like something out of the “Insidious” movie series, and who taunts Kristen in what she believes are her nightmares.
  • A suspected serial killer named Orson LeRoux , who is in jail while on trial and is repeatedly interviewed by Kristen and David. (Shades of “The Silence of the Lambs.”)
  • A mysterious creep named Leland Townsend (played by Michael Emerson, the former “Lost” and “Person of Interest” actor who’s made a career out of playing mysterious creeps), who gleefully commits all sorts of mayhem.

Somehow, these villains are all tied in to an enigmatic group of evildoers called The 60.

Katja Herbers and Michael Emerson in “Evil” (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS)

Kristen’s therapist, Dr. Boggs (played by Kurt Fuller), is also introduced in the first episode. Fans of these types of shows can speculate that this character probably isn’t what he first appears to be. In other words, can Dr. Boggs really be trusted? We’ll have to wait and see. At the post-screening Q&A, “Evil” executive producer Robert King hinted at Boggs’ dark side, by saying that Boggs has “problems.”

There’s no shortage of real-life supernatural investigations to inspire stories for this show, so if “Evil” is a hit, it could go for years without running out of ideas. Expect to see many scenes of “possessed” people in this show, but Robert King also said don’t expect the show to be “all exorcisms, all the time.” “Evil” will also push some emotional buttons when it comes to debates over religion and spirituality.

Overall, “Evil” is one of the better-quality new shows being offered on broadcast TV this year. Some of the scenes are so terrifying, that “Evil” looks like it could also be on a cable network such as AMC (home of “The Walking Dead”) or FX (home of “American Horror Story”).

Katja Herbers and Mike Colter in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

At the post-screening Q&A, Michelle King said that, just like the female and male lead characters in “Evil,” she and husband Robert have very different beliefs when it comes to evil: “We don’t see the roots of evil in the same way. Robert typically thinks it comes through something religious, something demonic. I’m much more likely to jump to the psychological or the scientific.”

Robert King added, “When you look around and see some of the evil going on in politics or whatever, you kind of think there’s something going beyond …. what science can explain. When you see what’s going on with racism in this country, there’s something that holds people [to racism], and I don’t think it’s all in genes.”

“Evil” executive producers Robert King and Michelle King at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Robert King said that “Evil” will include a lot of timely social topics. For example, in the show’s sixth episode, Leland grooms a male incel loner to possibly become a mass murderer. “If you’re not writing about that today,” said Robert King,”I don’t know if you’re awake, because you’re watching what’s going on with lone gunmen [who commit mass murders], how people are creating communities around anger, frustration, bitterness, racism.”

Herbers shared how she develops the character of Kristen Bouchard: “I work on intuition, and I go with what’s on the page. The scripts are absolutely incredible.” She also added that she works off of the flow of her fellow actors, but she’s not a Method actor: “I’m not one of those people who needs to go into solitary confinement … I did have to study psychology for about a year. I have very little knowledge of the Catholic Church.”

“Evil” co-stars Mike Colter and Katja Herbers at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Colter commented on his David Acosta character: “I think he is a work in progress. He’s trying to achieve something that few people can, and be happy in that world.”  Colter added that what attracted him to the role was that David was described as “the most interesting man in the world.”

When asked if Leland Townsend is “evil,” Emerson replied: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘evil.’ I think he’s playful. He’s a kind of a gamesman, maybe. He likes stirring things up. It delights him to watch things spin out of control. The wreckage appeals to him.”

“Evil” co-stars Aasif Mandvi and Christine Lahti at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Mandvi said that he’s had “many” supernatural experiences, so he’s almost the opposite of his Ben Shakir character: “Ben is a guy who really believes only in the things you can touch, taste, feel, smell, hear. He lives in a world of pragmatism and empirical truth. David needs that in his life as well.”

Christine Lahti, who is not in the first episode of “Evil,” was nevertheless at the Q&A. She plays Kristen’s divorced mother Sheryl, whom Lahti described as a “free spirit” and former rock groupie. “I’m the surrogate babysitter,” Lahti said, “My character is a little more comic relief than anything.” She added that Sheryl is “hungry for a relationship,” because she “got rid of [her] husband, who was very controlling, about 15 years ago.” Lahti teased that Sheryl does find love on the show, “but I’m not going to tell you who it’s with.” Robert King dropped a hint though: “She ends up dating somebody on this stage.”

“Evil” co-stars Michael Emerson and Kurt Fuller at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Fuller said his Dr. Boggs character is “the person in this show that Kristen is actually honest with. She trusts [Dr. Boggs] and tells [him] everything that’s going on with her. If it wasn’t for her sessions with [], she would spin out of control.”

Robert King said that members of The 60 will definitely be in the show. “Some may be in the White House, some may be in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” he teased.

Here’s a photo recap of the festival:

Day 1

Tribeca Talks: James Spader and Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg and James Spader at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem”                           HBO’s “Room 104”

(Series premiere: Sept. 29, 2019)                     (Season 3 premiere: Sept. 13, 2019)

“Godfather of Harlem” co-stars Forest Whitaker and Ilfenesh Hadera at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Room 104” star/executive producer Mark Duplass at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

BET+’s “First Wives Club”

(Series premiere: September 19, 2019)

Mark Tallman, Ryan Michelle Bathe, executive producer Tracy Oliver, Michelle Buteau and RonReaco Lee at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 2

“Friends” 25th Anniversary Reunion

“Friends” executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Goliath”

(Season 3 premiere: October 4, 2019)

“Goliath” co-stars Lawrence Trilling, Amy Brenneman, Billy Bob Thornton, Shamier Anderson, Nina Arianda and Tania Raymonde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

AMC’s “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America”

(Series premiere: October 13, 2019)

“Hip Hop: Songs That Shook America” executive producer Amir “Questlove” Thompson, panel moderator Lola Ogunnaike and  executive producer Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 3

The CW’s “Katy Keene”

(Series premiere: Sometime in  2020)

“Katy Keene” co-stars Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Lucy Hale, Jonny Beauchamp and Camille Hyde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Freeform’s “Party of Five”

(Series premiere: January 8, 2020)

“Party of Five” co-stars Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, Elle Paris Legaspi and Brandon Larracuente at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

CBS’s “Evil”                                                                                       ABC’s “Bless This Mess”

(Series premiere: Sept. 26, 2019)                     (Season 2 premiere: Sept. 24, 2019)

“Bless This Mess” co-stars Dax Shepard, Pam Grier and Lake Bell at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Evil” co-star Mike Colter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

Day 4

Starz’s “Leavenworth”

(Series premiere: October 20, 2019)

“Leavenworth” panel: New York Times national correspondent David Philipps, executive producer David Check, Mike McGuiness, executive producer Steven Soderbergh, Sarah Girgis, executive producer Paul Pawlowski and attorney John Maher attend the “Leavenworth” screening at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska”

(Series premiere: October 18, 2019)

“Looking for Alaska” co-stars Jay Lee, Kristine Froseth, Charlie Plummer and Denny Love at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Tribeca Talks: Hisan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Apple TV +’s “Dickinson”

(Series premiere: November 1, 2019)

“Dickinson” panel: Adrian Enscoe, Ella Hunt, Hailee Steinfeld, Alena Smith, Anna Baryshnikov, Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Transparent”

(Series finale: September 27, 2019)

“Transparent” panel: Jill Soloway, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Shakina Nayfack, Judith Light, Faith Soloway, a guest and Jude Dry at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

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