Unwilling to disconnect from your past can irrevocably influence not only your own person future, but also the trajectory of the lives of the people who are impacted by your decisions and actions. That important lesson is a notable and harrowing theme of the acclaimed IFC horror series, ‘Stan Against Evil.’
Creator and executive producer Dana Gould has launched a surprisingly relatable show with ‘Stan Against Evil,’ which showcases how even the most improbable situations can ultimately emphasize such realistic emotions as wanting to reunite with loved ones who have tragically died. Actor John C. McGinley, who portrays the title character, also serves as a producer on the comedy. McGinley’s equally quirky and passionate portrayal of Stan powerfully highlights how a character, who has become the epitome of remaining stuck in the past, can impact the future of everyone in his life.
Due in part to McGinley’s identifiable representation of his title anti-hero, ‘Stan Against Evil’ has become one of IFC’s most popular and viewed original shows. After the horror series launched to a record-breaking number of viewers on Halloween 2016, the cable network renewed the show for a second season, which is set to debut this fall.
‘Stan Against Evil’ follows Stan Miller (McGinley), a perpetually disgruntled former sheriff of a small New England town, who was forced into retirement. Stan initially has trouble relinquishing his authority to Evie Barret (Janet Varney), the tough and beautiful new sheriff in town. However, the two eventually form an unlikely alliance when they both begin to realize things are not quite right in their quaint New England town. Together, they valiantly fight a plague of unleashed demons that have been haunting the town, which just happens to be built on the site of a massive 17th century witch burning.
The second season picks up where the Season 1 finale cliffhanger left off. Stranded in the year 1692, Evie has been accused of being a witch and is about to be burned at the stake. Despite his best attempts to never leave his recliner, the disgruntled Stan must begrudgingly solve the mystery of Evie’s time-traveling disappearance. That way, the unlikely team can continue to battle against the unconventional demons that are trying to take over their town in the present, which continue to pop up in every size, shape and animal form.
Like the inaugural season, ‘Stan Against Evil’s upcoming second season was shot in and around Atlanta. Shockya was generously given the opportunity by IFC recently to visit the independent genre series’ set during the production of the upcoming follow-up season. The reporters on the set visit were able to witness the show filming in, and on the surrounding property of, the real house in Lithia Springs, Georgia that stands in for Stan’s residence.
After observing the operating mechanics of one of the series’ practically built monsters, the Wraith, which appeared in the first season, the reporters were also able to explore the red two-story dwelling that’s utilized for Stan’s home. The shelter is comfortably situated on a large parcel of property that’s lined with old trees that seemingly protect the anti-hero.
Upon initially entering the home, the reporters caught a glimpse of Stan’s favorite and worn recliner in his living room, where he often sits to escape his troubles. The tour continued through the title character’s kitchen, before ascending up a narrow staircase, whose wall was lined with Miller family photos. The second level of the house featured the sewing room, where Stan’s late wife, Claire, stored her books and weapons. The upstairs also includes the married couple’s bedroom, which the anti-hero keeps as a memorial of sorts to his spouse. He keeps her personal belongings there in hopes that he can find a way to bring her home.
Gould, McGinley and Varney, along with Deborah Baker, Jr., who plays Stan’s daughter, Denise, and Susan Williams, who portrays Claire, then graciously participated in a press conference, before they resumed filming into the night. The scene that the reporters observed was set in Stan’s bedroom. Upon entering the room, the title character was confronted by a man whose face was painted like a skull, and who was also donning a top hat that was decorated with feathers. The mysterious man informs Stan that if the wants to travel back in time to save the lives of both Evie and his wife, he must first solve a riddle.
McGinley began the conference by revealing why he became interested in not only portraying the title character in ‘Stan Against Evil,’ but also producing the horror comedy show. The actor-producer admitted that he thinks “Dana is one of the greatest collaborators of all time.” As a producer, McGinley’s “allowed to shape some of the texts before we shoot them. I then function as a polisher in post-production, after Dana has done all of the hard work of putting all of the edits together.” The producer also noted how “fulfilling that experience was last year. Working with Dana on the scripts again this year also felt amazing.”
Gould then began laughing as he then chimed in on his experiences of collaborating with McGinley on the horror series. During one day on the set, “John and I were sitting on the bed in Stan’s bedroom while we were waiting for a shot to be lined up. An infrared dot then came between us on the bed, which is the way that the cameramen measure the (camera’s) focus. But it also looked like a sniper was trying to kill one of us! We both looked at each other and said, ‘I knew this was going to happen,'” the creator-producer shared with enthusiasm. “We had the same thought in under a second-I’m about to get killed, but I deserve it. Oh well!”
More laughs arose when Varney nonchalantly added, “The good news is that you both feel important enough that you could be assassinated! I would never think that-I would immediately think, that’s the camera guy.”
When then asked what the experience of filming in Atlanta and the surrounding areas in Georgia, Varney revealed that she “loves being here. I was on a show called ‘Dinner and a Movie’ that aired on TBS for seven years, and it was also filmed here. Atlanta has changed so much that there are parts of it that are unrecognizable to me now,” she admitted.
“But the heart of the city has stayed the same. So it’s a wonderful thing for me to experience. Every time I come here, something’s different, but I still always feel as though I’m coming home. It’s such a pleasure to be here, and I love” the city, Varney added.
“From a production, technical and filmmaking standpoint, the amazing thing about Atlanta is that it actually surpasses Los Angeles,” Gould also noted. “The crews here are spectacular, and you can’t get better crews. It’s geographically fluid enough that” the city of Atlanta can stand in for New Hampshire, which is where ‘Stan Against Evil’ is set. “From a personal standpoint, I’m friends with a lot of people from ‘The Walking Dead,'” which is also mostly filmed in Georgia. “So you feel like you’re back home. I can go over to my friends’ houses on the weekends…The people in Atlanta are so great.”
Baker then quickly jumped to add that Atlanta “has really great food! I feel like I always take advantage of the city when I’m here, because I feel like the food here is way better than the food in Los Angeles. The places where I love to eat here change every year.” The actress affirmed that overall, she does love her home city in California. “But like Dana also said, I have so many friends here (in Atlanta) that it feels like a really buggy Los Angeles,” which garnered a laugh.
“I have a lot on my bucket list while I’m here; I still have to visit the Carter library (The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum). I really try to take in the city, as I love it, and the people,” Baker also shared.
McGinley also chimed in on his experiences of making ‘Stan Against Evil’ in the Atlanta area. He revealed that he and his wife, Nichole Kessler, homeschool their two daughters. “When we knew that we were coming down here last year, we switched the history curriculum component. They were on the Revolutionary War. But since this area didn’t really figure into that war, we switched (their lessons) to the Civil War,” the actor divulged. He added that their older daughter “became interested in Civil Rights, so we then switched (the curriculum) to the late 1960s.” Gould jumped in and jokingly added, “Now they’re studying the zombie apocalypse!”
Baker was then asked if Denise is going to change at all during the second season, especially since many of the events that took place during initial season didn’t directly affect her. “I think that Denise is forever changing. Everyday is an adventure for Denise. She lives in such an amazing and wonderful world. Dana has done such a good job with Denise, as he knows that she and I are not that dissimilar,” the actress admitted, which garnered laughs. “So it’s really easy for me to tap into that quirkiness! I think she’s a glass is half-full type of lady.”
The performer also admitted that she thinks “This season is even better than last season, if that’s even possible. Last season, we only had eight episodes to show all of our layers. But we know get to peel back more layers, and see what makes each of these characters tick. So (Denise) doesn’t really change during this second season…”
“…but you get to see more about her personal life,” Gould disclosed as he finished Baker’s sentence. “She takes a job as a nanny, so what can go wrong?” the creator added, which drew more laughs. “Denise’s wardrobe and my older daughter’s wardrobe are the same. But the difference is that my daughter wears it ironically!”
When the group was then asked what some of their favorite monsters have been so far on the series, Baker motioned to the Wraith, which remained situated next to Gould during the press conference. The actress exclaimed, “There’s this one-holy smokes!”
The executive producer then jumped in and said, “Yes, that’s the one where I said, ‘Well, the show’s on a budget, and we don’t have a lot of money. What’s something that’s very cost effective? A flying bat skeleton!,’ which garnered more laughs.
“I had a great idea where we could film it practically. We’d put it on a camera cart, and then we’d go into the woods and put down planks. We’d then put the cart on the planks, and push the cart. Everyone said, ‘Dana, you can’t do this.’ So I thought, this is what it’s like to be a genius! Everyone thinks I’m wrong but me! We then did it, and it was the worst thing,” to which also drew more laughs. “Everyone else was right,” Gould admitted.
Varney also expressed her appreciation that there are so many practical monsters and effects on the set for the horror comedy series. “There aren’t any CG situations where we’re pretending to be scared by something that’s not there. It’s delightful as a performer to have the effects right there” on the set, she noted.
“I can always tell when effects are CG,” Gould also revealed. “Sometimes they’re done brilliantly, like in the new ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies…There are horror movies that I love, like John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ The reason why they’re timeless is because the effects are real. Those movies are eternal, because your eyes are seeing what’s really there.”
Williams was then asked about how involved her character of Claire is in ‘Stan Against Evil’s second season. “I do come back, and there’s a little love going on,” the actress revealed.
Gould then chimed in that one of the arcs of the current season is that Stan gets this idea that “he can go back a year and save his wife’s life. But if he does that, he’ll never know Evie…But like the type of people that John and I are, being upfront and honest doesn’t always come to mind…Stan tries to go back in time and change the past.”
McGinley then began discussing how his title character compares to other supernatural crime-fighters on television, including the title heroine on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ the title hero on ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ and the Winchester brothers on ‘Supernatural.’ “Well, Stan has no interest in battling anything. So I don’t know how he would rate against all of those people. Last season, his overall objective was to always to get back to his La-Z-Boy recliner. This season, the overall objective is become whole again. The only way to do that is to get his wife back,” the actor explained.
“The logline of the show is, What if my dad was Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The premise isn’t that he doesn’t believe in vampires; it’s that he just doesn’t care,” Gould pointed out.
Varney later praised the efforts of ‘Stan Against Evil’s wardrobe and make-up departments. “We’re shooting these eight episodes in a very condensed amount of time. On some days we’ll be working on three or four different episodes at once. For my character, it’s typically easy, because she always has the same outfit on,” the actress pointed out, as she referred to the fact that Evie was often seen in her sheriff uniform during the first season. “But thanks to Dana, I’m in civilian clothes a lot more this season.” Gould added that the second season “is all about expanding the world, and going deeper into the characters’ personal lives.”
“But anytime when you have something splatter all over us in a scene for a particular episode, and we resume filming that episode two weeks later, the wardrobe, hair and make-up people have to pull up photos” from the first shoot for the second shoot, Varney explained. “They say, you had mucus here, and they have to match all of that. We then have to quickly take it all off again…People on our crew are really amazing at turning things around, and keeping continuity.”
With ‘Stan Against Evil’ mixing horror and comedic elements in every episode, Gould revealed that the actors often improv while they’re shooting their scenes. “Every person on this panel is a brilliant, off-the-cuff improviser. Nine times out of the ten, the funniest lines aren’t ones that I came up with while I was working on the scripts. That’s just the nature of the collaborations. Any funny lines that Debra said are words that she came up with,” the creator revealed. “Most of John’s better lines are one that either he or I came up with on the spot.”
“We’re so lucky though,” Baker admitted. “What a dream it is to come and play with these people. There are times when John tells me, ‘I’m going to through this at you.’ I’d say, ‘Let’s do it!'”
Varney also noted that “The scripts are gorgeous, and Dana’s an amazing collaborator. But we get what seems to us to be perfect scripts. I feel that if I walked into a situation where I felt it was my responsibility to fix something that was wrong with the story or my lines every time I walked on the set, I’d be terrible, because I’d be so anxious. But he gives us permission to feel comfortable to play. We know that we have this incredible foundation laid out for us to play…but let’s not pretend that we’re doing all of this work, and he just shows up.”
“Television is a collaborative process,” Gould further explained. “When you’re on a really funny show, everyone shares the credit. So why would you not want everyone to bring their A game? The way that you do that is to let people do what they do.”
“To feel so trusted is so unique, and I think that’s why this type of programming works,” Varney added. “Everyone can share their point-of-view.”
“The identity of IFC is that everybody’s doing their thing. You can tell when the actors are” contributing to their characters and their storylines, the ‘Stan Against Evil’ creator added.